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!
7/5/2017 1 Comment
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!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.