A sneak peek of Care Enough from playwright and company member Carl Atiya Swanson. Also, shout out to Unit Collective. They have a November Madness performance tonight (Wednesday, November 30th) at the Playwrights’ Center at 7:00pm. We like new plays.
If you’re going to have a role model, you could do a lot worse than Kermit the Frog. At the end of the new Muppets movie (which you should totally go see) Kermit says something that speaks to just about any artist daring to make new work, like Savage Umbrella does as company, like I am doing right now wrestling with the script for Care Enough, slated to open on June 1, 2012 at the new Nimbus space in Northeast. “We tried,” that oh-so-human felt frog says, “If we failed, then we failed together, and to me, that's not failing at all.” Then his face scrunches, and I can’t help, there in the theater, from wanting to cry and clap all at once.
It’s a beautiful thing to hear coming from a childhood symbol of hope and joy, but it is one of those terrible lessons of growing up that failing together sometimes just may not be enough.
If Care Enough has any genesis, it comes from laying on a mattress on the floor of a coldwater flat in Rome in 2003, after 3 million people marched in those streets and didn’t stop an invasion of Iraq, laying there with a beautiful woman I barely understood and couldn’t help but lose, listening to Cat Power’s “Maybe Not” and being totally lost in the world. There, that’s a place to start. It starts with failing personally and not knowing where to go. It starts with questions.
These are questions that have been growing, lingering and alternately tormenting and delighting me for the last ten years, questions around failure and hope. Very fundamentally: “Where is power?” It goes on from there. “How do we have power, and where does it come from?” “What obligations do we have with and to power?” “How do we love each other without hurting each other?” “Where is joy in grief?” “What do we owe our dead?” “When is failure not failure?” “What can we do to be free?” There, that’s a question worth asking, as the world is remembering now with the Occupations of public space across the world.
If that sounds heavy, it is. But these are also necessarily joyful questions, if you look at them the right way. It’s like Mel Brooks said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” Power is as ridiculous as it seems, if only we will to see it that way. Beauty is there in damage, energy in stuck situations, care in difficult moments. Enough probably isn’t enough, especially when it comes to love.
And then there’s music. Always and all the time music. Wait, they don’t love you like I love you. Wait, I don’t love me like you love me. That’s a question there.
Questions linger, moments are fleeting and tender, we work to make care last. If you come to see Care Enough, I hope you see all that in there. I do not yet know how. I do know that the Savage Umbrella way is to cherish the individual and idea, to nurture it along with the support of the group and then to build it, expand it, and make everyone involved equally a part of it. We did that with The Ravagers and we will do it again with Care Enough. In that way, our politics are personal, our moments are shared and even if there aren’t any Muppets on stage, we incite one another to the heights we can only achieve together.
For this week's post, the SU crew and I are thankful.
I want to say thank you to our fabulous donors. Thank you to the people who gave for Give to the Max. Thank you for those who came to the shows, thank you to those who wrote about us, thank you to those who volunteered with us. Thank you to all our collaborators and thank you to all the venues who've hosted us. Thank you to the Fringe Festival. Thank you to the bulletin boards that have held our postcards. Thank you, porta potty at the Hollywood. Thank you, Marcus Bachmann. Thank you Kate Chopin and 3AM Productions. Thank you, Russ's neck beard.
And from me, thank you Savage Umbrella, for giving me Danny.
What are you thankful for?
Rachel: I'm thankful to live in a city that supports art. I'm thankful that we have farmer's markets and the ability to learn how to grow our own food. I'm thankful for friends that like to hug and people who believe in hope.
Eric: Time with my loved ones.
Hannah: I am thankful for my supportive family. Even though they probably wish I’d gone to school to be a lawyer, they always try to understand why I need to do the work that feeds my soul.
Blake: I am thankful for space heaters and beauty.
Candy: I am thankful for friends, family, marshmallows, and sunshine.
Russ: I'm thankful for the time, my income, and the support of loved ones to be the kind of artist I've always wanted to be.
Shira: Coffee, music, water, wine and laughter. The people in my life, the ability to climb mountains, fresh air, and the feeling of the sun on my skin.
Carl: I am thankful that I get to live in a great, working city with a lot of creative energy, bike lanes, coffee shops, and smart, opinionated, considerate people. I am thankful for my family, and my love, and friends, and confidantes, and sparring partners. I am also thankful that we have made it to mid-November without snow.
