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!
7/5/2017 0 Comments
When David approached me to adapt the fairy tale known as Thousandfurs, I immediately said yes. Growing up with two sisters, we were obsessed with the picture book Princess Furball, about the clever princess who escapes an arranged marriage with the help of three dresses, a fur cloak, and her wits. The latter of these has always appealed to me. Here’s an actual fairy tale where the princess has agency and takes it upon herself to change her future.
Before starting the script, David put together a reading/research group, or book club if you will, of actors, playwrights, dramaturgs, and other collaborators. We read the different versions of the story as well as criticism, and collectively determined how we wanted to tell this tale. For the most part, all versions depicted the princess the same – full of determination, intellect, and capable of deciding her own life. However, once the princess met the prince/king (it varies from version to version), that agency disappears or transforms into an eagerness to be noticed by the regal figure and marry him, thus securing the traditional “happily ever after” life. As a group, the more we discussed this, the less satisfying it was to us, so when I set out to write the script, it was one of the main questions I was grappling with: what does our princess’s happy ending look like? Or better yet, strip away the trappings of fairy tale, and what does she really want?
In the spring, we met again with an early version of the script for a weekend with actors. Over the course of the three days, we read and discussed it, determined to get at the heart of the story. Under David’s direction, the actors devised moments inspired by the text including ballroom scenes and a chase-escape through the forest. By observing and listening to these talented actors, I started to see the story emerge and how our princess would be best served by the text. I went back home and started to write again with a clearer and stronger idea of what would be a more satisfying ending for our modern-day princess (for that’s truly what she is).
As the cast began rehearsals last week, I’m excited to see how the play continues to grow and a change. One of my favorite things about working with David and Collective Unconscious is the hyper-collaborative environment and nature of all their pieces. As a writer, I find this thrilling. My words are only a blueprint, or jumping off place for designers, director, and actors to fill in the gaps. I’m eager to see what direction the play takes next, and look forward to seeing the final product in August.
We’re positively delighted to announce the fabulous ensemble of artists working on SKINS. We started rehearsals this week, and we promise to keep you in the loop as we develop this brand new play for the Minnesota Fringe Festival!
Playwright: Emily Dendinger
Director & Production Designer: David Hanzal
Associate Director: Sofia Lindgren Galloway
Sound Designer: Kevin Springer
Assistant Production Designer: Eva Adderley
Movement: Leif Jurgensen
Marketing Assistant: Logan Verdoorn
We start rehearsals for SKINS next week, and I couldn’t be more excited! We hit the ground running with a workshop with playwright Emily Dendinger and some of our favorite theatre-makers this past April, and since then we’ve been re-writing the script, building news puppets from scratch, and transforming thrift store junk into fairy tale costume couture!
Early on in the script of SKINS, an elderly professor at an academic conference asks his audience:
“Now then, why fairy tales? That is the question we are here to address.
Why do we keep coming back to these same stories, these same characters, plots, and literary devices, time and time again?
The answer, I believe, is somewhat obvious: because they are ageless, therapeutic, miraculous, and dare I say, beautiful, right?”
Yes, you may ask, why is Collective Unconscious tackling another fairy tale about a princess, yet again? (Especially after our last production concerned that princess who avoided her impending arranged marriage by sleeping for 100 years!) Well, the short answer is: fairy tales, folk tales, and wonder tales (whatever you want to call them), are like a bottomless well for us, that constantly offers up an endless supply of new and unexpected associations and questions.
SKINS is loosely adapted from a dark “Cinderella” family of stories, that I’ve had a connection to ever since I can remember. When I was in kindergarten, I was obsessed with the fairy tale “Cinderella”. I reserved and checked out every edition of “Cinderella” that I could get my hands on from the Ramsey County Public Library, comparing the different versions, translations, and (obviously) the illustrations (still my favorite part!). Eventually, my mother grew tired of reading me the same story nearly every night, and found an otherwise forgotten sub-variation on the “Cinderella” tale, titled “Princess Furball” (check it out here, the drawings are delicious!). It’s kind of like “Cinderella” in the second half, but the first part is filled with death and incest…oh my!
