Our 2016 Season is Here!

In 2016, We Players is celebrating
Shakespeare 400,
the NPS Centennial,
and our own Sweet Sixteen!

Our season of stunning site-integrated theatre is full of love,
masquerade balls, sword fights, gorgeous poetry and – of course –
fantastically beautiful California landscapes.

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Shakespeare 400: Performance companies and publishers
the world over are honoring 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy.

We Players Sweet Sixteen

We Players has been staging large-scale, site-integrated experiences of classical plays
since the first production in 2000 at Stanford University.
That first We Players show?  A roving Romeo & Juliet which moved from Tressider Student Union throughout the campus courtyards and pedestrian thoroughfares to Memorial Church, The Quad, and ultimately arriving at a collection of Rodin sculptures, “the Burghers of Calais.”

We Players cycles back and digs deeper into the play that began it all,
celebrating 16 years of creating stunning works of site-integrated theatre
in spectacular and historically charged locations, with
Romeo & Juliet performances, inspired special events, and parties throughout 2016!

Mask Making Salons: presentation + hands on mask making workshop; March – April
Sword Fights & Sandwiches: performance, workshop, social gathering; May & June
The Capulet Ball: elegant masquerade ball and performance; May & June
Romeo & Juliet: full scale production at Petaluma Adobe; August & September
Romeo & Juliet: full scale production adapted for Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, CA; October

~~ More details below ~~


COMING UP!!!!!

7th Annual GALA

On the Vernal Equinox: Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 6:30pm

Intrigue will flow from every corner of one of our favorite indoor spaces!
Savor potions prepared by our underground Franciscan Friars; send secret messages to your lovers and esteemed friends via our cupid courier service; visit the Apothecary’s Lounge to stimulate your five senses; and outbid your frenemies at the silent auction – featuring new and special treasures to thrill and delight.

Gala Tickets


Romeo & Juliet

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Ava Roy
Produced by Lauren D. Chavez and Ava Roy
Original Score by Charlie Gurke

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Continuing nearly 10 years of unprecedented partnerships
with the National Park Service and California State Parks,
We Players once again integrates a classic story into the environs
of a national historic landmark.

This summer, journey to wine country to experience this
beloved story of star-crossed lovers set into the historic

Rancho Petaluma and surrounding grounds.

We Players, in partnership with California State Parks presents:
Romeo & Juliet
at Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park
Sonoma County, CA
August 12 – September 25, 2016

* * * *

Later in the fall, head south to Saratoga
to experience the play adapted for the stunning mansion
and grounds of the illustrious Villa Montalvo!

We Players in partnership with Montalvo Arts Center presents:
Romeo & Juliet
at Villa Montalvo
Saratoga, CA
October 6 – 16, 2016


In Residence at Montalvo Arts Center
We’ve received an astounding invitation from the Montalvo Arts Center
to workshop our upcoming production of Romeo & Juliet this April.
This residency is as part of the Lucas Arts Residency Program and
Montalvo’s 75 year history of supporting artists and the artistic process.
We love you, Montalvo!

* * * *

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“We Players actors have the ability to draw power out of their
surroundings, channeling it into spectacular, immersive experiences”
– SF Weekly “Best of the Bay” 2015 awards


We Players connects people with place through site-integrated theatre.
Support for the nonprofit arts and education organization is provided by
Grants for the Arts/ General Fund Portion of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund,
The Fleishhacker Foundation, Fort Mason Center Presents, Kenneth Rainin Foundation,
The San Francisco Foundation, The Zellerbach Family Foundation and generous individual contributors.
Our 2016 Romeo & Juliet season will be developed while in residence
at the Lucas Artist Residency Program, Montalvo Arts Center.

We Players celebrates 2016

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2016 is a year of special anniversaries…

We Players’ Sweet 16,
the National Park Service’s Centennial,
and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

We are honoring all new mailing list signups with
a discount code for 10% off tickets
to this year’s (soon-to-be-announced) site-integrated theatre production!

And as a member of our list, you’ll also receive early access to tickets for our public events.

Join us in connecting people with place
through immersive site-integrated theatre
and engaging community programs.

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Inspiration for another year of making art and love

Dear Fellow Theatre Makers and Artists Everywhere –

 
It’s the start of a new year! I know for many of us theatre makers the projects just roll one into the other, evolving, morphing, changing shape and size and intensity all the time. I know our art, our inspiration, our creative drive does not neatly fit into the confines of the calendar grid.
But here in these first few days of the new month of the new year, I’m inspired to share this succinct and powerful piece of writing from playwright Jose Rivera as a jolt of recognition and encouragement for the stunning work you do every day, each year.
With admiration your efforts one and all.
 
 ♥ ,
Ava and We Players
 

 

USC School of Theatre Commencement Speech By José Rivera

 
Congratulations, we’re all colleagues now.
 
Having been perpetual students of an art form that can’t be fully learned because all the stories haven’t been told yet, we are now able practitioners. Not only that, we’re partisans in a great struggle that may seem holy to some and crazy to others, but is wildly quixotic even at the best of times. We’re all veterans of hope, sergeants and captains of an idealism and courage that seem anachronistic and beautifully, dolefully, painfully antique. Because what we do, what we are trained to do, is to keep an ancient and sullied and disrespected and much maligned and amazing tradition alive.
 
We together keep the spoken word from going silent, spectacle from disappearing in the ones and zeros of forgetfulness, great life-and-death themes from dying of malnutrition, enormous characters and souls from the purgatory of indifference and ignorance. Together we keep the The House of Atreus from foreclosure and the Skryker from extinction and Kent and Salem from dying of cancer and Pozzo from getting too lucky. We are apostles of language, dreamers in blank verse, aristocrats of sight gags, archeologists of gesture and dance and sword battles and mask wearing and mythic games of tragic and comic consequences. We bring Falstaff to the party and hope he doesn’t get too drunk and pinch too many butts even as we enter through the back door and try to deliver dream-worlds to the wary and the post-modern and the unsuspecting.
 
We traffic in awe and metaphors and are impatient with the ordinary and expected. We fight the inertia of silence and talk too loud in polite locations and there is no Ritalin for us. We don’t succumb to psychoanalysis and the voodoo of easy answers. We thrive on complexity and ask that our monsters truly terrify us, that our lovers truly slay us with their passion, that our magicians truly make something out of nothing and hand it to us with smoke and a rakish smile. We seek connections with the strange and communion with brave souls seeking the truth – not the entire truth, just a piece of it will do – a coin of truth we can keep in a pocket near our valuables, that we can spend in those frightening moments when we don’t know ourselves, when we’re in too deep and some clarity would help, some beauty that could redeem and enliven the night.
 
We turn awful experience and bad relationships and murdering office jobs and loveless parents and poverty and addictions and angst and loss and death itself into the fearsome gold of art. We are alchemists and con artists, acrobats and used car salesmen, liars and enlighteners, and we are here to do the earth’s bidding because the earth is screaming out its stories and begging for us to write them down, and act them out, and draw her pretty pictures on the face of the clouds.
 
What’s in store now that you’ve made it through this training ground of the imagination? Here are some of the highs and lows you can expect on this amazing journey.
 
There’s joy as you travel to wonderful places and receive the smiles and affection of new friends made in the crucible of performance, in front of raging armies of critics and prove-it- to- me, I’ve-paid-too- much-for- these-tickets, I-saw-it-last- year- in-London audiences and a perfect stranger comes up to you after the show to say they never felt so transported in the theatre before and they understand something about life they never understood until tonight and how you captured her parents’ pain and nobility so beautifully. Fatigue as you give it everything you have, every single day, every muscle engaged in a marathon that doesn’t end until you end. Pain because you tell yourself it’s just a gig, just a job, but then you fall in love with it anyway. Discovery of your limits and appreciation for the breathless power of your mastery. Bliss when you’ve written that one good sentence; or you delivered that one perfect moment when the lights are on you and only you; or you discover in the text an idea or an image or a parable so true that it makes your audience weep with recognition; or you put out into the world a rendering of a staircase or a costume or a throne of gold in three brilliant dimensions that just last week existed in none.
 
Awe when you sit backstage, a moment before your entrance and realize you’re about to give the greatest soliloquy in our language. Gratitude when it dawns on you that you make a living from the honey and perspiration of your mind. Excitement when you write Act One, Scene One on the top of the first page; and you sit along the wall on the afternoon of your third call-back for your favorite play; and you stand in the back of the house and that moment you worked on for fourteen hours with that actor who never seemed to get it gets the biggest laugh of the night. Amazement when your lights reflect in the physics of time and space exactly what’s happening in the unlit chambers and labyrinths of the hero’s soul. Even more amazement when your project, which you put together with faith, spit, and favors turns a remarkable profit in actual U.S. currency.
 
Humility when you look around and everyone else seems more successful, or richer, or quicker, or better reviewed or living on both coasts and are equally familiar with Silver Lake and Williamsburg. Relief when you figure out that, like all great cyclical events in nature, your long career will rise and fall and you’ll be hot, then forgotten, then hot, then forgotten, then hot again. Anger when the words won’t cooperate and the costume’s too tight and you made a grave error in casting the world premiere, or passion seems to be ebbing, or you’d rather have a baby, or the grant goes to your rival, or that barbarian in the second row keeps texting his lawyer, or ten people show up to your reading in a theatre with three hundred seats, or you can’t stand Bushwick anymore, or the McArthur people overlooked you – again – or the sitcom’s too tempting, or your favorite actor’s not available, or the culture’s going north while you’re going south.
 
Or maybe you’ve forgotten something – you forgot the joy and the magic and the purpose and the need for it all. But then you remember and come back anyway. That’s the amazing part.
 
You come back the next day because even when the words don’t come and the costume’s cutting off the blood to your legs, this activity connects you to your most authentic and naked self, to the child who told sweeping sock puppet sagas and imitated your dad’s big laugh and drew pictures of avenging super heroes, to the adolescent who fell in love with the smell of opening night flowers, to the mature artist who became enthralled with the great blank space, that enchanted oval, on which battles determine the course of history and lovers learned the key expressions of the heart and men and women modeled heroism and humanity and Estragon lost his way and colored girls considered suicide and Proctor wouldn’t sign his name and Arial was free to go and a wicked Moon under a Lorca sky betrayed the idea of love. You come back to balance art and family, and sometimes your checkbook, because nothing feels as good as the act of acting.
 
You endure the indifference of agents and literary managers because nothing sounds as nice as the click of that perfect metaphor falling into place. You put off children, or you put off real estate, or you put off the thousand intangible compromises of the spirit because nothing frees you from the dark enchantments of gravity like this. You stay up to three in the morning memorizing those sides for your best friend’s new play even though she wrote the part for you and the producers insist you have to audition anyway, because nothing brings you closer to Creation that this.
 
So why do you do these things? Why come back when it hurts so much? What kind of people are we? How crazy do we have to be to put up with this?
 
