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
The Adventure Design Group Presents
A Presentation and Conversation with We Players
Friday, April 18, 2014 at 6:30 PM
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.
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.
Friday, April 18, 2014
6:30 PM – 9:30PM
Go Game HQ
400 Treat Ave, Suite F, between 17th and 18th streets (map)
- 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!
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
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.**
“Screw your courage to the sticking place”
Join us for this site-integrated theatre experience beneath the Golden Gate Bridge!
Choose from several performance dates on our production calendar and purchase your tickets today!
For more information about this remount production, read on.
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Any other questions? Email us.
Edmund slices through the air with his double headed axe and the disguised Edgar parries with his spear. The old wooden ﬂoor of this 1878 opera house creaks under the combatants’ feet and our ﬁght captain carefully adjusts the choreography for safety and precision. I’m observing ﬁght call prior to our evening rehearsal of King Lear, a production for which I am serving as co-director as well as playing the roles of Cordelia and the Fool.
This project at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, New York, is a very different artistic adventure for me. A few differences:
It’s my ﬁrst time working in an indoor theatre space in over a decade.
I met the actors for the first time at our opening read through just weeks ago! Since founding We Players in 2000, I’ve had the privilege of hand selecting the actors I work with. Those actors have either worked with me previously, experienced my work as an audience member or participated in We Players’ intensive workshop style audition process.
We’re working in “the round”, with audience on all sides of us, and they are seated in chairs, quite unlike the on-your-feet, physical adventure of attending a We Players site-integrated production.
All of this is challenging me to stretch my practice, to adapt my sensibilities to the needs of this space, this group of people.
It’s also an opportunity to deepen my collaboration with long time friend and creative conﬁdant, John Hadden. For the past several years we’ve brought John to California to join We Players, and he’ll be joining us again this spring for our remount of Macbeth at Fort Point. John and I have a collection of new and experimental projects cooking on the back burner. Projects that live in the shadowy territory of the imagination. One of these visions is a two person production of King Lear. In our “King Fool”, the King and his fool wander through time and space, telling old stories, playing all the parts, reliving their miseries and seeking humor in the face of horror.
For me, this King Lear at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge NY is the beginning of a long term relationship with the play. We are beginning to unpack the text and discover the characters – their relationships, their fears, their loves and losses. As a director, I often feel so lucky that I am present at each rehearsal and can share in the discoveries at every step along the way. The days are long. Before and after 10+ hour rehearsals at Hubbard Hall, I play the role of Artistic Director for We Players from afar, keeping operations smooth and continuing to further our mission.
The exhaustion is well worth it. This King Lear is allowing me to stretch myself as a director, to deepen my work with John, and to shed light into the labyrinthine corridors of Shakespeare’s massive epic. The play is becoming my friend and I look forward to ﬁnding it’s home in California, where I may someday soon bring a full-scale site-integrated King Lear to the Bay with We Players.
For the moment, the King and the Fool are packing their bags with new insights and wonder…
The Theater Company at Hubbard Hall presents King Lear by William Shakespeare, directed by John Hadden.
Shakespeare’s universal epic. A dying king, chaos in nature and among the people, family blood feuds, madness and the heroic will to love and understand.
February 27, Pay-what-you-will Open Rehearsal at 8:00pm
Opening Night Dinner – Friday, February 28
Fridays at 8pm: February 28, March 7, 14, 21
Saturdays at 8pm: March 1, 8, 15, 22
Sundays at 2pm: March 2, 9, 16, 23
Hubbard Hall Mainstage
Tickets: $25 general admission / $22 members / $15 students / $0 subscribers
To purchase tickets and to learn more about this production, click here.
Some of my most fulfilling work with We Players has been running programs with youth. In the early years of our organization, Ava and I both offered education programs rooted in We Players’ practice of connecting with our sensing bodies, communicating honestly and creatively, and fostering healthy relationships with one another and place.
My experience with the youth at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center during our residency on Alcatraz was quite profound, and it planted seeds for someday growing an education program that would seamlessly integrate with each of our major site-integrated theatre productions.
In developing our Aesthetic Education Program, we chose to first target teenagers for a few reasons: our park partners have some amazing education programs, but there are few opportunities for teens to creatively engage with these public resources; people are generally introduced to Shakespeare and other classics (central to our work) during their teen years; and, while I know many in our culture struggle to understand and communicate with them, the formative teen years are full of vitality and deep questioning and I personally find sharing time with teenagers incredibly enlivening and meaningful.
In my five years of experience running nature awareness and primitive skills classes and performance workshops, I’ve learned how important it is for teens to have a driving purpose and I’ve seen how brilliant, dedicated, and truly helpful our youth can be when their vision is clear.
We Players is taking our site-integrated artistic practice in a new direction to craft Aesthetic Education Programs with the express purpose of training the creative problem solvers of tomorrow.
We acknowledge the fact that our planet is facing major legacy issues, and our AEP is designed to prepare our youth for the tasks at hand. We empower young people by stretching their imaginations and offering skills for coming together to solve new-paradigm problems across social barriers. By inspiring curiosity to explore the delicacies and intricacies of the environment and to remember the tremendous capacity of the sensing body, our programs organically encourage stewardship of both natural and urban environments.
