Playwriting Boot Camp

From Joanna, Communications Manager

Tonight is our Woodinville High School Playwriting Project. If you're looking for creative inspiration and faith that the youth in our country are imaginative and talented, you should check out tonight's free performance. Riffing off a given theme, eight playwrights from two high schools went through the Rep's "Playwriting Boot Camp." You can see the results—performed by students and directed by Seattle Rep teaching artists—tonight in our Leo K. Theatre!

This year's theme is "spilt milk." To the high school playwrights, this translates into plays involving a co-ed bathroom, a night of speed dating, a bank heist with lingerie, and a wacky psychiatrist.

Roosevelt High School performed Jan. 16, and tonight Woodinville High School performs right here at the Rep on our Leo K. Stage. The show starts at 7:30 pm. It is free (although donations will be accepted at the door!), but reservations are required. Just call 206-443-2222 to reserve your seats.

Celebrating color, life and artistic freedom

From Leigh Silverman, director of The Road to Mecca

When thinking about how to bring The Road to Mecca to the stage the first thing to consider was the set. The set is like another character. I wanted to honor the real Owl House (which you can see on the internet) and at the same time translate it to the stage in an exciting way. Our set – the main rooms of Helen’s house - is a literal and metaphorical representation of her soul – the soul of a radical, brave, inspired totally wild artist – willing to live on the outskirts of societal norms and sacrifice everything for her vision.

An example of her unconventional ways: Helen would grind glass in a coffee grinder (by hand!) and then put it on her walls. She was all about color, enormous mosaics and a compulsive use of color, light and candles. The first time Rachel, the set designer, showed me a sample of the glitter walls that we were going to use I was delighted, and I am so happy to work on a play that celebrates creativity, color, life and artistic freedom.

Mecca Opening Night=Cocktails

From Joanna, Communications Manager

Happy opening! You know it's an opening night around here because our IT Director comes to work in a suit. You know you work at a non-profit theatre when someone showing up in a suit signals a special day. And today is special because I hear we're having tea cocktails and little cakes for the opening night party tonight. Yes that's girly, and I am a girl and I love it.

The Road to Mecca
is gorgeous, so beautiful and personal. I saw it last night by myself, and I'm glad I went alone so I could just have room to take it all in. It's a quiet play in that even though there are some intense emotions on stage, it has a sense of being really gentle. Is this making any sense? I guess I'm still soaking it in.

I can say that I am so jealous of our Associate Artistic Director Braden who just got back from a trip to South Africa. After doing research for The Road to Mecca (which takes place in a tiny town in the South African desert called The Great Karoo), I am so fascinated by the country. If Braden took pictures, I'll try to get some to post here (although I don't think he made it to The Owl House, the house that the play takes place in).

I have a blog from The Road to Mecca director, Leigh Silverman that I'm going to post in a second. We also got some photos of Leigh hanging out with set designer Rachel Hauck in our green room (photo by Miryam Gordon). Check it out:

Marya Sea Kaminski on the World of Mecca

From Marya Sea Kaminski, actress in The Road to Mecca

I spent some time in the blue room yesterday - the little alcove upstage that serves as Elsa's bedroom when she makes her visits to Miss Helen. We were teching (perfecting) the lights for one of the many big speeches in the play, and the actors were holding onstage. I happened to be in the blue room at that moment and sat down on the chenille comforter over the bed and had a small breath of a chance to take a good look around.

Candles with glaciers of wax drippings at their bases. A collection of thorny seashells across the upstage window, under the beaded mosaics of noonday suns. Figurines, mermaids, beads, glitter. So many tiny pieces placed so carefully by hand. "Elsa loves sleeping in this room," I thought, "I bet she dreams of the ocean and small treasures washed up on the shore when she falls asleep in this room."

Sometimes, when a show goes into technical rehearsals, I stop being able to actually see things for awhile. All of my focus is set on a rotating collection of balls to juggle - intention (why does she open her mouth in this moment?), listening (like I haven't already heard these words dozens of times), stage business (maybe if I loosen the buckle on my shoe by one knotch I'll be able to get it off faster during that first beat of dialogue).

