Performer Spotlight: Ava Roy

“My sea-gown scarf'd about me”

-Hamlet

Ava Roy


We caught up with our Artistic Director, Ava Roy, to talk about memories of past work and about Undiscovered Country!

What was your first show with We?
My first show with We Players was Romeo and Juliet in spring 2000. I was a freshman in college and had just turned 20. The performance blasted off in the student union/ cafeteria at high noon with the Montague and Capulet brawl. The audience doubled in size over the course of the performance, as passersby joined the procession and became audience members. We traveled through the campus, using archways, corridors, and other impressive architectural features of the Stanford campus as our backdrop. 
Romeo and Juliet were married in the center of "The Quad" and ultimately were bound to the Burghers of Calais Rodin sculptures with red ribbons as their tomb. I played Juliet. And directed. And made all the costumes. And so on. This was the beginning of We Players and the earliest stages of development of our company philosophy, methodology, and aesthetic!

Four words to describe working with We?
Visceral, demanding, sensational, surprising

Describe a favorite memory working with We.
A favorite memory?! There are too many! 
Here are a few...waiting backstage as Viola at the top of 12th Night. My backstage was a little rowboat, tied up to the schooner Alma. I'd drink tea and huddle in blankets while Captain Tom waited for the walkie-talkie to cue us to row to shore. One day my dad was on the boat with me. That was especially precious. Or maybe waiting backstage as Ondine on the edge of the cliff at Land's End and observing two baby seagulls hatch and fledge over the course of the run. Or perhaps climbing to the top of Angel Island with my brother and listening to the sounds of The Odyssey waft up from around the island and watching the audience procession wind along the perimeter road. Or maybe all the many times and places I've spied on the audience from hidden locations on Alcatraz, and from the tall grasses on the Albany Bulb, or lying on my belly on the balconies at Montalvo or... every site has its secret nooks and unique vantages.

What is your favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country
My favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country thus far has been the celerity and ease with which the script has emerged. I am writing it, but it feels more like it is writing itself and I am playing a supporting role. It has felt very organic and surprising from the first draft to the current (fifth ?) draft. My #1 favorite thing is working with this group of collaborators - thoughtful, dedicated, kind, communicative, sincere, and very talented artists one and all.

What has been surprising about the process?
How much I am appreciating the anomaly of walls, electricity, and plumbing! 
Most We Players' performance venues are physically demanding and intense. This is part of the power of these sites, that they ask performers and audience alike to lean into the difficulty of wind and weather, to navigate hills and uneven terrain, and awaken their senses and enjoy heightened awareness. So it's come as a surprise how lovely it is for this rare bird of a show to occur indoors (albeit in a beautiful historic building with its own character and unique qualities), with heat, electricity and a bathroom less than a half mile hike away! Who knew how nice that could be?!



Don’t miss Ava in Undiscovered Country. Only three chances left! 

Photo by Lauren Matley

Crew Spotlight: JD Durst

“glass of fashion and the mould of form”

-Ophelia, Hamlet

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We’re so thrilled to spotlight our amazing JD Durst. JD has been doing incredible work for us for years! You saw his leather work in the belts and holsters in Romeo and Juliet, his prop artistry in Caesar’s cart, and now his weapons and leather expertise in Undiscovered Country. Working with someone who has such expansive knowledge and such artistry is a joy. Hear what JD has to say about working with We!

What was your first show with We?
2010’s Hamlet on Alcatraz

How would you describe working with We in 4 words?
Fresh, empowering, rewarding, intriguing

Describe your favorite We Players memory. 
The exploration of Grendel’s plight in BEOWULF.

What is your favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country?
The fact Bingo (the dog) gets to visit the set.

What has been surprising about this process? 
It comes as no surprise that everything is met with a welcoming warmth and acceptance.

Don’t miss JD’s beautiful work in Undiscovered Country!
Only 4 performances left! 

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Crew Spotlight: Brooke Jennings

“By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon”

-Ophelia, Hamlet

Spotlight on our resident costume designer and frequent collaborator, Brooke Jennings!

The costumes in a show are not only an integral part of the audience’s experience but also of the actors. They shape the character from the inside out! Hear from Brooke about her experience working with We and check out her note in the Undiscovered Country program about the special We Players paisley!

Brooke Jennings

What was your first show with We?

Ondine at Sutro, in 2015

How would you describe working with We in 4 words?

Expansive, Detailed, Grounded

Describe your favorite We Players memory.

Sharing the We experience with a new audience member always leads to my most cherished moments. So in that vein, I’ll share an extra special moment with you all.

My partner, Cole, and I first started dating during Romeo and Juliet at Petaluma Adobe. He had yet to see a We Players Show at this point (I know!), so naturally he was my date on opening night. The show begins in the usual We flurry; gun shots, leather clad rancheros, and the audience looking on with our canteens of wine and napsacks of cheese and crackers. The bells ring in the distance and it’s time for the Ball! We are all given black lace masks; I help Cole tie his and he helps me with mine. To the sound of trumpets, we dance in the middle of the courtyard in the beautiful hills of Petaluma with the actors, staff, fellow audience members, and each other. We laughed, fumbled, and sealed our small moment with a kiss just before Romeo and Juliet lock eyes for the first time.

What is your favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country?