Our introductory workshops offer a taste of our practice on school grounds. As we expand our programs in 2014-15, I look forward to bringing a core of dedicated teenagers to our project sites to take their (and our) work to the next level. Our timely project themes are water, the mysteries in the deep, and our tenuous human relationship with the natural world… there’s so much to explore!
-Lauren D. Chavez
Managing Director, We Players
In October 2013, the dark clouds of the US government shutdown hovered over our production of Macbeth at Fort Point, forcing us to cancel numerous performances and disappoint over 1000 ticket holders. In the midst of the drama, the idea flashed through that perhaps we should simply allow this particularly alchemical relationship between play and place a continued life. After all, we had invested well over a year developing the production and it is very carefully built into the specific contours, energy, and stones of the Civil War era fortress beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point itself is a central character, the other director, and our creative inspiration. A renewed life will allow us to share this powerful and unique performance with a wider audience, and hopefully reach some of those who were turned away last fall.
But every “remount” must be a re-development. The work must be allowed to change and therefore, to grow and deepen.
To this end, we are thrilled to announce a new cast that will include a host of We Players’ alumni and will feature John Hadden, my close collaborator and We Players’ Associate Artist, in the title role. In our 2013 rendition, John and I (co-directors on the production) were particularly interested in the story of young warriors. Boys who become men on the battlefield; their vigor, physical prowess and the dynamics of such hot blooded youth under the mantle of an older and wiser king, and a romantic match of a younger Macbeth to an older Lady Macbeth. We are deeply grateful for the excellent work done by our 2013 cast.
This year, in our upcoming 2014 production, we shift the perspective.
We will explore these dynamics of power and relationships through the lens of the “old guard”. Warriors who have engaged in battle for decades, who are older than their young wives, who are the same age as their King – and we believe this will provide us with new insights into the story. It is honor to welcome several seasoned and experienced actors to help us unpack the meanings of the text in yet new ways. Scott Phillips (our Claudius in Hamlet on Alcatraz) will play Macduff, Jack Halton (our Polonius in Hamlet on Alcatraz) will play Banquo, Steve Boss will return as both Duncan and the porter, and John Hadden will once again co-direct the production alongside me, as well as play Macbeth to my Lady Macbeth. We are also thrilled to welcome Nathaniel Justinianio (the unforgettable Zeus from our Odyssey on Angel Island) as the cruel and slippery Ross. Caroline Parsons, Julie Douglas and Maria Leigh will continue their work as the three weird sisters. These women truly act as the nucleus of our production. The trio began working nearly 8 months in advance of our 2013 rehearsal process; developing a profound sense of unity, deft abilities with non-verbal communication, as well as curious explorations of different energetic “states” and of ritual. These “weird sisters” have already begun to revisit their early source work to both reinvigorate their connection and to deepen their work in the 2014 production of Macbeth at Fort Point. We Players’ large-scale productions tend to be so complex that a incredible amount of time is spent negotiating the pathways through the space – both those of the audience (or multiple audience routes as the case may be), and that of each actor maneuvering through the site. The logistics of working in large sites and with the federal government, as well as the impact of severe weather conditions (it is extremely cold, windy and wet with fog at the Fort) is intense. With the route and overall design of the production already developed, we are curious what new dimensions we may be able to expand into.
We are eager to dive even deeper into the richness of the text, the subtleties of the relationships between characters, and to search for further nuance in the language and in our connection with the very stones of the fortress.
-Ava Roy Artistic Director, We Players Director, Macbeth at Fort Point
In the early years of We Players, wandering around the gorgeous grounds of Stanford University, WE developed the foundations of this practice and the hallmarks of our performance style. These were some fun and fancy-free years. Many thanks to everyone who played with WE when springtime rolled around.
Hard to believe, but these shows occurred in the days before digital cameras were commonplace, carry-everywhere, by everyone… WE don’t have many images from these early shows. If you have any photos, please contact us and let us know!
John Hadden, We Players Associate Artist, on current 2014 Shakespeare Intensive Workshops
I’ve been here four days and so far we’ve explored some beautiful and auspicious landscapes for future plays, held auditions for about 60 new actors, worked with WE friends on the complex matter of teaching, read scenes and scholarly essays out loud while making our way through traffic from one end of town to another–and of course, dreamed our way through a dozen magnificent ideas while sifting through nuts and bolts…
And the workshops! I’ve been very privileged to teach lately in a number of classrooms and professional settings and it feels like actors across the age and experience spectrum are ready for digging deeper than usual to make the Quixotic attempt to speak the impossible truth. Why is this? Is there a new hunger in the Zeitgeist? I like to think so, and I like to think it can draw us all together. Not just us oddball theater nerds, but lots of people with all kinds of interests and backgrounds.
Two things I’ve found while seeing people work this week:
1. Submission is sometimes more powerful, more theatrically potent, than being in charge; listening with a full visceral attention is sometimes more potent than speaking. We must insist on more from ourselves as theater makers. A scene is useless unless something actually happens between the actors. We’ve become too accustomed to faithful renderings of the text. The theater exists only as a medium of transformation–and how can we expect perception shifts in our audience if we don’t open ourselves to that possibility ourselves?
