An Interview with Hannah Moscovitch

Lights fall on the stage and sever the encompassing darkness in Tarragon Theatre’s Main space. Hannah Moscovitch’s play The Children’s Republic begins telling the story of Dr. Janusz Korczak, a man that runs an orphanage during the rize of Nazi power in Poland and how he is rattled by his connection with a boy named Israel.

In this play Hannah creates a cinematic effect, with quick lucid and punchy scenes. This is no small feat for such material. Questions of justice permeate the play: she does not define a perpetrator or a victim in this work. Overall the production was excellent and incredibly effective. All of the performers were striking and original. It runs until the 18th of December. There is still time to see it!

Before I saw this play Hannah generously offered some of her time to speak with me.  There was a black coffee on my side, and what looked like a latté (I should have asked) with a fruit cup on her’s. It took only minutes for me to realize that this darkly humorous woman possesses a genuine and wholly original spirit.

Hannah Moscovitch is an audience’s writer. She believes in the conversation of the theatre. This is why I am honored to have our conversation become a part of our blog so that we can all engage in her widely expanding dialogue with us.


Photograph by: Cylla von Tiedemann. Amy Rutherford, Peter Hutt, Mark Correia, Katie Frances Cohen, Elliot Larson, Emma Burke-Kleinman

AN INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH MOSCOVITCH

You’ve had many interviews. What kinds of questions do you wish people would ask you?

Nobody really asks me personal questions, but I did recently have this one interview with the Chronicle Herald where I answered the journalist’s questions about my personal life. Also some people don’t ask me about the big over arching questions. I don’t know if I have good answers, but for example questions that ask me how I believe I am evolving as an artist, or how my plays relate to one another. I never get asked those kinds of questions. People tend to not ask me questions from a literary stand point.

So what is going on with your process right now?

I have eleven plays in the process of being written right now. I was originally relieved to get it down to eight and then I got it up to eleven again. I have all these plays in development now so I am really aware of what my future looks like, which is a really strange and wonderful place to be in. It’s like having a really big secret; I know what all my plays are going to be and nobody else really knows that.

With my plays I have been excited about interiority and clawing myself towards an audience. Recently I have enjoyed playing with characters that address the audience. I also have plays that I am developing that are very meta-theatrical. I’m also working on a play that is a series of interviews. I’m doing a lot of things with form now which is why I am really looking forward to seeing how audiences respond to them when they finally go up.

Discuss how SummerWorks was involved in establishing your career.

Well I don’t want to be histrionic but it’s been everything. I don’t know if I would have invented myself as a playwright at all had it not been for SummerWorks. I don’t know how I would have done it.

What are your favourite books?

I love Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, George Elliot’s Middle March, Jane Eyre, I also love Ernest Hemmingway.

If someone were to catch you reading in the next twenty four hours who would you be reading?

Herzog.

Who are your favourite artists?

I love Toulouse Lautrec, Salvador Dali, and Francis Bacon.

Briefly describe a piece of theatre you saw recently that resonated with you.

The piece I saw that really blew my mind last year was Our Class. It did exactly what good art should do, it surprises and confounds your ideas about the art form. I also really loved a recent production of Blasted. I am really excited by Sarah Kane’s work.

How was the process of The Children’s Republic distinct from others?

The Children’s Republic was a commission with Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa. It is a different kind of project because the company asked me to think of a particular person and story. I was doing something a little more complicated; I had to channel the visions of both ends of the commission.  I wanted to create something that honoured my creative voice and the expectations of the commission. I had to approach it differently than the way I normally approach my writing.  With The Children’s Republic I had the opportunity to work with realism  and I had the opportunity  to experiment with a larger cast than what I am used to.

A lot of actors speak of nerves pre-show and adrenaline post opening performance—When does that happen for you?

Oh I don’t know it’s pretty hard. Watching your play for the first time is like watching a train wreck or a car crash.

What reactions do you love witnessing while sitting in the audience of one of your plays?

Sometimes I really enjoy being in an audience. I think many of my plays are shocking. I can be a bit mean with the audience. I am beginning to realize that there is meanness in me working through my plays. It’s like punching them in the head and they get shocked, and you think yes, I’ve got you, and you drag them in. So I really enjoy the moment when the audience goes wow is she really going to do that? I enjoy witnessing this moment for the audience, moments in my plays that shock them and draw them in.

Have you harnessed a structural habit around writing plays or is every play written differently?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I get into plays. I start every play differently, although I do start with research a lot of the time.

What do you love most about writing plays?

