Underground Railroad Game wins Obie!

Last night I had the distinct honor to watch Jenn and Scott be awarded an Obie for “Best New American Theatre Work” for Underground Railroad Game. After years of hard work, it was incredible to watch them be so honored. Katie, Mason, and I are so proud of them.

We’ll post a video of their acceptance speech on our Facebook page so you can hear for yourself the number of people whose dedication made the show happen (you’ll notice a particular amount of love from the crowd for FringeArts). They make a special shoutout to everyone who has financially funded the production while it was developing and we would like to echo that gratitude: art like Underground Railroad Game doesn’t happen without the financial support of our network and we are humbled by your generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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With gratitude,

Alice

PS. If (somehow!) you didn’t catch the show in either its Philly or NYC runs, you’ll have many more chances on the horizon. It’s going to Hamburg, Germany next week, then Australia, Williams College, University of Michigan, and will spend a month in DC next year at Woolly Mammoth Theater.

PPS. You can check out the full list of awardees HERE and catch the video of the ceremony on the Obie Awards Facebook page.

LRS dances in FringeA-Thon

Now that the space dust from Sans Everything has settled, we’re back in the studio hard at work on a new show. To support this effort, LRS is participating in FringeArt’s community-wide dance marathon fundraising effort. This Saturday, May 20th, we’ll be at the Blue Cross River Rink dancing our “art” out. Sponsor Scott and Mason as they shake their tail feathers for Lightning Rod Special! Click the DONATE NOW button below…

 

 

HOW IT WORKS:
⚡️ For every donation we receive, LRS takes home 75% and FringeArts receives 25% to continue supporting artists like us.

⚡️ Scott and Mason will be dancing starting at 5pm. For every $50 donated, each will dance for 1 hour. Our goal is to keep them dancing for SIX HOURS.

⚡️ Want to get in on the action? Register to join our dance team HERE. Click “individual dancer” and then choose LIGHTNING ROD SPECIAL under “join a team”. Your $25 registration fee is donated to LRS and while you’re welcome to raise/donate more than that, there’s no pressure!

⚡️ Show up at BlueCross RiverRink on Saturday May 20th at 5pm. Wear yellow (like a lightning bolt) or your Lightning Rod Special tee-shirt if you’ve got one (we’ll be selling them there, too).

⚡️ Questions? Shoot us an email.

Guest Blog Post #4

February 13th, 2017

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The view from above. Photo by Aram Aghazarian of Strange Attractor, voice of The Voice

On the (in)humanity of performance

My sleep schedule has not quite recovered from the past week. It’s hard to believe that just seven days ago, the Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor crews were going into their tech week: rehearsals to polish what needed polishing, mine out what still needed refining, and add the lights, sound, set, costume, and tricks (fake blood! A fake tooth!) that made Sans Everything the smashing success it was. (Seriously. Smashing success. Read the reviews here.)

In order to mount such a great show, tech rehearsals become a crucial space to make decisions. It’s when a number of elements that have been waiting on each other suddenly begin their conversation, only to discover that that show opens in four days. “If we had had more time” becomes a mantra. Except in our case, we only really had one day of tech, despite going into ten hour rehearsals well before the show’s opening.

The reason I mention this is not to bemoan how hard our jobs are – we know they’re hard, that’s why not everyone can do them. I mention it because on hour 9 of a 12 hour day, the fourth 12 hour day in a row, when your stomach is in a constant state of unease (you’ve been subsisting almost entirely on sugar to get you through these late nights), when your limbs are aching because you’ve rehearsed the Wrestling Scene three times (and each Wrestling Scene contains As You Like It’s wrestling scene three times), when your inbox is filling with emails of calls to action that you simply cannot answer right now, when you haven’t seen the people that you live with since Monday, when your bed is a distant memory, you actually start to wonder why it is you do this.

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Notes on opening night

One thing that we see in Sans Everything is that the discovery of performance, and therefore, the relationship between humanity and artmaking, is as natural and as obvious as human thought. And so it must then mean that artmaking is human, or humane. Or just a necessary part of the expression of humanity.

I don’t mean to be glib when I say is it though? And I don’t mean to be annoying when I mention how exhausted we all are. Every job has its sleep deprivation, its stress. Every job has its moments of why do I do this. But beyond the triggers of the final week of rehearsal, I think what has me pondering artmaking as humane the most is not quite preparation, but performance. Because I know that the other thing we see in Sans Everything is the discovery that performance is not always kind, or contemplative, or restorative.