The expansive quality of We shows usually requires my work to draw and hold audiences attention against roaring cliff sides, sweltering trails, and dense forests. No easy feat given the stunning natural beauty of our performance sites! And while I am deeply grateful for the gift of nature in our shows, this production feels much more distilled. It is a concentrated version of We shows, allowing me to explore detail and precision in the work.

What has been surprising about this process?

The Paisley Research! It’s so satisfying when you stumble onto a treasure chest like this one. The history and story fits so well into our aesthetic for this piece and I learned so much delicious information about a subject I hadn’t really considered before. [Read more about the paisleys in the Undiscovered Country program guide]

Also, pocket soup! Look up a recipe, it’s a real cowboy treat!

Don’t miss Brooke’s costumes in Undiscovered Country- the final four performances are here, so get your ticket today!



Step right up and behold!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! 

Caesar returns home from battle and the villagers are flocking to the Concourse Maximus to celebrate her victory. News spreads fast in Rome and the streets are on fire with all the local celebrities gathering for the feast of Lupercal. Don't miss their amazing feats of strength and seduction! 

Our glorious leader Julius Caesar has won another stunning victory against the enemies of Rome! It all began when former ally Pompey the Great objected to Caesar’s new title of Dictator-For-Life. Pompey, a Senator, put together a striking team of wealthy and stylish Romans, including the hometown favorite Marcus Brutus. But Pompey never had a chance against the greatest general in the known world. Caesar is merciful, and after the ferocious pounding, she forgave her beloved Brutus! Caesar may be getting that crown after all. You heard it here! Happy endings really do happen.

In other news, Cinna the Poet has been spotted singing outside Caesar’s window at all hours of the night. “Caesar loves me well” the well known street singer admitted to yours truly, “I have a new song coming soon, O Cesare!” Caesar’s wife Calpurnia declined to comment at this time, although she did have good words for the patent medicine she’s been popping: “keeps the organs youthful!” affirms the soon-to-be Empress of Rome.

Are the rumors true? Does domestic disharmony dwell in the Brutus household? Gossips whisper that Rome’s favorite senator has been keeping to himself, taking long walks late into the night. What does his little lady Portia get up to when the noble Roman is not around?

Speaking of Noble Romans, the well given Caius Cassius has pledged a thousand drachmas to repair the defaced statue of Pompey at the Capitol. A risky move from the normally cautious gentleman. Sources have spotted him behind pillars having shadowy conversations with Rome’s elite. What could the senator be up to?

Rome’s most eligible Bachelor Marc Antony has announced he will lead the festivities at the Feast of the Lupercal. “This will be a traditional Lupercalia” insists Antony.  Know for his lavish parties, the carrouser continued, “But we’ll also have some fun!” Antony has climbed the ladder of Roman Politics with ease, recently named Master of the Horse. That’s second in line to Caesar!

If this year’s Feast of the Lupercal is anything like last year’s, all of Rome will be in their best attire, some of them will climb on rooftops, and a small fringe may turn violent and burn several buildings. Remember to vote Caesar in the next election! 

 

From the Editor's Desk: Caesar Maximus is infused with 19th century popular entertainments of circus and opera, and the glitz and glitter of modern Imperialism echoes it's ancestry in ancient Rome. Is it any wonder? The wheel of fortune spins, time comes round...


CAESAR MAXIMUS at The Music Concourse

Thursdays-Sundays now through September 30

Step right up and get your ticket to a show you'll never forget!

"Time has come round" - CAESAR MAXIMUS previews begin tomorrow!

CAESAR MAXIMUS: A show not to be missed, folks!

Experience Julius Caesar as you never have before, at The Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park, surrounded by iconic San Francisco landmarks.

Don’t take our word for it, get a taste of our Rome in this sneak preview!

Get your tickets before they’re gone!
http://weplayers.org/caesar-maximus-2018

Be our hero - help GUARD ROME

"LET LUCIUS AND TITINIUS GUARD OUR DOOR"

-Brutus, Julius Caesar

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We Players is seeking security warrior/ stuff guardians for CAESAR MAXIMUS.

The job is simple but VITAL! We've had some valuable production elements stolen in some recent break-ins and need a volunteer to stand watch (or sit watch, up to you) for us during the performance. 

Bring a book and snacks and chill while vigilantly watching our production vehicle and storage container (they have fun names like Animo and Momoco)! Your post will be in the parking lot behind the bandshell in the Music Concourse at Golden Gate Park. The lot is safe for people, but not so much for props. It's lit and night will only just be falling as the show ends. There is foot and vehicle traffic as well. 

We just want to communicate to potential thieves that we are watching. Your mere presence will prevent crime! 

Work as many or as few shifts as you like, we're happy to have your help! You'll receive a complimentary ticket to the show for every shift you work, plus you'll totally have our undying gratitude!

We so appreciate your enthusiasm to support our work.  Thank you! 

-We Players

CAESAR MAXIMUS takes place at The Music Concourse,
Thursdays- Sundays August 16 - September 30. 

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)

We Players presents Macbeth at Fort Point in San Francisco
May 30 – June 29

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 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

‘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 on!

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 play … 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 at Fort Point 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.

Production Staff Interviews for We 2014

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!

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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 we@weplayers.org. 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.