Communicating with the audience and getting them to react. I am in it for the adrenaline rush when I see my plays communicate with an audience.

Do you ever think about characters you want to play rather than characters you want to write?

No.

Where were you ten years ago around now?

I was twenty-three. I just moved to Toronto. I just came back from Ottawa after doing a haunted hike that I made up for myself. I then moved in with this dancer and designer and I had just enrolled into classes at U of T. November about ten years ago was really important because I just got hired at Teatro on College as a waitress, I waitressed there for five years. I was totally confused and terrified, but it was the beginning of my life here.

What dreams or little hopes do you have for yourself?

I’m excited to try other mediums, like film, and of course do theatre too.

What title or description written about you do you hope to have?

The Order of Canada.

I don’t think Hannah Moscovitch’s dreams are inaccessible. Evidently this rising artist flourishes under the highest standards, standards that she creates for herself. This gives her the mark of an authentically fine talent. 

Once again I sign off as your humble storyteller.

Warmly,

Hannah Rittner

Summer Daily

It all begins with a gesture. Then a platform.

At least for the Austria based company The Zeremony. This group of artists focuses on the gestures that are made possible by the train platform. They do so by having actors focus on the most popularly dreamed about situations. They’ve distilled them into genres and intentions. Some actors are specialists in saying goodbye others are specialists in saying hello.

Every participant in this flash of theatricality chooses which reaction and genre they’d like done to them or to engage with. I love this. This company throws the light on the inevitable theatricality that permeates the train platform; it too is a stage. The stage is truly inescapable. If this is true, what does this mean for us and what we desire? does the stage entail public display? veneers? insincerity? or communal self expression? What does our requested gesture at the train station say about ourselves?

Either way I do not believe The Zeremony aims to answer these questions; they unveil to us the questions we should be asking ourselves. This conflation between public space and performance space is particularly fascinating to me. I love looking into companies that flirt with this boundary through their creations. I’ve posted their website which includes a little bit more back ground information along with a summary of an installation performance they did as a part of The Street Art and Festival Theatre in Austria.

http://thezeremony.com/content/those_who/leave

http://www.lastrada.at/2008/index.php?lang=2&idcatside=342

Alfred Eisenstaedt. 1961. 

By: H.E.Rittner

Summer Daily

Theatre is all about inventing new forms of communication. I remember being completely astounded when my brother sent me an article about an Israeli Theatre Company called Nalaga’at. Everything about this company challenges the senses we expect to exercise during a performance. This is because it is constituted by deaf and blind actors. What is more incredible about this company is how successfully it has expanded, acquiring international tours and warm acclaim. I have chosen to share with you a video from the TED TALKS series where Artistic Director Adina Tal delivers an honest, mildly sassy, and yet genuinely inspiring speech about the power we gain when we are open to unexpected forms of communication; She has certainly proven that this is the seed of artistic innovation.

Happy Wednesday.

From,

Hannah Rittner

SummerWorks is now Accepting Applications for the Creators’ Reserve

SummerWorks has been chosen as a recommender for funding by the Ontario Arts Council under its Theatre Creators’ Reserve Program. As part of this program, individual professional artists and collectives can apply for funding directly to SummerWorks using an official OAC application. The program will support creators in the creation and development of new work.Deadline for applications is January 15, 2012(Or post marked for the 15th of January, 2012) 

To see the list of other recommender organizations, OAC program guidelines and the OAC application form please follow this link:

http://www.arts.on.ca/Page86.aspx

 

Criteria and Procedure:
Artistic Criteria

  • Artists in the early stages of their career.
  • Artists interested in exploring untraditional and unique forms of theatrical investigation.
  • Auteur-style artists, interested in risk and virtuosity.
  • Socially relevant work.

Applications to the SummerWorks program must include the following

  • 1-page proposal describing the project.
  • Artist biography or Resume of key Artists.
  • A sample of the work (this can be text, music, video, etc)
  • Support Material (of applicant’s choice)
  • 3 signed copies of the OAC application form – click here to download the application form

Procedure

The Artistic Producer, Michael Rubenfeld; and the Artistic Intern Hannah Rittner, will shortlist the applicants. A decision regarding selection of artists and allocation of funds will be made. Artists may be contacted for more information and possibly a meeting regarding the project.

Submissions must be mailed to:

SummerWorks Theatre Festival
P.O. Box 12, Station C
Toronto, Ontario
CANADA M6J 3M7
Attn: Hannah Rittner

E-mail: intern@summerworks.ca

 

When Love and Art Coalesce: A Feature on the Multi-faceted Artist D’bi. Young Anitafrika

There is something nameless that makes everyone so alive.

