WOW! I can’t believe that the first week of rehearsals has already come and gone - it has been a whirlwind. As I prepared for our first day together at the start of last week, I couldn’t help but feel first-day-of-school-like jitters. These characters and this story had been rolling around in my brain for well over a year, be it leading a research group, collaborating on a script with a playwright, facilitating script development workshops, or fabricating a plethora of puppets and masks. But no matter how long you research or rewrite, preparing for the first day of rehearsal for what will be a world premiere script is always a little extra nerve-wracking.
Leading up to our first day of rehearsals, I was plagued with insecurities. I knew that I (as the director/conceiver/co-creator) was still fascinated by our script and source material, but would actors (some of whom were brand-new to the project) feel the same way? Would the questions and themes that seemed so inspiring and resonant to my research group twelve months ago, still ring through as powerfully today? Luckily for me, my fears were instantly smashed after a few minutes on our first day together - our entire ensemble has been a dream to work with since day one, and I couldn’t feel more blessed to have this amazing collective of actors bring these characters to life for the very first time.
This world premiere production has been a glimmer in my eye ever since I first accidentally stumbled upon Madame Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy and her real-life friends while researching for another project way back in March 2017. I instantly felt a kinship with these forgotten souls, and almost immediately felt compelled to bring their historically-erased lives and subversive tales to the stage -- it’s rare that I so hastily or impulsively commit to a theatrical project. I still remember reading about how Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy helped her friend murder her abusive husband (and get away with it!), or how Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force dressed up as a bear in a traveling circus to rescue her imprisoned fiancé who she had been forbidden to marry. I remember immediately thinking -- these are my people and I have to tell their story!!!
I think of the first day of rehearsal as a way of uploading everything that I have on to the ensemble’s mutual desktop. I always try to bring in every relevant scrap of research, every idea that the design team has arrived at thus far, every hunch, and every question. I always like to share -- What do I know about our play? What do I not know? What questions do I still have? What is still left for us as an ensemble to discover?
Over the last week, playwright Emily Dendinger has swooped in from New York City to “exfoliate” our script with us, cutting, revising, and rewriting our text based on the discoveries and choices that the ensemble has made around the table and on their feet. We’ve also started animating puppets in the rehearsal room, which has informed several script revisions and generated new moments onstage. We still have a few more weeks of rehearsal before our week of technical rehearsals begin, and the only thing that’s certain for the future is that this script and production will change and evolve and grow based on the collective discoveries of the ensemble.
I hope that you’ll join us this coming October at the Off-Leash Area’s Art Box - this is bound to be a special one, and I couldn’t be more excited. Onward!
Tickets are on sale now: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/15437
Le Cirque Féerique (The Fairy Circus)
Directed and conceived by David Hanzal
Written by Emily Dendinger, created in collaboration with David Hanzal and the ensemble
October 5-14, 2018 at the Off-Leash Area Art Box
4200 East 54th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55417
We are thrilled to announce that Sofia Lindgren Galloway is officially stepping on board as our Associate Artistic Director! Sofia will assist David with the day-to-day administrative operations of Collective Unconscious, in addition to directing some of Collective Unconscious’ future projects. As before, Sofia will continue to be involved in the script development process for all of our projects.
Our group of core collaborators is also expanding, and we are pleased to welcome long-time colleagues Eva Adderley, Leif Jurgensen, and Justin Leaf into the fold. Onward!
We've been preparing for Le Cirque Féerique for some time now! We held a weekly research group with our closest collaborators in October and November 2017, we began writing a script in December 2017, and then held workshops in February and June 2018 (with several drafts and script re-writes along the way!). Dramaturg Alison Ruth writes about her first time collaborating with Collective Unconscious, and what the process has been like working on Le Cirque Féerique:
Even if you love working on new plays, and do so often, there is invariably the worry that the long process of gestation won’t culminate with the production you originally envisioned. And actually, if you’re lucky, what can sometimes happen is exactly that: You do not end up with what you originally imagined. You end up with something better. Rehearsals for the fall production of Le Cirque Féerique have not even started and the process has already yielded a work that has grown far beyond what I pictured when I joined the research group in October 2017.
