Performance Review and Next Steps!

Back in February, when we produced ROSE for audiences at the Cannon Street Arts Center, we had the pleasure of receiving a review from Michael Smallwood, a local actor, writer, and creator who reviews the arts for the Charleston City Paper and who is also father to an amazing child who accompanied him to the show! With the onset of COVID-19 a few weeks later, our review unfortunately never made it to publication. However, Michael has given us permission to share it with you. Here it is:

This past weekend, I got to attend a performance of That Which We Call A Rose [TWWCAR], a devised theatre piece about space exploration and the cosmos that ran a limited slew of shows at the Cannon Street Arts Center. The project is a collaboration of students, alumni, and faculty from the College of Charleston to create an educational piece of theatre for elementary school students. And I took my three year old daughter, because there would be puppets.

TWWCAR was presented in two parts, focusing on different celestial bodies. The show I saw on Saturday was The Moon and Bennu. The story follows three space explorers (played with exuberance by Jenny Bettke, Javaron Conyers, and Nick Brown) as they head towards the distant planet Europa. They are sidetracked by a representative of the Consortium of Women Cosmographers and sent on a mission to rescue tardigrades from Earth’s moon. Later, the asteroid Bennu puts the Earth in danger, and it’s up to the intrepid explorers to deal with the threat. Bettke, Conyers, and Brown are great and striking the right tones throughout. They have a command of the performance style necessary to engage children, and had the audience hooked right away.

The production design is simple lights and backdrops, certainly designed to travel easily to schools. The play makes effective use of various kinds of effects and media to present its story. Puppets abound, ranging from traditional Punch-and-Judy to Bunraku-style full body pieces to simple one-handed birds. The before-mentioned tardigrades and the leader birds on the asteroid Bennu are highlights.

Television screens are used for mission briefings and to provide educational backstory. The timing of everything is commendable, and the actors are able to play off the video bits quite well. But some of the filmed sections run a little long, especially at the beginning of the piece, and end up throwing off the momentum that the onstage performers have set. A lot of information needs to be presented to the audience, but the long video packages full of dense exposition dumps could have been handled differently. There are effects and puppets in the videos that I wished could have been presented live, so that they matched the onstage energy present.

My daughter is younger than the intended audience, so she didn’t pick up any of the scientific information, but she was entertained by the performers and loved seeing the puppets. There’s a lot of scientific information, and it’s so dense that I wonder if it all may be too much at once for even the oldest elementary students. Because it covers so much information (Earth environmentalism, feminism, astrology, mythology, etc.), the plot can often be lost in the many many details. As it continues to evolve, director Vivian Appler may consider trimming down some of the heavier expositional moments to allow the story to keep a cleaner focus. All said, it’s an interesting project with a ton of promise that could prove incredibly useful for students of all ages.

– Michael Smallwood

Thanks, Michael!

As we adjust to theatre-making in the age of COVID-19, our focus has shifted to the digital realm. We are exploring options for refining TWWCAR as an interactive, educational performance in a safe and socially-distanced manner. The format of Phase 2 is still in the works, but we are excited for the creative opportunities that this new challenge brings. Stay tuned here for more updates on future content and interesting tidbits of space news!

Join Science Friday and Chicago’s Adler Planetarium and Draw/Paint/Dance the Sun!

Well, tomorrow is Tuesday.

For me, that means that it is my ninth Tuesday in a row working from home due to restrictions caused by COVID-19.

One of the silver linings of social distancing is that, while we can’t do all of the things at all of the places that we are used to going (theatres, malls, museums, national parks, libraries, work, school, etc…), many wonderful institutions in far-away places are opening up their archives and activities for audiences to partake in all kinds of activities that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do otherwise.

One socially distanced event that I am planning on participating in is happening tomorrow night. Science Friday is hosting the Astro Artists Club event with Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. At this live event, astronomers will be observing the sun through a solar telescope, and you can interpret these observations in your artistic medium of choice. I think I’m going to pull out my watercolor paints!

It’s FREE and it’s happening on TUESDAY MAY 12 from 7:30-8:30 PM (EDT).

Go to Science Friday’s Youtube page here: https://www.sciencefriday.com/articles/astro-artists-club-may-2020/

Did I mention that if you register, Science Friday will send you kid- and adult-friendly drink recipes to sip while you stare (safely) at the sun? They’ve thought of everything!

Looking for more STEAM activities?

Check out our STEAM lesson plans on the Educational Outreach page of this website! Be sure to share pictures of your work with us!

See you on YouTube!

Vivian

COVID-19 Lesson Plans for Teaching and Learning about Outer Space and Theatre from Home

Hello!

We had a very successful first round of performances in Charleston, SC this February. We performed “That which We Call A Rose” for audiences of 100+ K-8th graders. That world now feels like it is a million light years away! I will write other blog posts to give a report on those performances and updates on how this project is growing and shifting so that we can reach more student audiences in schools and museums across the region. It is difficult to predict when live theatre as we know it will be able to happen again.

But, the natural world is always unfolding around us. And, theatre can also happen, even in your living room!

You don’t need to see the show to learn about theatre and science with us. We created STEAM Lesson Plans and Resource Guides for teachers to use before and after seeing the show. These lesson plans are standards-based, and offer ways to learn about science and culture through theatre activities. In some instances, these lessons offer the opportunity to learn more about theatre through active investigations of astronomy and Earth’s cultural histories.