Over the years, I’ve always lugged along my tattered old book of “Princess Furball” as I moved around many, many times, and near the end of my graduate studies, I was inspired to re-think my obsessive connection to the tale after reading the article “But Who Are You Really?“ in the book Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms (a fantastic read, if a bit academic at times; you can check it out here).
Otherwise known as “Thousandfurs (Allerleirauh),” “Donkeyskin,” or “Tattercoats,” the tale begins with a princess (of course it does). Upon her mother’s death, the princess’ father the king goes mad and falls in love with his daughter (the princess). In order to indefinitely postpone the wedding, the clever princess asks for what she thinks is the impossible: three dresses (one more beautiful than the sky, another the moon, and the third the sun), along with a cloak made from one thousand different kinds of fur. When her father the king is able to meet these seemingly impossible demands, the princess disguises herself as a little hairy animal in the thousand fur cloak and runs away. Erasing her gender and class with her furry, ambiguously-bodied disguise, the princess-in-hiding is able to explore new identities, possibilities, and opportunities. When she unexpectedly falls in love with a prince, she’s put at a crossroads and has to make a choice about who she is and what she wants. The princess/furry animal has to ask herself: But who is she…really? A perfect princess, a little hairy animal… or something else entirely?
In the weeks leading up to our aforementioned April workshop, our core ensemble of artists read every literary version of this fairy tale that we could get our hands on (thank you to fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes!), and our discussions around the key questions and themes in all of the tales often came back to these core questions:
With these core questions swirling about in my head, I am reminded of my own journey to self-exploration, self-discovery, and self-acceptance. This journey began in those very early years, with my intense, subconscious connections to “Cinderella” and “Princess Furball” – disastrously exploded in my twenties – and continues to this day, although the changes are smaller, quieter, and on the whole, a little calmer.
I’m looking forward to beginning rehearsals early next week, where these questions can be explored collectively, in the room, and on our feet. Onward!
WOW!!!!! It’s been awhile. We’ve had a little break, but we’re back and excited about all that we have in store for the year ahead (take a sneak peek by watching a 90-second season trailer here).
This past weekend, two birthdays simultaneously coincided – Collective Unconscious Performance turned two-years-old, and I turned… well, let’s just say I’ll let you figure that one out on your own. ;-) We celebrated both birthdays by holding a script development workshop for our upcoming production of SKINS (some fancy cupcakes might have also been consumed along the way as well...mmm...cupcakes).
New York-based playwright (and dear, dear friend) Emily Dendinger flew into Minneapolis, and for three whirlwind days we met with some of my favorite local actor-theatre makers, who gamely dived into a mad flurry of script discussions, brainstorming sessions, and devising exercises.
Bless these generous actors for not blinking an eye when we asked them to create 8-counts of original choreography based on images like “a Tinder swipe” or “disappearing into a cloud of smoke” or “an animal mating ritual”… in only a matter of minutes
Left photo (L-R): Actors Sarah Dewhirst, Emily Zimmer, Leif Jurgensen, Katie Kaufmann, and Nick Wolf share a laugh.
Right photo (L-R): Actors Katie Kaufmann, Logan Verdoorn, Nick Wolf, and Jessie Scarborough-Ghent, devising original choreography.
Newly-inspired from the workshop, I am back in the studio this week, building some original puppets for this new play (keep your eyes peeled for photos, coming soon), and Emily is back in New York working on a new draft of the script.
Director/designer David Hanzal and playwright Emily Dendinger discuss an early draft of the script. Revisions, revisions, revisions!
We’ll see you in August for SKINS at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. More details coming soon!
Playwright Katharine Sherman writes about beginning technical rehearsals:
We’re in tech for The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood!