Let’s face it, given the speed of today’s run-away clocks, given the accumulation of power and money in the hands of the very few and all the injustice that flows from that, given the complexity of social intercourse in an age of instant talk and delayed reflection, you’re a member of a different species entirely. You age differently than the rest of the population. You try hard not to succumb to the common theories and manias of the crowd. You speak in tongues when everyone else is speaking in fortune cookies. You make one-of-a-kind little miracles with your bare and blistered hands for below minimum wage as stock markets soar and die and soar and die. You write about your existential pain in unsentimental words for sentimental audiences.
 
Your curiosity is so vast and out of control you don’t know boundaries and you annoy your lovers with your constant need to analyze their every nuance and no answer is ever good enough because each answer leads to ten new questions. You dream in such vivid colors, you wonder if you can market your sleep as the next cool drug. Your sensitivity to the pain and joy of others is so acute you might as well have multiple personalities. You and failure are so intimate with each other you could birth one another’s bawling babies. You are gifted and cursed with a love of words so intense few other pleasures can move you like Lopahin’s declaration that he bought the cherry orchard, or what Li’l Bit had to do to learn to drive, or what devils of self-doubt whispered to a beautiful and wounded soul in a psychosis at 4:48 am.
 
For all this and more you came to this school and sacrificed, and worked your ass off, and delayed some big life decisions, and dreamed exceptional dreams, and fertilized your mind, and kept important promises you made to yourself. That’s the important part: you kept the promises you made to yourself to stay in it and learn.
 
So now that you’ve come this far, and we’re in this room, together, what’s my advice?
 
It’s not a lot.
 
Love grandly.
Work forcefully.
Listen humbly.
Risk intelligently.
Risk stupidly.
Scare yourself.
Recycle your pain.
Think about greatness.
Make babies and make art for them.
Slay your heroes.
Laugh at yourself.
Betray no one’s trust.
Throw parties.
Make time for silence.
Search and search and search and search.
 
I could go on, but I don’t think you need any more advice from me. I think you’re ready.
 
You, the fighter and hero of this morning’s tale are trained and ready to unpack your Heiner Muller and your tap shoes and your colored pencils and are brimming with ideas and full of courage and full of fight and you know the obstacles and laugh in their faces and the dragons you fight are windmills and the windmills you fight are straw and the time to talk about doing it is over.
 
It’s time to do it.
 
So let’s go out now, you and I, let’s go out and make some art.
 
Thank you and all the best of luck.
 

– José Rivera

2015 Reflections

We at We Players are so grateful…

that we get to spend so much time outdoors
in historically-significant, culturally-charged, environmentally rich, and stunningly beautiful locations.

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It’s our great joy to scout them out, to invest in complex partnerships with the federal and state governments, and to collaborate with talented artists from around the Bay Area and the world- all to bring thrilling works of art to our public parks.

And we thank YOU for joining us in the fog and mist, in the blustery cold of our coastal climes, in the sun-kissed open spaces, for climbing steep hills and sitting on the ground, for gathering in the dwindling light to enter the unknown in our mead hall. For braving the elements and opening your hearts to the stories we share.
We are SO excited to announce our 2016 sites and programs, we’ll be blaring our horns with news in January.

Before we launch into the new year and all its new adventures, we’re taking some time to reflect on 2015, lessons learned and accomplishments achieved. We’re feeling really grateful for you, our extended community, and we’re feeling proud and humbled at once by what you’ve told us about your experiences with We Players this year.


Savor the sweetness with us!

Here’s what you and your fellow audience members had to say
about Ondine at Sutro this spring and HEROMONSTER at the Fort Mason Center Chapel this fall…

You told us that HEROMONSTER was:

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You said the…

“intensity was palpable and visible in every calculated move made, sweat drop wiped, and grunt or gasp heard.”

and that we “populated [your] dreams with stirring visions”

And you shared personal discoveries:

“Gradually an idea emerged in my mind that had to do with ritual performance of a very old epic story taking place at an annual gathering of which we were part.”

“After all the battles, in the quiet of the aftermath, we wonder…would there still be heroes and monsters if we all lived in a world where everyone practiced how to be more kind, more loving?”

Our thanks to you, for joining us for HEROMONSTER

 


Earlier this year…

y’all couldn’t get enough of that sparkly sea nymph and her sexy silly knight errant!

You told us that Ondine at Sutro was:

“beautiful, smart, and funny”
“mesmerizing”
“unbearably beautiful”
“Superb! So funny, so poignant, too good.”
“the only time I can remember soaring pelicans bringing tears to my eyes”

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And that this is what happened to you:

“I left the piece feeling very filled up, inspired, and awake.”

“I will always remember the magical way We Players used the environs–most particularly the ending, when Ondine and the Old One disappeared over the ridge toward the fog-enshrouded sea. For me, that moment was perfection.”

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“It’s not often that I feel that time has stood still during a performance and that was one of those times.”

“Once again, thanks to We Players I discovered a fabulous new space up to then unknown.”

And the head of SF Rec and Parks, Phil Ginsburg shared that:
“Yesterday’s performance was magical. It was one of the most unique and special theater (or park) experiences I have ever had. Thank you for introducing us to a whole new way of experiencing the elements in that spectacular setting. Thank you for opening our minds and hearts to what the Parks have to offer!”

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In closing, here is a letter we received from an Ondine attendee:

I have continued to think of Ondine throughout the day today — what a profound, magical, and artful experience it was to enter Ondine’s world yesterday.

[My husband] spotted a whale breaching in the Golden Gate, just moments before Hans commented that, in his world, whales could pass between a man and woman in the course of a day…

As we wound our way up the hill to Sutro Heights, I was struck by how radiantly happy everyone was around me, the crowd of We Players attendees all smiling and laughing, in a way that is quite rare in our present-day rush and seriousness, and in a way that seemed to be contagious to those passersby staring in wonder at what must have appeared like our own private carnival. And then spotting the Old One standing above us on a cliff, silently watching our progress.

And when Ondine was wrenched from her consuming grief, by the third call of her name, the stark silence was softened by a burst of quiet birdsong in the tree above her, making it seem all the more real that this was indeed a sudden new dawn for her, and my eyes filled with tears. As Ondine and her fellow spirit beings disappeared into the swirling mist toward the sea, tears streamed down my face.

Thank you for creating this magic. For bringing us to greater awe and connection with the magic already in the land around us here, and in the waters and mists and silent ancient stories they hold.

Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We love you.

Happy Holidays!

a HEROMONSTER reflection

An audience member and new volunteer with We Players took time to share some impressions from her HEROMONSTER experience with us. We think this is so thoughtfully composed, that you might like to read it too! Thanks Geneva!

HEROMONSTER’s only two actors opened the doors to the mead hall in the interior of the Chapel at Fort Mason and welcomed the audience into the space. We Players’ mead hall had food and real mead and ale on offer. The show itself was a mix of battles and fellowship, disjointed attacks and assists. During the show, the actors played both friend and foe, both ally and enemy to the other. With tenderness, brutality, and extreme physicality – framed in the Chapel with its beautiful stained glass windows and the chilly autumn air outside – HEROMONSTER brought forth difficult questions about the practice of kindness and severity in the distant past and the tangible present. Dressed in rags and meeting each eye, the performers laid these questions before every audience member to face if they could. Each moment was either warm or cold or frightening, and no member of the audience was free to leave without the challenge and discomfort of witnessing both loving and abusive intimacy between strangers.

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HEROMONSTER pulled the epic Beowulf out of the shadows of space and time and introduced a modern perspective that has the power to change what we understand to be “heroic” or “monstrous.” Heroism as defined by old texts often describes strength and ruthlessness in a time when you would die without them. With the intimacy of the action and the continuity of the setting, We Players makes the epic relatable while still deconstructing the traditional understanding of its meaning.

The rustic mead hall setting, simple costumes, and haunting accompaniment helped revive the sense of wildness and danger beyond the walls of the mead hall, feelings we relate to less in our modern world but that help to remind us of the base moments in which these concepts of “hero” and “monster” were born and given life via story as a means to prepare for and survive in the harsh northern world. With that world as a seamless part of our own HEROMONSTER experience, the advent of heroism and monstrosity are pulled apart from the confusion many of us found in Beowulf. HEROMONSTER asked relevant questions about what our understanding of heroism and monstrosity are today, how each can exist and operate unnoticed by many people. HEROMONSTER came up into my face and asked me, “Have our definitions after all these centuries remained so much the same that we no longer recognize true heroism and monstrosity?”

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While HEROMONSTER was indeed a divergence from We Players’ usual large-scale, outdoor performance, it was a show still fully committed to exploring new boundaries for the company and its audience. We Players delivered a grand experience in which the actors participated in exactly what the show asks of their audience: willingness to try something new even when it is uncomfortable, something that values thorough examination of the self and how we choose to behave and treat each other as fellow humans.

– Geneva Redmond

2015 Theatre Bay Area Awards

Our production of Ondine at Sutro received
7 nominations at Theatre Bay Area’s 2015 Awards!

Outstanding Production of a Play
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Principal Role: Ava Roy
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actors in a Featured Role: Jennie Brick
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Featured Role: Nathaniel Justiniano & Nick Medina.
Outstanding Performance by the Ensemble of a Play
Outstanding Costume Design: Brooke Jennings

We’re so pleased that the talent and passion of our actors and creative team – as well as the significance of site-integrated theatre – is being recognized by the Theater Bay Area Awards this year. Didn’t get to see Ondine at Sutro? Want to experience it again? We hope our video and photography highlights can help immerse you (again) into this fairy tale of enchantment and wonder…

Ondine (Ava Roy) and the King (Nick Medina) immersed in a serious discussion about LOVE

On Monday eve November 16, we celebrated our shared commitment to impassioned storytelling with the larger Bay Area theatre community. We found ourselves on stage in an actual theatre for the first time…well…ever! And what a beautiful playhouse ACT’s Geary Theatre is. Ava and Cole Ferraiuolo, the young Artistic Director of Faultline Theatre, presented awards together and shared the stage with many other directors from around the region. Musical theatre folks shared song and dance routines and several important Legacy Awards were presented, including to the late, great Mark Rucker, whom we all honor and miss.

We’re especially pleased to celebrate Brooke Jennings and Nathaniel Justiniano, award recipients in their finalist categories. Three cheers!   

We Players performers and volunteers at the awards ceremony!
Announcing Brooke Jennings for Outstanding Costume Design!

From the Studio to the Living Room, From The Mead Hall to The Chapel

The Mead Hall and The Chapel

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For We Players, Place performs as a character. Locations have distinct energies, personalities and even desires. In the Old English epic poem Beowulf, King Hrothgar’s great hall of Herot functions as an important cultural institution that provides light and warmth, food and drink – a place for singing, story-telling and safety. The mead-hall served as a place of refuge within a dangerous and precarious external world – a world continuously threatened by attack of neighboring peoples and wild beasts of the great northern forests. The mead-hall was also a place of community, where traditions were preserved and loyalty was rewarded. This is where legends were created and perpetuated, reputations were built, fame broadcast, and history written through the telling of it. By extension, we imagine the WWII era chapel at Fort Mason Center – a place of quiet for private contemplation as well as a community gathering place – as the hall of Herot. Herot, like the chapel, is a sanctuary, a refuge for the tired and a place for rituals that support community.