Now that we've got a few previews under our belts, I can actually breathe on stage a little. And take a good look around. It's been a long time since I played on a set as inhabited as our world for The Road to Mecca. There are sweeping, gorgeous, glittering aspects to the set, which will be obvious (and maybe thrilling) at first glance, but the real life of this set is in the details. It feels like someplace I have lived in my life - with dishes in the sink and dust in the corners and small treasures stashed on shelves and pinned up on the walls. It is so complete.

It is so complete that it makes our jobs easier, as actors. This play is so much about relationships, and listening, and being present; living in such a meticulously detailed world allows that fiction to work on us, to envelope us even. Yes, there is a whole houseful of audience outside that fourth wall, but in here it is just us, and the tiny dusty details of our lives, and the crisis of this moment.


Building Walls

From Dana Perreault, Technical Director

Note: Dana agreed to blog about a specific part of building The Road to Mecca set. The following is his insight on creating walls that literally shine.

Our work to obtain a wall application that would sparkle under candle light yet would be sedate under the regular stage light was tricky. We started by looking into what Miss Helen actually used for material and how she applied this material to her walls.

The thought of actual glass ground up and glued on the wall was vetoed for two reasons.
One was that we didn’t want the glass to flake off the walls and end up on the floor because there was a large possibility of actors having bare feet during the show. Second was the fact that it didn’t sparkle as well as desired when lit with the theatrical lighting.

Our paint shop experimented making samples using glitter, Mylar and lighting gels that would be painted silver on one side. These items proved to shine as bright as we needed, as well as provide the designer with the desired wall color. Now we needed to figure out how dense and in what order these items would be applied.

After figuring this part out, the lighting designer suggested that we should look into building fiber-optics into the wall, in order to “help” it shine.

When finished there was 20,000 feet of fiber-optic strand run through the walls which were then connected to three fiber-optic illuminators.

Once all of the walls were assembled, the paint department could come in and start adding toning glazes to help unify the parts.

Photo by Cindy Farruggia. Ten pounds of glitter in various color tones and sizes was used on the walls.

Mecca Set Building

From Joanna, Communications Manager

The Road to Mecca director Leigh Silverman calls the Mecca set a "fourth character in the play." Here's a picture of set designer Rachel Hauck's set model. The finished product took 400 lbs of cork (to look like sand) and 20,000 feet of fiber optic cable for some very magical lighting effect. Click here for a full slide show of photos of the set building in our scene shop.

Photo by Cindy Farruggia.

Re-Introducing Athol Fugard to Seattle

From Jerry Manning, Producing Artistic Director

In early September—two days after I was appointed Producing Artistic Director— it became clear that a planned production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was not going happen. Skittish outside producers and wavering directors derailed the play. What were we going to produce in its stead?

The Road to Mecca immediately sprang to mind.

In the late 1980s into the early 1990s it seemed that South African writer Athol Fugard had a new play every season. My Children! My Africa! and Valley Song were mounted by companies around the country. Fugard’s work always carried strong political content—most specifically about the oppression of apartheid and the effects that the South African social system exacted on both white and black people. His plays told simple, personal stories of people struggling with racial segregation.

The Road to Mecca is set in South Africa during the time of apartheid, but in this play Fugard deals with a myriad of themes, with race only a tangential focus. How does one define independence? What constitutes art and who determines such? What role does religion play in our lives, and at what point does religion undermine our self-expressiveness? What moral obligations exist between young and old folks?

The generational themes struck me particularly as I re-read The Road to Mecca. Every year the Rep takes on as many as a dozen interns, recent graduates from some of the country’s best schools. I asked one of the new interns to pull some information on Athol Fugard and apartheid—I was met with blank stares. People now in their early 20s have no recollection of it. No recollection of Robbins Island and the Krugerrand. No real knowledge of Athol Fugard’s work. We thought it time to change that.

I am pleased to welcome back to Seattle Rep Leigh Silverman who staged Blue Door here two seasons ago. I am also delighted to welcome back to this theatre Marya Sea Kaminski (last seen here as Rachel Corrie), Terry Moore, and Dee Maaske who last appeared at the Rep in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. And I am pleased to re-introduce Athol Fugard to this community.

The Road to Mecca is currently in rehearsals and opens Jan. 15.