World Building for Choreographers

Your boots scuff across gravel as you begin to see lights coming from a compound behind a metal fence. The gate is open. There is a shipping container with tables full of science equipment emerging from it. In one corner of the compound, you see what you assume was the kitchenette although the dishes are rusty and whatever food was here has long since been removed. By people? Animals? As you explore the main container you understand it used to be a Climate Research Station but has since been abandoned — seemingly in a rush: papers, tools, vials and beakers filled with liquids and questionable materials, even pictures of those who used to work here still populate the station but are covered with spiderwebs and the dust of time.

You can almost imagine the life that was here long ago; their voices seem loud in your ears as you rifle through their work, trying to piece together any evidence you can that would shed light on their evident demise. As the night falls and the winds pick up, you hear footsteps against the gravel and the clanging of pots and pans. A new source of light makes its way into the compound and a hooded figure enters the site, a large pack on his back. It’s almost as if he doesn’t see you as he begins to search through the contents of this mysterious site. What is he searching for?

These were the opening moments of Frog in Hand’s 2021 performance Stories in the Woods, a site-specific, promenade dance-theatre piece set in a mysterious post-post-apocalyptic reality. The world we created helped us channel our thoughts about the themes of climate anxiety, the uncertainty of the future and the resilience of both nature and humanity into a container (quite literally) to house the piece’s dances.

Stories in the Woods, 2021

World Building can be an integral tool to elevate your show.

It can be a method for you to collect your thoughts into a cohesive whole.

It can be a way for you to make sense of those themes you want to approach and display to your audience.

And it can be a way to entice your audience to want to meaningfully engage with your piece.

World Building for Choreographers, a 4-week online class

I’m happy to be joining Colleen Snell to co-lead a 4-week online class about worldbuilding in performance. In it, we’ll talk about character design, setting, story vs. world and think about crafting immersive experiences and rich worlds for our audiences to inhabit, explore and experience.

Worldbuilding for Choreographers is a mix of lecture-style presentations with activities sprinkled throughout to help reinforce our approach and to get you to immediately apply the theory. You can join us live the night-of or catch up on your own time by watching that week’s recording.

We start tomorrow night, Oct. 20th and run to Nov 10th, but there’s still time to sign up! Just click the link and you’ll be taken to Eventbrite.

I hope to see you there!

Click the image to find all of Frog in Hand’s Fall class offerings!

Fall Writing Circle (2022)

As the air gets chilly and the leaves take their rest after a long summer of absorbing the sun’s rays kinda nonstop, I invite you to join me online on Tuesday evenings with your computer and the writing implement of your choice to throw down some words.

Back together with Frog in Hand (who are up to a wide array of things this fall, including a touring dance photography exhibit, a Worldbuilding for Choreographers class and a new class collab with onUP Productions called Dance on Film), Writing Circle is a weekly class to get you writing by exploring prompts and trying your hands at a variety of mediums.


About the Class

“This class is a must for anyone who fears the blank page (as I did).”

Writing Circle Participant

This 8-week writing class will be led by Andrew Gaboury from 7pm-9pm (EST) on Tuesdays, October 25th to December 13th.

The purpose of this course is simply to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys. You will embrace stream of consciousness and write with abandon to escape the clutches of your inner critic. You will acknowledge and discover your natural creativity. As you define a healthy writing practice, you will explore various writing forms to help widen your creative vision. This class will touch upon fiction, poetry and playwriting. As the course progresses there will be time set aside for sharing and feedback.

Each class will be a combination of writing prompts, a guided “lecture” facilitated by Andrew, group or solo writing time, and sharing circles.

What you will need:

+Zoom access & a webcam
+A Google account (the class work will be posted to a Google Classroom site)
+Writing implements
+Books (of any kind) close by
+Paper or a notebook or a napkin or the back of a receipt

Section 1: Fiction

Stream of consciousness, self-reflection, narrative styles, genre & world building.

Section 2: Poetry

Metaphor & the senses, free verse, beat & spoken word.

Section 3: Playwriting

Playwriting features, narrative structure, character voice & dialogue.

Testimonials from past participants!

“I would say that the Circle helped me to put a pen to a page in all the best ways. With so many different mediums of writing to discover, the 8 weeks provided me the accountability to write! And write some more! That can be the hardest part but with other writers to inspire me, I learned how to develop a consistent writing practice.”

“Andrew made it totally comfortable and easy to engage at any level. Strongly recommend.”

“Writing circle is a great opportunity to develop your creative writing and to gain feedback from others on your work.”

Sign up through the class page on Eventbrite.

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.