Something I love about tech is the community of people working on the show expanding. This week we have Søren Olsen and Dan Dukich in the room with us. They’ve been on ladders, hanging microphones, checking microphones, walking through the house to see and hear from every angle. We started adding light and sound cues to the show last night and we’re over the moon about it.
Søren and Dan are the dream team. They’ve worked together - and with David - before. I asked Søren a bit about how he begins to make worlds with light:
You start with the background,
and then pick out pieces of the foreground that are the most interesting.
Light is a subtractive art in general, like sculpture -
your canvas has the subjects on it - you’re removing elements to make your subjects visible.
I asked him if there was anything unusual about lighting this piece:
In devised theatre, the context or the setting isn't given
so light shapes the world most distinctly - it’s a larger challenge than lighting a play or musical set in a certain time and place.
You have to know what world you’re in, and I have to build that world out of light.
Søren and Dan have a shorthand. Last night they worked seamlessly together building moments, knowing that light and sound work together to create variation, tempo and tone. It was creepy, and I wrote down a conversation they had :
Dan: Søren, are you doing any kind of fire effect?
Søren: Not an effect but a shift.
Dan: When does it start?
Søren: I was gonna take it off your sound how long is the cue.
Dan: About twelve seconds.
Søren: Thank you.
Our dream team doesn’t end there. On Saturday, Alex Olsen came in to paint the stage. On Monday night, we welcomed board op Steve Modena to the room.
Beginning to see the show with lights and sound (not to mention the devastatingly attractive costumes) has been incredible so far. It’s going to be beautiful - get your tickets now here!
As he prepares for load in and technical rehearsals at the end of this week, director and designer David Hanzal reflects on the rehearsal process for The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood:
I can’t believe that four weeks of rehearsal have come and gone! We’ve sweat, we’ve fought, we’ve cried, we’ve re-thought and re-written the opening and closing scenes more times than we can count. We’ve had nights where our experiments have failed, and nights where I have thought to myself, This devised new work thing is too hard! This is the last play I’m ever going to direct! But then we pick ourselves back up and go back into the rehearsal room the next day, and it always gets better and we always discover what the play was meant to be. We move forward. We revise. We refresh.
We have two days of rehearsal left, before we take a couple of days off for the Thanksgiving holiday. But even though we’ll be “away” from the rehearsal room, I know that my director-designer-creator brain will still be firing away at top speed: Am I taking care of the audience? Are all of the dramaturgical systems tracking? Will we ever find the “right” ending? Is the play compelling… and complicated? Are all of the visual and design elements working together to evoke Beauty’s visceral/creepy/magical/sexy dream world?
When we come back the day after Thanksgiving, we will be loading into our performance venue, adding technical elements (lights, sound, costumes, and set), and adjusting our blocking and choreography from small rehearsal rooms to the vast scope of the Red Eye Theater’s stage. It’s quick, it’s stressful, and it’s exhilarating. (Coffee helps.)
Even though rehearsals for a new, multi-disciplinary, ensemble-driven play are never easy, we’ve emerged stronger, more articulate artists, and we are now more specific and more intentional about the choices that we are making as storytellers. From questions come conversation and exploration, which breeds a product that is richer and far more complex than what we could have created all on our own. I’m proud of the work that we’ve created together, collaboratively, and I can’t wait to share it with an audience, starting December 2.
So, please – join us for this new, never-before-seen, original work of theatre before it’s too late. Because, after we close on December 11, this magical world that we have created will cease to exist forever.
Tickets are selling fast! More information about purchasing tickets for The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood may be found here.
All photos by Logan Verdoorn
Stage manager and assistant director Sofia Lindgren Galloway writes about the rehearsal process:
I met David when I was a reference for a costume designer he hired three years ago. He had just finished his MFA in directing and moved back to Minneapolis. I was a recent college graduate and had just moved to the Twin Cities to start my own directing career. We’ve been keeping in touch about our directing paths and I’m SO EXCITED to be joining him as his assistant on The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. I met playwright Kat Sherman and choreographer Justin Leaf last December when David invited me to a couple devising workshops for a “performance work inspired by early variations of Sleeping Beauty, and potentially structured as the dreams that Sleeping Beauty has before she wakes up.” A few months later, after the spring work-in-progress presentation with Savage Umbrella’s Night of New Works, I was invited back as David’s assistant and stage manager.