As a devotee to collaborating on new works, and a first time collaborator with Collective Unconscious, I was excited to work on a play that was being crafted from the ground up. Dramaturgs are often asked to enter the process somewhere around the halfway mark, when the play is still unfinished but has a strong identity and its core has essentially already been formed. However, this has not been the process of Le Cirque, where I have been on board and part of the collaboration since before there was a script, and that has personally been both a thrilling and intimidating change.
(L-R) In Minneapolis, Alison Ruth, Sofia Lindgren Galloway, and Libby Porter meet with NYC playwright Emily Dendinger via Skype to discuss research for Le Cirque Féerique. (Photo by director David Hanzal)
In exercising dramaturgical skills in a more generative way, I have found myself using different creative muscles, considering design elements in a way that I never had before, and feeling that pieces of myself have landed in the characters. This exploration into a new area of dramaturgy started with the weekly research group that met in October and November to discuss the play’s historical context, read fairy tales, and consider visual research that would inspire the piece. I loved that even the research for this piece was collaborative. The social component yielded different results than what one brain would come up with, and the pool of minds allowed us to expand our research into deeper terrain. From these discussions came the first drafts of the script in December.
(L-R) Alison Ruth and Emily Dendinger discuss the script during the February workshop.
A couple months later, after many hours of thinking, talking, reading about the source material, and then eventually discussing the newly-written script, it became clear that what the play required for further development was to move away from the cerebral and into the physical. The Collective Unconscious model knows this, and I loved that just as I was starting to itch for performers to embody these characters who had only lived on the page and in our imaginations thus far, a week-long workshop with actors was planned.
(L-R) Sofia Lindgren Galloway, Leif Jurgensen, Parker Sera, Katherine Kupiecki, Heather Stone, and Sarah Modena performed in a reading of Le Cirque Féerique in February 2018 at the Alliance Française in Minneapolis.
I learned a lot about the play at the first workshop in February. One of the most striking realizations was just how funny the characters were! Watching the actors zip through Emily’s witty dialogue illuminated aspects of the characters that I had not considered, and cleared up questions of pacing. Several months, drafts, and many conversations later, we entered a second workshop at the beginning of June. And in addition to the new questions, observations, and realizations of the actors, which is all fun and interesting, an even newer and more thrilling experience occurred: we devised with puppets.
(L-R) Leif Jurgensen and Alison Ruth devise a scene with puppets during the June 2018 workshop.
Hesitant to give too many things away, I will just say that devising with puppetry has again altered and expanded what I thought was possible for the play. Perhaps someone more imaginative than I could have dreamed where this play would go, but I suspect the process has surprised all of the collaborators on the Le Cirque team. I think we are all slightly amazed with what the work has turned into and how far we’ve come. I’m excited for what lies ahead during our rehearsal process this coming fall!
We are thrilled to unveil the amazing cast and production team for our next production - we hope that you're able to join us at the Art Box this coming October!
Marie: Katherine Kupiecki
Henri: Katie Willer
Charlotte: Sarah Modena
Jeanne: Kayla Dvorak Feld
Charles: Leif Jurgensen
Director/Costume, Puppet & Mask Designer: David Hanzal
Writer: Emily Dendinger
Dramaturg: Alison Ruth
Stage Manager: Maria Signorelli
Assistant Stage Manager: Kalena Johnson
Choreographer: Justin Leaf
Scenic Designer: Leazah Behrens
Lighting Designer: Courtney Schmitz
Sound Designer: Kevin Springer
Assistant Puppet Designer: Eva Adderley
Costume Alterations & Stitching: Holly Walter
This past fall, I had the pleasure of co-directing the short film Little Red with NYC-based filmmaker Laura Lechner. As a complete newcomer to filmmaking, the months we have spent editing in post-production is a totally new process for me and almost feels like an endless series of "tech weeks" for this theatre veteran. ;-) While we work toward a final edit of this short (coming to you this April!), I'm delighted to bring Laura on to our blog and have her give you an update on our editing process. Onward!
