The OTHER Other Portland: Preview!

September 5th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

This just in… one of the preview performances of You the Man will be in Portland, Victoria, Australia!

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland,_Victoria

 

Contest for Add Verb’s Out Allied Writing Project: creating allies through performance

September 4th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

UNE students and Interns Extraordinaire created this book trailer for Vol. 1 and we’re now pulling together piece for Volume 2. We’re in the final stretch for closing submissions for new works, and wanted to open this to the UNE community.

Announcing a writing contest for UNE writers! With great, writerly prizes. We have three Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance workshops available as prizes for three winners.  The winners will get to select what workshop and when, so there’s a lot of flexibility in the prizes (and our timeline).

Writing Contest: Performing Advocacy
Open to any student at UNE.
Submission must be in a genre that can be performed, rather than  an essay or story:
Monologue/monodrama
Scene (naturalistic or more performance art in style)
Poem
Spoken word
Song
Theme:
To support someone who is LGBTQ, or to help an ally better understand about LGBTQ in general.
To do so in a way that doesn’t replicate oppression, but rather looks towards transformation, inspiration, resiliency, joy.
Due Date: October 15, 2013
The winners as well as all submitters will be considered for publication in the upcoming Out & Allied Volume 2.

Volume 1 continues to make an impact–schools, new theatre programs, college LGBTQ groups, and youth leadership programs have adopted the book and it’s 34 performance pieces and activist handbook.

Email Cathy Plourde cplourde1@une for further information, and check this blog for updates and details.

 

 

 

Finding voice in the verb.

July 30th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

Some times, things just don’t turn out like you want them to, even though intentions were solid, and well, nothing bad had happened before.  Er, that we noticed, anyway.

I’ve had more than one conversation over the years with different artists, educators, and advocates about when a performance tanks, and the result is unpleasant at best, unsafe at worst.

(I am not referring to the times a fire alarm goes off during the show, announcements come over the loud speaker, or someone steps behind a partition to take a cell phone call with the mistaken belief that because they can’t see you, you can’t hear them.)

Somehow an audience became hostile, or things just got out of control, or the facilitators have panicked in front of the crowd, or a post-show panelist gets inappropriately personal, dismissive, or self-righteous.  I’ve heard principals talk about the emotional clean up (my term) that has to happen after a particular performance was brought in for an assembly.  I’ve had actors tell me about experiences with other production companies similar to Add Verb that they had to manage insults and jeers from the audience, while on stage and in role.  I’ve heard about performances where the audience participation–which was encouraged and a structural element of the program–devolved to obnoxious and disrespectful one-upmanship which left actors high and dry…I’ve seen audience members be poised and ready to know what they can do to help, but no one in the production or any of the organizers thought of having any resources available.

More than once I’ve been deeply uncomfortable watching a performance when someone has worked hard to spill their story on a stage, but have not tapped into the magic of theatre and it’s ability to transform, distill, and reframe truth; instead, their work (and heart) are trapped by And Then This Happened.

Hell.  That’s enough to make one (okay, enough to make ME) not want to see any more theatre at all, you know, ever. But when theatre works, it really really works and no film, brochure, story, etc., can come close to touching its power.

In all of those true-to-life horror stories above, it was inconvenient and/or unpleasant for the actors, educators and advocates.  But I wonder two things.

1.  What impact did it have on the survivors in the room?

2. What impact did it have on the rest of the audience?

We don’t know, if we don’t ask.  And even if we ask, we might not be able or willing to hear the truth: An academic theatre artist engaging in devising theatre based on a current oral history of a Southern Atlantic seaboard town presented a paper at a conference about his students performing as the local community members.  It came out that the Mayor (who was the first African American mayor in this community) wound up being portrayed by a white male from the professor’s private college.  When asked what the community thought about that he replied, “Yeah, I had wondered about that, too, but no one said anything. I asked.  It was fine.”

Right.

Finding voice is one thing.  It does imply that someone qualified  (able, willing) to really listen would be helpful.

I had a chance to be interviewed by Dr. Lisa Belisle and we spent some time on the topic of “Finding Voice”, and exploring what it means to give voice to important, volatile issues while considering how to do so in a way that minimizes harm, trauma, or the replication of victimization.  Scroll to Podcast #98, and look for the play button.  And please let both of us know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

Of Idioms and Consequences

July 8th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

I say Officer.  You say Constable. Store? Shop. Trash? Rubbish.