The Process

Artistic risk often comes in the form of working with new materials, unfamiliar tools, and experimenting with new techniques. HEROMONSTER is a very different type of project for We Players. Unlike our hallmark large-scale, site-integrated theatre projects, which employ somewhere between 30 and 60 performers, artisans, and stage crew, this project features only three performers: two actors and a musician. This is part of a larger experiment for We Players, an exploration in balancing the massive scale of our signature works with projects smaller in scope, though still rich with poetic imagery and inspired by classical texts of epic dimension. We aim to build powerful theatrical events that are more flexible than our large scale works, and can be adapted to a variety of spaces, including indoor environments.

With HEROMONSTER, we began with the actor/creator’s version of a blank canvas – a studio with four white walls and open floor, which we (Nathaniel Justiniano and I) promptly covered with images, phrases, an avalanche of ideas scrawled on giant pieces of paper.

Ava & Charlie at Montalvo working on HEROMONSTER

(Music Director Charlie Gurke joins a rehearsal at Montalvo)

The studio space we inhabited for the month of August was generously provided by the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. The month-long immersion into the themes and imagery of heroism and monstrosity yielded the first version of HEROMONSTER, which we are currently performing in private homes throughout the greater Bay Area (ranging from San Jose to San Anselmo, with multiple stops in SF and the East Bay) while simultaneously continuing the development process while in residency at the Fort Mason Center Chapel. In this way, we learn by doing. New insights from each living room performance, and the charged conversations with audiences afterwards, inform and fuel rehearsals as we develop the show for the October performances in the Chapel.

This production is part of an even larger exploration and development process for We Players. Subsequent phases of this work will include collaborations with the renowned dance theatre company inkBoat and masters in the avant-garde music scene, the Rova saxophone quartet. Throughout, multiple translations of the ancient anglo-saxon poem Beowulf serve as a jumping off point, igniting inspiration and helping to inform our understanding of heroes and monsters, where they come from, and where and how they currently live among us all.


A Postscript: It is my honor and pleasure to collaborate with Nathaniel Justiniano and Charlie Gurke on the creation of this piece. Natty has worked with We Players as an actor since 2012, when he captivated audiences as Zeus on the Mount Olympus of Angel Island. Charlie Gurke has served as We Players’ Music Director since 2010, and written award-winning original scores for all of our site-integrated productions since Hamlet on Alcatraz. We are also graced with the musical talents of Steve Adams, who alternates performances with Charlie Gurke. Endless thanks to the ever-gracious Lauren Chavez, our producer and compass, the steadfast and insightful Britt Lauer, assistant producer, and Rowan Beasley, our intern from London, who shines her big green eyes, is quietly curious and attentive, and helps us remain calm.

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Together, along with you, we strive to shine light into the darker shadows of ourselves.

Journey with us into the darkness.

Autumn Intern!

We Players welcomes Rowan Beasley from the UK as a company intern this fall. Rowan arrived just last week and is already rolling up her sleeves and digging in with We! Beginning this week, she joins us in the rehearsal room as Natty and I begin adapting our current version of HEROMONSTER for the Chapel at Fort Mason. Rowan will be with us through the fall season and we are so very lucky to have her! Here are a few notes from Rowan about finding us during her coursework at Falmouth University.

-Ava


DISCOVERING WE PLAYERS

During my first two years at Falmouth university I have had the wonderful opportunity to experience two modules that focused on Site-Specific theatre. In my first year we explored places around our campus in Penryn, then in our second year moved further out into Cornwall.

The Unlands module that I was part of in my second year took place at Truro train station- a common place that at first seems like a space that has a loss of identity and disconnection. Throughout the module I had been searching for the voice and the stories that have been left and marked out on the station alongside immersing myself in discovering my own body and place in this non-place.

A conversation with one of the members of staff inspired my focus on birds,; it opened my eyes to the freedom of the birds’ way of life. I wanted to pass on their perspective and adventures to the passengers, to draw attention to the endless opportunities a station as a space offers us. The scored origami birds I created became a symbol of the birds’ ideology. When I asked if a passenger would like to take one on a journey, I documented them by taking a photo of the birds in the hands of the passenger, which became a nest and new home. These birds allowed me to start conversations with the public, and gave me a chance to change the way they viewed the space.

During my research for my solo practise in this module I discovered the work of We Players theatre company. I was instantly inspired by the company’s use of beauty of the natural world to stimulate audiences and awaken them to their physical environment. I felt a sense of similarity in the work and ideology of these creations and what I wanted to achieve in the work I was creating.

The more I explored We Players’ work I became more influenced by the use of innovative performance spaces and how the company’s work became more relevant to my work at the station. I found that by creating work in experimental and unprecedented spaces, it awakens the audience to a whole new experience.

I discovered whilst working at Truro train station that you are reminded of the new possibilities, a place to find peace and an identity, which I hope I had passed on with my birds – allowing passengers to relate back to a moment where they felt inspired to see the world and let themselves be awoken to all that surrounds them. From what I researched, the work of We Players achieves this beautifully.

Now entering the cave of shadows…

Sutro!

Who speaks of your faded glory? You’ve just changed garments. You’ve traded your glass and steel for a flouncy full skirt of sea foam and a lush blouse of blossoming ice plant. You’ve traded your human imposed form – oh! the towering structure you once lorded over the rock wall separating you from your ancestor the ocean! – for the natural curves of eroding stone. Now you are in constant concert with the waves, your conversation with the wind yields softer edges, rounded now where once there were right angles. Only your stone footprint remains, and a lagoon of gentle waters. Our imaginations fill the well of that open space, the space you’ve left behind. We dream ourselves another world, a world of sea spirits and robust fairy tale figures. May the image of the lone fisherman plying your placid waters linger in our memories! May this memory ignite a thousand more of the story of Ondine and her Hans, which We Players left invisibly, indelibly, imprinted on the air.

Sutro-60 tunnel - 965px

NOW – we move from the vast expanse of Sutro’s sparkling sea towards dark forests where ferocious creatures lurk and mead halls where blazing heroes recount feats of glory.

I wake this morning with a new feeling, a trembling, a quivering, an uncomfortable and yet familiar sensation…
The beginning feeling…

The feeling of standing at the edge of the abyss, horrified at the prospect of stepping directly, purposefully, into the unknowable depths.
Sending one foot and then the other into thin air and thence to discover how falling down the rabbit hole feels this time…

Horrified, and yet certain that I’ll do it.

Though some gears in my physical machinery will resist the plunge, others will overpower the fear, the impulse towards self-protection, and hurdle me forward.
Poised briefly on this thin edge before the plunge…monsters and heroes here we come!

This fall, we will escort you into cave of shadows as we search for the monsters lurking in the closet and under the bed. I hope you’ll join us as we seek the heroes and monsters that live among us.

More from that shadowy cave of dreams soon…

mwah!

Ava

Ondine Tickets Are Selling Out!

Ondine Performance- May 16 2015

Twelve performances of Ondine have sold out so far!

Our audiences love the show and remaining tickets are going fast – get yours today before it’s too late!

“by far the most entertaining and amazing show I’ve ever seen”

“all the elements come together beautifully to create a breathtaking theatrical experience”

“It may well be that I have experienced a production this wonderful, but I can’t think of any.”
 ★★★★★ Charles Kruger, Theatrestorm

Get your Ondine tickets here

The Top Reasons to Experience ONDINE at SUTRO

There are SO many reasons!
Here are our top FOUR…

 

4

It’s a classic! You love old, magical stories as much as We do!

  • We can rely on stories that have already withstood the test of time… first written story of Ondine dates back to France in the 1300s, and the oral tale is much older
  • Ondine is born of the lineage of feminine water spirits. Her original name is “Melusine”
  • Ondine lives on today in everything from The Little Mermaid to the Starbucks logo – Melusine with her two tails!
  • The delightful 1811 novella “UNDINE” (on which Giraudoux’s play is based) was translated into many languages and could be found in libraries all over the world!
3

119 years after Sutro opened, party with We Players like it’s 1896!

Gaze out over the vast Pacific. Look for otters in the lagoon and herons lurking in the marsh grasses. Explore modern ruins of the once-opulent public baths… Feel the ghosts of swimmers diving and splashing in the world’s largest saltwater baths. Once upon a time, Sutro Baths boasted seven pools, each heated to different temperatures, plus a bizarre museum of Sutro’s personal collection of taxidermy specimens and other oddities. Imagine that!

2

It’s going to be SO MUCH FUN!  

Immerse yourself in a magical fairy tale. Journey through an enchanted forest! Look for whales spouting off stage! Activate your senses! Salt spray and sunlight…tapestry of coastal colors – blooming ice plants and windswept trees…breathe the fresh air, feel the sweet sea breezes, tune in to the crash of waves, the call of seabirds…delight in fin de siècle-inspired costumes, a gorgeous musical score, delicious language, and a story that will make your heart swell. Cue miraculous sunset at the end of the journey!

Join us for this thrilling and magical adventure! 

Tix, tix, tix!

Ondine’s Preview weekend is SOLD OUT!

Don’t Delay! Get your tickets today!

 

Don’t wait until it’s too late…

Experience this enchanted fairy tale fraught with naiads, knights, kings and feats of magic!

 

The Sutro District is breathtakingly beautiful! Our creative team is hard at work and play in the salt spray and on sun-kissed cliffs of our wild coastal stage. We are awakening the magic of this classic French fairy tale, as the love between our sea sprite and knight errant unfolds at Lands End.

 

Join us for this grand adventure!

Springing into Action!

Springtime Celebrations!

Join us in the great outdoors as the world turns towards warmer weather

Spring blooms

“Nature awakes; a warmth
Breathes out of her:
See how she gins to blow
Into life’s flower again!”
– Pericles

The lengthening days are much welcomed – we can rise to greet the dawn and savor golden rays in the evening before the sun passes out of sight. This season, We Players wishes you sunlit walks in your neighborhood parks, sea foam and salt spray while dancing in the sand at your closest beach, the freshest fruits of the flowering trees, community and joi-de-vivre!

We are all abuzz with our newest artistic visions! We are so excited to share unforgettable experiences, enchanting stories, sunsets and stunning views with YOU in 2015.

Visit us during our on-site rehearsal process at Sutro this month and next and experience the creative process live! We’ll be rehearsing the music, movement and scene work on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Come explore the Sutro district and keep your eyes peeled for performers hidden in plain view…

Happy Equinox!
from all of We


Spring Forth with some of the area’s most engaging art and performances!

 Buoy A New Deal: Continuing the Legacy of Maritime Art in the Park

We Players presents an exhibition of site-inspired works by eight bay-area artists
on display at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s Maritime Museum.
A New Deal runs through June 17th.

 

Ondine at Sutro Ondine at Sutro: A heart-wrenching story of love and enchantment

Awaken to a springtime adventure where worlds collide,
love blooms, and we encounter the creatures of the sea at Lands End.
Ondine at Sutro opens with a splash on May 1st and runs through June 7th, and tickets are on sale now!

Button - Ondine tix


More equinox treats:

The San Francisco International Arts Festival runs May 17 through June 7th & right now you can access Early Bird tickets (at just $12!) for performances by over 70 artists and companies from near and far.

