Category Archives: Uncategorized

Phillip Zarrilli

Phillip Zarrilli – Kalarippayattu weapons training, CVN Kalari, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

On 9th March 2020 when Phillip received the news from his oncologist that the cancer he had been living with for fourteen years had begun to ‘seriously party’ (his words) he said to me ‘this is our last adventure together.’

I have been so fortunate, having this great mind, this gentle and generous man as my companion in so many ways – loving, working, living, travelling, thinking, writing and making performance alongside him for twenty one years, with and without The Llanarth Group. The journey may continue, but now it is in parallel, perhaps, not our accustomed hip-to-hip together.

Phillip died on 28th April 2020 at 13.52 UK time. He rode out on a breath – like so many times in his teaching he spoke of riding the breath to that moment of completion at the end of exhalation – the space in-between at the end of one cycle before the impulse of the next inhalation begins. This time came no inhalation.

It was the ‘good death’ he wanted, I think – calm, pain-free, unsentimental – me holding his hand.

I keep thinking of the Tagore line: ‘Let it not be a death, but completeness.’

There is a fullness to Phillip’s last months and year: the trip to Kerala in January 2020 and all that happened there:

Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland performing ‘Told by the Wind’, The Llanarth Group. Photo: Kaite O’Reilly

Performing Told by the Wind at the Kerala international festival, giving talks, workshops and teaching at Calicot University, seeing Kathakali with Rustom Bharucha and meeting again with his Indian family –visiting the significant people and places, too many to name in full here, but including Sathyan (G Sathyanarayanan) and family at CVN Kalari in Thiruvananthapuram, Phillip’s ‘brother’ Kunju Vasudevan and family, and an extraordinary Koodiyattam performance at the temple in Killimangalam, visiting his friend and former Kathakali teacher MPS (M.P.Sankaran Namboodiri) and family, to name just a few. He said that he felt all that happened that month was a full circle turning, a completion, and he was full of gratitude. We sensed this would be his last trip to Kerala, and were so grateful to be able to go, to have him so visible, connecting, being honoured by those who were so important in his work and life.

Phillip Zarrilli being honoured by Sathyanarayanan G at CVN Kalari in Thiruvananthapuram, January 2020

 

Five days after our return to the UK in February we began our final collaboration, co-directing the 5 star reviewed The Beauty Parade at Wales Millennium Centre – delighting in a sense of having possibly fulfilled what we could achieve together, a synthesis.

Phillip Zarrilli and Kaite O’Reilly in rehearsals ‘The Beauty Parade’, Wales Millennium Centre, February 2020. Photo courtesy of WMC

2019 had been a significant and prolific year, full of achievement and creativity. October 2019 brought the publication of his last, great book (Toward) A Phenomenology of Acting (Routledge), which launched at ITI (Intercultural Theatre Institute) in Singapore.

Phillip Zarrilli at launch of his last book ‘(Toward) A Phenomenology of Acting’, ITI, Singapore, October 2019

His scholarship continued, and there are various essays forthcoming, including a chapter on his lifelong engagement with traditional Asian disciplines of body-mind training in Generating Knowledge Through Interweaving (working title) for the International Research Centre: Interweaving Performance Cultures, Berlin, where we were both fellows for many happy and stimulating years, with wonderful colleagues. Our collaborative essay An Irreverent richard iii redux: Re-Cripping the Crip is published later this month in Playfulness in Shakespearean Adaptations (Routledge). Phillip was writing increasingly for performance and we relished the subversive crip’ playfulness of our co-written script richard iii redux [or] Sara Beer is not Richard III which Phillip directed, produced and also performed in, shortlisted for the International James Tait Black Prize for innovation in drama, August 2019, and published in my collected The ‘d’ Monologues.

2019 was a rich year for directing. His production of Lie With Me with the graduating cohort of Intercultural Theatre Institute [formerly TTRP] in Singapore completed that long relationship with Sasi (T. Sasitharan) and Beto (Alberto Ruis Lopez) and ITI.

