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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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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