For your springtime Shakespearean pleasure! “In the spring time, the only pretty ring time/ When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding/ Sweet lovers love the spring” (Click to enjoy the full song)

An equinox solar eclipse will be visible in Europe on Friday morning & the ESA has minisatellites positioned to observe sky & earth during the event. Wikipedia’s entry for it has great gifs showing the play of sun & shadow.

Ondine at Sutro: Performance Demonstration & Conversation

Company reading of Ondine, 2014

Ondine at Sutro: Performance Demonstration & Conversation

March 19, 7-8pm
Presidio Officer’s Club
50 Moraga Avenue, San Francisco


Join the creative team responsible for We Players’ newest large-scale, site-integrated production, Ondine at Sutro, for a lively evening of performance demonstrations and conversation about the creative process.

This evening at the Presidio Officer’s Club will provide a sneak peek into the upcoming project, which will take place on and around the ruins of the old bath house at Lands End and the beautiful Sutro Heights Park above the Cliff House. The presentation will include an introduction to the history and ecology of the environs at Sutro Baths, insights into the production during the early stages of the rehearsal process, including real-time rehearsal of select scenes!

The event will feature:

· Ava Roy, production co-director and producer
· Carly Cioffi, production co-director
· Lauren Chavez, choreographer and producer
· Performers from the upcoming production

 

This event is free but registration is required due to space constraints.
 Please note that registering does not guarantee admission. Registered guests will be offered priority admission that will be honored until 15 minutes before the start of the event.

 

A Fortnight x 2: Amusements! Magic! Music!

Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?
What masque? what music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?
– A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Join We Players for an unforgettable evening
of sumptuous delights and surprises!


It’s nearly time! Once a year we throw this very special party to celebrate the previous adventures we’ve shared together and to join forces in anticipation of the epic new plots we’ve got brewing. Joy will be streaming live from every corner of one of our favorite indoor spaces. Dress in your festive finery and if you’re so inspired – let the belle epoque inspire your accoutrements!

We’ve got some new tricks up our sleeves and magical creatures emerging from other eras and realms to play with us this year.

Meet The Mermaid, The Magician, and The Maestro.

Savor the exquisite delights of our luscious, richly laden tables. Acquire unique goods and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in our silent auction. Don a handsome top hat, a handmade mask or play the coquette with a lacy parasol in our costume-equipped photo booth. Your photo reel will print on the spot!

We are four weeks away from February 28th and the 2015 We Players Fundraising Gala!  

An unforgettable evening not to be missed. Reserve your seat at our table now!

 

 Proceeds from the gala fund ongoing company operations and help cover program costs for creating transformative site-integrated art in partnership with our local parks. If you are unable to attend our fundraising gala, you can still play a part in helping us transform public spaces into realms of participatory theatre.

Visit our Support We page and make a donation!

We at the Presidio

 

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Join We Players at the Presidio Officer’s Club
this Thursday, January 22, for an inside view
into our unique site-integrated theatre inspirations!

 

Artistic director Ava Roy will share a multimedia presentation of previous work, discuss the company’s unprecedented collaboration with the National Park Service, and engage in a conversation with the audience about We Players’ artistic goals and methods.

Details:
Presidio Officer’s Club
50 Moraga Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94129
415-561-4400
7-8pm, Thursday January 22nd
FREE!


But wait, there’s more!

Ondine reading

We Players returns to the Presidio on March 19th with a special sneak peek into our upcoming project Ondine at Sutro, which will take place on and around the ruins of the old bath house at Lands End and the beautiful Sutro Heights Park above the Cliff House. The evening will include movement, music, and scene sharing, an introduction to the history and ecology of the environs at Sutro Baths, and insights into the production during the early stages of the rehearsal process.

This event will feature:
Ava Roy, director and producer
Lauren Chavez, choreographer and producer
Charlie Gurke, composer and music director
and
Performers from the upcoming production

Details:
Presidio Officer’s Club
50 Moraga Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94129
415-561-4400
7-8pm, Thursday March 19th
FREE!

the heart of generosity

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.
On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

Please support We Players with a tax deductible contribution in any amount, and join us in celebrating site-integrated theatre, community, and nature. We have been building participation in the arts and exposing audiences to the layered history, beauty, and complexity of local parks for fifteen years. Help us continue this good work and seed our exciting programs planned for 2015. Thank you!

Give to We

 

 

Winter Reflections

As nights grow longer and winter rains seep into the earth, those of us at We Players find ourselves turning inward, reflecting on hearth and home, our past accomplishments, and our plans for the near future. With audience and community support, we have achieved remarkable things this past year:

· We leveraged our strong partnerships with the National Park Service, and pushed the boundaries of creative place-making with unique site-integrated performance, including: Macbeth at Fort Point; Canciones del Mar on the tall ship Balclutha; Vessels for Improvisation aboard ferryboat Eureka, and the roving performance of King Fool – our distilled version of King Lear.

· Since fall 2013, we have worked directly with over 300 students from diverse Bay Area communities via our Aesthetic Education Program (AEP). In addition to workshops offered on high school grounds, We Players directors have served as outside experts and guest lecturers for college-level courses at California College for the Arts and Stanford University.

· We inspired 2,840 audience members to connect with the precious gems of our local landscape, reminding residents of the spectacular beauty and cultural relevancy of our parks and inviting their repeat visitation and stewardship of local public resources.

Thank you for helping us accomplish all of this!

So, what lies ahead? In 2015, We Players celebrates its 15th year of creating art in public spaces. We promise to bring you more site-integrated theatre; more incredible visual art, music, and dance via our Presenting Series; and an ever-deepening relationship between audience, art, and place. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park will continue serving as a “floating classroom” for our growing AEP program. And in spring 2015, we will stage Ondine, a devastating love story, at the dramatic ruins of the Sutro Baths and Sutro Heights Park.

Thank you for supporting We Players in connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre!

Give Today

2014 Reflections

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have.
Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”  – Henry James

Backstage at Macbeth at Fort Point, 2014

2014!

A quick recap: we rallied after the effects of the 2013 Government Shut Down and re-activated our stunning Macbeth at Fort Point, we brought the joyous Canciones del Mar back to the tall ship Balclutha and the provocative and entrancing Vessels for Improvisation back to the ferry boat Eureka (both vessels at Hyde Street Pier); we experimented with roving site-based performance with King Fool, our two-person distillation of King Lear, and we spent five fruitful weeks immersed in rehearsal for our sailing production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Shortly before the expected opening performance of Rime on Halloween, we confronted the challenge of discerning between radically compromising the vision and honoring the core artistic integrity of the piece. We chose the latter. We trust this will lead us to a resplendent fully realized production in due time.

In just a few short months we launch our fabulous annual dinner theatre gala (February 28, save the date!) and then dive into rehearsals for our newest site-integrated colossus: a sprawling and gorgeous Ondine at Sutro. Meanwhile, as the days curl with surprising quickness into cozy darkness, and the crisper chill of autumn air carries us into cave of winter, we embrace this seasonal shift as an opportunity for reflection and envisioning what dreams may come…

In truth, this task of self-reflection is an ongoing and ever-present part of our practice within We Players. Though sometimes confusing and always challenging, to me, these questions are essential, like bread and water.

* Why make art? * What’s the core purpose? * Who is it for? * What’s the intention of a work? * Why does it matter? * What do I have to share that is truly of value? * What do I want to see more of in the world? * How can I contribute to that? * How do we achieve maximum and meaningful impact with our work? * How does our art support the expansion and elevation of the human spirit? *

We Players - Rime of the Ancient Mariner 2014 - Rehearsal

This fall, as I engage with these impossible and crucial questions, I find myself peering back into the mists of spring 2000 when We Players was born, and still more questions bubble up.

* Why did I form We Players? What were my questions then? What were my intentions then?

What were the foundational inspirations and principles guiding the work then? Which are still true now? Which have changed? What have I forgotten that is still essential and must be remembered? Why site-specific work? Why participatory? Why Shakespeare? What’s the role of ritual in making theatre? Why We Players?

Through these questions we continually stretch and strengthen our established practice (our methodologies, intentions, aesthetic and purpose), which enlivens public place, challenges the intellect, stretches the capacity for feeling and empathy, and elevates the spirit.

2015 is just around the bend! In addition to Ondine at Sutro in the spring, we’ll be opening the first of several visual art exhibitions at the SF Maritime Museum in February, sharing a series of dynamic presentations at the newly opened Officer’s Club in the Presidio throughout the year, and announcing a still-secret smaller scale work at a surprise location in the fall.

I look forward to sharing with you thrilling performances, rich with moments of shocking beauty, charged with vital questions and bright with both expansive natural vistas and the radiance of the human spirit. 

xo

Ava Roy

Artistic Director, We Players

2014 Run of Rime of the Ancient Mariner CANCELED

Dear Patron,

We are deeply disappointed, and have had to make a very difficult decision to cancel all performances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on Alma. All tickets and fees will be refunded this week.

We were saving this for a surprise, but our production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on historic schooner Alma was built on the central image of an aerial performer as the Albatross, flying high above the deck, descending her apparatus in a painfully beautiful dance after being shot by the Mariner’s crossbow, all while sailing the San Francisco Bay.

Unfortunately, due to safety concerns related to the aerial performance that we and our partners at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park were unable to overcome, we are unable to proceed with the project at this time.

Alma's wake - sailing the Bay

Over the past several weeks of rehearsal we’ve made great strides in our development of the poem for performance. We have discovered rhythmic and imagistic gems while plumbing the currents of the text, we’ve written songs, we’ve stocked up on salty lingo, and are prepared to get wet. This has been valuable work, and we intend to make use of our investment. We set our sights on a new horizon and trust that we’ll find the time and the place that will best serve our vision for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

We sincerely apologize for this situation and the disappointment it may cause. We truly value you, our audience, and your support of and participation in our work. We don’t exist without you.

Thank you for your understanding and for staying the course with us.

Onward,

Ava Roy and Lauren D. Chavez

Charles De Gaulle’s Egg

Alma mast and rigging

I was more than a little pleased to learn during the high summer that the We Players were to bring forth a production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and deliver the work from the deck and rigging of the scow schooner Alma, an historic ship sailed by crew of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

This pleasure with the advent of the Ancient Mariner to our park derives from my own private albatross and my own urge to prophesy:

Like Coleridge’s ancient mariner, I attend a good many weddings, often as an uninvited guest, often with words well-woven for unwanting ears.

Usually I stand unnoticed by flurries of wedding-guests passing in hopeful finery up the stairways and onto the breezy verandas of San Francisco’s Aquatic Park Bathhouse.  Occasionally I am noticed.  Occasionally, chance allows me to let fall a yarning of history.

The wedding guests rarely ask about the Bathhouse architecture or the murals.  When a guest hesitates in front of an exhibit or an element of the lobby murals, I sense the opening.  Often, too, there is the wedding guest who asks, “why is this place empty?  What are you planning to do with it?”  I point out that the building, artistically speaking, is far from empty and proceed to offer up a story that starts with a strange recurring dream I have.