Some of the translation process of creating an Australian version of You the Man involved just specific words.  Other points of translation required considering what was meant, and how that might be best delivered idomatically.  Case in point, when Officer Friendly says:   Did you know that approximately 73% of all rapes are committed by friends, family members, and acquaintances? Apparently, it’s not that masked stranger in a dark alley that a woman has to fear as much as she has to fear the smiling faces around her. That’s a conversation stopper all right.  

Constable Friend now says: That’s a barbeque stopper all right.

But the most extensive changes came when translating American sports culture to Australian sports culture.  Basketball is equal opportunity in the US.  Footy (Australian Rule Football) was the closest we could come.  We wanted to examine the gender box, issues of loyalty, and what someone has to lose.

 

American Version: The Virgin Larry (Virg for short)

I tell ya, the way people talk about sex all the time, you’d think half the world was gettin’ it daily. In the movies, it’s like they kiss, and baddah-boom, you know, then, next instant, they’re doin’ it. Come on-it’s not like you can pick up a basketball and then be in the NBA. And people keep your score. Everyone’s waitin’ for you to kiss and tell. Now me, I was a late bloomer. Back in the day, I got the nickname The Virgin Larry … ‘Virg’ for short. Yeah, pretty funny, day in and day out, “Hey, Virg-great moves with the ball today … too bad you can’t score in bed like you score on the court.”  And if gay-dar radar’s turned on you, well buckle up, buddy, ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. “Hey Virg-if I ever hear you shooting for the other team, you can kiss your sorry ass goodbye !”  Nice. I got the first chick into bed that I could. It went well. No. Actually. Things were a little … premature. Hey, I mean that in several ways. They call that irony. Pretty funny. No it isn’t. You think it’s been easy having the nickname the Virgin Larry?

 

Aussie Version:  The Virgin Barry (VB for short)

You’d think half the world was getting’ it daily.  Movies, ads, the net – sex on tap.  Easy. But it’s not like you can just pick up a ball and get drafted, I don’t reckon. They call me the Virgin Barry – VB for short.  Great.  Is it my fault I’m a kick behind the play? “Hey VB,” they say, “too bad you can’t score where it counts.” And if gay-dar radar is turned on you well it’s bums to the wall, mate.  I got the first chick I could into bed.  How’d it go? Well, no pressure right? Let’s just say I fumbled the ball.  Lucky no-one around here keeps score.

In Australia footy is played in a club system–and correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems if every town’s got at least one club!  The players are mostly older than Americans playing for the college systems, and playing has nothing to do with university, scholarships or feeding into the NBA draft system.  The question was, what does VB have to lose by not taking action and being complicit in his friend’s atrocious actions of taping sex with a woman without her knowledge, and having sex without her consent, and, doing so after being asked to stop… a few times?  In theatre, it’s the writer’s job to create the stakes, and they need to be high.

In the American version Virg stands to lose his scholarship and is looking at a possible expulsion–as are all of the others who were there.  In the Aussie version, VB is looking at legal action being taken by the league’s lawyers.

Several years ago the show was presented at the National Women’s Studies pre-conference for the Women’s Centers association.  An audience conversation went something like this between a woman from a high profile Division I NCAA basketball school in Georgia (let’s call her Georgia) who worked in the Women’s Resource Center, and Lisa Jo Epstein, a friend who is trained in Theatre of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal:

GA: Well, that’s nice that there were consequences for the basketball player, but that’s pretty unrealistic.

LJE: Why is it unrealistic?

GA: Well, losing a scholarship?  Expulsion?  I work at [!!] and that would never ever happen.

LJE: Well, what would happen?

GA: I don’t know. Nothing.

LJE:  Maybe what this play can do for us is not replay reality just as it is.  Maybe it can help us ask, “what would happen at my university, and is that okay? Is it enough?” 

It’s not the job of theatre to recreate reality, but to offer a reflection of reality.  Standard principles of TO is in taking on reality and oppression, and then offering possibilities for alternatives, choices, and potential change.

I loved Lisa Jo’s question: What would happen, and are we okay with that?

 

Honoring Victims: What did you do?