‘Lie With Me’ company, ITI 2019 cohort, Theatres in the Bay, Singapore

He had just begun work on Carri Munn’s No.74, and earlier in the year directed Cosy, my play about end of life, with long-term collaborators Gaitkrash for Cork Midsummer Festival. Phillip was always keen to encourage audiences to talk about death and to have agency in how they would like their lives to end – but not to stop living until the very end.

Kaite O’Reilly, Phillip Zarrilli and Seamus O’Mahoney discussing end of life scenarios, Cork Midsummer Festival June 2019

Phillip lived with cancer – creatively, fully and without complaint – for fourteen years. He always spoke of how grateful he was to have been able to teach, create, perform, direct and, most importantly, complete his books, constantly giving thanks to the brilliant skills and ideology of universal free healthcare offered by the UK’s NHS (National Health System). We are both hugely grateful to Hospiscare in Exeter, UK, who gave Phillip such tender and expert palliative care, and in the most challenging of conditions, in the middle of a pandemic. Against all the odds, they allowed me to be with Phillip, showing such compassion.

Owing to Covid19 there will be no funeral, but we hope that when we are able to travel and gather again, we all will find opportunities to celebrate Phillip and our relationship with him, to tell our stories and sing the old songs, all across the world. He is much beloved, and he also loved – his son Barth and daughter Samara, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and he cared deeply for his many  decades-long friends and collaborators, valuing the wealth of students, actors, and scholars he shared his time, skills, and thoughts with, and who enriched his existence.

I believe Phillip inhabited every second of his life until he departed, soaring, on a breath.

A week of celebrating words and creativity

Book tours are strange old things. Not that what I’ve been involved in this past week has been formally a book tour – but I have been touring around and it has all been about books.

Well, one book in particular, my version of Persians, published by Fair Acre Press, and launched with great joy on Sunday 30th September 2019 at the Mid Wales Art Centre, organised by dear friend and fellow launcher, Chris Kinsey. Poetry Party pushed Persians and Chris Kinsey’s From Rowan Ridge into the world, joined by readings from fifteen fine poets all raising their voices in a celebration of words.

The following Saturday it was the turn of Small World Theatre in Cardigan, where I led a workshop Singing the old bones about remaking ancient stories, then gave a lecture/reading in the evening. The workshop participants were an ideal mix of artists, makers, poets, dramatists, storytellers and folklorists, so a lively time was had by all. We used the beautifully light and sunny dance studio for the workshop – and I’m delighted to be returning for a further workshop in November, shared with Chris Kinsey, details below.

Kaite reading at Persians launch at Mid Wales
Arts Centre. Photo: Liz Hinkley

Writer and critic Adam Somerset attended the lecture/performance I gave that evening, reading from Persians. To my surprise, he wrote a short review of the evening (thank you, Adam!), which you can access here.

Welcoming all writers workshop at:

Cardigan’s Small World Theatre @theatrbydbychan

November 23 @ 1:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Spend a stimulating afternoon with award winning writers relishing words and honing craft in two distinct writing workshops, then finish off the evening with celebratory readings and a book launch. Chris Kinsey and Kaite O’Reilly will each lead a two-hour workshop, welcoming all writers from all forms – poetry, prose, spoken word, live performance – beginners and experienced.

Chris Kinsey – Blood from Stone

1pm – 3pm
Embodying the elemental & environmental. Writing the real using the senses and heightening impressions through metaphor and sound choices. Dig deep and mine the elemental world to write with passion and clarity. Engage with the natural world through a variety of guided prompts and shared experiences.