In this dream it is September 1939, the year the Aquatic Park Bathhouse opens; the year the European phase of World War Two begins.   The dream is in French.  I am sitting in a dark wood-paneled study, a globe nearby; a green shaded desk lamp cast suffused light across a table-top dressed in leather and vermilion felt.  It must be midnight or nearly so.  I sit across from a young Charles De Gaulle, whom I inwardly dislike but toward whom I am being superficially polite.  He offers me a snifter of Armagnac ; I want something from Jerez in my glass; he has none.  He smokes; I do not.  He sits dressed as a Colonel of the Third Republic; I stand in the rumpled tweeds of a washed-out intellectual.  The meeting is not going well.

De Gaulle stabs his cigarette stub into a brass ashtray mounted on a small Gingham patterned bean bag cushion.  The ashtray is too English to be in the room and I wonder where it came from.  De Gaulle rings a bell, stands, and a valet presents the Colonel with an egg and a needle.  Over a garbage can, the future leader of the Free French de-yolks the egg and sets the now hollow and fragile alabaster-white eggshell on the desk before us.  He signals me and we sit.  De Gaulle leans over to me and says:

“It is hollow, Monsieur, but it is not empty.”

I fail to follow his line of thought and De Gaulle really does not care.  Colonel De Gaulle gets to his point quickly.  “I have a mission for you,” he begins, “you are to change into a tuxedo, take this eggshell, and parachute into Warsaw.  You are to carry this eggshell throughout the capitols of Europe while the war rages taking care that it does not break.  Perhaps find a spot where you can keep the eggshell and its contents safe for posterity.  After the war we will have another drink.  Remember the eggshell is hollow but it is not empty.  I will not wish you luck Monsieur; a man should know what kind of luck he has by your age.”

De Gaulle stands, presents me with the eggshell, a tuxedo, and a parachute.  Then he leaves. Then I leave. I enter some kind of anteroom flooded with harsh light.  I am conscious of a clock on the mantel ledge ticking.  On an impulse I hold the eggshell up to a light and peer into the hole in the bottom; my eyes and senses are dazzled by scales of color harmony and dancing patterns of the French Avant Guarde.  Along the interior surface of the shell are Hilaire Hiler’s Parisian murals; the egg is hollow, but it is not empty.

It sometimes takes the wedding-guest a moment, or perhaps long moments, to grasp the idea; the alabaster-white color of the Streamline Moderne building of the Bathhouse, the hollowness of the interior, the richness of the art that Europe lost but San Francisco preserves, in spite of itself, in the murals and mosaics that adorn the walls: rarely does an Ancient Mariner and a wedding-guest start out seeing things eye-to-eye.  Oftentimes the art and act of an Ancient Mariner is to turn apparent reality inside out, and unlock deeper meanings and histories.  In the story I related in the dream of De Gaulle’s Egg, I set the narrative in a past most listeners would understand, the Second World War, and used the metaphor of an egg that was hollow but not empty to demonstrate the value of an often overlooked piece of art and architecture.

“The mark of a civilization is the care and thought it devotes to the next generation.  I have a strong instinct to save ships for people I will never meet.” (Karl Kortum,1987).


We Players’ Rime of the Ancient Mariner begins October 31st and runs Fridays and weekends through November 16th.

 

KING FOOL – Artist Statement

newlear

Every one of us will die, and we will all witness the death of loved ones. We lose things; we lose friends and opportunities all our lives. How we approach loss–and death is the ultimate loss–can make the difference between fear and acceptance.

This is an Everyman Lear. In our play, Cordelia finds her father, Lear, who has wandered off to a remote place. In his disjointed state, he mostly doesn’t recognize her; he imagines all the others around him. They go through the old hurts one more time, fighting, cursing, scheming, then giving in, weeping and laughing. He is the king of his story, as we all are. His caretaker daughter is his fool and a host of other voices, but at last he recognizes her fully as she conducts him to his last breath.

This two-person, one-hour distillation of King Lear is designed to invite conversations about the meaning and experience of death. Each performance will be followed by a conversation with the artists, special guests –  including those whose life’s work involves the dying, and audience members who wish to participate.

— Ava Roy & John Hadden

Limited tickets available. For tickets to KING FOOL, We Players’ newest site-integrated production, CLICK HERE.

Al Blank: The Adventure of King Fool at Battery Wallace

The view from Battery Wallace in the Marin Headlands.

The view from Battery Wallace in the Marin Headlands.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome We Players to the Marin Headlands. Having had the opportunity of working with this great group of actors during their performance of Hamlet on Alcatraz (in 2010), I can say without any hesitation, that the Marin Headlands is in for some very special and unique performances.

During the month of September, We Players will be presenting King Fool at Battery Wallace located in the Marin Headlands. The concept is unique as is the location.

Battery Wallace first constructed during the first World War and reconstructed as the United States entered World War II, stands as part of America’s determination to defend the coast of this country…in other words, to defend life!

We look at the term ‘death’. We talk about it as someone we know passes on. We see death in performances in the theatre, television and movies. We read about it in books. Death is final. What is unique in this process is that We Players is staging a story about death in a place that was created to preserve life: Battery Wallace! What makes this entire location more unique is that across the road from where this production will take place is a deactivated Nike Missile Site. This site was the epitome of attempting to stay alive when nuclear missiles were set to fire at Soviet planes during the Cold War. This history of life and death and how we deal with it is well served by having We Players perform their site-integrated production of King Fool in our park, this time at Battery Wallace.

We Players brings to all of us a new concept in art. A concept that allows us to become a part of living theatre and create a unique interpretive connection to the site in which they integrate their theatre. I am looking forward to the adventure!!

Al Blank started working for the NPS about about 13 years ago. Since then, he has worked on Alcatraz Island, at Fort Mason, Muir Woods National Monument and at the Marin Headlands. Originally from New York City, Al has spent most of his life working and traveling internationally. Al is collaborating with We Players on our site-integrated production of King Fool at Battery Wallace. 

 

Tickets are now on sale for King Fool. To purchase tickets to King Fool at Battery Wallace click here. For tickets to all other ticketed locations, click here.

We Players Grows and Bids Farewell to Valued Staff Member

Since November 2013, We Players has been fortunate to have Claire Slattery on staff in the role of Operations & Communications Manager. During this time, we launched a new website, increased multimedia presence and impact, and learned a great deal about how we will grow our organizational capacity as we continue to offer year-round site-integrated performances, events, and parties in the San Francisco Bay Area.

ClaireSlattery_HS2

Claire Slattery.

After working on We Players’ staff for 9 months, Claire Slattery will be leaving her post on August 31st, 2014. Claire, who first joined the We Players community as an actor in The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park, will be moving to Los Angeles this fall to further pursue her acting career. We Players wishes her all the best as she takes this next step as a performer!

In order to build upon the excellent progress the staff has made in this past year, we are hiring a new Office Manager (we will introduce her in another post soon)! As We Players continues to grow the scale and scope of our site-integrated creative programming, our Office Manager will maintain and improve baseline administrative and communication functions of the non-profit organization. This support will enable the Managing Director and Artistic Director to respond to the increasing demand for We Players’ work towards our mission of connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre.

Exciting stuff!

We Players One of Seven Companies Producing Groundbreaking Immersive Theater

We Players is thrilled to announce that it has been named as one of seven companies around the world creating groundbreaking immersive theatre

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The brainchild of artistic director Ava Roy, We Players was founded in 2000 out of Stanford University. This Bay Area-based company produces classical works in site-specific settings, drawing on the energy of the natural environment to break down barriers between language and audience. Drawing on the fundamental philosophies of “place,” “choice” (each audience member determines his own vantage point), “movement” (the audience follows the action throughout the space) and “community,” We Players sheds innovative light on very old works.  — KC Wright

A Reflection: The (mis)fortunes of Lady Macbeth

Backstage one more time, hovering in my special scorpions bedchamber, in my black gown sitting on the edge of the bed listening to the waves crash and the musical pre-show banter and soon the conch will blow and we’ll be in it one more time…

goodnight lady macbeth
enjoy the ride
this time you really get to die, not to be reborn to do it again tomorrow
tonight you go to bed
get some sleepe.

MAcbeth_Jcl#2 13

Every show leaves it’s own particular imprint on psyche and soul. With a role like Lady Macbeth, it’s imperative for me to establish a ritual, or protocol, for getting in and out of that emotional and psychological territory. Taking care to leave her at the Fort, and not to take her home with me.

The opportunity to revisit this role, particularly in such short order and alongside my closest artistic collaborator, allowed me to access a much deeper, more nuanced and specific expression in our 2014 production. The aftermath of cleansing my body of her presence is both immediate and slow. Initially, the surge of catching up with everything that’s been languishing on the back burner distracts. But there are the more subtle layers to deal with. I crave fat for weeks. Milk, cream, butter, oil – bring it! I want coconut and olive oil everywhere, on everything – on my skin, in my hair and lots in my food. Replenishing. I eat like a lumberjack for a few days.

There is an extreme physical toll in working in an environment as exposing and raw as Fort Point – with severe winds, piercing cold and penetrating dampness. And there was the series of small accidents… The shocking impact of a dagger hilt to the cheekbone mid tech rehearsal. Keep on working, now with an ice pack strapped to my face. My comrades offer their blood and flesh and bone to the work as well. Carmen, one of the nefarious murderers, gave herself a deep bruise literally the size of her hand…from smashing the baby’s head too damn hard in the Macduff family scene one night.

macbeth2014slide 25

(By the way, the baby’s head was a rutabaga. We have experimented with a variety of vegetables seeking the optimal head cracking sound. Onions have a nice thud and squish, but they stink like…well onions. Undeniably and unavoidably so. Acorn squash and butternut squash are nice, but none of the squash family come close to the horrible satisfaction of the rutabaga. Rutabaga, I don’t know who eats you. But you are a wonderful prop for stage violence.)

Then of course, the adventure of John, our Macbeth, losing his front tooth, mid-performance. This not only required his commitment to staying totally in the flow, despite the obvious shock and dismay, but in addition, a more refined attention to pronunciation – for obvious reasons. On the – ahem – second episode of flying teeth, the piercing gaze of our Maria, the attentive little witch that she is, tracked the flight of Macbeth’s tooth from her perch in the window above, scurried down into the audience, and found it.

johntooth

These misfortunes seem to pile up into a great mountain when I begin enumerating…
But they can’t touch the quiet joys of moments alone in the fortress, under the full moon, or under the sunset soaked sky. The precious moments when a perfect shaft of light streams in through a thin window in a casemate otherwise submerged in perpetual darkness. The glory of private views onto the slice of solitary beach just below the fort to the west, a strip of sand untouched by human footprints. The practical and pleasurable act of steadying myself as Lady Macbeth after the torment that is the banquet scene, with a few moments in the thick shadows of a tucked away arch that is covered in sand for some reason (did it blow in through the window? why is it here on the third floor?). I press my hands into the sand canvas and remind myself I have a body.

