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”

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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


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Seasonal Activities v.V // Performer Profile: Norm Reynolds

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artist:

Norm Reynolds is a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. A hit at the inaugural Summerworks Festival (CBC Radio, NOW Magazine), Put Up Your Hand went on to be one of four scripts chosen for the WordWorks Festival at Solar Stage. Reynolds has published short fiction in the United States and Canada, and book reviews in the Canadian national press. He currently teaches English and Drama in Toronto.

abstract:

My dad died in 2000. The following year, I ended a long-standing friendship (not romantic). It struck me that both experiences of loss physically felt the same. I had the good fortune to workshop my play idea with Edward Albee at the Humber School for Writers. Albee said: “That’s a really wonderful monologue. If you put it at the end, you might have something.” I did. After some reimagining, The Good-bye Play had its premiere at Theatre Aurora’s Playwrights of Spring Festival, and TheatreStarts.

As the promo for the play says, some relationships never die. Leo and Patricia have split. Patricia has come back for closure. Leo isn’t having any of it. A comedy about grievances, petty and great, and the difficulty of finally saying good-bye.

portals:

Playwright’s Guild:
https://www.playwrightsguild.ca/playwright/norm-reynolds

Twitter:
@normreyn

blog:
http://normreyn.ca/

YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/user/13LPH


vV poster with logo correct