All The Bay’s a Stage With a Touring Tempest

October 22, 2015  |  Rebecca Novick

 We’re deep in rehearsal for The Tempest, Cal Shakes’ upcoming All The Bay’s a Stage touring production (which I’m directing). With eight actors and one musician, plus a vanload of props and costumes, this show will tour to seven different community sites before playing to the general public at the Oakland Museum of California from November 13th to the 22nd.

Ariel (Amy Lizardo) atop a ship’s mast in a rehearsal for The Tempest. Photo credit: Jamila Cobham.

 As we delve into the play and figure out how to make a storm from just a few instruments and props, and how to make magic with few tricks up our sleeves, we’re thinking hard about the audiences we’ll be playing for. We’re remembering the laughter and empathy we found as we performed for homeless clients of Berkeley Food and Housing Project last year and the deep knowledge of life’s challenges that gave SRO residents in San Francisco a window into the extremity of a Shakespeare play.

 BFHP residents witnessing last year’s tour of Twelfth Night. Photo credit: Callie Cullum.

 And we’re surer than ever that these words and these stories can be meaningful to any audience, and that we learn more about these plays every time we invite more people to be part of the audience.

Ferdinand (Rafael Jordan) and Miranda (Tristan Cunningham) embrace in a sneak peek of The Tempest on the Cal Shakes Theater Stage at the Life is Living Festival. Photo credit: Sonjhai Meggette/Esoteric Images.

 This year we are immensely grateful for the partnerships that will allow us to share The Tempest with a broader audience than we currently reach at the Bruns. We will be touring to Allen Temple Arms, a housing complex for low-income seniors in East Oakland; a hotel operated by DISH (Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing), which permanently houses formerly homeless San Franciscans with serious health problems; Civicorps, a West Oakland high-school diploma and job training program for 18-26 year olds; the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in downtown Oakland; incarcerated women at the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin; the Hacienda assistant living facility for low-income seniors in Martinez; and to homeless clients of Berkeley Food and Housing Project.

 Tickets to the Oakland Museum of California performances will soon go on sale to the public—for now, we’re still seeking the donations that make this community work possible. To find out more about the project, please email rnovick (at) calshakes.org.

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The Land Home Hero Tumblr is Up!

June 4, 2015 | The Triangle Lab

 Here is a poem from one of the participants in our Artist-Investigator project with homeless vets at Berkeley Food and Housing. Read more on the project blog: http://landhomehero.tumblr.com/

STREET SWEEPER
Here it is in the darkest night, 
Streets lit with manmade light
It’s three AM and I don’t sleep
In the distance I hear that Machine Sweep. 
The night is mine and mine alone
Except the sound of the mechanical moan
The rest of the world is sound asleep 
The machine and I their souls to keep. 
The world is ours and ours alone
The cold of night makes us moan. 
And here it is, I am coming down.
The streets are clean, no longer brown. 
And here comes the morning now I can sleep 
Until tonight I can hear that friendly sweep.

– Alex “Shorty” Thorsen

 Alex shared that when being homeless one has to keep oneself awake, in order to not fall asleep in illegal public spaces or otherwise put oneself in danger. Many in the homeless community must resort to using amphetamines, to stay awake all night, only able to truly rest in the light, warmth, and safety of daytime.

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Lab Report: Artist-Investigator Program Gets Rolling

By Rebecca Novick

Last month we launched a new round of our Artist-Investigator program, in which four distinguished artists partnered with four non-profit organizations to see how theater artists can help meet community needs.  (Read more about the artists and their partners here.)  We’ll be sharing regular “lab reports” on the progress of these experiments, as we find out what happens when the powerful skills of artists are deployed outside the rehearsal room.

Our early meetings have unearthed some exciting possibilities, like the conversation we had with the chaplain at Berkeley Food and Housing Project about creating theater-based rituals to help homeless vets struggling with “moral injury.” Or the proposal from Causa Justa::Just Cause—that their artist Paul Flores work with their clients to help them tell their compelling stories to decision-makers like government officials and funders.