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Lady Macbeth is unraveling from the beginning, the madness doesn’t come suddenly, it’s there all along. Like a hard boiled egg that’s been cracked, but not yet peeled. The shell just holding together, despite it’s apparent wholeness. The confining leather corset and tight waisted skirts, the making of her face, the need for some physical contact with the fort walls at all times…all efforts to keep. it. together. A sense of vertigo rushes in when Lady Macbeth loses contact with the brick and veers into open space. From there she tumbles headlong into the “out damn spot” sequence. A fragile object hurtling through space, fatal impact inevitable…

avaos

After one performance, I asked a friend her impressions of the egg drop at the onset of the play. This particular audience member does not identify as a theatregoer or even as much of an art enthusiast (and is certainly not an active Shakespeare fan). I find her responses entirely authentic, not glossed with a desire to please. Among other pleasing things she describes about that cold windy night at the Fort with We Players…
“The egg drop? Oh, I don’t know what it was supposed to mean. But I guess it seemed like…”
a pause
“…an exclamation point and a question mark.”

egg

I’d like all beginnings and endings to come close to this…

!

?

–Ava Roy
Founding Artistic Director, We Players

Encountering the Trio

Saturday July 26, 2014
at THREE o’clock
on the beach at Aquatic Park
(directly in front of the Maritime Museum building)
FREE!

You’re invited! To the first public sharing of The Trio’s practice. The women who wielded elemental powers as the Weyard Sisters in We Players recent Macbeth at Fort Point, continue their exploration of other mythical trios. Join us for a picnic on the beach at Aquatic Park and encounter The Trio between the sand and the sea.

CMJ05

WHERE: Find the Maritime Museum building. Find the clock on the museum facade. Face the water. The Trio is somewhere on the the beach. Meet at the red We Players flag in the sand. They’ll come to you when it’s time.

The Maritime Museum is located at the far end of Beach Street, next to Ghiradelli Square in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood of San Francisco.

WHEN: 3-5pm, Saturday July 26, 2014

WHAT TO BRING/HOW TO PREPARE:
This event is free! But please do:
– Bring a picnic! We’ll have some snacks to share, please bring your own as well.
– Bring a beach towel or blanket, sunscreen and warm layers.
– Prepare to kick your shoes off! This party is in a sandbox.

WHAT ELSE:
The sharing will be immediately followed by a conversation with The Trio. We are eagerly seeking your experience! Your responses will directly inform the next iteration of our work.

Soy Tu Mar (I Am Your Sea)

Canciones del Mar: Songs of the Sea

I have played all sorts of concerts in all kinds of venues but “Canciones del Mar; Songs of the Sea” (curated by Charlie Gurke from We Players) is a very unique and fun concert because our performance will happen aboard a beautiful historic ship, the Balclutha, in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

For an hour and a half Jose Roberto Hernandez (guitar, vocals), Charlie Gurke (saxophone), David Pinto (bass) and Edgardo Cambón (percussion, vocals) and I will take you to a world of sea and love with stories and song.

I’m particularly excited about this year’s performance as I will be sharing one of my original songs, “Soy Tu Mar” (I Am Your Sea), a song that speaks about the sea, or better said, the sea speaks about itself, about its memories, about its joys and fear…through me.

I am very honored to be playing with such broad and talented musicians. We all come from different musical backgrounds so I will be playing and singing songs that, at times, may take me out of my comfort zone which I find to be very exciting as playing and singing styles of music different from mine takes my musicianship to another level. Really looking forward to this beautiful collaboration!

— Diana Gameros, Vocals & Guitar
Canciones del Mar

Meet the Musicians of Canciones del Mar

Read below to learn about the incredibly talented ensemble of musicians who will present
Canciones del Mar: Songs of the Sea
on Saturday, July 19th at 6pm aboard the tall ship, Balclutha.

 

I think of the musicians of Canciones as an all-star ensemble, but when putting this group together, I wasn’t looking for the flashy, virtuoso kind of ‘all-star’. Each member of this ensemble is a virtuoso musician and composer in their own right, but I chose each one more for their interpretive sensitivity than their ‘chops’. I wanted to be sure that the themes we’re expressing, the variety of metaphor that the sea provokes, would be artfully expressed.

I’ve had the pleasure of performing with Edgardo Cambon’s large and small ensembles, Candela and Latido, for the past several years. Originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, Edgardo is a master percussionist and vocalist with a breadth of knowledge and experience performing the music of Latin America, from Argentinian tango to the salsa of El Barrio. Edgardo is especially fluent in the popular and folkloric music of Cuba, and opens each Canciones performance with a chant to Yemaya, the Afro-Cuban deity of the sea.

Originally from Juarez, Mexico, Diana Gameros is known to most of her fans for her original songs of ‘love, longing, and hope’, performed in a diverse style that blends elements of latin music with rock, world music, and jazz. I knew Diana would be a perfect fit for the Canciones ensemble when I heard her perform solo, playing very original and personal arrangements of classic boleros and rancheros from the latin american tradition.

I came to know Jose Roberto Hernandez when we spent the better part of a year bringing the music of Latin America to elementary school kids across San Francisco through a program with the SF Symphony. Jose Roberto is not only a master guitarist and vocalist with a wealth of knowledge of the bolero and nueva trova traditions, but is also skilled in folk instruments from around Latin America, including his native Tabasco, Mexico.

David Pinto is one of the many musical treasures we are lucky to have here in the Bay Area. A native of Peru, David is best known for his work as music director, arranger, and bassist for Susana Baca. In addition to his particular expertise in Afro-Peruvian music, David performs with the bay’s best salsa, folkloric, and latin jazz ensembles.

— Charlie Gurke
We Players Music Director

For more information and tickets to Canciones del MarCLICK HERE.

The Sound and The Fury

There are only two more weeks to join for what audiences and critics are calling

“an experience of a lifetime you will never forget!”

Have you seen a performance, but want to revisit the unforgettable images and sounds of Fort Point?

Have you bought your tickets for an upcoming performance, but can’t wait another minute to get into Fort Point?

Enjoy this 3-min video of Macbeth at Fort Point – story & site highlights! (video by Tracy Martin)

Macbeth at Fort Point from Tracy Martin on Vimeo.

We Players presents Macbeth at Fort Point in San Francisco
May 30 – June 29
www.weplayers.org

Film & Editing
Tracy Martin
www.tracymartinphotography.com

See what audiences and critics are saying about We Players’ site-integrated production:

“Entertaining, unnerving, powerful to experience…”
“Amazing and completely engrossing…”
“Those fortunate enough to attend this extraordinary event (it is more than a play) will be revisiting the memories for years to come.”
“The production itself was magnificent!”
“Find a way to go see We Players’ production of Macbeth at Fort Point. Scratch that – drop everything and run, run, run over and do not miss this show. The most delightful use of performance space you’ll ever experience… I ended up having more fun watching this production than I have in many, many years.”
“An experience of a lifetime you will never forget. The power of location is made clear by these performances of Macbeth at Fort Point. Don’t miss this opportunity!”

Macbeth Plot Summary

Excited to see Macbeth at Fort Point, but want to brush up on the story before you see it? Look no further!

Read on for a plot summary of Shakespeare’s tragedy brought to you by our co-directors, Ava and John.

 

Ancient Scotland: Macbeth, a small-time thane (chieftain), is instrumental in defeating a very powerful rebellion against the aging King Duncan. On the trek home from battle with his comrade-in-arms Banquo, three “Weird Sisters” appear and prophecy that Macbeth will be king and that Banquo will father a long line of kings. Next, Duncan promotes Macbeth for his part in the war and names his son Malcome heir to the throne. The king and his retinue will stay with the Macbeths that night on their way home from the front.

Macbeth returns to his castle ahead of the others and confides in his wife, who persuades him to kill the king. Lady Macbeth hosts a party, drugging all the guests, thus laying the groundwork for the murder. Macbeth, weary still from battle and rattled by inner turmoil, does the deed. Macduff, a powerful thane who has not spent the night, arrives in the morning to find the king dead. Macbeth, pretending vengeance, kills the king’s two bodyguards, and Malcome flees to England.

Macbeth is crowned King, but, still unable to sleep and afraid of the sisters’ prophecy, he hires two servants to kill his friend Banquo and Banquo’s son Fleance. During the muddled assassination, Fleance escapes. At another banquet, Macbeth confronts Banquo’s bloody ghost, much to the confusion of the thanes loyal to Macbeth, whose numbers are beginning to dwindle. By now, Lady Macbeth is losing her grip on sanity.

Macbeth returns to the Weird Sisters who present him with two consoling riddles: His power is safe until the forest approaches his castle and no man “born of woman” will ever threaten his life. However, Banquo’s line of kings will “stretch out to the crack of doom.” The Thane of Ross appears on the empty heath with news that Macduff has fled to England to join forces with Malcome. Macbeth, “stepped in blood so far,” orders the utter destruction of Macduff’s entire clan.

In England, Macduff pledges his support to Malcome and learns from Ross that his wife and children have been slaughtered. Aligned against the tyrant and with the support of the English forces, Macduff and Malcome lead the charge towards Dunsinane.

As overwhelming forces approach Macbeth’s castle, the crazed Lady Macbeth dies. The attacking soldiers disguise their numbers by carrying branches hacked from the forest, breach the walls and fight Macbeth’s remaining soldiers. Macduff meets Macbeth who prevails in the ensuing duel until he learns that his adversary was not “born of woman” but was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d!” Macbeth loses his head and young Malcome is crowned the new King of Scotland.

— Ava Roy & John Hadden, Co-Directors of Macbeth at Fort Point 2014

The Weyard Sisters Trio

The Trio - or simply, Sisters as they call each other - is comprised of Caroline Parsons, Maria Leigh and Julie Douglas. Photo by Jamie Lyons.

The Trio – or simply, Sisters as they call each other – is comprised of Caroline Parsons, Maria Leigh and Julie Douglas. Photo by Jamie Lyons.

An inside look at We Players’, The Trio, three women who have worked together for over a year and a half developing their dynamic.

