dossier: Kevin Rees for OUBLIETTE / Summerworks

Coincidence, chance, serendipity: each of these are beautiful forces that wander through our world uninterrupted. They are reminders that, as soon as you think you understand the world around you, there will always be something unexpected that will, once again, fill you with wonder. The world is mysterious and if you’re open enough to accept this you will begin to welcome these little (or big) surprises.

Last week, I was walking home through a residential street I had only walked through maybe twice before after completing my roster of Volcano classes for the day. As I navigated this unfamiliar street I saw a woman shaking out some bags on the sidewalk. Getting closer, me walking, her shaking out dirt and hitting canvas, she turned towards me and we immediately recognized each other. This woman shaking the bags was an artist I met maybe three years ago now at the annual, or biennial, Unconference by Small Wooden Shoe (which is happening again very soon and you should go to it) by the name of Michelle Polak. Last I heard from her she was participating in a tour of I, Claudia. We very easily began talking about theatre, I was throwing her some stuff that had me very inspired from the recent classes I was taking with Volcano, and she began telling me about her experience working on OUBLIETTE, a show opening this week at Summerworks. We asked a lot of “How”-questions and walked away from each other, I think, with a bit more wonder in our minds than when we began.

Later that night, Michelle got me in touch with Kevin, the writer / director of the show she’s working on. I’m quite curious to see OUBLIETTE. After talking with Kevin and reading his responses to my questions, it seems he is full of as much wonder and awe as Michelle and I. 

So, without further ado, I give you dossier #21:

Kevin Rees

Who are we talking to?

I am Kevin Rees. I have been creating theatre, acting and writing for the past 15 years or more. A lot of my original work has been with emergency exit – a company Sean MacMahon and I started about 12 years ago when we wanted to shake shit up a bit. We do multi-media performances that use improvisation quite heavily and we do everything ourselves (call cues, operate lights, music etc.)

This year I began Think, Pig! to have a platform for performances I want to do that don’t sit in the perimeters of emergency exit. I’ve got a project in development right now (section 2 will be at the Performance bar on August 15th) called I am Trying to Lose my Mind.

I have also written a few plays – Rabid (which won the Summerworks Jury Prize back in 2001 alongside Matthew MacFadzean’s richardthesecond), which was all about skinheads and fratricide, and Madder which was about a town with a missing girl and a tainted water supply. Fast – my first play was about excruciating love.

I’ve been a performer mostly though for companies like Clay and Paper, DNA, Modern Times, bluemouth inc., Afterglow, and some other delicious dance and theatre companies.

What drew you down this path? (to theatre, to playwriting, to directing, to this particular show, to wherever the hell you are in life)

I began acting in high school and have to say it was all about escape back then. I wanted to act my way out of my actual life because it was harsh a lot of the time. I was awkward, I was deeply angry, and I found that theatre was a fount of things I didn’t allow myself or just couldn’t find in reality. It also allowed me to unleash. Theatre gives you permission. You never have to apologize for your actions. Theatre is the opposite of hiding.

Oubliette originally began because I wanted to write something for women only. I wanted to work with some particular women- and I wanted to write something I could not cast myself in. I have always been fascinated by and read about war and watched films about it, been deeply disturbed by the idea that seems to float around that it is somehow necessary. It fucking isn’t. Then I started thinking about the body-counts – TV says – 300 people died in Baghdad last night during “shock and awe”; but who were they? And why are we treating this like the playoffs?

What is your earliest memory of realizing, yep, this is what I’m going to do with my life?

Probably when I sat in the audience watching about 3 of my friends in a production of ”You Can’t Take it with You?” in high school. They all auditioned and I was terrified and didn’t. We went to Cawthra Park which had an arts programme. I remember thinking – that was the last time you turn away from that kind of fear. The ball was already rolling then though. I also recall realising what an ACTOR was when I was watching an episode of Dallas with my Mum when I was maybe 10. I thought John Forsythe had a very interesting occupation.

Theatre is terrifying.

I used to think acting was the most nerve wracking job, I still tremble in the 15 minute call before curtain, but then I wrote something that I did not perform in – so I had to sit in the audience; that taught me a lesson. I didn’t know my guts could feel like that. Fear is healthy.

Why OUBLIETTE?

It’s such a great word. David Bowie says it in Labyrinth, that was when I first heard it. When I began researching what they were I was really intrigued but also amazed at the effort someone would go to to make someone forgotten. It seemed a perfect setting and symbol somehow to explore ideas surrounding genocide.

What kind of atmosphere do yo intend to set up, or can someone expect while attending OUBLIETTE?

I’d prefer not to answer this one. I think the atmosphere of the play is one of the most vital aspects, so I’d rather leave it unexplained. My friend Hillar Liitoja (of DNA) covers the synopses on the backs of books so that while reading it everything is new information as he comes across it. The synopsis hasn’t pre-conceived anything for him. I think Hillar is a very smart man.

I understand this piece has been in development for a long time. Can you speak a bit about the history of it? Why now?

I don’t recall precisely when I began writing it but it was first workshopped in June 2004 with a TAC grant I received. The first cast was Viv Moore, Heidi Strauss, Michelle Polak and Allison Cummings. That was an incredible experience. My friend Heather Lash directed it. She has experience as a theatre director and has worked first hand with refugees at a centre here in Toronto. We did a couple staged readings in the back room at the Playwright’s Guild where I worked at the time.