D’bi. Young Antifrika proved this to me once again. It was a gift to meet her after seeing her  jarring performance of Word! Sound! Powah! at the Tarragon Theatre, a part of the Sankofa Trilogy. This theatrical work has acquired many glowing reviews.  Consequently, I felt like taking more of a conceptual angle with our interview, looking into D’bi’s thoughts on inspiration, courage, and fear.

In The Sankofa Trilogy, D’bi elegantly permits poetry, music, dance and theatre to converse. Furthermore, it is a sensitive and provocative portrait of the terror and hope produced by political turmoil.

I strongly encourage you to see D’bi perform at the Tarragon; The Sankofa Trilogy runs until December 4th. However, D’bi in her naturally erupting style will continue sharing her art the day after The Sankofa Trilogy closes at The Lula Lounge on December 5th where she will be launching her new album 333. See the play and attend the album launch!

Interviewing D’bi was an incredible treat. D’bi is unabashedly herself, throughout the interview she was joyfully expressive and attentive. Even though the questions I asked her were not tailored for a specific answer her words were consistently incisive and blade sharp, growing from a base of compassion, openness and play.

Alongside the interview I have posted one of her videos where D’bi discusses her philosophical approach to art; I feel like D’bi is best demonstrated in movement, since so much of her essence and art emanates from how comfortable she is with the sway of life.

Any ways, my words now conclude with the beginning of D’bi’s: I hope you love reading this as much as I loved writing it.

Off the top of your head use five words to describe this play.

Revolutionary, Integrous, Urgent, Community and Love.

Discuss the challenges that arise while creating material that explores the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender.

My own idea of liberalization has to do with my own feeling of liberation. I feel like I am in a constant personal revolutionary negotiation with myself and my own fears. The first place of negotiation and investigation comes from me. Because we grow up and we ingest all this social conditioning that tells you that you are a deviant for the colour of your skin, that you are a deviant for who you choose to sleep with, that you are a deviant because of your sex; but ultimately as you grow, we learn that we do have the ability to choose what we accept and what we challenge. Regardless, I feel like I have a personal responsibility to decide for myself what it is I consider to be sound and holistic. My theatre making and my poetry are a huge part of that process. It is all about me exploring how I can be a more courageous person. I try to not make the search for my identity the nucleus of my work, the nucleus of my work is love and humanity. It is through that love and humanity that I look at race and class. The essence of who we are is stardust, as Walter Borden said to me, and it is from this platform that I jump off of, so that everyone can come into the room, using the metaphor of Jamaica under the premise that we are all stardust,  and that we are magical beings. Once we get past that we can talk about race and class without getting offended. This is the path that I take.

What fears did you have about creating and performing this piece?

When you do work in your community and the work is done well there is an expectation that you will do the same work and that it will be the same quality. There is the pressure of creating something brilliant again, and knowing that you as an artist want to create beyond what you created yesterday, and  that you don’t want to create the same thing.

And then I feared  representing the part of Jamaica that I descend from. In particular my mother, my aunt’s and my uncle’s experiences. It was a challenge representing that and knowing that there is nothing I could do to recreate that. I am interpreting and re-interpreting those events. I did not want to disappoint the members of the community, or my mother.

Another fear was being balanced in treating each of those characters so that audiences wouldn’t walk away hating stereotyping or owning any of the characters. I wanted to be fair with all the characters. I wanted them to be presented as human and imperfect. Ultimately we all are  imperfect beings, so I wanted to create characters that the audience could see themselves in. I did so by ensuring that I didn’t create caricatures.

How has this play distinguished itself from your other work?

I consider my work to be a tree. I have for a very long time, and that tree has a huge root in all the moral stories and traditions that we emerge from, which is in Africa, where we all emerge from. As this tree grows the body of the tree grows. The trunk of the tree is my relationship to my identity, my identity as a mother, as a single parent, as a queer woman, as a Jamaican woman, and these identities go on; they are interconnected and overlapping. Then the branches for me now represent the different mediums of storytelling I do. Poetry is on the same tree,  mentoring is on the same tree, and being mentored is on the same tree, and what that means is that the differences become more about technique and environment then about content. If you see me in a concert in a play or a workshop you are going to see the same thing, because I really love storytelling and all those things are storytelling. The differences in my work then are in the context and not in the content.

Discuss the relationship endurance has to this piece literally and conceptually. 

