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!