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Posts tagged ‘Binocular Theatre’

“Get Yourself Home Skyler James” – In Conversation with Director Ali Joy Richardson & Performer Natasha Ramondino

by Bailey Green

“I trusted the library, like Hermione Granger, and I got to thinking—is there a solo play for a young female voice?” In the Fall of 2015, director Ali Joy Richardson asked herself this question as she searched for a script to submit for the 2016 site-specific Fringe category. Richardson knew she wanted to collaborate with actor and friend Natasha Ramondino. Then, in Jordan Tannahill’s award winning collection of short plays Age of Minority, Richardson discovered Get Yourself Home Skyler James. The play tells the funny, honest, searing account of 19-year-old ex-soldier Skyler James. Though the play diverges slightly from true events, the core story remains largely intact.

The audience finds Skyler in back of the KFC where she works. After police officers show up to talk to Skyler, her girlfriend locks herself in the bathroom. Over the course of 40 minutes, Skyler tells the woman she loves the truth about her past and reveals everything she has fought for and against. As a director, Richardson found one of the challenges of this piece was to keep her direction simple and focused. “It’s a 40 minute show of a young woman talking through a door to another young woman, [and I had to trust] that fight, that act of endurance is compelling, and not succumb to the temptation to embellish with tech or unmotivated blocking. We focused on her actions and the sustained goal of proving herself and justifying her actions.”

FringeFemme Skyler James

Actor Natasha Ramondino was drawn to the character of Skyler instantly. “I was immediately on board,” remembers Ramondino. “Skyler is so funny while she tells what is such a serious, and at times awful, story. When things get really heavy, she’ll thrown in a joke. She describes herself as the most normal girl in the world, and she really is so relatable.”

Ramondino and Richardson bounce ideas back and forth, punctuating each other’s sentences with affirmatives and nods. “There’s a good sense in the room where I know when we can stop and chat about a moment,” Ramondino says. Richardson adds, “It’s so nice to just get to work with an actor I know well. And it feels a bit spoiled to work on a show where there’s no huge cast or complicated transitions or furniture to move. We’re just stripping it down to cracking a performance.” The pair laugh about a moment in rehearsal where they were using verbs to action sections of the text. They had chosen the verb ‘embrace’, and as Ali encouraged Natasha to embrace harder, Natasha’s line got softer and softer. They stopped the rehearsal only to discover that ‘embrace” for Ali meant a hug that sweeps you off your feet but for Natasha it meant to hold someone softly in your arms.

20160624_Skyler_Rehearsal (0033 of 0041)

For both women, this play is incredibly relevant. “For me, one of the most important aspects, is that the burden of proof is always placed on the survivor of abuse or violence,” Richardson says. “The play leads to a point where Skyler discusses a conversation she has with her lawyer and the account is chilling, yet so familiar.” Richardson mentions the Canadian military probe in 2014 which found that an alarming amount of women in service had been sexually assaulted or harassed. “Women are being harassed for just being women, not to mention the [harassment for] being a gay woman,” Ramondino says.

For Ramondino, telling this story is a privilege and an honour. “It shouldn’t be so rare to have a young, queer, female voice on stage, so thank you to Jordan Tannahill. I’m very excited to bring this story to people who may not be part of the theatre community or may not feel comfortable calling themselves an ally. It will be interesting to see their expectations flipped by such a real, raw character.”

Get Yourself Home Skyler James

Presented by Binocular Theatre as part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival

4 x 6 Skyler Handbill

Who:
Written By: Jordan Tannahill
Company: Binocular Theatre
Company origin: Toronto, Ontario
Director: Ali Joy Richardson
Cast: Natasha Ramondino
Creative team:
Neil Silcox – Production Manager

What:
When Private Skyler James was outed as a lesbian after joining the US Army, she packed a truck, fled her base in Kentucky, and started driving north…
Based on a true story, this gripping play reveals the true damage of prejudice and the strength of a young woman’s spirit in a society that teaches, “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
(2014 Governor General’s Award)