Christina: I am personally thankful for Russel, the earth, my family, my house on the East Side of Saint Paul (represent!), dread-locks, oreo cookies, my classroom and students at Woodbury Middle School, and sweedish fish candy!
Heidi: I am thankful for friends, family and that liquor store on Lake where you can get 6 bottles of wine for $36.
Tanner: A year ago, I was sitting around my apartment a lot, being generally consumed by all things INTERNET. And I was working a 9-5 job that was not horrible and paying the bills, but it wasn't really fulfilling me. A year later, I've embarked on a career in the nonprofit world with my new gig at The Loft Literary Center. And I've officially joined Savage Umbrella, which stimulates all areas of my brain and heart. It's been a huge change for me and so, so wonderful for my emotional health and well-being. Also, my wife, Emily, and my kitty, Henry, are pretty great, too.
Laura: I am thankful for my family, my cat, kittens in general, honey badgers, my mom's mapleine cookies, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, traveling, naps, mountains, and all the happiness in my life.
What new work excites you in the Twin Cities?
Rachel: New art! New art! I'm thankful for PlayLabs Festival of New Plays at the Playwrights’ Center. So awesome! I'm thankful for Dykes to Drag and Madame and Queertopia and all the awesome weird performance corners of the scene. I'm thankful for The MovingCompany for always keeping it beautiful.
Eric: The MovingCompany
Hannah: I’m really just thankful that there is new art happening in this community. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of companies, but I look forward to experiencing all the work happening in the Twin Cities.
Blake: I am thankful for how the arts community has continued to grow in my absence so that I could come back to a place even more beautiful than when I left it.
Candy: All of it! I love that the Twin Cities has such a rich artistic culture and history and an unparalleled level of support for contemporary artists in the USA. All of the art that is birthed from it surrounds us, making our lives better and our communities stronger.
Russ: I'd be silly for not being thankful for Savage Umbrella, but I must say that I'm always floored by how much joy I get out of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. There's always something new and breathtaking there.
Shira: Savage Umbrella!! And fun and exciting artist collaborations and mixes that are happening...
Carl: I love that we have talented, collaborative artists that are getting national recognition, people in film like Dan Huiting and MPLS.TV's "City of Music" series for Pitchfork, bands touring the country like Polica and Fort Wilson Riot. On top of that, visual artists like Nick Howard and Broc Blegen, literary magazines like Paper Darts and great, innovative radio stations like KFAI, Radio K and The Current. That and theater. I mean, so much theater. So much.
Christina: I am artistically thankful for TU Dance, Zenon Dance, Brave New Workshop, the new Nimbus Theatre space, and Art-a-Whirl in the Twin Cities!
Heidi: After two years away, everything feels new! It’s like I forgot how awesome and arty the TCs are!
Tanner: There is the vast array of great companies that create new work here in the Twin Cities, and they all get me twitter-pated (wait, what?). The idea of more collaborations and interactions among these companies and Savage Umbrellas, like a Twin Cities new theatre network, excites me, and I hope we can make more of it happen in the coming year.
Laura: I'm thankful for amazing theatre companies that are creating new work in town, like The MovingCompany, Live Action Set and to the Playwrights' Center for supporting new work. And you know, giving me a paycheck. And I'm really thankful the Walker is bringing Young Jean Lee to town in January - awesome sauce.
What are you thankful for about SU?
Rachel: I am so thankful to have a performance family that loves as passionately and hangs on as tightly as Savage Umbrella does. For me, we really are critical shelter.
Eric: To have such brilliant people constantly making me look good.
Hannah: I am thankful for SU’s willingness to invite me to play “under the umbrella.“ I was a complete stranger only months ago, and I already feel like an important part of a new community.
Blake: I am thankful for all these people who have big ideas, who are both thoughtful and bold, and again, for all of the beauty.
Candy: I'm so thankful to be working with such talented, thoughtful, creative, and caring individuals. It's like a deranged, single-generational, wildly inappropriate, wildly appropriate, and wonderful family.
Russ: I'm thankful for the safety net that they have created for me. It's tough to take that first step out of your comfort zone (for me that's performing). It's because of Savage Umbrella that I'm able to take that deep breath and try my hand at something like play-writing. Really without them it would always be a shoula-coulda-woulda.