Saw is forced to be a part of the set. Breathing is made into an actor against his will. Simon – poor, tortured Simon – struggles and fails to fight the artifice of performance. And even the actors within the play are being knocked around, worn out, physically abused by their need to continue performing, performing, performing. And just as soon as they start, they stop. Foon pulls them offstage, shows them that it’s all just a play. Likewise, just as soon as we started performing at FringeArts on February 9th, we stopped performing at FringeArts on February 11th. Our set, the strange, clean, humming world of discovery that we had created with such reverence and love is torn down. It’s being dumped away to make room for the load-in and creation of the set for A Ride on the Irish Cream (everyone go see that one too). Something we spent so hard working on is not only finished, but it is, in many ways, gone.

Is it humane? Are we really doing the human thing, in pretending, and then discarding? Are we at our most human when we are being watched? Or when we are doing the watching? To whom is performance most humane – the performers, or the audience?

I don’t know. And, at the end of the day, I don’t care. Because it is true that I always get a little physically ill after a show closes, my body finally releasing several week’s worth of stress, adrenaline, and exhaustion. It is true that I am also always a little lost after the closing of a show, because something that I have spent so much time thinking about is over and no one is asking me to think about it anymore. But it is also true that despite not needing to, I sat and watched almost every performance of Sans Everything, because I was desperate to feel the audience feeling the show. I longed to laugh when Henry showed Breathing peekaboo for the first time. When I’m performing, I black out and forget almost everything except for moments when I am fully present in the humanity of my relationships – to my fellow performers, to my audience, to my art. I think in many ways performance can be an abusive ritual that is fueled by obsession, self-deprecation, sleeplessness, and exaltant fervor. But I also think that it is an expression of a longing or yearning that, though will never be filled by any one performance or art, is deeply human.

Thanks for coming into space with us. I think this is a good place to stop.

Signing off,

Tenara Calem

TWO SHOWS LEFT

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SANS EVERYTHING has two performances left before it gets swallowed up by the universe. Today, Saturday Feb 11, at 2pm and 8pm. Shows have been selling out (!!) but there are still tickets available for both performances.

Rave review on DC Metro Arts: “feels like magic”

—->Get your tickets now<—–

Set so far in the future that human bodies have been abandoned, Evolved Intelligence are plugged in to the human life cycle for the very first time. When they encounter Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Elizabethan-style chaos ensues: a total collapse of world order.

What do we owe the past when thinking about the future? How is humanity best expressed: through what we do or who we are? Love, art, escape, the cycle of life—Sans Everything impels audiences to question where humanity is going and what will happen when it gets there.

Get a taste before you go: watch the trailer

SANS EVERYTHING opens tomorrow

Tomorrow we premiere SANS EVERYTHING, our collaboration with Strange Attractor three years in the making.mason-bannercrop

After three nonstop weeks of rehearsing, remembering, crafting, and starting all over, we open tomorrow. The show explores questions around the need to perform, the essential interior of the human being, and the relevance of the past while looking forward into the future. It feels more timely than ever.

We have five performances this weekend and we truly hope you’ll catch one of them. Don’t wait to get your tickets, either– Thursday night is already sold out.

SANS EVERYTHING

LIGHTNING ROD SPECIAL + STRANGE ATTRACTOR

FEBRUARY 9, 8PM (sold out)

FEBRUARY 10, 8PM AND 10:30PM

FEBRUARY 11, 2PM AND 8PM 

—–>CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS<—–

Want a taste before you go? Check out our trailer for the show.

Have you been keeping up with our LIVE WIRE? Assistant Director Tenara Calem has been posting weekly blog entries about the process and themes of the show. Check them out for some incredibly insightful writing.

Tune in to WHYY’s Newsworks Tonight tomorrow, Thursday, at 6pm for an interview with Alice, Scott, and Aram about the show!

Are you on Instagram? Alice is taking over the FringeArts instagram feed for the rest of the week. Let’s see what happens….

Guest Blog Post #3

February 5th, 2017, or:

Why You Should Still Go See Theater In the Time of Fascism

This is a question I know audiences have been asking, because I am an audience member, and I have been asking it myself. Why on earth should I go watch theater, pay money for a ticket, watch and indulge, when there are Senators to be called? Protests to join? Signs to be made?