The result:

A bewitching, mesmerizing portrayal of the Weyard Sisters in 

Macbeth at Fort Point 2014

When Ava gathered a small group of actors to brew work in the off season – that’s the time when We Players is not working to put on a full production – Maria, Julie and I showed up. Ava brought in the concept of working with Classical trios of women to fit our trio of actors. We went away and researched furiously and then came back to share the sordid details of these mythical women, salivating with the same rapturous delight that many people experience watching an episode of Game of Thrones. The Furies, who sprung from a drop of blood, avenge crimes against nature by causing tormenting madness or illness, their wrath placated only by ritual atonement and purification. When the Furies are not angered, they are known as the Fates, a Maiden, Mother and crone who sit together spinning, weaving and cutting under the trees of life. Their yarn is not of ordinary material: it is the measure of one individual life, and when they have cut it… your time is up. These are just two of the trios that we explored, putting them in our bodies, using various materials for them to play with, and wondering how they exist today. And one day, Ava had the revelation: “You three are the Witches for Macbeth!” The foundation was already laid to work with the Weyard Sisters who are the interpreters of the natural forces, who deliver the fateful message to Macbeth about his future success, and who let him know when he has gone against the natural order. We had already done half the work for the three sisters by trying on the many archetypal aspects of their trio! Layered in to the Witches that you see in Macbeth are many other powerful and time worn women. Time to get out the book of classical mythology? Or take a gander on Google? I hope you take the time to enjoy some of these stories, and come see one incarnation in our production of Macbeth at Fort Point in June 2014.
-Caroline Parsons

Wart covered and haggish stirring the steaming cauldron. Cartoons of female power. This is not what we saw, we sisters, we Weyard Sisters. Connected as kin, as different as individuals. We’ve become sisters through expeditions in myth, archetype, stereotype, connection, polarities, the natural, the supernatural, trust, tension, locomotion, stillness, power, and vulnerability. Drawn into the tornado that is Macbeth to find these sisters, these forces of nature that truth-tell, witness and cycle as seasons. Creation is messy, imperfect and filled with sweet dissatisfaction that drives. As we weave our web gets stronger, more intricate, more layered. We return to what we’ve learned and search for the unknown. Spinning back into these Weyard Sisters once again to follow the trail of their complexity and simplicity. The history of all our sister trios at our back awakening us to the promise of what’s to come.
-Julie Douglas

Our work in Macbeth is so deeply informed by our trio work that to try to follow the thread of creation back to its beginning is virtually impossible. So, I’m offering some fibers that seem meaningful to me:

TIME: We have gotten to know one another as artists and a people over the course of years and hundreds of hours of rehearsals. We have lived together, eaten together, laughed and cried together. We have had the luxury of being able to build and refine our ideas over time and they have had time to sink from the surface into our very bones.

SISTERHOOD: We experience the best of this relationship and some of its challenges. Sometimes we are impenetrably unified and sometimes we struggle to be seen and heard as individuals. We love and support one another fiercely but we also disagree and find compromise. And we usually know what the others are thinking without anyone having to say a word.

THE NATURAL WORLD: We have spend at least a portion of every gathering exploring an element of the natural world, whether it be experiencing, engaging with and relating to a field trip location, or working with collected plants, wool, or food. Connecting with these natural elements connects us both to our past through following in the footsteps of ancestors who have used these elements and to what might be as we find imaginative ways to interact with these elements and forge our own personal connections that we will carry with us through Macbeth and beyond.
-Maria Leigh

Click here to read more about The Trio, their work together, and their upcoming public happenings.

Click here to purchase tickets to Macbeth at Fort Point.

More Than Blood & Gore

Working the final showdown between Macbeth and Macduff last night at the Popells, my wonderful hosts (and We Players supporters–Andy is Board President): Their son Isaac meets us with his own nerf swords and shows us a thing or two in an impromptu hackfest. It’s a good thing our thanes don’t have Isaac to contend with! As we go to work in the evening light, Isaac sets himself up with popcorn and blankets and a big comfy chair behind a plate glass window to watch us work outside in the courtyard.

We begin with swords made of pvc and foam pipe insulation, light and relatively harmless, going through each move, each impulse, very slowly, stopping to fix anything that feels uncertain or unmotivated, and speed it up by degrees, eventually switching over to the broadswords made of steel.

My father loved the phrase “Lay on, Macduff!” It was one of a small collection of phrases (Life’s Like That; Goddamn Bastards; That’ll Tighten His Sphincter; Bongo, Bongo, Bongo and so on) that could serve almost any occasion. My son Reilly, who did Shakespeare with Ava Roy when they were teenagers, was a member of a Very Young Company (they ranged in age from 4-7 when it began) that played every year to hundreds of amazed adults after the mainstage show, outdoors at the Mount, the home of the young Shakespeare & Co–and the only scene they never missed was the beheading of Macbeth.

“Turn, Hellhound, Turn!”

Violence is great for getting audiences. Every action film producer knows this, as did the King’s Players in 1600. But Shakespeare always wants to know what’s under the surface. What led to this? How can we find out more about a character from the way he or she dies? Shakespeare knows that when the audience is at their most focused it is a good time to throw some curve balls about the riddle of the human psyche–and the moment of death is one last chance to find out after all what is going on here!

In Shakespeare, death and violence are marked and felt. Ava is really good at underscoring this in her work with the Weyard Sisters, for instance, who are always super aware of each death and always mark it in some ritualized way.

Our colleague, Jamie Lyons, was watching us work on the scene in which, to convince her husband against his will to kill the King, for whom she seems to feel some terrible ancient hatred, Lady Macbeth enacts the killing of her own innocent baby. She is very specific in these few lines:

“I have given suck and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me-
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums
And dash’d the brains out had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.”

She knows what she is talking about; she’s nursed a male baby. Her own, presumably. It’s one of the mysteries of the play. In our version, she enacts the sequence physically, giving suck, plucking him away from her breast and smashing his invisible head against the stone courtyard floor. She hits a nerve; the next thing we know, Macbeth is “settled” to do the terrible deed.

When the murderers kill Lady Macduff and her fine, intelligent child, we have them also smashing her baby in the same way that we have seen Lady Macbeth mime the act in the earlier scene.

Jamie suggested that one of the Weyard Sisters could come and somehow sanctify the spot on the ground where the invisible baby is killed, after the scene’s end. And so it goes, bit by bit, we all participate in stringing these moments, images, experiences into a fabric that, if we’re diligent and lucky, hang together and give us more than blood and gore.

— John Hadden
Associate Artist and Co-director of Macbeth at Fort Point, 2014

We Players and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
It’s a mouthful of a name, for a very special place on the northern waterfront of San Francisco. And it is very much an artistic home for We Players, thanks to a robust Cooperative Agreement that spans 2012-2017. We recently had a meeting with SAFR (the NPS code for that 15 syllable name) where our agreement was referenced, and I took the opportunity to revisit the language in our “Statement of Work” –

“We Players will produce various site-specific traveling theatre productions and other art and community engagement programs at various sites throughout San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. In the course of the programs, park visitors will be encouraged to explore multiple park areas. Programs will be presented both during the day and evening, daytime programs will be accessible to all park visitors at no charge. Programs will generally be ticketed (some offered free of charge) and open to the public. ‘We Players may offer focus group workshops, i.e., art workshops open to the public.’”

In our planning meeting and again as I re-read this, I am reminded how much the staff at the Park respect Ava and I, admire the quality of our work, and appreciate our professionalism. I understand that trust today, having created two full-scale site-integrated theatre productions, presented several music concerts, and hosted multiple workshops and parties at the Park in recent years. What’s amazing to me is that San Francisco Maritime went out on a limb to establish We Players as a cooperating agency in 2012 – just a year after being established as a formal organization, and only a few months after we received our non-profit status. Just as (then site-supervisor) Amy Brees’ invitation to a three-year creative residency on Alcatraz Island, 2009-11 helped us shape our programming and design our organization to truly address our mission, San Francisco Maritime’s partnership is helping We Players deepen our practice and further our mission of connecting people with place.

Deliberately shaping We Players’ lasting creative contributions to the Park is what’s most interesting to me as we continue working with the lovely staff and volunteers aboard the historic ships, on Hyde Street Pier and in the Maritime Museum. As site-integrated performing artists, we excel at creating ephemeral beauty, captivating audiences with full sensory experience, and provoking thought on the shared themes embedded in a story and site. And, we are very interested in sharing the fruit and scattering the seeds of our practice, which we find central to a creative and fulfilling life in healthy relationship with people and place. I look forward to developing and sharing our programming at San Francisco Maritime this fall, and working with our artists and Park staff to create new interpretation programs that will hopefully live on long after 2017.

– Lauren D. Chavez, We Players Managing Director

Macbeth at Fort Point 2014: The First Rehearsal

I awoke the morning of Friday, April 25th to rain. Sheets of late, overdue rain which our earth and reservoirs are sorely thirsting for. This is also the day of our first full cast rehearsal on-site at Fort Point. And so, in addition to packing the regular warm layers – hat, scarf and gloves necessary for a day at the Fort – I grabbed my waterproof boots and rain jacket as well. We Players embraces the unpredictable power of the elements, and work with equal vigor in the easeful sunshine or in the rain and cold.

Our group gathers just before the rangers open the gates to the fortress at 10am. We file in and mount the three flights of stairs to our green room, where we circle and check-in with each other, reviewing basic rules of working at an NPS site, as well as where props and costumes live, where We Players famous snack bin will be kept, and who among us are trained as first responders. Physical safety is a serious consideration for us, as we work in potentially hazardous environments and our work is athletic and physically embedded into the space. At Fort Point our main concerns are the slippery stairs and stones, which are very nearly always wet, thanks to the fog that condenses there daily, as well as the unlit corridors and shadowy corners we must navigate, sometimes while moving quite quickly.

We return to the Parade Ground to begin our walk-through of the performance route. Along the way, we identify our hidden storage locations, the pathways actors may take secretly during performance and primarily, mark the route the audience takes through the journey of the play. We gather again in the dark northwest corner of the third floor, a shaft of light filters in through the narrow window speckled with red lichen. We move through a series of exercises intended to help us awaken our senses (particularly beyond the dominant sense of sight), and to connect physically and energetically with the fortress. We move slowly at first, and without words. Eventually, character personalities begin to emerge, as do dissected lines of text. We explore, still mostly without words, how we interact with each other, with the multitude of sharp right angles, and with the negative spaces.

We take particular note of the lack of feminine energy in the structure itself – the cold, the thick, the sharp, the angular, the imposing, the powerful fortress of brick and stone lines. And yet, Nature persists. She creeps in through the cracks and pours into the open mouth of the fortress from above. The rain pools in the corners of the Parade Ground and the wind describes subtle and softly shifting patterns on the surface of these pools. The intensely bright green, orange and silver lichens grow profusely on the brick walls and form soft clusters of gentle but tenacious life.

We emerge dusted with red powder from the brick and share what we collected. In a way, this kind of sense work is very simple. But by taking the time to engage in this way, not driven by intellect or idea (or worse, concept), we begin to discover our characters. A process more of rooting, tracking and revealing that deciding and inventing.

“And with the upward rise, and with the vastness grow…”

-Ava Roy, Co-director of Macbeth at Fort Point 2014

Spotlight on Company Training

Back in the days on the Stanford campus, in addition to the few dancers and actors among us, our ranks included those on paths to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, and engineers. To my thinking, this wide array of sensibilities and skill sets profoundly enriches the work we make. After all, We Players fundamental practice is centered around expanding perception, learning to see from new and unexpected angles. A team of folks whose training encourages distinct viewpoints naturally provides this kind of perceptive diversity.

In recent years, our core crew of performers has become increasingly rich with trained performers, people who are dedicating their lives to their artistic practice and cultivation of their craft. Among us there are clowns, acrobats, yogis, dancers, and accomplished musicians. Of course, in any theatre company you might find such an array of talents. Indeed, in any group, there is a veritable treasure trove of the number one human resource – imagination. We do well to eagerly embrace and invite these invisible powers forth.

When I’m directing, though it’s crucial that I maintain connection with the guiding light, or vision for a given production, I strive to step out of the way of my performers and invite their genius to shine. I appreciate the Greek conception of “genius” tremendously. It is not something reserved exclusively for those few chosen and touched by the gods – though thank the gods for the Shakespeares and Beethovens given to earth now and again! But the ancients offer a richer idea of genius as something that we each possess and that can be awakened within us. In this moment, I’m getting the image of a genie in a bottle. If rubbed the right way, and invited forth, it can erupt with incredible potency and efficacy.