Kaite O’Reilly – Planting the Seeds

3.30pm – 5.30pm
Immersive writing from the senses, memory, and imagination. Writing is a process of discovery and exploration. In a series of structured exercises participants will be encouraged to investigate texture, dynamic, and the visceral when writing for the living voice, and along the way, plant the seeds for possible future work.
£30 (entry to evening performance included in the workshop fee)

My previous workshop at Small World sold out very quickly, so I’m hoping there will be even more interest with the brilliant Chris Kinsey involved. For details and booking, please press here

A final recommendation is the current free exhibition at Small World/ Theatre Byd Bychan:

Hands Up: defining 40 years of puppetry – an exhibition of Ann Shrosbree’s and Bill Hamblett’s work

From early work as Dandelion Puppets for Centre for Alternative Technology 1979, through Arts and Development work in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to the present day. Visitors will learn how the company grew into Small World Theatre in 1996 and created a near zero carbon arts space, Theatr Byd Bychan in 2008. The exhibition will continue online throughout 2019. Exhibition open times: Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4.30pm

US premiere of ‘peeling’ opens in Seattle

I’m delighted that the US premiere of ‘peeling’ has opened with Sound Theatre in Seattle. ‘peeling’ is a play in its seventeenth year (originally commissioned, directed and designed by Jenny Sealey for Graeae Theatre Company in 2002). Suddenly it is finding more productions and viewers than ever before. Earlier this year Taking Flight Theatre Company toured the play around Wales, and it will be remounted for an Autumn tour (details here). This is of course hugely gratifying, but given its themes of war, eugenics, representation and women’s autonomy over their bodies, its relevance in 2019 is regrettable. As one of the Chorus in this meta-theatrical performance laments “Haven’t we been here, before?”

In ‘peeling’ I’ve played with the device of the Chorus in a fictionalised production of ‘The Trojan Women: Then and Now’, which carries on around – and often in spite of – the Deaf and disabled female choral performers. They suspect they’ve been cast just to be ‘the ticked box on an equal opportunities monitoring form’ and long for a time when they will be centre-stage, in an accessible environment giving them the opportunity to perform ‘properly’ – with ‘an all-signing Chorus’, perhaps. Given the descriptions of many of the inclusive productions currently rocking Edinburgh and beyond, this play was (and perhaps remains?) ahead of its time….

Sound Theatre production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Holmes

In an interview with Broadway World, Teresa Thuman, Director of Sound Theatre said:

“Seattle has never seen a play like this before. The very nature of theatre is to expose and make public all that is human — in every form, every ability. For those who live on the margins, theatre is a way to bring them to the center as fully human beings.”

The full interview can be read here. What follows are images and text from the production, which runs until the end of August:

peeling weaves audio description, sign language, and theatrical spectacle into a no-holds-barred play about representation, women, reproduction, war, and eugenics.  

Sound Theatre production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Holmes

With brisk wit and domestic backstage comedy, O’ Reilly’s storytelling style has earned comparisons to Beckett and Caryl Churchill. In anoverproduced, postmodern production of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, Alfa, Coral, and Beatty have been cast in bit parts to fulfill a playhouse’s misplaced diversity program; but as tokens, the trio never experiences true inclusion. Sound Theatre centers disability justice by assembling a production team and cast that brings authentic lived experiences to this groundbreaking production.

Information about the theatre company and the production can be found here

Sound Theatre production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Holmes

ARTISTIC TEAM

Teresa Thuman – Director 

Monique Holt – Assistant Director and Director of Artistic Sign Language

Andrea Kovich – Dramaturg

Parmida Ziaei – Scenic Designer

Taya Pyne – Costume Designer

Adrian Kljucec– Sound Designer

Jared Norman – Projection Designer

Richard Schaefer – Lightning Designer/Technical Director

Robin MaCartney – Props Designer

Zoé Tziotis Shields – Wardrobe Crew, Sound Board Operator

Roland Carette-Meyers – Accessibility Coordinator

Francesca Betancourt – Movement Director

Image

Residency at UCC Cork – talks, readings, book launch 3-10 November 2018

‘Kaite O’Reilly has always been a rule breaker.’ Exeunt magazine

What follows is an interview with Joe Turnbull for Exeunt magazine. You can read the original feature here

With thanks to Joe and Exeunt.