Let me assure you: theater makers have been asking themselves the same question. I know this because I am also a theater maker, and I have been asking it myself. Why on earth should I make theater and ask people to pay money to see it? Why should I put on a performance? Why should I contribute to an artform that guzzles energy and materials, and is only made possible by the artifice of watching and entertaining?

Why should I do any of that when there’s so much at stake right now?

And then of course, the answer comes crashing back to me, as it always does, and as it will continue to do. It is precisely because of what is at stake that we must keep pushing forward in that artifice. That artifice allows me to see myself in you – you the audience, you the performer, you the character that is different than me. I arrive to the theater with the world in my pocket, and so I will look for the world in what I watch. Whether it’s As You Like It or Sans Everything.

The day after the Women’s March, it was the comedian Patton Oswalt who said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that while protesting and marching and calling our Senators and writing letters and making signs are necessary and instrumental actions that enable us to push against fascism, we should also reserve a day out of our week to do all the things that fascists want to take away. Go on a hike in a National Park, dance at a queer club, volunteer at a shelter, meet neighbors, draw something, write something, compose something. Go see theater. Because we have to fight for these things, absolutely, but we also have to do them, we have to show the fascists that we’re not just complaining, we’re talking about our lives here, and we’re not willing to give up our lives. Humans are some of the only animal species that make art, and that must mean that it feeds us in a way that eventually, words can no longer describe. I cannot adequately describe why I believe making theater is good for our souls, but I can say that I really love when I see the world in what I am watching, or what I have made. I really love Elizabethan messes, space travel, artificial intelligence, and existential re-imaginings. My point is that I believe you will love all these things too.

So go see theater, and we’ll see you at FringeArts on February 9th. Make sure you get your tickets early.

~Tenara

What we’re reading this week: “Why Isn’t Shakespeare Dead Yet?” by Susan Ahlborn

Guest Blog Post #2

January 28th, 2017

Tenara here again.

Today in rehearsal, our marvelous outside eye/director Rebecca Noon said the following: “Today, we are deep sea explorers. We are diving into the darkness. We are probably going to encounter some beautiful coral reefs, but we might get a little lost, and that might make us panic a little bit. But we all have oxygen masks, and we can all share our oxygen. Look around the room – these people are deep diving with you, and if you need them, you can rely on them.” And she sent off the creators to generate the last third of the play.

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Fearless explorer, Rebecca Noon

On the idea of deep dive theatrical exploration: the creators at Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor have been working on Sans Everything for three years. Not every artist has the opportunity – the wonderful, challenging, ultimately edifying opportunity – to live in and mine out one artistic world for that long a time. For this stretch of Sans Everything, we’ve only got three and a half weeks to carve out the final and most true iteration of Sans. That’s very little time, but the good news is that we’re not starting from square one. Actually, the opposite is true.

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Jenn got the bends — er, the giggles

The challenge in these kinds of timelines is how to hold onto what feels most gold, how to kill your darlings, and how to find, remind, re-find, and rework what the ultimate question of the show is. For Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor, the creators don’t feel particularly obligated to be chained to one static and perhaps unyielding conceptual question this play is asking – but then when are we leaving behind what no longer applies, and when are we scrapping everything we’ve done to create something completely different? Is that bad? Is that useful? Is that still Sans Everything? Is it another show? Is Sans Everything merely a proposal, or a play made of marble that we are responsible for sculpting? To answer any of these questions in a way that is theatrically satisfying for all requires creators with brains and instincts that move rapidly from performer to playwright to audience to director to performing artist and back. You can rest assured that Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor supply just that.

But then, in an instant, it clicks. You find yourself in an improvisation that is offering absolutely everything you’ve been looking for – it’s the right tone, it’s the right question, it’s theatrically mesmerizing, and suddenly you know that while it may not be the exact scene that goes into the show, it is the first yellow brick on your road to what the audience will see on February 9th. You sit down with your fellow artists and share what it was that made that moment the right moment, and the action plan of how to make it the best moment, the piece’s moment. These kinds of rehearsals are the product of deep sea theatrical diving, and of witnessing the most gorgeous coral reefs down at the bottom.

~Tenara

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From Thursday’s designer run

What we’re watching this week: Time Lapse View of Earth from Space, by astronauts on the ISS

Do you have your tickets yet? Get them HERE.