July 3rd, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

So far I’ve been detailing a lot about the primary target audience for the play You the Man. Initially, I was imagining the young man in the locker room, hearing peers laugh and brag about sex, sexual conquests (real, imagined or exaggerated), and objectification of women in general and violence and abuse of women in particular.

I imagine that for this young man, this is a difficult setting in which to interrupt the status quo.  And I imagine this setting to be not so unlike dozens of other settings in which sexist, homophobic, violent attitude and behavior is not only condoned but encouraged: work place, sports teams, street, dinner tables, classrooms, buses, trains, movies, parties, … well, anywhere and everywhere. Pick a country. 

I had asked Amanda Cost, an advocate and friend from Spruce Run in Bangor Maine to review of curriculum being developed to accompany the program before we launched it.  It was written with National and Maine State learning standards, and while I don’t know how much use teachers have made of the curriculum its mere existence is one of the things that makes it easier for administrators to give You the Man the green light for a performance.  Amanda, like all of the other advocates from Maine and across the US who have given feedback on the materials, offered some nuance and insights I found really useful.

1. Regarding handout or educational one-sheets, the use of the Myths and Facts sheets may actually serve to reinforce myths. (Good point!  We don’t use that handout anymore!)

2. That communicating to audiences that saying nothing is actually saying something–it says that you have taken a stand with the person who is abusive or violent.  That your silence serves to condone the behavior. (Well said.  Repeat, often.)

So, yes, the target audience is the bystander, and specifically, the male bystander. We know that most of the violence committed against women is done so by men.  But we also know that most men are not abusive or violent.  And it’s those guys we need to show up, in numbers.

But what about the victim? Where is the victim’s voice in the play?

In the play, Mitch (a friend of Jana, a young woman in an abusive and increasingly dangerous relationship) is trying to figure out what to do to help his friend.  He feels that if he just stands there and doesn’t do anything, then he’s a part of the problem.  And the violence has gotten worse.  At a party, Jana’s boyfriend punched a hole in the wall, just a few inches from her head.  In the play Mitchell asks the audience for help with his options.  So far he has five:

  1. Mitch Talk To John.
  2. Beat Up John.
  3. Talk To Jana’s Friends, etc.
  4. Call Help Line.
  5. Rescue Jana.

Mitch quickly rules out #1, #2 and #5.

Mitch Talk to John Why?  Well, he tried that and John doesn’t want to hear it, and last time John took it out on Jana and threatened violence against Mitch.  Moving on.

Beat Up John Why?  Some people have said that this is the only language some people understand and you know, after roughing someone up (or slashing their tires, or whatever), well, the behaviors stopped.  But Mitch thinks this through a bit more, and most importantly, thinks it through with  Jana’s safety in mind: this is only going to make John more angry, and put Jana in more danger (and, it doesn’t have to be a hole in the wall to underline how important this is).

Rescue Jana On one hand, you might think “rescue” is sweet, chivalrous. Look closer and you will notice patriarchal in that hand as well. Mitch says it best:  Sure.  Chivalry.  Just get a white horse, ride on in.  And then what??? This isn’t a fairy tale.  She may not want to be rescued.  And John’s not going to sit back.  She wanted to leave a party and he punched a hole in the wall.  What’s he going to do whan she wants to leave him?

One of the reasons I love Mitch is that he gets it.  He catches himself before he succumbs to a socially manufactured pressure we put on men:  To rescue. To have the answers. To fix it.  He realizes he can’t do this alone–he needs to check in with Jana’s friends and family.  He needs to check in with trained advocates on a support line who can give him some solid feedback.

And, most importantly, he realizes he doesn’t know what Jana thinks or needs.

He realizes he has to talk to Jana.

So, where is the victim voice in You the Man? We don’t hear the gritty details and inner monologues of the victims in this production.  That’s not because it’s not important.  It’s because the larger “we” in the room, “we” have to do something, and we have to do something that does not put our surviving friends and family and co-workers in more danger.  We need to approach the issue and the situation in a way that does not put further shame or pressure on them.  We need to listen.  Listen and learn. And that might be all that is required of us.

Honor the survivors, as they are doing a great job at surviving and probably know more than “we” do about what it takes to stay safe.

We’ve all had those moments in the locker room.  What did we do?