You the [ONE] Man?

June 12th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

On why one actor, and why professional:

Having written and directed plays for several years for activism with youth audiences, I know how challenging it is to pull together a cast. My plan was to follow the model I had work out with The Thin Line (a one woman 30 minute production on coping with eating disorders, 1999).  One actor to pay, one actor to schedule.

Nearly every production, I recognized, would be presented to captive (not incarcerated, however) audiences for assemblies, orientations, awareness weeks.  They would have been told the topic of the presentation, and they would be certain before they arrived in the auditorium (if they were lucky) or the gymnasium (very likely) that it would suck. In every audience there are victims and survivors, and I did not want to set them up for an hour of humiliation in which the topic could be ridiculed, diminished, or trivialized.   The actor has a tall order—teens are not known for polite theatre behaviors, especially when sitting on bleachers or in the back of large auditoriums—and he has to “win” in 10 seconds or less.  A task, I felt, best suited to a professional!

What’s in a (video excerpt of) a play?

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

In theatre, less is more.  You the Man features:

One actor.

Black t-shirt, black jeans for costume.

A nearly bare stage–table, stool, a couple of small props, flip chart.

Lights on the stage, and in the house.

This minimalist set up not only makes for ease in touring, it give audiences a chance to project an individual understanding of the characters, their situations, their ages.  But this description gives very little information of what the play is actually like.

Yes, if it were on video PERHAPS we could reach many more people.

And:

No, there is not going to be a video version of the play.

Why? Because the ability of theatre to break through the noise of the hours of screen time youth as well as adults have every day is inherent in it being LIVE THEATRE.

But, this being the 21st Century, it’s pretty much required to have some sort of media version of one’s program or work.

And, having tried NUMEROUS times to capture the essence of the production on the ever-requsested video of the production, the transfer from one medium to the other is not simple (or inexpensive!).

So, for the purposes of having a video for use in promoting and presenting the program, the students in Mr. David Beane’s video production class at the Portland Arts & Technology High School worked with both the actors Lloyd Watts and Brian Chamberlain to capture ‘essence’ of the play.  We’ve got a typo to fix, but ignore that for now and check out their work!

YouTube Preview Image

http://youtu.be/5BVmi58k2WY

Why Men?

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

On the male point of view:

When interviewing school-based advocates in Maine to learn what their experiences held for best practices, and what would they do with a magic wand, a woman named Angel offered a true north for the play: “I hate to say this but I am female, so when I open my mouth in front of groups of students I can just see the boys tune out.”  Angel pointed to a void of male voices speaking up against violence.  Her remark made it clear to me that this one-person, multi-character play I was trying to imagine would need to be male characters.

I interviewed advocates in Maine and around the US who had something to say about dating violence and sexual assault prevention efforts in high schools and colleges.  The pool of men doing the work was fairly small at the time, and all to whom I reached out to returned my calls, read drafts, and talked through what they saw as challenges, opportunities, and successes.

As my friend Norma Bowles of Fringe Benefits Theatre in Los Angeles, California said in a workshop she gave at and Association of Theatre in Higher Education conference in the early 2000’s, the goal was to reach the ‘mass in the middle’ and activate them as allies.  Most men are not perpetrators; most perpetrators are men. I wanted to create a series of characters with whom most men and boys could relate.

In the Australian version of “You the Man” Officer Friendly” (which was a joking reference to the DARE campaign) is now Constable Friend.  One of my favorite lines of his is a good summation of the movement’s agreement of cultivating empathy as  a prevention and intervention strategy: ” Not one of us, myself included, needs to wait for something terrible to happen before we act like we care.”

YES! (With enthusiasm!)

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

Professor Ann Taket and I gave 7 presentations together: Melbourne City Center (Deakin’s meeting rooms), Geelong, Warrnambool, Deakin’s Burwood Campus, Bendigo, Benalla and Traralgon. Ann’s presented at one other place and is scheduling a few other gatherings. Over 250 people in Victoria!

I asked Ann what was surprising to her in our process of these presentations, and she said that the level as well as volume of enthusiasm. So what is making “You the Man” so appealing?

1. the design. The play sits at the center of a process of not just educating but engaging a community. It’s goal is to put the local resources front and center, and, to make their job easier.

2. the message. Men are key bystanders and key agents of change in preventing interpersonal violence. The play is packed with info that has been vetted by advocates and educators.

3. the method. Theatre is an affect experience. It goes to the heart, makes the issues real, and brings by it’s nature both need and urgency.

Who is enthusiastic?  All sorts of programs that are currently in the process of engaging men’s efforts in stopping violence against women: City Councils, Women’s Health, Salvation Army, Angelicare, Diversity and Inclusion, and more.