2. Of course, speaking is important too. Two nights ago, while working with an actor on the purely formal aspects of the language and verse structure in “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”, I absolutely fell in love with his last go at it. I lost the strength in my knees, my feeling was so complete. What happened was that the beauty of his rendering balanced the despair of his realization–and for one moment, Macbeth was a fully human being who saw the possibilities of love and laughter that exist only in the immediate presence of the moment–and he invited us into that moment as well.
All it takes is one good moment.
We’re getting quite excited for We Players annual general auditions, coming up this Saturday and Sunday night! John Hadden, my close collaborator and co-director for 2014 projects, is flying in from the east coast today. We have over 50 new actors planning to attend the upcoming sessions. And thanks to the wonderful folks at the Circus Center of San Francisco, we have a spacious, high-ceilinged room to stretch out and play in. All the ingredients are ripe. We Players’ auditions take place as an immersive 3 hour workshop. The actor/ director relationship is fundamentally a collaboration. So it seems to me that the best way to begin this conversation is through working together. Really working. It’s hard to learn all that much about an actor through their presentation of a 2 minute monologue. Perhaps how well they audition. But I don’t learn much about the more important stuff…how they work, how they play with others. Are they generous with their fellow performers? Do they breathe? Do they make eye contact? Or do they speak to the wall beyond my head? Do they take risks? What are their impulses like? Are they showing me their stuff, or able to release into the reality of the moment? And the actors should have a chance to sense the vibe of the company, of working with me. Is it a fit? It’s a conversation between us, not one-sided. Or at least, that’s a primary goal of a healthy actor/ director relationship I think. So committing to even just a few hours together allows us the opportunity to learn something about each other’s work and process. We get warmed up, we begin a conversation. Where will it take us? And if it really works, then everyone leaves feeling lit up, activated, and like their time has been well spent – they’ve made a discovery of some kind, large or small. Perhaps they forgot they were even at an ‘audition’, and are stimulated by the good work of playing.
We’ll see… Off we go!
Click here for more information about these upcoming 2014 General Auditions. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with our artistic practice before responding. Our site-integrated work is very unique and unlike traditional theatre experiences. Projects take place in a wide range of Bay Area settings, usually outdoors and in direct relationship with the elements. Our work is for the hardy of spirit and body, it is intense and immersive.
All auditions with We Players are extended workshop format, which allows us the opportunity to learn something about each other’s work and process. More information about our 2014 projects will be announced to our mailing list early in January.
Announcing 2014 Company Generals!
Saturday January 11 & Sunday January 12, 7-10pm
(please arrive between 6:30 (no earlier) and 6:50pm, work begins promptly at 7pm)
SF Circus Center: 755 Frederick St., San Francisco
Send resume and headshot to email@example.com. Please include a brief personal statement and note why you are interested in working with We Players and/or engaging in site-integrated performance. Prepare a 1-2 minute classical monologue. Bring a hard copy of your resume and photo. Indicate special skills: physical theater, dance, acrobatics, clown, music/singing/instruments, etc.
You may not called for the whole time, however, please budget the full three hours. This audition will be workshop format. Be prepared for both physical and vocal group work. Wear comfortable clothes you can move in.
CALLBACKS for specific 2014 projects will be held Friday-Sunday, January 17-19, 2014
* We Players produce primarily classical work, so some experience or significant interest in Shakespeare and/or Greek mythology is a plus.
Information specific to dancers/ movers will be shared at the audition. Basic schedule outline for rehearsal and performance extends from mid-July 2014 through September 2014.
Saturday, January 25, 1-4pm
*call backs will be Sunday, January 26, 1:30-4:30pm - details will be provided to those selected
Sutro Baths, SF. Meet on the east side of the new Land’s End Visitors Center and look for a red We Players flag.
Send resume and headshot to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a brief personal statement and note why you are interested in working with We Players and/or engaging in site-integrated performance. Indicate any special skills: physical theater, types of dance training, swimming, yoga, qi gong, naturalist training, acrobatics, clown, music/singing/instruments, etc.
You may not called for the whole time, however, please plan to attend the full three hours. Please also hold your schedule open for Sunday, 1/26, 1:30-4:30pm. This movement audition will be workshop format. Wear comfortable clothes and close-toed shoes in which you can move freely. Please dress for the weather! We recommend layers, hats, gloves and windbreakers.
If you like how We Players transforms public space, builds community, and engages timeless themes and current social issues, one of the most fulfilling ways to deepen this practice and expand your own awareness is to get involved!
WE are looking to expand our community of qualified production staff including: Costume Designers (preference for applicants w/ apparel design & garment making experience); Lighting Designers; Production Managers; Stage Managers; Properties Masters; Carpenters; and Go-get-em all-purpose production team members! We are hosting two days of production staff “speed-dating” as an opportunity for company directors to meet with a wide range of skilled and experienced theatre designers and technicians. Sessions are 20 minutes each, scheduled on the half hour. By appointment only.
DATES & LOCATIONS:
Wednesday 1/8/14 12-3pm, East Bay location near Bart (TBA)
This “speed dating” is akin to an informational interview. Extended interviews with candidates for 2014 projects will be scheduled by invitation.
