War of the Worlds, Reimagined, pt. ii

Half a year ago I wrote about the radio play we made with Frog in Hand which reimagined H. G. Wells’ classic tale of horror and survival in the face of something wholly unknown and beyond our immediate understanding. The War of the Worlds has inspired us as artists; its themes resonated with us as we read and listened and as we rewrote and created. Its themes almost seem prescient for its time, especially as we reemerge from an unforeseeable worldwide calamity and as our country continues to unearth its terrible imperialistic history. Or maybe that frame of mind is too naïve. Not prescient, but present. Maybe the fact that we are dealing with such similar things over a hundred years later is the real calamity.

These thoughts have brought us around.

We are now in the summer of 2022, and for 5 weeks have been back in-person, with a new company of dancers and actors who are reimagining, once again, this tale that we told, this tale that we became so inspired by. These tales that are so interesting that Colleen has mashed them altogether into one tale that spans time, distance, language and movement.

The War of the Worlds Reimagined has finally become the dancetheatre piece it was originally intended to be. But with two extra years behind it, and many more brains and bodies attached to it. It is going to be big. To have 16 dancers, an arena, scaffolding and an overpowering soundtrack, this piece is BIG.

I now sit in an interesting seat, going from writer to actor to dramaturg. It has been enjoyable to watch people interpret my story into movement, and emotional to watch my voice move another body through the space. It is exciting to cut between past, present and future and to see how they all comment on one another, how the voices of the past are very similar to those of today, whether that is a consoling thought or a worrying one. Regardless of which it is, I can’t wait to sit in the audience with you and experience it together. I wonder what new inspiration and conversation it will bring this time.

War of the Worlds Reimagined runs July 8th & 9th, 15th & 16th.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite.

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.

thursday morning viewpoints

This year I’ve been fortunate to delve back into the Viewpoints system of movement with two separate post-secondary groups. Building from the ground up: I relish pairing down movement to its basics and building it up again with specific focus, concern and intention. Tasks and movement. Listening to and trusting your impulses. Relationships onstage between performers and space, between action and time, between audience and performer. I love investigating the different aspects individually, interrogating them, exhausting them only to then add another on top. This deconstruction to layering is complex and insatiable. Leading this work, I am pleased to realise how deeply ingrained it is in my own practice: oftentimes focusing on one of the nine viewpoints over others to help craft a character, or, unconsciously playing and adjusting the dials to explore a whole vocabulary.

Which is why I’d like to open up a community jam on Thursday mornings. I want this training to keep going. I know there are many actors, dancers and other performers who have crossed paths with Viewpoints throughout their training. I know there are others who have never experienced it before but have heard its name.

If you fall into any of these categories, I invite you to join me at hub14‘s new Artscape studio @ 910 Queen Street West on certain Thursday mornings, from 9 – 10am, to come jam and explore this movement for yourself. Space will be available from 8:45am for personal warm-ups.

In an effort to make cross-disciplinary training more commonplace and low-risk, all of these drop-in sessions will be offered at no cost. All you have to do is send a message to afieldofcrowns(at)gmail(dot)com (there’s a form here) so I can come and get you.

*note: unfortunately, hub14 is not an accessible venue, as it is located in a basement without access to a public elevator.*

Upcoming sessions will be:

March 7th, 21st & 28th, April 4th, 18th & 25th

Seasonal Activities v.V // Performer Profile: Diana Kolpak “BLUE”

Blue seasonal no text

artist:

Creative adventures have taken Diana Kolpak from performing liposuction on herself to being a prima ballerina to seeking fallen stars in frozen wastelands to fighting epic cream-pie battles. Clown makes all her dreams come true.

abstract:

BLUE is an interactive solo musical about the highs and lows of love. Stylistically, it’s clown meets the Blues by way of 30’s Berlin cabaret with a little detour through Las Vegas. The first song is set. The rest of the songs (all original) are chosen by the audience, so the tone and narrative structure of each performance is different. Lounge singer Sally Siren serves as guide, interacting with the audience, introducing each song with minimal improvised dialogue, and singing either a cappella or while accompanying herself on a toy piano. It’s a wonderful ride for everyone.

portals:

www.dianakolpak.ca


vV poster with logo correct