~ David Hanzal
I've always wanted to experiment with puppets on film, to see how (or if) puppets could be used in a cinematic way (as opposed to simply filming a live performance), and to see if I could achieve the same emotional impact with puppets as with actors on screen. Collaborating with Collective Unconscious Performance on Little Red has been a worthwhile challenge, as we’ve worked to see how much story and emotion we can convey by employing the vocabulary of cinema within a world of puppets and masks.
David and I have been working on this short film for almost a year. David originally began developing Little Red as a live puppet performance piece. When he shared his storyboards with me, something clicked: we both thought that the play had the potential to be even more compelling as a film.
I’ve known David since 2010, and we’ve worked on a variety of projects together over the years, so I was very excited for another opportunity to collaborate. This, however, was our first time managing a long-distance (working) relationship: I’ve lived in New York for the past four years, and David is in Minneapolis. Outside of four days together in Minneapolis this past October for principle photography, we’ve managed to realize this film while not being in the same physical space!
We spent the spring and summer writing and fine-tuning the script (thank god for Google Docs!), while we were also casting, location scouting, raising some funds, and doing all manner of pre-production work. David was also designing and fabricating the puppets and costumes, and I was working out camera and lighting possibilities with our cinematographer, Joe Valenzuela. After we wrapped up shooting in mid-October, I went back to New York, and I began to edit the film, sharing cuts with David along the way for his invaluable feedback.
A cliche in filmmaking is to say that a movie is made three separate time - when the script is written, when you’re shooting it, and when you’re editing it. And it’s definitely true - by the end of that process, your film is always different than what you imagined when you were simply putting words down on a page. I for one think this almost always creates something a lot more interesting, and it’s probably my favorite part of the filmmaking process. In Little Red, we played with the order of several key scenes in the beginning, trying a variety of different combinations until we found an order that made our story more cohesive, and that served the character development, even with minimal dialogue.
Editing is all about making decisions, and sometimes those decisions (or just the thought of making those decisions) can seem paralyzing. If I choose one thing (for instance, one particular take of a close-up within a scene), that takes me farther and farther down a certain path, and it becomes harder and harder to move forward with other potential scenarios. But on the other hand, you HAVE to make choices, or else you’re just sitting there with 20 hours of raw video footage. Whenever I am editing, I like to remind myself of this Anne Bogart quote: "Art is violent. To be decisive is violent. ... To place a chair at a partial angle on the stage destroys every other possible choice, every other option.” In order to construct a film, you’re in fact eliminating all of the other movies that you can potentially make.
In addition to editing the picture, the other main component is sound design and audio editing. Another film school cliche is that your audience will forgive bad picture quality, but not poor sound. Dan Dukich has been composing original music for the film, as well as collaborating with us on the sound design. It’s incredible how transformational music and sound can be in a film. It’s as crucial an ingredient as beautiful imagery and profound acting.
Collaborating with David on Little Red has been a great experience, and I know I speak for the two of us (and the cast and crew) when I say that we’re VERY excited to share our film with you this coming April!
~ Laura Lechner, Co-Director & Editor
David first approached me about developing Le Cirque Féerique (The Fairy Circus) with Collective Unconscious Performance while we were in the middle of a workshop for Skins, our piece in the 2017 Minnesota Fringe Festival.
David pitched Le Cirque Féerique as a feminist story about four bad-ass French women from the 17th century, who were the original creators of our most beloved fairy tales. And, yet, history has all but erased the existence of these women from the textbooks. During his pitch, David told me all about the thrilling escapades that these women pursued: attempted murder, espionage, witchcraft, freeing your lover from imprisonment dressed up as a bear (true story!). As writers, these women were also considered to be bestselling authors in their day. Their fairy tales were wildly popular and featured bold, clever princesses who never waited around for a prince to come and save the day. Instead, they did it themselves. Before David could finish telling me about the project, I knew that I was on board.
This play is a gift. It’s a joy to work on everyday, which is definitely not true for every piece. This is a play about four tough, complicated, and determined women who desperately want something and aren’t afraid to go after it. How often do we see that onstage? In our current world, this play has taken on new meaning for me. In spite of the many hardships that these women faced (and I don’t want to give anything away, but believe me: there were many), they persisted. These women inspire me, and I feel so honored to be bringing their lives to the stage.
