War of the Worlds Reimagined

In 2020 while the world was pivoting to understand the new realities of life under a pandemic, Colleen Snell, Callahan Connor and I brainstormed a way to do the same with what was supposed to be the next show from Frog in Hand: a live Toronto Fringe dance-performance set to an audio version of H. G. Wells’ classic tale War of the Worlds.

All of a sudden, we didn’t have a deadline. The realities of live performance anytime soon seemed like a dream that disappears as soon as you wake up. So what’s a dance-theatre company to do? Probably many things, but we decided to turn to the world of audio dramas, having already been inspired by Orson Welles’ famous 1938 reimagining.

We didn’t want to just copy the brilliance of Orson Welles’s piece. We wanted to make something different. Something our own. And now, locked away in our homes because of a deadly bug, we had time to create.

The three of us decided to split the task so we would each have an opportunity to tell a portion of the story. Together we listened to the original book and collected images and narrative techniques that resonated with us.

What really stood out to me, listening to this story written in 1897, was the sense of awe the narrator in the first half showed in the face of the unknown and potentially unknowable. Everything seemed, on that listen, uncertain; details would change from paragraph to paragraph. The narrator would question their own senses. It reminds me of the same techniques Jeff Vandermeer uses so effectively in his weird fiction such as Annihilation and Borne. I talk about all this in a bit more detail here.

And so my story began: the story of Alix, a person wanting to escape it all and reconnect with the world around her. So she plans a trip with her friend Sam, a solo canoe trip in the heart of the Algonquin before convening at a meeting place to venture further into the woods as a duo.

Little do they know that while they are dealing with their own journeys, something much larger is about to change the world forever.

After months of joint writing time over Zoom accompanied by instrumental albums; workshopping with the Frog in Hand Summer Company; engaging audio genius Miquelon Rodriguez (@troysteel) who advised us how to set up recording studios in our closets surrounded by sweaters and blankets for optimal sound capture; rehearsing and then finally recording everything, we had something. By the end of the year we were able to hand it all over to Miquelon.

And what he sent us back was stunning. To imagine a world and write it on paper is one thing. To hear that world come to life in your ear holes is quite another.

My introduction to the War of the Worlds Reimagined project, The Algonquin Tapes, premiered at 2021’s Digital Toronto Fringe a received some wonderful reviews.

And now the entire trilogy is available online.

Each part takes a different angle and throws you into a new setting and cast of characters as the world deals with this new unknown.

Here’s an excerpt from part three: Back on the Air written by Callahan Connor.

I’m really proud of what the team has created here. Colleen’s piece, Last Day, is a visceral piece of writing and Callahan’s, Back on the Air, is this charming bit of hope and community.

If you’d like to get away from a screen for a bit and listen to a 3-part story about the world ending and then not ending, I’d be so happy to hear what you think.

“Acting” in my closet.

Moments of joy from 2020, pt. iii

Continuing the series of posts detailing some of my projects from 2020. Because of the nature of the projects and the Big Shift that happened last year, I wasn’t very advertisey in the moment. While many planned things dropped, I was still able to be part of a bunch of interesting and inspiring projects. Over the next little bit, I’m planning on detailing each and sharing some lessons learned throughout.


Odditi(m)es | A Tragic Comedy in Pandemic Times

In the summer, as the pandemic continued and restrictions were becoming a little more lenient, my friend and collaborator Troy Hourie received funding to create a live performance adapted for the then-current realities. His idea was to adapt an old form of puppetry, following the traditions of Portuguese Dom Roberto and English Punch & Judy shows, and adapt it for a contemporary Canadian audience. This allowed us to speak directly about the lives of three individuals during the pandemic lockdown.

Dom Roberto puppet shows are often played behind a tall, four-sided cloth covered box, with the puppets appearing at the top. Troy’s idea of opening up that box to create one long counter, made of four equally sized panels allowed us to showcase 3 different houses: a snapshot of a neighbourhood. This gave us a 2 meter distance between puppeteers. It also meant having 3 puppeteers instead of one, myself, Colleen Snell and Troy.

Odditi(m)es was live-streamed to, well anyone who wanted, but specifically to a group of beautiful puppeteers in Portugal called Teatro e Marionetas de Mandragora. A document of the performance can still be viewed on Troy’s site:

Odditi(m)es | A Tragic Comedy in Pandemic Times – Troy Hourie Portfolio (format.com)

The Learning

Outdoor theatre during a pandemic is possible and so important.

Opening private spaces to community is beautiful. This show happened in Troy’s backyard, which just so happened to be designed as a raked outdoor amphitheatre. It was possible to distance and clump households together because of this. If you have the space, use it!

Small puppets and loud colours read from a distance.

Nature is the greatest stage.

Projecting through a mask is difficult but possible.

3 days to create, rehearse and learn how to use these newly-made puppets really lets you understand what is meant by the “exquisite pressure of time.”

I need to work on my wrist strength.

I am still ambidextrous.

Puppets are the best.

Performer Profile: Colleen Snell & Andrew Gaboury

image

image

artists:

A dancer and an actor who also write things.

abstract:

They’re going to read some writing, maybe move some writing. Three segments, many pieces.

portals:

Colleen can be found through her award-winning, site-specific performance company Frog in hand.

Andrew can be found right here.

image

myth, n.

myth

A person or thing held in awe or generally referred to with near reverential admiration on the basis of popularly repeated stories (whether real or fictitious).
– from OED definition, “myth”

Myths are specific accounts of gods or superhuman beings involved in extraordinary events or circumstances in a time that is unspecified but which is understood as existing apart from ordinary human experience.

While the outline of myths from a past period or from a society other than one’s own can usually be seen quite clearly, to recognize the myths that are dominant in one’s own time and society is always difficult. This is hardly surprising, because a myth has its authority not by proving itself but by presenting itself.

[…]it is clear that in their general characteristics and in their details a people’s myths reflect, express, and explore the people’s self-image.
from Encyclopaedia Britannica entry, “myth” (emphasis mine)

With this in mind, I’ve assembled a diverse collective of artists (teacher/actor Michael Reinhart, dancer Colleen Snell, musician/writer/performer Alex Eddington, actor Ximena Huizi and myself) to lead two workshops this Saturday, Sept. 26th as part of Etobicoke Lakeshore Culture Days.

WE’RE LOOKING FOR YOUR STORIES! YOUR STORIES OF LIVING, WORKING AND PLAYING IN ETOBICOKE.

The goal of the day is to take these stories, extract their essence and form them into the contemporary MYTHS of your town.

The day will culminate in a FREE PERFORMANCE at (around) 2PM @ the HUMBER HOTSPOT (Lakeshore and Kipling).

So please, come on out; take part in our FREE WORKSHOPS from 1am-1pm and check out what kind of thing we’ll have made with your help @ 2pm. You can also participate from afar by using #mythsofmytown on twitter or instagram!

poster iii