In recent months, we’ve begun to schedule “company training sessions” with some of We Players core collaborators. These sessions serve to shine the magic lamp and invite the powers within each of the participants to emerge and grow stronger through activation. A small band of invited artists gather – between rehearsals for other projects, teaching, running companies, raising families – to share our skills and deepen our relationships as collaborators. We work indoors and outdoors, in backyards and studios, for three or four hours at a time to develop our shared vocabulary and stretch into new territory.

In our latest company training sessions we’ve worked with psychological gesture, improvisation games and etudes, chorus, the vast expanse of clown work, and a wide assortment of physical and vocal exercises (including material from familiar pedigrees such as Laban, Viewpoints, Alexander and Linklater, as well as our own invented and exploratory exercises). We work on relaxation techniques, ways of preparing the physical instrument for character work and emotional accessibility. Through these practices we activate our imaginations and cultivate flexibility and dexterity as performers and creative partners.

With focus on voice and physicality, we strive to notice habits, our patterns of tension and how to release and expand our expressive capacity. We work and play intensively without the pressures of a specific production – the unforgiving schedule of preparing a piece for an impending performance date. I admit that I thrive under the exquisite pressure of a performance clock, but these training sessions provide a different kind of energetic space. A generous environment to gather and share our knowledge and unique skill sets, to tune our instruments. Like any instrument which needs to be played and practiced, an actor must constantly attend to hers – body and voice, psyche and soul, indeed the actor’s whole being must be exercised through…play.

This work is a powerful support to We Players artistic growth. You can’t cheat time spent. So we spend time together. We play.

– Ava Roy, We Players’ Founding Artistic Director

A Gala to Remember

Thanks to all who attended We Players 5th Annual Gala! We had a fantastic Saturday evening, celebrating our mission of connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre.

Sharing delicious, local food is at the heart of connecting with people and place. (That’s why we have food incorporated into most of our theatre projects!) Each year for our gala, we prepare a multi-course feast – most of which is sourced from area farmers yielding succulent seasonal, local and organic dishes. Of course we also share performance highlights from the past and ticklers of what’s to come, and shape characters specifically for this special evening.

We rely almost exclusively on volunteer support to pull this event off each year, and every bit of the proceeds goes directly to funding We Players site-integrated programming in the year ahead. The gala is a fixture of our annual fundraising efforts, without which we would be unable to realize many of our wildly ambitious projects.

The feast and festivities were fantastic! We’ve received many reports of 2014 being the best gala yet. Unfortunately, we did not meet our fundraising goal, and are just beginning to process what that means for how we use our time in this final month of our fundraising season, as well as potential impacts on our 2014 program schedule. Some years we are more successful than others. This is the life we have shaped for ourselves, forging ahead creating what we believe in, relying on community support amidst a society that largely undervalues art and the environment.

Yes, We persevere! And remain inspired.

In fact, we had such a great time at the gala, and so thoroughly enjoy looking around the room at all the bright and beaming faces of our guests, that we’re excited about starting a new We Players’ tradition – an End of Year party! Let’s gather just as the fall is settling and shifting into winter, to acknowledge the challenges we’ve faced and all the hard work throughout the year, and to celebrate our unique site-integrated theatre practices and captivating storytelling. We’ll share a toast and of course, a bite to eat. More details soon!

— Ava Roy and Lauren D. Chavez

Adventure Design Group Event – April 18th

The Adventure Design Group Presents

A Presentation and Conversation with We Players

Friday, April 18, 2014 at 6:30 PM
avagogames

This April, the Adventure Design Group will present an interactive presentation with Artistic Director Ava Roy. Ava will discuss We Players unique site-integrated theatre practices, ardent exploration of our local landscape, and historic relationship with the National Park Service. There will be an interactive element and time allotted for questions and conversation.

Want to go to this event? Join and RSVP here. 

Since 2000, We Players has presented site-integrated performance events that use the finest works of classical theatre to transform public spaces into realms of participatory theater. Extending the transformative powers of performance beyond the stage into the notable public spaces of the Bay Area, they invite their collaborators and audience to engage fully with the spectacular world around us.

Tickets for We Players’ Macbeth at Fort Point are on sale now, as are seats at their spectacular 2014 gala dinner on April 5.

Friday, April 18, 2014
6:30 PM – 9:30PM

Location:
Go Game HQ
400 Treat Ave, Suite F, between 17th and 18th streets (map)

Schedule:
– 6:30-7:15pm: Doors open. Socialize!
Drinks provided by The Go Game, and food on-site.
– 7:15-8pm: Presentation by Ava Roy
– 8-8:30pm: Q&A
– 8:30-9:30pm: Mingle!
– 9:30pm….: Drinks to follow at a nearby bar.

See you there!

Working with the Parks

Hamlet 23

Hamlet on Alcatraz. Autumn, 2010.

We Players has been creating art in public spaces since 2000, and in partnership with the National Park Service and California State Parks since 2008. Last year we coined the term “site-integrated” to describe our keystone, outdoor, traveling theatre productions to differentiate our creative practice from the many (and ever-increasing) site-specific performance groups and artists in the Bay Area and beyond. Rather than simply choosing a dramatic or inexpensive backdrop for a performance, we very much create our art in direct relationship with the many layers of history, ecology, and community that we encounter within our treasured parklands.

In addition to regular visits to a project site and protracted, full sensory observation, frequent interaction with various partners in the park services and affiliated non-profit cooperating agencies is a major part of our process. At the start of a new project, we get to explore the troves of information and artifacts housed in the many libraries, archival storage sites, and memories of staff. Wanting to be around the site as much as possible, we volunteer where we can and use our craft to honor park anniversaries. And as we create art in a park, the staff who have worked (and sometimes lived) in our project sites for years or decades tip us off to hidden gems, provide suggestions and feedback, and help us problem solve. It’s a mutually beneficial exchange. We all appreciate the place and want to support visitors in experiencing the park in a profound way.

Our park partners understand the value of our work and acknowledge the potential for creative engagement to transform park visitors into park stewards. I am proud that We Players projects make up half of the past projects listed by the newly-formed Art in the Parks Program. And I’m glad that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has a well-delineated process for inviting more artists to explore the parks and deepen their relationship with place through art-making.

I’m very curious about the changes in perspective and behavior that occur when one goes from a non-committal, unattached visitor to an invested lover of place. When we truly care for our public places we take time to be present there. We listen. And as we listen, we learn more and more about the environment, from traffic patterns to animal behaviors to the patterns of the wind. I’ve had the blessing to witness this transformation occur in many of our collaborators over the years.

-Lauren D. Chavez
Managing Director, We Players

‘The Bold Italic’ Interview

Local journalist and writer, Daniel Hirsch, interviews Artistic Director, Ava Roy, about We Players’ upcoming production of Macbeth at Fort Point 2014. Read below or click here for the article on The Bold Italic.

The Next Experimental Performance to Sell Out ASAP

by Daniel Hirsch, The Bold Italic

Dark clouds gathered over theater company We Players 2013 production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth — and that was perfect. The company specializes in “site-integrated” performances in which they stage classical productions in outdoor landmarks and historical sites. Since 2009, We Players has partnered with the National Parks Service to produce Hamlet on Alcatraz and an adaption of the Odyssey on Angel Island, among other productions. To mount its version of Macbeth, We Players selected Civil War-era fortress Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge. For a tale of power struggles and dark forces that take place in the tumultuous, rainy Scottish highlands, the foreboding weather was icing on a cake already rich with atmospherics.

But metaphoric dark clouds were also brewing—in Washington, DC. Midway through We Player’s sold-out run, the government shutdown forced the company to cancel several of its performances because Fort Point was suddenly inaccessible to the public. This June, We Players is remounting its successful production to both make up for the lost performances (over 1,000 ticket-holders were turned away) and to rethink Shakespeare’s dark masterpiece. It promises to take audience members all over the fort, offering chills of the emotional and physical variety.

As the company begins preparing its return to Fort Point, I interviewed Ava Roy, We Players’ artistic director who also plays Lady Macbeth, about the dark magic of this famous play, San Francisco landmarks worth loving, and government incompetency.

Macbeth is famous for being a cursed … Theaters that presented it have burned down and actors involved in it have seen their careers ruined. Do you believe in the curse? Do you think the government shutdown was a manifestation of that curse?

[Laughs] I’m not that superstitious. The play is definitely dealing with some intense themes and energies, and I try to respect them. The government shutdown was one of the motivating factors and an initial impetus to do it again, but it [also] provides us a chance to explore the text in new ways and go deeper into the material. For example, in 2013, we cast all the warriors as very young men, exploring the theme of how boys become men as warriors. Now, we’ve cast much older actors, in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. It really changes the fundamental power structure, and political relationships in the play.

Did having to deal with the government shutdown affect the way you thought about this play at all?

It didn’t change my thinking about the play itself, but it definitely felt grossly appropriate. As much as it was painful and upsetting, it also felt like: oh my God, the government is perfectly modeling what this play is about. A lot of my goal in doing Shakespeare is about how do we make people see relevance in our present moment. I couldn’t ask for anything more perfect to demonstrate how power corrupts. People in Washington were making —or rather, not making – choices and not seeming to see or care that their actions were affecting individuals, small organizations, and communities.

Why did you choose Fort Point for Macbeth?

Physically, the space is perfect. It’s this big, brick, damp, cold fortress. In terms of thematic connection, it was built during Civil War, but it was pretty much obsolete by the time it was completed. It speaks to the futility of protection. Everything Macbeth does to protect himself is basically futile. Sonically, as well as environmentally, there’s this constant buzz and throbbing noise from the sound of cars on the bridge above, the waves outside, the wind, you can’t get away from it … from the very beginning, you get this sense you’re shot out of a gun, the play really accelerates, and you can’t escape.

What’s your relationship been like with the National Parks Service?

Since we started working with the Parks Service, they are now developing protocol for more artists to use their spaces. It’s been really great to feel like part of movement. We have a shared mission of increasing attention and relevancy to these sites … A lot of what we do attracts more local visitors to parks. After we did Hamlet at Alcatraz, a lot of longtime local audience members told me that was the first time they’d visited …When you have a powerful emotional experience in a place, it changes your relationship to the place. The larger benefit is how we can change our world and our relationship to it.

If you could stage a performance of any play at any famous landmark, natural or man-made, what would it be and why?

The truth is every where I go, I’m making a list. I’ve been cultivating this way of thinking for a long time. I’m pretty interested in Greece and Grecian ruins. The first place I’d go outside of the States would be some semi-rubble and ruin in Crete or somewhere.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Dress warmly if you come to Fort Point. It is really cold out there.

**We Players’ 2014 production of Macbeth opens June 5th-29th at Fort Point. Tickets just went on sale and tend to sell out, so grab yours quickly if you want to go. Prices range from $30 for previews to $75 for Saturday nights with post-performance receptions.**