Please join us for the work-in-progress reading of Le Cirque Féerique at the Alliance Française, at 7 P.M. on February 12. Admission is free, and David and I will be eager to hear your thoughts. We hope to see you there!
~ Emily Dendinger, playwright
While we've been hibernating this winter, we've begun to dream up our next piece, and we're ready to share a draft with you!
On Monday, February 12 at 7 P.M., the Alliance Française will host a reading of Le Cirque Féerique (The Fairy Circus), a new play that we are currently developing with Emily Dendinger (the writer from SKINS, our 2017 show in the MN Fringe Festival). We can't wait to share this new work-in-progress with you, as we prepare for the October 2018 production at the Art Box.
Following the reading, we invite you to participate in an optional conversation with the artists, or you may write your thoughts down on a short written survey. We welcome your feedback in whatever method is most comfortable for you!
WHAT IS THIS NEW PLAY ABOUT?
Le Cirque Féerique is inspired by the forgotten authors of some of our most beloved French fairy tales.
Paris, 1690, the center of culture: Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy and her non-conformist friends fight for independence and equality during the oppressive reign of King Louis XIV. Through storytelling and champagne-infused salons, these women critiqued and challenged society’s expectations for women over 100 years before the first wave of feminism. Marie-Catherine and her crew were best-selling authors in their day, and invented fairy tales as we know them. So whatever happened to these bold, groundbreaking women, and the subversive fairy tales that they spun?
Le Cirque Féerique asks: How may a strong, independent woman live the life she dreams and make her voice truly heard in a patriarchal system? How does one seek out authenticity and independence when society tries to silence your voice at nearly every turn?
WHEN AND WHERE IS THE READING?
Le Cirque Féerique (The Fairy Circus)
Monday, February 12, 2018
at the Alliance Française Minneapolis/St. Paul
113 N. First Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Free admission; light refreshments will be served. No reservation necessary - just show up and enjoy!
Directed by David Hanzal
Written by Emily Dendinger, created in collaboration with the ensemble
Ensemble: Sofia Lindgren Galloway, Leif Jurgensen, Katherine Kupiecki, Sarah Modena, Kaitlen Osburn, Sarah Parker, Alison Ruth, Heather Stone
We hope to see you there!
WOW. It's already that time of year again – Give to the Max Day is right around the corner, a week from today on Thursday, November 16. #GTMD17 is Minnesota’s annual giving holiday, and this year we’re a little more excited than usual. Why, might you ask? Well, we’ve been around since 2014, but 2017 was by far our busiest and most productive year so far. And not only that, we’ve expanded the artists associated with our collective and we have so much more original, ensemble-driven work planned for the year ahead!
Here’s what we’ve been up to recently:
In August 2017, we presented the critically-acclaimed world premiere of SKINS at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. This new play was written in collaboration with our frequent co-conspirator Emily Dendinger, and developed over a period of several months with our core ensemble. Wrote Laura VanZandt from One Girl, Two Cities about the production: “I see this show as a feminist’s version of Cinderella, and I want Collective Unconscious to remake all of the fairy tales this way."
SKINS, featuring Logan Verdoorn, Sarah Modena, and Emily Zimmer (Photos by Anna Schultz and the Minnesota Fringe Festival)
Right after Fringe was over, we dove into fabricating puppets for Little Red, a short film with puppets that we co-directed with the incomparable filmmaker Laura Lechner. Little Red is our first-ever film, and marks as the beginning of an exploration investigating the boundaries between theatre and film.
(L-R) Director of Photography Joe Valenzuela and performer Angela Olson (Photo by Laura Lechner)
We concluded principle photography for Little Red this past October. This short film will be completed in spring 2018, and we'll be entering it into film festivals as well as organizing local screenings at that time. We promise to keep you in the loop on these exciting developments later this spring!
Film stills from Little Red, featuring Angela Olson and Sarah Parker (Joe Valenzuela, Director of Photography)
And, drumroll please….
We recently commissioned another new play, to be written in collaboration with Emily Dendinger. This new play, entitled Le Cirque Féerique, is currently in development with our core group of collaborators.