In 2006 I ran away from home and moved to Budapest, Hungary for 4.5 years. Near the end of my time there I hired 4 more actors Patricia Hughes, Rachel Lambinon, Gretchen Meddaugh and Liana Andrews and we did another workshop at this amazing bar/hostel in Pest called Roham. That was odd and awesome. The audience there didn’t know me really, many of them didn’t have English as a first language – I got some very useful feedback, made the language more stripped down and I began to concern myself much more with the rhythm and tone of the play.

Now, here we are. I am returning to Summerworks after not having produced or performed at this festival for about 9 years. I am very pleased to be back.

What is your favourite memory from the development of OUBLIETTE?

Probably early on this time around when Michelle Polak and I had a meeting at her house. We were a couple weeks in and she wanted to “get inside my head” so she could help out with rehearsals as an assistant director. We sat down at the kitchen table and went through the whole script and she poked and prodded with her fabulous actor brain – she asked me all kinds of really detailed questions and drew stuff from the script and suggested the temperature and made links where I didn’t realise I had written them and whatnot. I think that meeting was fuelled by ginger tea. She is the best question asker ever. I was going to say “interrogator” but that is too aggressive for Michelle. She helped me realise all the detail that was there.

She’s been there from day 1 asserting that I should follow my instincts. She is a great ally.

Describe OUBLIETTE in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.

Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare does a nice job I think…

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn

The living record of your memory.

‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So, till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share? Photos, videos, links, posters, stories, wishes?

I’ve included postcard image, a drawing, and a mugshot.

Oubliette 001

Postcard Front New (2)

For showtimes and performance info, click on the picture above and you’ll be redirected to the facebook event page. Or check out the Summerworks site. That also works.

dossier: Aaron David Rothermund for CHARMING MONSTERS

Thus begins, or, if not begins, at least furthers, with Alex Eddington’s dossier for YARN, the hype that is leading up to the 2013 Toronto Fringe Festival, or, as many of us term it, arguably the most exciting time of year for independent theatre in Toronto. I’ve fallen in love with the Toronto Fringe over the past couple years; there is nothing else that happens in this city that rivals the excitement, the passion, and the palpable energy that comes with the Toronto Fringe, especially since it’s established it’s new home at Honest Ed’s in the Mirvish Village. You actually get the sense that most of the people you see are talking about theatre. How rare!

For my first couple years Fringing, I was solely an audience member just trying to take in as many of the shows as I could. Last year, I moved on to the production side of things, producing and directing Peter Counter’s original play VIC HARBOUR with our currently-slumbering company The Four Winds Collective. Even though I was directing last year, I still made the effort to be an active audience member and ended up seeing more shows than ever before (I think my tally was 15 ~ not including the 6 or so performances of VIC HARBOUR I had to see to ensure we didn’t burn down Theatre Passe Muraille). This year, I am proud to be acting in the festival… which I’ll talk more about in an upcoming dossier. Just like last year, even though I am acting in the festival I’m still going to make the effort to see as many shows as possible. 

And Aaron’s play, CHARMING MONSTERS, is definitely on my list of shows to see. Aaron and I have only met a few times before: the first time we didn’t actually meet, but I saw him perform in Theatre Lab‘s physical TO THE LAST CRY; the second time (being the first time actually meeting) we acted alongside one another in a play reading for a friend; and the third time we were actually in the same writer’s circle with Steady State Theatre, where I heard an excerpt from CHARMING MONSTERS. Hopefully the next time we meet we’ll be having a drink at the Fringe Club and talking about the play.

So, let’s learn more about it, shall we? dossier #15:

Aaron David Rothermund

Who are we talking with?

Aaron Rothermund, Artistic Director of Afterglow Theatre.

What drew you down this path? (to theatre, to writing, to wherever the hell you are in life)

Originally I was training to be a contract killer, but decided to pursue art instead. My train of thought was I could do it all. I like to play many characters, and when I direct a show I get to play them all. In writing a play my favourite part is creating a world for the characters to exist in, and then if they piss me off I kill them. :)

What is your earliest memory of realizing, yep, this is what I’m going to do with my life?

I remember performing in shows with my sister when we were quite young, and we made up stories to fall asleep at night. This always stuck with me.

Why CHARMING MONSTERS?

The title comes from a song I wrote for an earwig in my first play. The name is appropriate because I believe we all have demons in our closets, and in this play the women are very generous until they are taken advantage of…

What kind of atmosphere do you intend to set up, or can someone expect from CHARMING MONSTERS?

I wrote it over my first majestic winter living on Toronto island, and so the play is dark whimsical. This is a brave new world with some familiar twists.

Have you had an original play in a Fringe Festival before? If so, what was your favourite memory from then?

I premiered my first play, AMBIGUOUS in the 2011 Fringe festival. I won the Trey Anthony award for excellence, which was pretty amazing. Also I remember a conversation with an actress which we discussed her wearing pasties and a see-through vest.

What are you most looking forward to with being part of the 2013 Toronto Fringe?

I enjoy mingling with other artists, and watching my peers working. There is something magic in this festival.

Describe CHARMING MONSTERS in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.

The end is the beginning…

Do you have anything else you’d like to share? Photos, videos, links, posters, stories, wishes?

website: http://www.afterglowtheatre.com

Charming_Monsters_Group_Promo