 

Kaite O’Reilly has always been a rule breaker. Her 2012 play, In Water I’m Weightless set a precedent by having an all Deaf and disabled cast. She’s pioneered creative access throughout her career, informed by her longstanding affinity with Deaf culture. Plays such as The 9 Fridas, subvert traditional theatrical form and aesthetic. And even when she deliberately sets out to make mainstream work she can’t reign in her recalcitrance. She describes the Almond and the Seahorse, her 2008 play which got a five-star review in the Guardian, as her ‘Trojan Horse’: “I created what seemed to be the most commercial theatre script I’d ever written. Only it’s got subversive politics in its belly.”

Her latest work Cosy, which is set to premiere at the Wales Millennium Centre on 8 March, very much falls into the latter category. It’s ostensibly a traditional family drama encompassing three generations of women, which tackles the thorny issue of end-of-life scenarios and ageing.

“I’m deliberately taking different perspectives of a family coming together. It’s familiar – the family all get together and all these discussions and events happen in the family home. But perhaps some of the content and arguments and perspectives being presented are not the ones we would usually hear”.

It turns out O’Reilly’s dissident sensibilities are in her blood. “My family were always rebels, they were always the dissenting voice that would shout up from the back”. As O’Reilly regales me with her backstory, I’m transported to the West Midlands in the 1970s.

O’Reilly’s father, an Irish migrant is holding court amidst a bustling farmer’s market. A proper working-class Irishman, his sales patter is a performance aimed at punters as he tries to flog his sheep. Back at the O’Reilly family home, get-togethers also provide a stage, and everyone is expected to deliver, whether it’s a poem, song or a story. This is the theatre of everyday life. It clearly had quite an impact on the young Kaite.

“The performative aspect that comes culturally from being working class Irish was huge. As I get older I understand how formative that was because it was always about entertaining, engaging, challenging, provoking.”

It isn’t something that they can teach at drama school, nor is it something you can read in a book. “I think that right from the get-go, if you’re going to be a playwright it’s got to be about the living words in the mouth. You know as soon as something sounds stagey. There’s something about engaging with language in the absolute moment that you have to be able to dazzle and create and engage with words.”

But her working-class Irish heritage isn’t the only aspect of her identity that has been seminal to O’Reilly’s work:

“Identifying politically and culturally as a disabled person was essential, because it changes you. It affects everything about how you perceive the world. I think that is huge as a playwright because we’re trying to – as that old hackneyed Shakespeare quote goes – ‘to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature’. Well if you are actually seeing nature and the notion of normalcy as being different from what the majority culture says, then there’s some really interesting things happening”.

O’Reilly doesn’t shirk from the label, she has always embraced it, even in her work, whether that’s using integrated casts, embedding creative access or by directly addressing disability themes. As is common for many successful disabled artists, O’Reilly finds herself at times awkwardly straddling the two worlds of mainstream and disability arts. Cosy is perhaps a sign of things to come for O’Reilly as something of a middle ground between the two. Although the play doesn’t address disability political issues directly, it was inspired by her thoughts around assisted dying which is a very important topic for the disability rights movement.

“I started to think about ageing, about end-of-life scenarios, our relationship to the medical profession and how industrialised care has become. What are the family dynamics in end-of-life scenarios? So basically, Cosy is quite a dark but sophisticated comedy looking at whether we truly own ourselves.”

O’Reilly is eager to acknowledge that her perception of language and working process as a theatre maker have been massively influenced by her work with Deaf collaborators, such as performer and director of visual language, Jean St Clair. “Seeing what language can be through the prism of Deaf culture and experience has been really important; the form, the means, the aesthetic and the possibilities were broadened as I began to learn sign language”.

“I’m notorious for my bad signing,” she tells me, wryly. “Jean teases me all the time about it. Whenever I threaten to go and learn BSL she says ‘no don’t because I actually like what you’re doing, because it makes me think differently’”.

