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.

CALL FOR ARTISTS: Off the Wall 2015

off the wall 2014 i

Today I bring exciting news. My friends and collaborators over at Frog in Hand (if you don’t know this company, check them out. They are a multi-disciplinary group co-directed by sisters Colleen Snell and Noelle Hamlyn doing amazing things out in Mississauga and beyond) have announced a call for artists to participate in the 2015 instalment of OFF THE WALL. This was, personally, one of my performance highlights from last year.

CALL FOR ARTISTS

Off the Wall is an exciting, multi-disciplinary project with Frog In Hand and the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga.

If you’ve ever wanted to work alongside musicians, actors, dancers, visual artists, writers and performance artists

-or-

if you’ve ever wanted to challenge yourself with site-specific performance in a short, but intense creation period

click the link below (or the image above) to find the application form.

Be part of something fun.

http://colleensnell.wix.com/off-the-wall

[insert “Off the Wall” pun here]

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga to meet a handful of exciting artists (pictured below). Together, we’ll push our brains, our bodies and the architecture around us to create something beautifully ephemeral on Canada Day. I’m curious to see what will happen as many of the details, including the artists’ bios, have been kept secret, but I do know, from working with Frog in Hand before, that whatever it is will be energetic and dynamic. Swing by on Canada Day to see what we’ve made!

off the wall