REQUIRED: Send resume to email@example.com. Please include a brief personal statement and note why you are interested in working with We Players and/or engaging in site-specific performance. Please list all your available times in order of preference and we will do our best to accommodate. Please explore our website and familiarize yourself with our artistic practice before responding. Our site-integrated work is very unique and unlike traditional theatre experiences. Projects take place in a wide range of Bay Area settings, usually outdoors and in direct relationship with the elements. Our work is for the hardy of spirit and body, it is intense and immersive.
Our community has inspired us – WE will perform tonight. 6pm in the Civil War parade ground in the Main Post of the Presidio. Spread the word like wild fire! Come out tonight and support We Players and our valiant efforts to rise above adversity and share our story, albeit in a radically modified form.
Though the experience was carefully curated, with viewers herded from scene to scene, individual vantage points made for experiential differences. “Even though you’re moving as a group, the spaces we chose were multidimensional,” Roy notes. “I’m staging things way off in the distance, on a cliff above your head. We’re challenging audiences to expand their awareness and perspectives and look above and behind them, below them, off in the distance. People can choose their perspectives, whether they get close to the actor or move farther back.”
2012 was an exciting year! We received our 501(c)3 status, and produced two full-scale shows in two dramatic Bay Area locations. We Players is currently exploring myths and researching histories of the San Francisco Bay as we begin to develop a new work, in partnership with San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. And we are also pulling out our notes, starting to engage our creative team, and otherwise bubbling our cauldron for our first remount – Macbeth at Fort Point, which will be performed in September – October 2013. We have exciting staff, volunteer and intern opportunities for all projects and company operations.
We are excited to collaborate with local playwright Daniel Heath, in the creation of a NEW work, designed and built specifically for this site! (premiere date TBD)
Through historical research, ensemble based practices, interviews with people living in close relationship to the sea, and of course – intimate engagement with the site, We Players produces thought-provoking, site-integrated theatre productions on the dynamic floating stages at Hyde Street Pier and along the local waterfront.
Our connection to the past can be felt in the wood planks of the ships, heard in the clang of the buoy bells, visualized in the lines twisted into coils on the docks. We spin yarns alongside the boat shop, while present day shipwrights employ traditional techniques. Nearby, fishing boats line up to deliver their catch and ferries await their passengers, still traveling the waters of the bay. Because of our deep commitment to partnership and strong working relationship with the park site stewards, our performances not only utilize the spectacular site, but also highlight the rich history and current programming of the park.
We Players’ MYTHS of the MARINER and the MUSE is an ongoing project taking a variety of performance forms on the historic ships located at Hyde Street Pier, the lagoon, and the surrounding environs of Aquatic Park. We Players is proud to partner with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in the first cooperative agreement of it’s kind between an arts non-profit and a National Park Service site. This five year agreement officially began in August 2012 and will continue through 2017.
To date, projects at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park include a sailing production of The Odyssey (inspired by Homer’s ancient epic), aboard the scow schooner Alma (2011); Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, while cavorting along the pier and aboard both the full-rigged ship Balclutha and the steam-powered ferry boat Eureka (2012); and intimate sea-inspired story sharing aboard Eureka (2012).
In 2013 we will produce a series of music concerts, under the music direction of Charlie Gurke.
We Players is proud to partner with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in the first cooperative agreement of it’s kind between an arts non-profit and a National Park Service site. This five year agreement officially began in August 2012 and will continue through 2017. Our MYTHS of the MARINER and the MUSE will continue in a variety of performance forms on the historic ships located at Hyde Street Pier, the lagoon, and the surrounding environs of Aquatic Park.
To date, projects at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park include a sailing production of The Odyssey (inspired by Homer’s ancient epic), aboard the scow schooner Alma (2011); Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, while cavorting along the pier and aboard both the full-rigged ship Balclutha and the steam-powered ferry boat Eureka (2012); and intimate sea-inspired story sharing aboard Eureka (2012).
We are honored that tickets have gone so quickly, and we are sorry for all the folks who want to see this production and cannot.
Please join our mailing list for advance notice when ticket sales open for future shows, and remember to buy your tickets early.
If folks want to comment on this thread and link up with one another, we hope folks with conflicts will be able to pass off their tickets to others who want to join the adventure.
best of luck to all!
We Players to stage The Odyssey on Angel Island!
We Players’ adaptation of The Odyssey will unfold across Angel Island State Park as an all-day adventure through the hills, historic buildings, cement bunkers and natural environs of Angel Island, surrounded by stunning views across the San Francisco Bay. Each scene of The Odyssey will be informed by the energy and history of its location. Our performance invites audiences to embark on a voyage around Angel Island, and we trust that, like Odysseus, all will be transformed by the journey itself.
What a year.
Last winter WE announced that 2011 would be a year dedicated to organizational development. We Players is now incorporated! We have a Board of Directors; we’re working on our strategic plan; and we are awaiting the IRS’ decision for our non-profit status (we expect confirmation this winter).
You might think that’s a lot for a small arts organization (especially one mostly run on volunteer labor) to do in a year’s time. But we can’t help being inspired by the landscapes and stories of our region and our world, nor stop the flow of creativity. So… we also did much much more.