(L-R) Alison Ruth, Sofia Lindgren Galloway, and Libby Porter meeting with playwright Emily Dendinger via Skype to discuss research for Le Cirque Féerique (Photo by David Hanzal)
We’ll be presenting a reading of this work-in-progress in February 2018, and then we’ll mount the world premiere production in October 2018. Keep your eyes peeled - we’ll be announcing a venue and performance dates soon.
A week from now, on #GTMD17, we’ll be celebrating our past and our future on Facebook! This is an exciting time for our small-but-mighty-theatre troupe - we’re over the moon about how far we’ve come over the last few years, and where we are going to next! If you’re able to, I hope that you’ll donate to our artistic work via our GiveMN page on #GTMD17 (and, to “avoid the lines”, you can even schedule your gift now!).
But, if your wallet is feeling a little lighter than usual at this time of the year, you can still support us by spreading the word about our company, or by liking and sharing our #GTMD17 posts on Facebook next week. :-)
Thank you for your continued support – it’s no easy feat creating original, ensemble-driven theatre, and we couldn’t do it without all of YOU, our audiences and our collaborators. Onward!
P.S. I know, I know. We’ve been away from this blog for much too long, but we’ve been busy little bees over these past several months! If you’d like more frequent updates from us, be sure to like us on Facebook or join our mailing list today.
Associate Director Sofia Lindgren Galloway writes about the rehearsal process:
Things are really starting to ramp up for us in rehearsals! We’re at that point where you feel like there’s so much to do and not enough time at all. Lucky for me, this is one of my favorite times in rehearsals, because we all have to start being very decisive. In my opinion, we're on the cusp of the most magical phase of rehearsals! Yippee!
I am so happy to be back with Collective Unconscious as David’s Associate Director, after assisting him and stage managing the sleeping beauty in the wood last winter! “What, exactly, is an associate director, Sofia? What do you do?” Oh, well, thanks for asking. I basically get to be David’s sous chef! He delegates tasks to me that make up the bigger meal. Like, sometimes I just prepare the sauce, and sometimes I make an entire appetizer. Also, I get to taste test everything before it leaves the kitchen - it’s delightful!
Pictured (L-R): Performers Logan Verdoorn, Emily Zimmer, and Sarah Dewhirst.
I’ve had the privilege of being with this story for a few months as and active collaborator and an outside observer. Last spring, a handful of us gathered to read several variations of the “Thousandfur” fairy tale. We also read some scholarly criticism of the most famous versions (I HIGHLY suggest the article “But Who Are You Really?” by Margaret R. Yocom, published in this book).
I could have stayed in that reading group forever. We cozied up in David and Leif’s living room, drank wine, and talked about the role this story could have in our lives and in the lives of the audience. Then, I was out of the picture for the workshop and rejoined the process once rehearsals started. I read the first and last drafts of the script, and everything in between was a mystery! At the first reading, I was so sad that some of my favorite ingredients from the reading group stories were gone! (Curse those workshop participants!) But, as we’ve been working, I’ve found that I can’t even remember those little nuggets because I’m so invested in this version of the story. That’s the beauty of making art. It is so freeing to fall in love with an idea, and then release it into the world without knowing if you’ll ever get back to it. Some of my favorite things didn’t fit in this story, yet I still love this script.
Speaking of the script- YA’LL… IT. IS. SO. GOOD. It is everything you want from a princess story that you can’t get as an adult watching Disney movies (because of all that pesky sexism and stuff)! It’s got all the awkward romance, silly animals, and fairy tale magic you expect. But, the primary female character makes decisions, and doesn’t always get what she wants, and everyone gets to be smart, and flawed, and face real challenges, and… well… all the things that make a good story! As a kid and young woman, I totally rejected the fairy tale princess fantasy. I didn’t want to subscribe to that patriarchal crap (I was an intense 10 year old). But I wonder if there had been more stories like this one, maybe I would have liked princesses a bit more… I guess you’ll have to come and let me know if you agree. Reservations for SKINS can be made here, and more information about the Minnesota Fringe Festival can be found here - we hope to see you there!