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Posts tagged ‘Jordan Tannahill’

“Concord Floral: A real, raw look at teenage life.” Interview with ensemble member Rashida Shaw

Interview by Shaina Silver-Baird  

SSB: How long have you been involved with this play?

Rashida Shaw: I have been involved with Concord Floral since its first workshop presentation at Canadian Stage’s Festival of Ideas and Creations in the spring of 2012. The following November, we did another workshop at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Bring The Buzz Festival. In October 2014, we presented the full 80-minute world premiere production at the Theatre Centre (co-produced by Why Not Theatre). All three iterations were drastically different from one another, yet depicted similar themes of adolescence, suburban sprawl, and modern representations of medieval images/text.

Photo by Erin Brubacher

Photo by Erin Brubacher

SSB: How has it changed from its first workshop to now?

RS: The very first workshop we did was seven pages long with very little dialogue. It relied heavily on image-based aesthetics through the use of tableaux and a projection screen that showed medieval themed paintings. The piece was largely centred around little snippets of a day at a high school and through the incorporation of live music and images; it provided a unique visceral experience for the audience.

I think this version differs from the earlier workshops as you get to learn more about each individual character: their thoughts, hopes, and fears. Having more text allows you to watch these characters go through a much more developed narrative journey. There is no projection screen and it’s a very minimal set, with a greater emphasis on sound and lightning. The first workshop was a glance into an event that took place during one day, inviting audiences into “the teenage world”. In this version, we dive to a much greater depth of what is means to be a teenager in our present day. We explore questions concerning the notion of collective responsibility, not only as young people, but as humans.

Jessica Munk, Erum Khan. Photo by Erin Brubacher.

Jessica Munk, Erum Khan. Photo by Erin Brubacher.

SSB: What has been the biggest challenge of the process?

RS: The biggest challenge of the process thus far is being true to this version’s iteration and not falling back on how I performed my role in 2014.  I’ve realized it’s been extremely difficult for me to stray away from my muscle memory of how I used to talk and move, and challenge myself to find new nuances in the role and be open to trying something different.

SSB: Why do you think this story is important?

RS: I think this story is important because it shows realistic views on what it is like to be a teenager. We are complex individuals who face heartbreak, joy, disappointment – some teenagers have to grow up before their time. The play examines topics and themes that are largely considered taboo for adults to talk about and that are especially rare for young people to be seen talking about in theatre (or any artistic medium), let alone doing. It’s important because teenagers are not what you see on a television show played by thirty year olds. They are humans living on this planet trying to figure things out just like everyone else and this show gets that.

Photo by Erin Brubacher.

Photo by Erin Brubacher.

SSB: Do you think this play is an accurate representation of your peers?

RS: I believe this play is an accurate representation of my peers because of the casual conversational style of dialogue in the play; the slang terms that come from our day-to-day life; having actual young voices and bodies on stage, and the fact that as a cast, we relate to the characters we play because they are so close to ourselves.

SSB: What’s it like working with more than one director?

RS: Well, we basically have three directors and it’s surprisingly easy and seamless for the most part. Erin Brubacher and Cara Spooner, our co-directors, are like our moms and Erum Khan, our assistant director, is like our big sister (even though she’s a year younger than me). Erin and Cara are so in sync that they usually finish each other’s sentences like weird couples or identical twins. There are also times when only one of them can be at a rehearsal and we might get conflicting notes but when they’re both back in the room one of them will say: “Oh yeah, I see what you’re saying. We should try that.” They all have different yet similar styles that mesh well for us in this process. It allows us to appreciate and understand the piece and our roles through a multitude of viewpoints. One director might ask us to try to think about a line from a new perspective, another will ask us to approach something in a different way, while the other might ask how/if a specific moment felt different and why. It’s nice having different views and a sort of 360° super director. We’re very fortunate and lucky to have three cohesive directors.

Photo by Erin Brubacher

Photo by Erin Brubacher

SSB: Why do you do theatre?

RS: In grade 5, I played The Grinch in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and was bit by the acting bug. I do theatre specifically because it’s a living, changing thing; you never know what’s going to happen with live art and that’s what’s so exciting and what keeps it fresh. Audiences are a big part of that through the give and take between performer and viewer. When I hear their first reaction, I’m like “Ok, now we’re in the same world, now we can play.” I do theatre because I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t. It’s my greatest passion and it brings me the most joy in life (next to food of course).

SSB: Who do you think this play will speak to?

RS: Anyone who has ever been a teenager.

Photo by Erin Brubacher

Photo by Erin Brubacher

Concord Floral

A Brubacher / Spooner / Tannahill production presented by Canadian Stage

concord-floral_erin-brubacher

Who:
Written by Jordan Tannahill
Directors | Erin Brubacher & Cara Spooner
Assistant Director | Erum Khan
Lighting Design | Kimberley Purtell
Sound Design | Christopher Willes
Sound Consultant | Matthew Pencer
Stage Manager | Chad Dembski

What:
A haunting tale set around Concord Floral, once a million square foot abandoned greenhouse and hangout for neighbourhood kids in Vaughan, Concord Floral re-imagines Giovanni Boccaccio’s 13th century literary masterpiece The Decameron in a contemporary Canadian suburb, in which ten teens must flee a plague they have brought upon themselves. This Canadian Stage production brings together ten youth performers from the GTA and across the country to play ten teenagers (plus a fox, a bird, a couch, and a greenhouse), in this piece about beauty, cruelty, mercy and the modern adolescent experience.

Where:
Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front Street)

When: 
September 27 – October 16

Tickets:
canadianstage.com

Connect:
facebook – Canadian Stage
twitter – @canadianstage
hashtag – #csConcord

 

 

 

“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

Honesty written by Jordan Tannahill Runs from October 18th – November 4th

The one woman show Honesty opens tomorrow in Toronto’s most famous discount warehouse, Honest Ed’s. Virgilia Griffith acts as a shape shifter, transforming age, race, and gender as she embodies the employees of the iconic emporium.

The show is presented in two acts; Honest Work and Honest Stories. Honest Work takes place from 5pm -6:30pm where Virgilia performs the everyday tasks of the HE employees. The audience is encouraged to engage and interact with her as she carries out her responsibilities like any other staff member.

Honest Stories takes place from 7pm-9pm. Here Virgilia performs monologues as a plethora of different characters as she leads the audience throughout the store. Watch her as she melds from character to character, creating a true living inventory of the warehouse’s personal stories.

Honesty runs from October 18 to November 4, 2012. The performance exists in two acts over a 4-hour period each night: Tuesday – Friday, 5 – 6:30 PM and 7:30 – 9 PM, and Saturday – Sunday, 2 – 3:30 PM and 4:30 – 6 PM.

Performances are free and take place within Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor Street West, Toronto. The performance location within the store will be posted at the main entrance on Bloor Street.

For more info visit http://www.kofflerarts.org or http://www.suburbanbeast.ca