We Players fulfilled the mission of our three year residency on Alcatraz (i.e. provoking thought and stimulating conversation about justice, incarceration, isolation and redemption), with a series of four art exhibitions, a youth conference, and our culminating event – the weekend-long Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom. We created and presented a new performance in the Cell House, hosted inspirational panel discussions, presented new visual art by our collaborators, held meaningful ceremony, taught workshops at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center, and presented a fabulous collection of inmate-produced visual artwork in collaboration with the William James Association.
We had a remarkably successful run of The Odyssey aboard Alma this fall. It was an honor to play on such a gorgeous vessel and a blessing to build friendships with her stellar crew.
To those of you who sailed with us on Alma or joined us on Alcatraz in 2011 – please send us your photos! We’d love to see ourselves in golden suits, rowing the air, or drapped over cell house railings! The actors request that you do not post your photos or videos on public sites. Thank you for honoring this request.
Most heartening of all, our volunteer support is stronger than ever. We have lists of superstars, willing to help with everything from registration, to hospitality, to technical design, errands, cooking, and more! And several project collaborators from recent years are stepping up and signing on to help with company operations, taking tasks off our plates and improving the strength of our company, while supportting everyone’s creativity.
We look forward to 2012 with enhanced capacity for making innovative, site specific art, in partnership with the stewards of our local park resources and this ever-expanding creative community. Our island-wide Odysseyon Angel Island in the spring and Macbeth at Fort Point next fall will bring innumerable opportunities and challenges; visit any of the pages under our support tab to get involved and play your part.
Ava & Lauren
thank you for joining WE on The Rock this past weekend.
The Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom was a fitting closure to We Players’ three year residency in partnership with the National Park Service.
I witnessed inspiring creativity, deep emotion, meaningful conversation, cross-pollination of communities, and the forging of new relationships.
Please share your stories from the weekend here!
As I return to my laptop this morning, after an awesome overnight on Angel Island with some really engaging and creative and nature-aware teenagers, I am moved to write a note of thanks.
We have almost 60 people (including many new names I don’t recognize) reserved for our opening of Images from the Inside on Alcatraz this Saturday. We’ve enjoyed an inspiring collaboration with the William James Association, and I’m really looking forward to seeing such an extensive collection of inmate-created masterpieces in the Alcatraz Cell House, and hearing so many brilliant mentors talk about role of art in rehabilitation. And I’m so thankful and humbled to be presenting art that brings many communities together and stimulates conversation on current issues and timeless human themes.
Floored with gratitude again to look at our ticket sales for The Odyssey on Alma. We opened reservations for the first half of our fall run on Monday, and we are already more than 1/2 filled to capacity. Ava and I were a little nervous charging $160 a ticket (since this is the first time we’ve ever “charged” for a We Players show), but I’ve run the numbers multiple times, and this is what we need to charge to cover costs for this limited run, in this transition year for We Players. For our major productions, we can accommodate thousands of audience over dozens of shows; your generosity well supports our free reservation/ suggested donation model when everyone gives as close to the suggested donation as they can. WE love that model. And:
- we’re not doing a full-scale production this year (2011 is our year for bolstering our organizational infrastructure in preparation for a very full 2012 and beyond as our own non-profit!);
- we have real costs that we need to cover for ourselves and our park partners; and
- we have committed to paying our performers a decent wage for creating this inspiring art.
For those who have already purchased tickets, I cannot that you enough for filling our sails so swiftly and surely.
For those to whom $160 is unquestionably out of budget, consider volunteering. We also have some tickets for each show in reserve, some of which will be raffled off as part of our 2011 Kickstarter campaign (that we plan to launch within a week), and some of which will be offered at reduced price closer to performance date; be sure you’re on our mailing list to receive first notice of reduced-price ticket releases.
p.s. – I know Ava and I really stink at keeping in touch via this blog… know we’re committing to remedying that soon!
We Players named Best Site-Specific Classicists
It turns out the editor’s picks are extra special – the Guardian wrote a full paragraph about WE:
“This year marks the end of We Players’ three-year collaboration with the National Parks Service on Alcatraz Island. The project showcased the island’s scenic isolation in a number of artistic and community-building endeavors. The stage company’s 2010 marathon production of Hamlet was a tour de force of site-specificity, taking actors and audiences all over the island, including areas normally off-limits to the public. In their imaginative stagings of Macbeth, Hamlet, and Iphigenia, as well as their ongoing art exhibitions for, by, and about incarcerated juveniles and adults, the Players highlight themes of isolation, incarceration, justice, and redemption. They wield their art as a catalyst rather than as nostalgic revival. Their Alcatraz residency ends in the fall. In 2012, it partners with the California Parks Service to stage The Odyssey on Angel Island.”
Anna Martine Whitehead and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department
While We Players rehearsed Hamlet over the demanding Alcatraz terrain, new and returning artists at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department spent Summer 2010 building giant puppets and banners that address Hamlet’s themes – including isolation, redemption, and loss. Over the course of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet finds himself more and more alone within a court of panderers, backstabbers, adulterers, and murderers. He struggles with the moral question of how to avenge his father’s death, increasingly aware of the cycle of violence and limitations of reason. He becomes morose, and in the process loses not only his father, but his mother, a sense of family, his love, and ultimately his own life.
