My Atlanta Fringe Festival Experience

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Charis Wiltshire, Travis Draper, and Wala Hassan perform in the opening of Ember

The 2016 Atlanta Fringe Festival returned June 9 – 12 in various venues in and around Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood. During this year’s festival, a group of Theater at Emory students and alums (members of Corpulent Porpoise Productions) mounted Ember, a new play by playwriting major Max McCreary. Below, members of the production recount their experience taking part in Atlanta’s annual festival of edgy, new work.

The 2016 Atlanta Fringe Festival was my first Fringe festival as a performer.  Working with a group of students all studying at Theater Emory, we enjoyed an easy rehearsal chemistry, since we all spoke the same language and knew the same shorthand.  This certainly streamlined our brief rehearsal process, since we only met about eight times.  Going into the piece, none of us knew much about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) nor could we ask our playwright for frequent clarifications on the script, as he was occupied elsewhere.  Therefore, with Adam Friedman at the helm, we were given liberty to explore our own blocking and pacing, to determine dramatically how symptoms of DID might manifest.  I believe a major take-away from our production, certainly something to enrich the playwright’s future drafts, was our discovery of how ineffectual immobility can be in a drama of language.  After weeks of deliberation, our director made the call to mobilize the alternate identities, opening up a fruitful discussion about cognitive movement as well as providing a wealth of acting opportunities.  Rehearsal and development was both satisfying and very entertaining, but the major draw of Fringe Festival for the artists has to be the unlimited, free access to all other fringe shows during the festival.  While I hope our work will help the playwright better his play and provide the director with future insights, I gathered my pearls out in the audience. – Travis Draper, Class of 2015

 

The Atlanta Fringe Festival was a wonderful opportunity in a community venue that provided a great atmosphere for the performances. Our rehearsal process was concentrated on realizing the script written by our student author; giving him a reading with staging to further his work. Because of this, we communicated closely with Max McCreary about what experiments in rehearsal would be the most helpful as he continued to develop this work. Though our venue lacked AC, our performances were smooth to run with good audiences as well. Fringe is certainly a piece of work, but the commitment to make something unique, new, and worthwhile makes the festival a really fun workspace. – Ginny Loeffler, Class of 2017

 

Working on the Atlanta Fringe Festival was an experience I’ll always be grateful for. I had a stellar time with my ensemble trying to put on a fellow student’s play. We started with just regular rehearsals and as the date got closer we began to do previews with the festival. These were great because I got to see some of what the other companies were working on and I got to meet a lot of cool talented people. I even ran into an old friend of mine! We got artist passes so I was able to see some of the other shows which were all really good. It was a really great professional experience that I think all students should do and can do with ease and I would highly recommend and do again! – Wala Hassan, Class of 2017

 

Being able to participate in the Atlanta Fringe Festival was a really cool experience. Before Fringe I never tapped into the vast extent of artistic opportunities happening in Atlanta and the festival really helped open my eyes to that.  It was awesome being welcomed into a community of artists who are encouraging, supportive, and love what they’re doing. We got to see a few of the extremely talented performers for free, which was awesome and much appreciated. Also, being able to work with such good friends throughout the whole process, from playwright to director to actors, really made the experience as dope as it could possibly be. – Charis Wiltshire, Class of 2018

 

This year has been one of firsts for me, and it is only fitting that my first year at Emory is punctuated with my experience at Atlanta Fringe. My imagination, for a long time, has been excited by scenes of people blocking freshly-written scripts in plainclothes, in rehearsal halls long after the sun has set, creating, with force and determination, artful theater, bringing it, so to speak, from thin air. Theater-making, in my mind, is synonymous with tension and release, roughness and vigor and vitality, and these words come to mind as I reflect on the experience I had helping bring Ember to the Fringe stage. I feel immensely honored to have been trusted with Ember, and I’m thankful to have been brought into the project. My familiarity with my cast mates, the director, and the writer brought a palpable chemistry to the project. I trusted all of them, and that was ultimately empowering. To work with a script that was energetically new and unvarnished in places, finding the inspirations and forces my friend had written, and watching my cast mates extract it all before my eyes was a compelling thing to behold.

The festival itself was a whole other experience, an exhilarating one. The works I watched ranged from rowdy and comedic to deeply written drama, and they all impressed me by their sense of inspiration, each piece had something ingeniously unique about it that imbued the festival with an air of electric novelty. Watching fresh and new pieces, knowing I was with a company and cast that had new work of their own to offer, brought to life an experience I had only been able to imagine. It drove home an idea that art doesn’t just happen in a vacuum, that we find ourselves as a community of theatre-makers, not insular productions. Everything about the experience was real and untethered, and deeply unforgettable. – Josh Oberlander, Class of 2019

 

The Atlanta Fringe Festival was my first experience directing a professional production, which brought a whole load of lessons with it.  The process was much more streamlined than a production, and rehearsals were a bit sparser, as we were working around everyone’s working schedule.  However, this was balanced out by the fact that we were all used to working with each other from previous productions and classes.  Another lesson learned was how much can be left open and up to interpretation when developing new work.  This is both good and bad, as it provides unique opportunities to shape an audience’s interpretation of the work, while also posing unique challenges as how to best portray the writer’s intents.