Shira: It's a wonderful, dedicated, talented eclectic group of individuals that can come together and create exciting, meaningful and socially-relevant theatrical experiences.
Carl: I am absolutely astounded by the generosity of our donors and supporters- on Give To The Max Day, at our Happy Hour Fundraisers and most importantly the incredible audiences at our shows. I believe that our company is so full of beautifully talented people, and we work so hard together, take so many risks, that to have people along with us for the ride is the thing that I am most grateful for.
Christina: I am savagely thankful for all the wonderful, awesome, generous people who unselfishly gave to Savage Umbrella for Give-to-the-Max day (!), and I am so thankful for collaborative creation in Down Draft Meetings!
Heidi: The momentum and energy is palpable and AWESOME. There’s pride in where everyone has come and so much excitement in where we are going, together.
Tanner: My first few years out of college, I basically sat around moped about my lack of direction and missed my good friends from college. I sort of resigned myself to the idea that it's really difficult to make close friends after college in this supposed "real world." But then I got involved with Savage Umbrella, and I don't feel so directionless and lonely anymore. Together is better than alone! SU4LIFE!
Laura: The gratitude and happiness Savage Umbrella brings me is ever-expanding. So, here, I'll just mention the people. I am thankful to Eric, Blake and Ben for founding this crazy experiment with me. To Sarah for helping propel SU forward during our infancy. To Candy for staying involved, even though she moved far, far away. To Russ for pushing himself to write, even though he's nervous about it. To Shira for being the Snack Queen. To Hannah and Heidi for jumping wildly and bravely into the unfamiliar. To Christina for being tough as nails. To Amber for reminding us to be as thoughtful as we can be, and for giving us 'yikes.' To Tanner for simultaneously being the consummate professional and telling endless fart jokes. To Rachel for reminding us to hang out, and for keeping everyone's feelings in mind. To Carl for always thinking deeply about where we're headed and the best way to get there, and for wearing short shorts in every flipping show. And finally, I am so thankful to all our audiences, donors and fans for the continual support (Give to the Max day, what what?) and for constantly pushing us to be even better. I love everyone. My cup runneth over.
A big, hug-filled, crazy-excited welcome to our newest company members, Hannah Holman and Heidi Jedlicka. I asked both of our newest members to introduce themselves and share a bit about their SU experience. Here’s what they have to say. How did you get involved with SU?
Holman: I’m pretty sure the stars aligned when I got involved with Savage Umbrella. In my last semester of college I, somewhat blindly, reached out to an acquaintance/Cobber alum in Minneapolis (the lovely Larissa Shea) in hopes for some guidance in this new world I was about to enter. Knowing my interest in collaborative work, she recommended that I connect with Laura and SU. I took one look at the projects they were working on and immediately fell in love. So, I sent an email asking (maybe begging, ha) to be involved… and here I am today!
Jedlicka: My first encounter with Savage Umbrella was Spring/Summer of 2009 when Laura called to offer me a role in Love Me or Die!; I thanked her from here to next Tuesday, and as I was getting ready to end the call she said, “Wait, don’t you know what the role is before you accept?” Nope. I was just so darn happy to be with these fresh, fun and innovative creators that I didn’t care what role or capacity I would be involved. Flash forward two years to Korea and back; that’s still how I feel.
What excites you about SU?
Holman: Honestly, everything about SU excites me: the people, the process, the work. As an artist, I have always been interested in creating space for conversation and discovery – and this is what SU does best. I really am amazed that I have found such an incredible/talented group of artists that are willing to play with me!
Jedlicka: The works created by this amazing group of people are always valid and relevant. Walking into any SU event feels like a breath of fresh air because these wonderful people aren’t afraid to be silly and serious, often at the same time. There’s nothing better than working alongside excited and exciting artists. I am so, so happy to be here!
Savage Umbrella Artistic Director Laura Leffler-McCabe, The Ravagers writer and director Blake E. Bolan and company member Carl Atiya Swanson talk with Nancy Sartor of KFAI - 90.3 FM Minneapolis - 106.7 FM St. Paul about the Hollywood Theater, The Ravagers and Savage Umbrella as a company. Aired 11/11/11.
Many thanks to Nancy Sartor and KFAI for the audio, production stills in the video by Staciaann Photography.