These same themes of loss, isolation, and redemption are felt keenly by the 260,000 people incarcerated in California jails and prisons, and the over 446,000 California residents on probation, parole, or supervision. Setting the trend for the nation, incarceration has become an epidemic in California.
The artists who designed the work here are all on probation, parole, or supervision and a few have served time at San Quentin State Prison, directly across the Bay. They have experienced the loss of friends, family, childhood, social standing or a sense of self to violence, drugs, AIDS, and incarceration.
For those who repeatedly showed up to make artwork, several times a week for over twelve weeks, the manipulation of raw material into identifiable images of salvation and remembrance (ghosts, fists raised in the air, and crosses, among other things) was a critical step in their ongoing process of redemption and self-forgiveness. Their lived experience of these themes, as well as their commitment to the art of personal expression, informed We Players’ generative process.
John F. Earle
James L. Ellis II
Allen, Alex, Alberto (Cuba), Mike, Oliver and Richard
Marcella M. Wiltz
Cornell, and Semaj (Doh)
……….Location: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
……….Dates: January 29 – April 2, 2011
Anna Martine Whitehead Artist Statement
I use video, puppets, sound, and movement to address disremembered histories. My history-telling performances are an extension of my investment in transformative performance traditions, my commitment to disidentificatory countermemory, and my penchant for retelling trauma as fantasy. I uncover the buried histories of space and identity formation to tell new stories of self-actualization. Working within thematic discourses of diaspora, memory, melancholia, and desire, my practice narrativizes those invisible and unwritten moments where hybrid identities and collective knowledges meet.
Since you are here reading this post, THANK YOU for visiting We Players’ new website. I’m excited to provide more regular updates about our work and play, and to invite your participation with this new web-interface.
On this occasion, I’d like to tell you a little story. Okay? It’s short, but have a cup of tea and sit with me for a few. In November of 2008 I visited Alcatraz for the first time. Now, nearly three years later, I feel like pieces of the island are embedded in me, and I know we have left our own quiet trails throughout the island’s disparate terrain. Prior to the big adventure on Alcatraz – I went to sea. First crewing on a 36′ Tartan sloop, the “Wild Rose” with a wonderful female captain, and somewhere in southern Mexico switched ships to a 38′ Yorktown called “Fandango”. The captain, myself and Fandango crossed 3400 nautical miles to reach the verdant green shores of Hilo, Hawaii. There I bathed in fresh, sweet water for the first time in weeks and feasted on fruit after the extended lapse sans fresh food. Astounding really, how absence not only makes the heart grow fonder, but more appreciative and able to taste and savor familiar things as completely new. Something to consider in my art making I believe – how to keep the work alive, breathing, fresh, constantly growing and changing. Not to settle into patterns or old tricks, but continually find new flavors and hues. Upon returning to California, I found that the sea had helped me drop into a deep space of quiet and focus, which has supported me through these challenging two years on Alcatraz.
Up until this island, this Rock, this series of performances and outreach projects, We Players has been somewhat sporadic. Well, that’s not quite it. But the company has had to trail in the wake of a gypsy wandering leader. Each of my adventure travels has served the work in some way – providing inspiration for an upcoming project, or just quieting my soul so that I could rise to the task of creating monumental productions with very little resources. Still, 2010 marked both the 10 year celebration of being on this path and was also something of a test for me. Does the world want this work? Shall I continue striving to create these productions? Will I be able to better support myself and my collaborators through the work? Will we become financially more solvent? Do people want to play with We Players? Shall I take not only the next step…but a flying leap into a new decade?
The response to Hamlet on Alcatraz, and the personal progress I felt throughout the creation of that show, gave me a resounding YES. And so – welcome to We Players second decade. There are no bounds – only the expansive, ever extending horizon where the sea’s lips kiss the sky’s cheek.
Thank you for sailing along with WE.
Oh, and postscript: None of this would exist if it were not for ALL of WE. All of you who come to experience the work and boldly join us on the performance journey. All of you who have worked with me, have given so much of your time, your talent, your spirits to manifest each collosal creation. Donald, Elissa, and Brandon, who I will unabashedly admit are my bedrock and my heart’s greatest loves. And Lauren Dietrich Chavez, without whom WE would not be rising on such strong and peaceful wings. I am honored to hold your hand and walk with you, Lauren.
Thanks to a connection through one of our stellar Hamlet on Alcatraz volunteers, We Players is facilitating a workshop at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center this spring. Once a week, for the next 7 weeks, I will have the privilege of listening to young peoples’ stories and their perspectives on the Alcatraz themes of justice, incarceration, isolation and redemption. I will support four units of youth (~12-18 students per unit) in creating art that expresses their truths. At the end of the term, Ava and I will work together with the youth for a solid week. We will play with all the material they generate this spring and pull together a final piece/ pieces for presentation on Alcatraz during our June event and third gallery cycle.