Earlier this week, all of the artists and their partners came together for a day-long training with the dynamic Michael Rohd, whose Center for Performance and Civic Practice has pioneered a lot of the methodology we’re using.  He asked everyone to name assets that artists bring to the partnerships—not just in the “product” we might create, but in how artistic skills influences the process of the collaboration. Here is a portion of the inspiring list the artists generated:

What we bring to the table as artists:

  • my writer self
  • ability to collaborate
  • understanding when communication has not occurred
  • basing work in the body
  • making things happen, moving a process from A to B
  • seeing when things are stuck
  • seeing from multiple points of view
  • listening
  • getting people to tell their story
  • imaginative problem-solving
  • spirit-based work
  • using humor as a tool
  • articulating something for collective interrogation
  • fearlessly naming the elephant in the room
  • asking good questions at the right time
  • witnessing
  • surfacing emotional undercurrents
  • inspiring risks
  • making space for transgression

As exciting as artistic collaboration is, we’ve had to remind ourselves to hold off and be mindful of moving too fast. Our process asks artists and organizations to work off each other; but, speedy implementation is not always fruitful. As Dr. Ayodele Nzinga shared, “I always have a map, but I’m learning to make space for the emergent.”

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Announcing The Triangle Lab’s 2014 Artist-Investigators

Clockwise, from top left: Paul Flores, Elizabeth Gjelten, Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, and Krista De Nio.

Clockwise, from top left: Paul Flores, Elizabeth Gjelten, Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, and Krista De Nio.

In the Triangle Lab, Cal Shakes’ research and development wing, we experiment with ways to bring together theaters, artists, and communities to ignite change. We believe that through deep collaboration, artists and community members can lift up each other’s work—starting conversation, sharing stories, bridging difference, and activating deeper civic participation.

Our Artist-Investigator Project asks artists to lead our investigation into what the performances of the future might look like, and help us discover what happens when the arts are more deeply integrated into community life.

We are delighted to announce this year’s four Artist-Investigators:

Paul Flores working with Causa Justa::Just Cause

Elizabeth Gjelten working DISH (Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing)

Krista De Nio working with Berkeley Food and Housing

Dr. Ayodele Nzinga working with Green Life Project/Pathways 2 Resilience

In 2013, we invited ten artists into the inaugural round to conduct projects that investigated new locations for performance and new methods for community collaboration. You can read more about their projects here.

In the 2014 round of the Artist-Investigator program we will be creating partnerships between artists and non-profit organizations to investigate how the skills of theater artists can help address community issues.

Our Hypothesis: Theater artists have key skills that can be deployed outside the rehearsal room to help community organizations advance their missions

Our Desired Outcomes

1. Organizations can demonstrate specific impact from the project in a mission area they’ve identified.

2. This impact is possible with a relatively small budget ($5000) and investment of time by the artist (about 60 hours).

The Projects

Four artists with experience in performance and community engagement were selected via an open call. Each artist will work with one organization to develop a project together. These small-budget projects will be conducted over the course of one year, and documented carefully so they can serve as models for future collaborations between our sectors. Projects will be driven by the needs of the partner organization and will identify what theatrical skills, techniques, and processes will be most useful to that organization. Projects may or may not include public or invited performances.

We’ve begun exploring what kinds of skills these artists might share with their partner organizations, although we don’t know what will arise from these specific collaborations. For example:

As expert storytellers , theater artists can work with staff, clients or other stakeholders to gather, shape and share relevant stories in dynamic and powerful ways.  Stories – written, performed, or online – can animate public interest, influence key decision-makers, and activate public gatherings.

As skilled story coaches , theater artists can work with clients to find their own voices through training in writing and performance.  Clients can be prepared to advocate for themselves by claiming the power of their own stories and taking charge of their own narratives.

As rehearsal experts, theater artists know how to rapidly try, discard, and reinvent solutions to problems we discover.  Artists can work with staff to brainstorm new programming or to address places where discussion is stuck and work with clients to rehearse solutions to life problems.

As trained team-builders , theater artists can offer skill-building workshops in many areas such as team-building and meeting facilitation skills, public speaking, writing, etc.

As event producers, theater artists can help shape the structure and content of events, celebrations, demonstrations, and other public events, helping to make these events more powerful, enjoyable, and memorable.

We’re very excited to be working with these outstanding artists and this range of extraordinary non-profits.  Watch this blog for more updates on this project throughout the year.

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