In this piece I am talking about social change, change that is happening so incrementally that you feel like nothing is happening, so a parallel to that reality, is a one woman show, with musicians,  the team that has worked so hard to come together, and  has come together so beautifully. When you put those things together you have the perfect metaphor for life. Which means you are here and you work hard and for you to see the fruits of your labour you’ve got to be centered and grounded. You’ve got to be focused and committed because anything else has the potential to run you amuck. We all know that with life, the moments when we are scattered and when we are off-centered and un-balanced it is so incredibly intense that it makes everything less positive in life, but, when you are centered you see it positively suddenly; things continue to happen around you all the time, only the difference is you are centred.

I know in my own life when I am un-centred I am most negative. You then get into this cycle that is negativity that has more to do with you being off centred. Things will always be spinning around you, when I make time to sleep and rest when I make time to be around love and family when I make time to meditate, whatever is spinning around then is contextualized by my ability to be centred.

Discuss the influence SummerWorks has had on your professional development and current professional success.

The festival theatre culture we have in Toronto is crucial. SummerWorks in particular included all of the trilogy, and the festival provided me with so many resources that I didn’t have  initially. SummerWorks provided me with the perfect space, it provided me with a theatre, with an administrator, an audience and a legacy of being a part of something that encourages new and exciting work; and within that system  is a hidden mentorship process that is crucial to any artistic development. I want to personally thank Frank and SummerWorks for being one of my mentors for the last decade.

Photo by: Cylla von Tiedemann, Featuring: D’bi. Young Anitafrika in The Sankofa Trilogy 

Story by: H.E.Rittner

We are searching for a GM!

maybe you will be the glorious reason for us to end our search!

 IF YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING REQUIREMENTS PLEASE SEND YOUR PROFESSIONAL MATERIALS TO MICHAEL RUBENFELD: APPLICATIONS@SUMMERWORKS.CA

Job Description

The SummerWorks Theatre Festival is hiring a new General Manager. This position will have full-time hours. After 21 years of thriving and expanding artistically, the Festival is looking for a General Manager to continue to facilitate this artistic growth while implementing key administrative infrastructure. This individual must be hungry for the exciting challenge of building new systems and significantly influencing the success of a Festival that changes the lives of hundreds of artists each year.

The right person for the job will must show strong initiative and high level of independence, as they will often be working in the office by themselves. They will be expected to keep a tight budget and have very strong communication skills. They should have a very strong work ethic and have the ability to problem solve with creativity. This important individual must have a passion for the arts and administration, and thrives in demanding situations. This person has a strong background in arts administration but is still willing to be flexible and continue to learn.

Duties:
• Maintains and establishes the calendar and year long critical path.
• Maintains the financial occurrences of the Festival, including some bookkeeping, payments, spending and collecting money, banking, etc.
• Runs and organizes the office.
• Maintain customer, vendor and employee contact information
• Orders Festival merchandise.
• Grant writing, in conjunction with the Artistic Producer.
• Keeps an inventory of all items belonging to SummerWorks.
• Liaises with the theatres.
• In conjunction with the Artistic Producer, responsible for staff hiring, contracts and letters of agreement.
• In conjunction with the Artistic Producer and Development Director, coordinates the annual fundraiser.
• Runs weekly staff meetings.

RequirementS

• 2+ years of experience in arts administration.
• Computer skills, including knowledge of excel and word.
• Strong verbal and written communication skills.
• Excellent organizational, planning, team-building and time-management skills.
• High level of efficiency and calm in demanding and high pressure situations.
• Exceptional leadership qualities.
• Must be motivated and meticulous, and passionate about the arts.

Additional Information

The position is year round, with full-time hours. Please submit a cover letter as well as a CV with all relevant experience.

Summer Daily

audioplayer.html?clipid=2140119993

I love the CBC. Please listen to the link above. Why?

Eleanor Wachtel and Tony Kushner make interview music in this gorgeous excerpt from the CBC program Writers and Company. Not only is it refreshing to hear Tony Kushner’s lively and original manner of speaking, Wachtel deftly teases out Kushner’s exciting and organic process of devising a theatrical piece.

Any explanation I give will distract you from the actual interview, which develops into lush answers given by Kushner and insightfully clear questions delivered by Wachtel.

This interview inspires me as an artist, it makes me think about how closely knit writers are to the emotional communities they create within their art form and outside it. Like Miranda July, Kushner is insatiably curious, an avid reader, and often self effacing. His art reflects how deeply his mind sinks into the flesh of all events, his stories emanate this dazzling and energetic approach to life.