Due to budgetary restrictions, not to mention the changes in Access to Work benefits, O’Reilly regrets that Cosy won’t be the “all-singing, all dancing, all-signing access-fest” as previous works such as In Water I’m Weightless. The play will be captioned, and they are also trialling an app which encompasses different languages and possibly audio description. In spite of the restraints and her past successes, O’Reilly is still not taking anything for granted, displaying the enthusiasm and passion of a young upstart. “Every day I wake up smiling and thankful that we’ve got this opportunity from Unlimited, it’s an incredible gift”.

Perhaps it’s fitting for these austere times that Cosy sees O’Reilly going back to basics in more ways than one. “Cosy isn’t breaking new ground in terms of form or aesthetic but I think it’s interesting that we have reached the point of maturity, where we can have a big growling play with these different perspectives all mashed up and arguing together.”

But it just wouldn’t be an O’Reilly play if it wasn’t pushing the boundaries in some way. Cosy has an integrated all-female cast of disabled and non-disabled actors with ages ranging from 16 to 76, “how gorgeous and delicious is that?” she enthuses. Even more significantly, the roles with the most power in Cosy are predominantly staffed by people who identify culturally and politically as disabled, including the director (Phillip Zarrilli) and assistant producer (Tom Wentworth) in addition to O’Reilly herself as the writer.

“I think it’s interesting that the powerbase is coming from a very open identification as disabled. Often they’re the ones who are non-disabled and the people that are being cast are disabled. I wonder if that’s a shift that has come from Unlimited and their legacy, that we’re now becoming more and more in the position of the powerbase.”

In concert with the launch of Cosy, O’Reilly also has a book entitled Atypical Plays for Atypical actors being published by Oberon Books. It will feature a selection of five plays and performance texts spanning nearly 15 years of work, each of which is informed by disability politics. Clearly, there’s no chance of this rebel being assimilated by her mainstream success.

And like all true revolutionaries, O’Reilly isn’t content being the sole dissenting voice in what can at times be a very homogenised profession. Instead she’s looking to use her profile as a vanguard for others. “There are things that I’m trying to do through my practice and engagement that I hope is going to help shift things and provide opportunities for other people as well. For me it’s very important that we have people in leadership and positions of power who are not only disabled and Deaf, but who identify culturally and politically as so.”

Cosy is on at Cardiff Millennium Centre from 8-12th March. Tickets and info here

 

Welcome to AtDAC, our new blog

AtDAC

Des Tree

Hello!
It is my great pleasure as Patron of DAC to initiate this new feature on the weekly newsletter – a short personal note from a member of the team, giving you an insight into our weekly activities. Apart from introducing you to the staff, we want to feature some of the talented artists and writers involved in our many creative projects, now and in the past. DAC have advised, supported, trained, and showcased the work of hundreds of disabled and Deaf artists, dancers, writers, musicians, composers and performers over the years and we’re keen to share your stories. If you would like to be featured, please get in touch at post@dacymru.com
As usual, DAC’s office is like a hive, buzzing with preparations for forthcoming projects. As a writer and playwright, I’m particularly excited by their inaugural poetry competition – a response in words to DAC’s current visual art exhibition…

View original post 344 more words

Vital Disabled Student Support to be Cut. Save DSA!

Please support this campaign against these cuts and read the post reblogged here.

The Hardest Hit

Cross-posted from Sarah Campbell, Rolling with the Punches
Spread the word. Tell your MP. Write blogs. Let people know what is happening. We must try to stop this.

You can write to your MP online here.
Please also sign the e-petition here.
Share and Retweet this #ProtectDSA.

After becoming disabled as a teenager, I went to university, obtained a first class degree, then completed a PhD.  While I worked extremely hard, none of this would have been possible without the support of Disabled Student Allowance (DSA), which covers the extra costs for equipment and assistance disabled students may require in order to study at university.

This is why I was aghast to learn that the government has just announced plans to cut DSA.
Couched under the language of “modernisation”, “targeting funds at those who need it most”, “fairness”, is hidden the reality of an estimated 60 to 70% cut in…

View original post 830 more words