We would like to offer these lessons now as a resource to incorporate into your home teaching and learning strategies. Please adapt them as needed to suit your home teaching and learning needs. We hope that your home students will enjoy learning about science, culture, and the arts through these lessons.

Please share pictures, videos or comments of/on your projects in the Feedback section of our blog! We will share your pictures as blog posts 🙂

Hopefully, we will see you in a theatre near you once it is safe to stage the full performance again.

Vivian and the “Rose” Crew

 

 

“That which We Call A Rose”: A true STEAM project

Audio/Visual Map of Moon Craters by Felise Horne

We are over-the-moon to announce that our educational puppet play, “That which We Call A Rose,” is now funded not only by NASA’s SC REAP initiative, but also by a generous grant from the SC Arts Commission! This grant will allow us to complete the production of this devised work, and it will also fund bus service for k-12 students in the greater Charleston area to come downtown to see the show when it opens in February.

As an interdisciplinary artist, I am especially thrilled that this work has funding from state and national funds in the arts and the sciences. To me, that is the heart of what STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) means. All of these areas are necessary for the education of creative, versatile, critical students at all phases of learning. Through the STEAM model, arts do not merely support science learning, and neither does science only provide novel content for arts projects. Art and Science practices provide different, complementary platforms by which all learners might enthusiastically direct their inquiries about the world in which we live.

In this blog, I have shared our moon prototype map. The QR codes reveal the arts and cultural stories behind the names of some of the craters on the moon’s surface. The map is being designed by scenic painter Felise Horne, a graduate of the College of Charleston. The QR codes have been developed by Jack Wolfe. The stories are recorded by myself and company member Javaron Conyers, who is also a graduate of COfC. The QR codes may be accessed on this website on the page dedicated to the Moon.

Mask Making!

We have been working hard on That Which We Call a Rose! We recently created plaster “negatives” and filled them with cement to make “positive” casts of our actor/creators’ faces. From these casts, we will create masks to transform them into otherworldly organisms (tardigrades on the Moon?)

Here are some photos of the creation process:

Next Stop, Raleigh!

Hello, Explorers!

 

We are about to head out to the Women’s Theatre Festival in Raleigh, NC! We have a van that is just about packed full of our set, costumes, puppets, and robot!

 

We will be performing at 2:00 on Friday, 11 July at the Wicked Witch ! That’s located at 416 West South Street in Raleigh, NC.

 

Our performance in progress will take up most of the time, but it will be accompanied by some very cool Augmented Reality stations to help audiences explore the topographies and cultural/literary histories embedded in the names of features on Mars, the Moon, Titan, and Bennu.

 

Stick around after the show – we’d love to hear your feedback! If you don’t have time to talk, please fill out a google survey and let us know your thoughts!

 

If you’re still around on Sunday morning, find Vivian for a Found Object Puppetry Workshop at 9:30 AM at 310 S. Harrington St. (yep! If you want to change the world, you have to wake up early on a Sunday morning to make the puppets 🙂

 

All other awesome events for the WTF Festival and Fringe can be found on their Event Schedule.

 

See you in Raleigh!

 

Vivian and Crew

 

Saturn’s Shadows!

While exploring Saturn’s moon, Titan, we were inspired to research the mythologies behind each of the gas giant’s moons. They are all named after giants from Greco-Roman, Inuit, Gallic, and Norse traditions. This research led to the creation of a shadow-puppet sequence featuring ALL of Saturn’s 53 named moons. Here are some pics of our process so far:

We have been spending a lot of time painting these puppets…

So far, we have about 12 out of 53 moons completed!

It’s a good thing our workshop this Friday in Raleigh is a Work-in-Progress!

Blast Off!

Welcome to “That which We Call A Rose,” the blog!

“That which We Call A Rose” is a practice-based performance studies research project aimed to encourage a diverse range of audience participants to think creatively about how humans might mindfully encounter planetary bodies in our solar system.  “A Rose” engages audiences with questions pertaining to the human exploration of  worlds other than our own through a theatrical treatment of the planetary nomenclature process. Using data available through the “Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature” (a product of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), maintained by the Planetary Geomatics Group of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)), we are devising an interactive, multi-media performance installation that imagines the terrain of other planetary bodies as potential sites for embodied human exploration.

This environmental performance piece will invite audience members to experience topographical features of the Moon, Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, and the asteroid Bennu. Audiences will inhabit a live environment that recreates aspects of each planetary body’s surface topography and its cultural context. This embodied exploration will be augmented through the implementation of interactive computer modeling; live actors, robots, and puppets will also populate the space and interact with audiences.

This interdisciplinary research project mines the literary, historical, and cultural data contained in the “Gazetteer” to ask questions about human Space exploration from an arts and humanities perspective. An interdisciplinary treatment of data and subject matter often relegated to “pure” science should contribute to the achievement of a diverse workforce and inclusive practices across science and humanities professions. This STEAM project extends science, arts, and humanities questions about outer space to audiences that are diverse in age, ethnicity, race, gender, and ability. Audiences will then share in the intimate experience of theatrical performance as they are asked to contemplate our human relationship with other worlds.

The process of theatrical devising is democratic, so as you follow this blog, you will hear from not just me, but actor-creators, designers, dramaturgs, stage managers, and digital visualization experts. Maybe our robot Martha will also blog about her experiences as an arts-science interlocutor…

Our work-in-progress performance will be shared in July at the Women’s Theatre Festival in Raleigh, NC.

Stay tuned for more as we create this multi-media performance!

**Vivian**

 

Skip to toolbar