This first Tuesday was all about introductions. We Players protocol is to begin sessions with check in. With new groups (and in non-We Players group settings) I like beginning with a thanksgiving address. I asked every young person, each in their khaki pants and unit-specific colored t-shirt/sweatshirt, to share their name and something for which they’re feeling thankful. A few folks passed in most units, but otherwise, the responses were mostly “I’m thankful to be alive,” “for my family,” or “thankful I’m getting out soon.” Not much originality, but most spoke their gratitude with conviction and I could see them all warming up a bit just having to think about that question. What are you thankful for?
I explained I was with We Players, a site-specific performing arts group that transformed public spaces into realms of participatory theater. I mentioned that We Players is really interested in helping people engage all their senses and expand their awareness of the history and energy of a space, more fully awakening to the magical world around them. I described our partnership with the National Park Service and our three year aesthetic exploration of the Alcatraz themes.
I then did a rapid fire telling of Iphigenia and Other Daughters and Hamlet, while showing images of our productions on Alcatraz. They were rivited. I noted the cycles of vengeance that perpetuated murder in both stories. I presented Iphigenia’s questions about freedom at the end of Ellen McLaughlin’s play, and noted how her understanding and compassion and choice not to spill blood finally gave her brother peace. I returned to the cycle of vengeance with Hamlet, highlighting the major revenge themes on the play in my 10 minute summary. But I also emphasized Shakespeare’s focus on an internal dialogue, a man in isolation/ depression pulled in different directions by familial obligations and his own conscience. After all the death, at the end of Hamlet (esp. as emphasized by We Players portrayal of Fortinbras’ arrival), we are asked to hear the bloody story and choose a new path.
“We have some rights of memory in this kingdom, which now to claim our vantage doth invite us.”
These youth are excited to share their voices, to express the truth of their lives and their experiences within our justice system. And I’m excited to share their expressions with the ~5,000 visitors that tour Alcatraz every day. I feel like our 2011 intention of connecting the Alcatraz themes with current realities is actually happening.
We Players will present selected excerpts from their production of Hamlet, which is currently in rehearsal as part of the San Francisco Theatre Festival. The performance is scheduled for Sunday, August 8th, 2010 at 2:10pm on the Stone Stage at Yerba Buena Gardens. All events associated with the SF Theatre Festival are presented free of charge.
We Players’ full production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet will open on October 2nd 2010 on Alcatraz Island. The production will be ambulatory and plans to use several of the buildings associated with the former prison, and much of the 22 acre island of Alcatraz, including spaces that are seldom visited by regular park visitors. The company is working in programmatic partnership with the National Park Service, and will present an island- wide, interactive production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which will open on October 2nd 2010, and will fully inhabit Alcatraz Island.
Through a multi-year collaboration with the National Park Service, which is the first theater residency on Alcatraz, We Players will present performances and programs both on and off the island. Using both classical plays and contemporary writings, We Players’ events will stimulate awareness and conversation around the themes of incarceration, isolation, justice, and redemption.
We Players’ production of Hamlet by William Shakespeare will open on October 2nd 2010, and will fully inhabit The Rock. We Players’ designated audiences will have unprecedented opportunities to enter parts of the island ordinarily closed to visitors. In addition, the park’s regular visitors will encounter performance environments throughout the island that will enhance their experience of the space and its history and provoke contemplation of project themes.
In September 2009, We Players presented Ellen McLaughlin’s Iphigenia and Other Daughters on Alcatraz. Performances took place on the dock landing and used the amphitheater, as well as the multiple levels afforded by the balconies of the three-tiered Officers’ Building. The stage extended vertically to include views of the fantastic ruins of the former Warden’s Mansion, and the iconic lighthouse above. With Hamlet, the use of space will expand to include the entire island; carefully crafted staging, performance installations, special interpretation programs, and gallery spaces throughout the park will make the play a valuable and provocative contribution to the experience of all visitors. We Players’ theater residency on Alcatraz will culminate in Summer 2011, with interactive on-site installations, featuring collaborations between We Players and other local artists and activists.
We are thrilled about this opportunity to explore the island and its themes with both regular visitors and our audiences.
At last…here are some of your comments from the February Feast
(and thank you for the lovely pictures on your envelopes too!)
“I noticed that Hamlet called Denmark a prison…You probably noticed this.”
We thought there was some kind of connection in there!
“Invite ex-prisoners to come see the show” / “Will (former) prisoners be able to participate in the production?”
Yes! In fact we are exploring a number of ways for prisoners to be involved in this work. Including incorporating their poetry and artwork, and inviting some former prisoners to be involved as crew and performers.
“Local schools would love to see the energy of We Players!” / “Get local schools to come on field trip?”
We agree. Our thanks to Michele Haner, who will arrange for Ava to visit the French-American International High School and lead a discussion about site-specific theater, and using theater as a tool for social action. We plan to arrange student internships for the summer rehearsal and production period. We are hoping to team up with other teachers and existing outreach programs to incorporate work with at-risk youth.
Please let us know if there’s a teacher you think we should talk to!
“A haiku for We:
You are amazing
Your manifested beauty’s
Magnified by love
Keep it up.”
Thank you. We are buoyed up and strengthened by your support!
“How long by homing pigeon flight is a trip from Alcatraz to San Quentin?”