The festival itself was an incredible experience.  From kickoff to closing, it was filled with an infectious energy from performers and organizers alike.  The festival’s organizers did an excellent job of providing the artists with opportunities to promote their work through a night of previews, as well as individualized previews throughout the weekend.  In addition, all of the artists were put together in a room, giving us the chance to connect with each other and learn about all the shows that were going on.  I think that may have ultimately been what was the most valuable part of the experience – meeting and connecting with so many exciting artists in the Atlanta area.  – Adam Friedman, Class of 2018

 

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Alum Snehal Desai named artistic director of LA’s East West Players

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East West Players has found its new artistic director from within its own ranks and announced that Emory alum, Snehal Desai, will succeed outgoing producing artistic directory Tim Dang, who has led the downtown Los Angeles theater company since 1993.

Snehal last worked with Theater Emory during the 2015 Global Voices reading series, as director and playwright.

Read more about Snehal’s new role here.

 

WABE: Theater Emory plays with casting genders in ‘As You Like It’

Listen to an interview between Lois Reitzes and the directors in the City Lights Podcast.
(Interview begins at 15:21)

This year, Shakespeare’s 400th birthday is being celebrated across the globe.

For the occasion, Theater Emory has created several programs over the year dedicated to Shakespeare – and this week, they are doing a grand experiment. Professor Jan Akers is directing an all-female cast of “As You Like It,” and professor Tim McDonough is directing an all-male cast of the same play.

“So we were interested without any particular agenda about the gender differences to see how the plays would speak differently to audiences given an all-male cast and an all-female cast,” explained McDonough in an interview with Lois Reitzes.

Read the article in full here.

 

Emory Report: Shakespeare at Emory events lead up to First Folio exhibit

FullColor-HorizontalFour hundred years after William Shakespeare’s death, his work continues to resonate with audiences across the globe, providing new insights into the nature of love, power and human existence. This month, Emory embarks on a yearlong focus on the man whose words changed the world.

Kicking off next week with events from Emory Libraries and Theater Emory, Shakespeare at Emory celebrates the University’s selection as a host site for the exhibit of “First Folio: The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” with plays, readings, exhibits and other activities.

One host site was selected from each state to display the national traveling exhibition of Shakespeare’s First Folio, one of the world’s most treasured books, from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Emory was chosen as the Georgia venue.

“Appropriately, Emory’s year of celebration begins with a thought-provoking scholarly reflection on the First Folio, to be followed by a rich array of theatrical performances and poetry readings, as well as exhibitions, conversations and pop-up events,” says Rosemary Magee, director of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. “All are invited to participate — in every way possible.”

Read the article in full here.

Decaturish: Emory prepares to host Shakespeare’s First Folio

Emory University is preparing to host William Shakespeare’s First Folio this fall with a number of Shakespeare at Emory events.

It was announced in 2015 that Emory was chosen to be the Georgia site to display “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.” It’s a national traveling exhibition of the 1623 book that gave us 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including “Macbeth” and “The Tempest.”

The tour of the folio is going to all 50 states, Washington, and Puerto Rico, according to the Folger Shakespeare Library’s First Folio website.

read the Decaturish article in full here.

Q & A with “As You Like It” student artist, Jennifer Lenchner

 

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Jennifer’s sketches

Q: How did you get involved with Theater Emory’s two productions of “As You Like It”?

A: After exhausting the normal art classes Emory has to offer and a semester of independent study with Professor Kerry Moore, I asked to do another independent study. Both art professors had very busy schedules so I went to my co-major advisor Leslie Taylor and asked to do an independent study with her. She then offered the opportunity for me to do sculptures for Theater Emory’s Spring production!

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Close-up of one of Jennifer’s completed tumbleweeds

Q: So what are you doing for the production?

A: I’m the Artist in Residence and am creating two different series of sculptures. One series is focused on being a part of the environment as tumbleweeds made of animal parts. The other series is composed of 5 individual pieces of animal parts that are put together vertically on the side of a wall.  The tumbleweed pieces are made specifically to be utilized on stage whereas the latter series is made to be minimally used on stage besides being put up by the actors to become part of the environment/scene. 

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Detail of an animal part

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you faced creating a piece of art for the theater?

A: Truthfully, I’ve found that making art for theater has been less challenging in some ways. Creating art for theater offers a lot of support, there are multiple minds to pick about the direction I am going in with a piece. Since I am making pieces for a play, I get more specific comments instead of the general nod of approval from my art professors. Related to my previous comment, I started off creating pieces with a specific vision and purpose which made for an overall quicker process. Given what I just said, the biggest challenge I believe is creating art that is “big” enough for theater. I have made a wire sculpture piece that I adore, but from a long distance, the piece gets lost and hard to see for some of the audience. 