Left: David tries a crown on Torre; Right: Patrick (left) and David (right), working with the Crone costume
I have worn many hats in the last few months as Stage Manager, Assistant Director, composition participant, rehearsal photographer/videographer, and one time post-clogged toilet cleaner. The most exciting thing about working with Collective Unconscious Performance is that we’re all wearing several hats, and often at the same time. David is simultaneously staging moments and designing them. Kat will come into rehearsals with script edits and then jump into a composition. Justin is bouncing back and forth between playing Beauty and choreographing dances. Even the cast is playing multiple roles. They move from mask work, to puppeteers, to dancers, to actors in a matter of minutes; both in rehearsals and in the performance! The versatility of the artists involved with this production is astounding.
Left: Composition moment (I swear I’m somewhere in that pile of bodies); Right: Alana (left) and Mikey (right) waiting for their next pose in a song
We spent the first two weeks of rehearsal training in Viewpoints, Bunraku puppetry, shadow puppetry, and composition work. By devoting time to those specific ways of creating performance, we have learned to move from one to the other quickly in rehearsals. In week three, we’ve moved into staging the show based on composition work. In a matter of days, we’ve managed to stage almost all of the play and by the time you read this, we’ll be well into running the show! (Just don’t look at my blocking notes… they won’t inspire confidence… haha)
Left: Justin teaches choreography; Right: (Left to right) Sarah, Alana, Jessie, and David learning how to use shadow puppets
It's exciting, it's challenging, and I think we will create some really beautiful moments beyond our wildest dreams! But, maybe not beyond Sleeping Beauty’s wildest dreams. I guess you’ll have to come find out for yourself! :)
Patrick, in a moment from the scene “Sun, Moon, and Talia”
11/7/2016 1 Comment
David Hanzal and Katharine Sherman first invited me to play the role of Beauty in their upcoming production of The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, and I was later engaged to provide dances for the multidimensional performance work premiering next month at the Red Eye Theater.
With my history as a choreographer equally comfortable in concert halls and cabaret theaters, the project was good fit for my range, blending the classical beauty of an ethereal fairy tale with more modern influences of pop dance styles, including burlesque and hip hop. Also, my penchant for the dreamlike had been a hallmark of my choreographic work, evident in dances I’d made for Minnesota Dance Theatre and James Sewell Ballet. And so now I was invited to enter the world of Beauty’s dreams and illumine the musical sequences with a distinctive movement dimension.
The choreographic process began last spring with a work-in-progress showing in Savage Umbrella’s Night of New Works series. In collaboration with the ensemble, I developed three of the dances at that time. David shared his intentions for the scenes to be choreographed and often provided links to source material that inspired his vision. I would reference this material, allowing it to loosely inform my own vision.
I ran with the delicious dichotomy captured in what I saw in this new rendering of the story: both poetic gravitas and campy satire. Some of the dances lean toward one end of that spectrum, while some lean toward the other. And sometimes they are interwoven—a sort of dark humor pervading Beauty’s dream world. But also gorgeous, creepy, wild, wistful, obnoxious, exalted, and sublime.
However, that first iteration was specific to the alley-style seating arrangement at Savage Umbrella’s SPACE and to the performers who were working with us then. Coming back together to prepare for the Red Eye Theater production, we have begun transforming the orientation of the dances for a much larger proscenium theater. Also, we’ve been incorporating refreshed intentions and additional performers.
In the midst of this process, working both inside of the dances as a performer and outside as choreographer, I have a unique perspective on the work, seeing it from different angles. I also get to experience the approach of “theater people” and bring my dance perspective into the mix. Through this collaboration, we discover new avenues for creating the movement sequences that help to bring The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood to life.