Spotlight on Philadelphia Artists (corrected)
Six Philadelphia companies are part of the showcase at the NPN Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this December. Four artistic directors shared reflections on their artistic practices with the NPN staff.
Makoto Hirano of Team Sunshine Performance Corporation reflects on the company’s origins in 2008:
We came together for a very simple reason: to make one, excellent hybrid piece of movement-centric theatre, entitled Punchkapow. Three experienced and widely varied independent performance artists – myself having a successful career working in post-modern dance-theatre, Ben Camp in European physical-theatre, and Alex Torra as a director of multiple experimental genres – coming together to collaborate on the project itself, for us, was an act of creating community. Since then, we’ve decided to continue our work together in a wide range of projects, from curating ‘salons’ to launching mini-performance ‘events,’ and offering one-on-one sessions to prepare for the Zombie apocalypse.
Presented at the Philly Annual Meeting is Team Sunshine’s project JapanAmerica Wonderwave.
The process for anonymous bodies || art collective’s other.explicit.body, like the process for all their work, is
….rooted in our dedication to the idea of creation-via-consensus and to the notion that we can make the most interesting art when everyone involved has a voice. Crowd-sourcing and group ownership is the name of our game, and though there is often a director and/or lead-artist, those individuals serve as an architect for creation instead of the source of it. There is no playwright, there is no single-voice – there is only a process that asks participants to participate hard, generating material through interviewing-techniques, long-form improvisation, free-writing exercises, and our own particular approach to on-your-feet playmaking.
Jaamil Kosoko will perform other.explicit.body during a January APAP Showcase at Dance New Amsterdam in New York City, and on February 15-16 at the Third Annual “Black Aesthetics As Politics” conference in Pittsburgh, PA.
Kariamu Welsh, artistic director of Kariamu & Company: Traditions, talks about her own creative process as multi-layered:
An idea, thought, image, scene, story or moment can strike me. A mood, color, tone, rhythm or sound can also ignite a seed that often grows into a work but not always. These ideas can fester for some time until one of them becomes front and center in my consciousness and then I act on that idea by taking it to the studio. The work is never fleshed out beforehand and even as I am choreographing the work, the piece will often take a completely differently direction that may not seem to have any rhyme or reason to it but I have learned to trust my artistic instincts and off I go in that direction. I can keep several works in my head at a time. There is no special queue or lineup to my approach or decision to choreograph a work, but one work will emerge as the one that I need to work on at that time.
Welsh emphasizes that as choreography is her work, “an important part of that process is my relationship with dancers. These relationships are integral to my creative work and often the dancers shape the dance in subtle and nuanced ways. Their bodies, energy, experiences and presence are many parts that make up the whole. I have been extremely blessed in working with dancers for as long as twenty years. We are able to grow together and to ‘return’ to dances that need adjusting.”
Artistic director and co-founder of 1812 Productions, Jennifer Childs takes traditional comedic forms (stand-up, improvisation etc.) and re-purposes them as theatrical storytelling engines. “While the original work takes different forms – from full-length musical with five-piece orchestra to quick-change vaudeville to intimate cabaret acts – all are a mix of form and chaos. The strict architecture of comedic form, the mathematics of building a joke and the insistence of comedic rhythm combine with the divine messiness of being human and flawed.”
Childs speaks of the central importance that research has in her creative process:
Regardless of the form the final piece takes, the development process includes extensive research. In the case of Why I’m Scared of Dance… [showcased at the NPN Annual Meeting], that research included dance lessons with hip-hop, ballet, jazz and modern dancers. For a series of pieces on comedic history, research included interviewing, connecting with and learning from comedic icons such as Phyllis Diller, Sid Caesar, Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory. Research for our current project under development is much more community based – interviews with over 50 women of all different backgrounds about the role of comedy in their lives.
All of this research is then brought into the rehearsal room, using guided group improvisation, writing exercises and most importantly, Childs says, “harnessing the natural energy and chemistry of the ensemble and making each other laugh.” Childs then structures and shapes the final piece.
Why I’m Scared of Dance by Jen Childs can be seen January 15-27, 2013 in Ambler, PA at the Act II Playhouse. Her new work, It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project, will premiere at the Plays and Players Theatre, Philadelphia PA, April 25-May 19, 2013.