Very good question. Please let us know the answer. Although it may be more relevant to ask this of cormorants, gulls, egrets…other bird species that make their seasonal nesting home on Alcatraz.
“How are the prisons related?”
Amazing how few people are asking that question. Thank you. We will provide information through the project, and infuse our work on site with current stories and statistics to help make the connection between the two.
“Can we watch the play from a boat?”
Do you think we would leave out any detail?
“Will you reinstate the Alcatraz garden?”
Please check out: http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/
The volunteer garden crew on the Rock is amazing. They are restoring the gardens throughout the island.
In November we ate figs from the trees as part of our harvest / fire ceremony.
“What prisoners were sent to Alcatraz and why?”
The so called “worst of the worst”. That is, if you went to prison, but then got in trouble there you could be sent to Alcatraz. Very few prisoners were sent to Alcatraz directly. It was, “reserved for those desperate and irredeemable types”.
“The insane are often incarcerated. Is Hamlet insane? Depressed? What about Ophelia? I’m excited to find out.”
“Put Hamlet/We player info on the Alcatraz/Park Service website (including background on Shakespeare and the play itself)”
Despite our partnership with the park, we are running into fields of red tape on this one.
Please consider sending this request to the Park Service!
A story from Stanley Williams who was executed at San Quentin in 2006: A friend snuck a rose petal in to him on a visit to death row. Stanley took it from her, held it in his palm for a minute, then put it in his mouth…and swallowed it. He told her he though it might be his last and only chance to connect with the natural world and he wanted to experience it fully.
How can I support you without giving money? / I would like to be of service, even if I can’t give money.
There are so many aspects to this project. We welcome your support, your talents, your thoughts, your questions. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you’re interested in, what aspects of the project ignite you, and we will find a fit. YES. We want your help.
Can we tie race into the picture?
Yes please. This begs a longer response…perhaps a blog post unto itself…
More opportunities like this for fans and supporters to get together and get to know We Players better. Doesn’t have to be as lush as this one, even a pot-luck would do.
Salons / work-in-progress / conversations this spring. Stay tuned here.
I’ve left out most of the general praise and support of we comments – though we thank you truly – oh but here are a few anyway…
Take good care of yourselves throughout this process and KNOW that you are serving this community in a profound way.
I can’t wait to see the show! Your company is singular in making these spaces available through a trans-historical yet extremely current performance tradition. Bravo!
This has been magical.
I’ve never attended an event such as this. I have nothing to add or change.
HAMLET is particularly suited to the island for many reasons. It is a story of a man in isolation wrestling with conscience and consciousness, and is fraught with themes of grief, madness, loss, revenge – all of which extend from the core project themes of isolation, incarceration, and justice. We hope that the play, centered around these issues, will act as a catalyst for conversation.
The root of this conversation is about FREEDOM.
What is it to be free? Is it something that can be granted or taken away?
Or is it something more fundamentally personal than that?
How must I act? To do or not to do?
The show will be built in such a way as to serve both the regular park visitors, with many elements occurring in public areas, as well as the designated audiences who we will guide through a carefully crafted route through the space.
We have already begun conversations artists and teachers who work with local justice advocacy groups, juvenile offenders and with people living in maximum security prisons. We are building partnerships, gathering research, collecting works of art – all of which will be central to the final stage of the residency, culminating in summer 2011.
The Players are a group of traveling actors within Hamlet – and in our production, the Players will be performing virtually non-stop in a public area. In addition to the classical text, they will perform a wide variety of other material which is intended to contextualize the themes…this text will include poetry and first hand materials by those people directly affected by the issues we are exploring – people in prison and their families. The Native American community has a deep connection with the island, and we are inviting their voice into the process as well.
Alcatraz has a magnetic draw. About 5000 people per day in the high season visit the fog enshrouded island in the San Francisco Bay. It is legendary both in the national landscape and within international awareness as well. Both We Players and the National Park Service are asking, “What experience are people having?”, “What are they coming away with?”. This project reflects a true partnership between We Players and the NPS as we join in the shared goal of stimulating more critical conversation of important current issues, issues that are entrenched in the multi-layered history of The Rock.
We feel a tremendous responsibility to those people whose lives are immediately affected by these issues. Please send us your thoughts, reading suggestions, direct us to organizations and individuals you think we should contact.
Write to: email@example.com
“That when I waked, I cried to dream again…”
the months of preparation are coming together! I had a lovely time visiting our kind farmer-donors once again this morning, sampling the fruits of the season (California is amazing), and calculating bulk quantities with our fabulous head chef, Pauly Plotkin (herb’n palate supper club). Maybe I can entice those of you who are on the fence about attending our 2.4 dinner theater fund raiser with a rough sketch of the menu:
Antipasti marinated mushrooms, roasted red and yellow peppers, olives, cheeses, etc.
Potato Soup with wild-harvested mushrooms (thanks Pauly!)
Rabbit and Rooster or Vegetable Ragout with creamy polenta and side vegetable
Salad with blood oranges and candied walnuts
homemade Pistelles with candy-cap mushroom dust (tastes like maple sugar!)
visit the link in the left column to buy your tickets! see you there! We look forward to pleasing your pallets!
nothing quite like gathering people in a room