Where:
918 Bathurst Basement, Bathurst Street

When:
July 8th at 8:00 PM
July 9th at 2:00 PM
July 9th at 8:00 PM
July 10th at 8:00 PM

Connect:
binoculartheatre.com
@Binoculart

“Surreal and Trashy” – In Conversation with Ali Joy Richardson, director of STILL by Jen Silverman

by Bailey Green

I have read other plays on the subject of a stillborn child…but none with language both surreal and trashy, none as funny, and none as moving.” – Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother)

Ali discovered STILL while searching through the Toronto Reference Library for a play to direct. She knew she wanted to direct a piece written in the last ten years and that preferably the play would be by a female playwright. While scanning through titles on the shelves, she saw the cover of STILL — the shadow of a baby in a stairwell. She read the character list: Morgan, a professor, Dolores, a sometimes dominatrix, Elena, a midwife and Constantinople, a giant dead baby. “I remember being uncomfortable because I kept laughing out loud in the library and then crying in public,” Ali remembers. “I knew I had to pick this script.”

STILL cast

Ali reached out to Annemieke Wade, Alicia Richardson, Julie Tepperman and Christopher Allen. Annemieke Wade’s reply: “I’m in and I’m pregnant,” Ali says. “So I said take a couple weeks, read the script and then she [Annemieke] reached out again and she was in. I was so, so glad.” Annemieke came on board to play Morgan, the professor who we find stuck in the womb of her own basement, wearing the clothes she wore when she delivered her stillborn child.

We find the giant dead baby, Constantinople, hitchhiking after escaping from the morgue. Constantinople is in search of his mother. “Christopher Allen’s physicality is so perfect, he is so tall and playful,” Ali says. “And the minute he speaks in the shows or moves it’s just bubbles of joy […] I asked him if he had any questions or worries about being a manifestation of a stillborn baby on stage and he said, ‘hm, nope.’ So he’s been so open to everything.”

Binocular full group

Alicia Richardson, who plays Dolores, said during table work that there are no heroes in the play. “No one fixes it,” says Ali. But the characters bring the audience into their world and deal with the subject matter with honesty, humour and candor. “Jen [Silverman] never lets you sit for too long. There’s permission to laugh,” Ali says. Dolores, the play’s self-made dominatrix, is kinky, funny, queer and unafraid to reinvent herself. Elena, played by Julie Tepperman, is the midwife who goes between Morgan and Dolores. It is through their dialogue we discover that Elena is under investigation for her practice. The stories intertwine and jump from basement to dilapidated hotel room.

For Ali, one of the greatest joys in directing this piece has been the opportunity to dig into fresh, challenging, unique female characters without the need to reinterpret due to dated or insufficient text. “The female characters are written beautifully and the relationships between women are really high stakes and complicated,” Ali says. “So to not have to fight against writing is so exciting.”

Note: STILL was inspired by a memoir called Ghostbelly, written by writer and professor Lisa Heineman in Iowa. Lisa was 46 when she gave birth to her stillborn son at home with a midwife. She wrote a brilliantly honest and heartbreaking memoir about her experience of grief and healing. If you’d like to read more about the collaboration behind STILL, please visit: http://howlround.com/authors/jen-silverman-elizabeth-heineman

STILL

Still Poster 1

Who:
Directed by Ali Joy Richardson, featuring Julie Tepperman, Annemieke Wade, Alicia Richardson & Christopher Allen

What:
STILL is the story of a professor, her midwife, a dominatrix, and a baby who never got to be. Morgan’s son was born dead, Dolores is pregnant with a child she doesn’t want, and failed midwife Elena seeks either redemption or a career change. All three women confront their fears, desires, and each other, while Morgan’s baby is running out of time to find her.

Where:
Unit 102 (376 Dufferin Street)

When:
March 4 – 13, 2016

More details: http://www.binoculartheatre.com/still

Tickets: http://still.brownpapertickets.com/