At Savage Umbrella, we're all about the conversation, so we've invited some special guests for a panel discussion immediately following the performance on Saturday, Nov 12. We would like you to join us for a conversation about theatre as social change, ancient stories interacting with the modern world, and dictatorships. The panel discussion is absolutely free. No ticket necessary. Panelists include:
Brian Lush, Classics Professor, Macalester College
Sonja Kuftinec, Theatre Professor, University of Minnesota
Blake E. Bolan, playwright and director of The Ravagers
I have some reviews and comments for ya’ll this week. See you soon.
Review from the CityPages"YOU MUST see this show. This is amazing theatre created right here in Minneapolis, it uses our talent, our space, our people, and is done for us. Don't miss this show. It has stayed with me since seeing it Friday and has only grown on me. This is the type of theatre that I love...Right now it's my sleeper hit of 2011." -Audience feedback from Damon Runnals
Review from Twin Cities Daily Planet"I see a lot of theatre. That's a given. Rarely do I see theatre that punches me in the gut the way Savage Umbrella's THE RAVAGERS did last night. It was elegant, disturbing, and so human. Go see it." -Audience feedback from Timothy Otte
Review from Aisle Say Twin Cities"Just got back from Savage Umbrella's THE RAVAGERS. I honestly try to reserve the use of the word "sublime" for situations that truly deserve it, and this production, especially its gorgeously executed pivotal sequence, was a sublime theatrical experience for me. Holy buckets, people, Savage Umbrella is risking and succeeding. See it." -Audience feedback from Tom Borger
Review from Lavender and also
Review from Twin Cities Metro
Ravager’s opening week post comes from sound designer Elliott Durko Lynch. Learn more about Elliott’s artistic work here.
I have been spending quite a bit of time in the Hollywood Theater the past week. The space is super reverberant and loading in was a bit of a struggle; as is the case when you start with nothing (no previous infrastructure or sound systems to use or build with). There has been a lot of dust kicked up, cleaned up, and swirling now; this piece is really inhabiting the space.
Generating material for a new contemporary Greek play has been a process of elimination. Having worked most as an "electronic music" or "noise/sound" artist for contemporary dance, where there are a wide range of possible sounds and samples and usually no dialogue to compete with, has lead me to more minimalist choices for this show. Saving the more spectacular noise for these few moments when it is practically possible and incorporating electro-acoustic use of live instruments to ride the middle ground; I have a cello, and an auto-harp to pull from.
In lieu of writing any more specifics about the project than anyone needs to know before viewing it, I'm going to relay an anecdote as to how I became interested in this kind of scenography.
As a student I was given the opportunity to attend the amazing Prague Quadrennial in 2003, held quad-annually in the Czech Republic. At this event there was a live sound artist who scored Butoh dance workshops with a visiting Choreographer. The workshops were held in a bustling giant bright room, filled with people doing all manor of things including performing, holding meetings and eating lunch; a huge room full of things happening. This artist would plug in a small briefcase of wires and equipment to sound reinforcement a few times a day, and improvised sound scores in the middle of this busy room; creating a rift, as if a cloud had settled, wherein the performers were given the space and attention for performing and being viewed.
The sub-division of this bustling bright giant room into two spaces; "normal space" and "affected space" with sound alone, and particularly live, stuck with me. I suppose, you could say it pushed me out of wanting to make work as a traditional designer. And as time has gone by, what resonates with me most, is getting a chance to play live, and perform for a piece, without the constraints of QLab or other traditional methods of performance Sound Design.
My job is to assist Blake Bolan in wedding the space and the show, and creating affective gestures that assist to communicate information otherwise unable to be communicated; not to be a virtuoso. Whether the music is live or not, isn't important; it is a mix. But being given that opportunity and space by director Blake and Savage Umbrella to work in this way, these days, in this economy, is quite an honor and I appreciate being asked and allowed to build and improvise with the project. Also, Matt Widing at EMI Audio Rentals has been an awesome help to this production; shout out, what up.
Elliott Durko Lynch is an independent performance maker, a theater technician at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, and a Sage Award for Dance nominated sound and media artist. He will be premiering a co-created short film Empire Builder with filmmaker Kevin Obsatz in December and performing/scoring next with independent Choreographer Megan Mayer on her new dance project in 2012. More information about Elliott’s work here.