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Sculptures in progress

Q: Do you hope to continue working in theater in the future?

A: I have been surrounded by creative, fun, and supportive staff at the Mary Gray Munroe theater that have made artistic collaboration an absolute pleasure and supported my artistic creativity in making these sculptures. With that, I am definitely interested in working on the art side of theater again. 

Photo journal: Wala Hassan in England

Theater Studies student, Wala Hassan, shares her experience as a study abroad student at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) through photos.

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One of my first days at LAMDA was spent getting to explore Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London. It was absolutely amazing! I had never seen a castle before and I got to see two of the most famous ones all in one week! I was a little over-excited (which is pretty clear in this picture). Hampton Court had the most beautiful gardens AND the most convoluted floor plan. I still don’t know if I saw even half of the whole grounds that day, but I did thoroughly enjoy myself. Hampton Court also has a maze that my friends and I made it through!
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With LAMDA, I got to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon for 3 days! It was a lovely trip, Stratford is such a beautiful place. On the trip, we saw two shows at the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Doctor Faustus. Both shows were amazing. My entire group was completely blown away by Doctor Faustus in particular; I could have seen it five hundred more times. We also had the opportunity to take a masterclass exploring A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
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I think this looks like I’m sitting in front of a painting, but it’s actually the beautiful river Avon. I could have stared at it all day. While visiting Stratford, LAMDA arranged for us to explore Shakespeare’s birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s cottage. It was really cool to be in the same place that Shakespeare was born, almost surreal. What made it even more surreal was that I saw his grave the same day. It was really cool to get to pay my respects to the bard in breathtaking Stratford-Upon-Avon.
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This is the Tower Bridge…almost. I tried to take a panorama photo with a view of the beautiful bridge, the Shard, and the Gherkin; turns out, panoramas can’t be taken with your phone sideways. I didn’t see this gem until I got home and had such a laugh that I decided to share it with my friends on Facebook. Someone shared it to Reddit and the next thing I knew, it went viral. One of my friends messaged me letting me know that TimeOut London shared my picture on their page.  It was pretty exciting since TimeOut is very famous, even if nobody knows I took the picture. It’s nice to have some anonymous fame for my Inception style tower bridge photo. Tagline: Failed Study Abroad Picture.
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I got to take to coolest boat ride to Greenwich and see the Prime Meridian line! I have to say, I really thought there was going to be some mega-crazy time warp from standing in two timezones at once, but alas there was none. On this hill, there were some very cool museums, a beautiful view, and a piece of a meteorite labeled “the oldest thing you will ever touch.” Of course I took advantage of that opportunity.
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Southbank is one of the most beautiful places and walks in London in my opinion. It’s a short walk from the London Eye, Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the like. It’s also home to the National Theatre. I was lucky enough to see two shows at the National, one with Emory abroad and one with LAMDA. With LAMDA, I saw As You Like It which was pretty exciting, and I can’t wait to see the productions at Theater Emory when I get back!
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One Wednesday afternoon, my professor at LAMDA decided to send us on a scavenger hunt to an undisclosed place. My group ended up in Spitalfields in East London. The architecture there is truly one-of-a-kind. It’s the only place I’ve seen where there are building erected pre-1500s juxtaposed with the Shard and Gherkin buildings that look like they were built in the future. We explored every little bit (or at least tried to). It was an amazing Wednesday afternoon. I later returned with my Emory abroad group and found stuff I had missed the first time, including the Denis Severs house, which was the COOLEST thing ever. 10 out of 10. Would recommend.
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I entered a ticket lottery to see Red Velvet and didn’t win, but I did score discounted tickets! I was so fortunate to get a chance to see the show at the famous Garrick Theatre and also to meet the cast, including Adrian Lester (pictured), afterwards. The whole experience was definitely worth standing outside for over an hour! The show was so amazing and really powerful. I first learned about the show in my History of Drama and Theater II class so I was VERY excited to learn that Kenneth Branagh was remounting a production and that Olivier-winning Adrian Lester was reprising the role of Aldridge. I even got to see it from the third row! So I basically fan-girled that whole day (and I still am fan-girling).
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Unfortunately, the outdoor Globe Theatre is closed during the winter. But that didn’t stop me and my friend Mona from taking a tour inside. It was absolutely beautiful and most definitely one of the best places in London. I got to touch the stage and the dried-on fake blood (haha). Even though the outdoor Globe is closed, the Sam Wannamaker Theatre was open and, fortunately, LAMDA took us to see Cymbeline there! It was a very intimate theatrical experience. I even got to experience what it was like to be a groundling (even though we weren’t technically on the ground). It was so magical to see the Globe, which is almost an exact replica, because my lover for Shakespeare is what brought me to LAMDA in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

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