Tag Archives: British Council

The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues

 

Ramesh Meyyappan from his website http://www.rameshmeyyappan.com

As announced at the No Boundaries Conference yesterday by Jo Verrent and Tony Heaton, I have been fortunate to be selected as one of the artists for the Unlimited International Commissions for 2017/18. Full details of all of the commissions can be read here.

It feels even more of a privilege than usual to be supported by funders – and not only that, but to make an international collaboration. The award of this commission is bitter-sweet, especially on this day, Wednesday 29th March 2017, when Teresa May triggers Article 50 and turns her back on European unity. If ever there was a time for coming together and connecting across distance and perceived difference, it is now – and I am grateful to Unlimited and all the funders, allies, and supporters for recognising the value of collaboration and international dialogue, and enabling such things to happen.

The blurb:

KAITE O’REILLY – THE SINGAPORE ‘D’ MONOLOGUES

Lead artist / Playwright: Kaite O’Reilly

Director: Phillip Zarrilli

Associate Director, Researcher and Performer: Peter Sau

Producer and Researcher: Grace Khoo

Visual Director and Performer: Ramesh Meyyappan

Disability Advisor and Performer: Sarah Beer

Researcher and Performer: Lim Lee Lee

The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues is an international theatrical dialogue of difference, disability, and what it is to be human, from opposite sides of the world. Inspired by previously unrecorded disabled experience, fictionalised monologues will be precedented across multiple languages (spoken/projected/visual), incorporating aesthetics of access. This performance will set an important precedent: the first multilingual, intercultural, disability-led theatre project created between the UK and Singapore.

Award-winning playwright Kaite O’Reilly, and internationally respected director/actor-trainer Phillip Zarrilli will lead the team, joined by veteran disability arts practitioner Sara Beer and Deaf UK-based Singapore-born Ramesh Meyyappan with his innovative visual performance skills. Together with Singaporeans Lee-Lee Lim, Grace Khoo and principle collaborator, Peter Sau, the performance will open up a much-needed discourse of disability in quality, accessible disability-led work, never experienced before in a home-grown Singaporean project.
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The background:
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I first met Ramesh Meyyappan and Peter Sau in Singapore in the same year, 2004, but in different productions. Peter was performing in a production directed by Phillip Zarrilli at The Esplanade, the graduating production for ITI (Intercultural Theatre Institute, formerly TTRP). There, Peter had the extraordinary privilege to be tutored by T. Sasitharan and the father of Singapore theatre, the visionary Kuo Pao Kun.
Ramesh was presenting his visual theatre adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart.’  Contact was firmly established with both independent artists, based on my conviction I would collaborate with them at some time in the future.
Following Ramesh’s work and occasionally participating in his workshops became easy when he relocated to Scotland, where he has been a leading light in physical/visual theatre.  Teaching Dramaturgy at the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore has enabled me to keep in touch with Peter over the years, and he came to train with Phillip Zarrilli and I at the 2015 Summer Intensive in Wales, where the seed which became The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues was planted.
Peter is passionate about ‘theatre with a conscience’ and with his collaborators producer Grace Khoo, and mentee/performer Lee Lee Lim, they are determined to professionalise disability arts in Singapore and open up a much-needed discourse on diversity, disability and difference.
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The ‘d’ monologues:

My notion of a portable, flexible, diverse body of work informed by a Deaf and disability perspective and the Social model was initiated in 2008, when Arts Council Wales granted me a Creative Wales to explore the form of the monologue. I am not a fan of verbatim, so had many conversations with disabled and Deaf individuals all over the UK to try and get a sense of lived experience in a disabling world, the political and the personal, spiced by what I call crip’ humour. These encounters inspired a series of monologues I wrote in a variety of styles. These solo texts became the basis of an Unlimited commission, culminating in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ with National Theatre Wales, Wales Millennium Centre and the Southbank Centre.

Cast of ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ by O’Reilly, National Theatre Wales/Southbank Centre 2012, part of the Cultural Olympiad. Cover image of ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’. Photo: Farrows/Creative

The creative process, directed by John E McGrath with assistant director Sara Beer, choreographed by the late great Nigel Charnock, designed by Paul Clay and featuring six of the leading Deaf and disabled performers in the UK, is fully documented elsewhere on this blog (search In Water I’m Weightless, 2012). The montaged texts from this collaboration are published in my collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’, published by Oberon last year.

This model seemed perfect for a collaboration with Peter and colleagues in Singapore. He, Grace, and Lee Lee would initiate a series of interviews with disabled Singaporeans – lived experience never before documented or shared – and these would create the inspiration for fictional monologues I would write, and the basis of an oral archive. Peter would begin a series of skills-based workshops in Singapore with emerging Deaf and disabled performers, and Ramesh would develop visual theatre sequences.  Phillip Zarrilli would direct emerging work, joined by performer Sara Beer from the UK, with Lee Lee, Peter and Ramesh also performing. It is this r&d stage Unlimited have funded, with the ambition of a full production in Singapore and the UK in 2018.

Style and content of the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues:

We don’t yet know what form and shape this project will take – what tone, what content, what aesthetic – this will all be determined by the next six months and our collaborators. What we do know is the aesthetics of access will be a consideration throughout – and we will have a challenge with translation and captioning in quad-lingual Singapore. We hope our interviewees will have a sense of ownership, and the work will inspire and confound expectation, and the process will be one of symbiosis. I know there will be so much to learn from our Singapore collaborators, and a wealth of riches to be celebrated in this multicultural, intercultural theatre project of communication and dialogue.

UK Collaborators:

Director Phillip Zarrilli and performer Sara Beer are both long-term collaborators. I first worked with Sara with Graeae Theatre in 1987, when, as graduates, we both got our first jobs with this inspiring company. We have worked together consistently ever since, often with Disability Arts Cymru, a great organisation I am proud to be patron of.

Phillip and I have worked internationally as co-creators and collaborators for fifteen years, and has directed many of my plays, recently another Unlimited Commission, ‘Cosy’, which opened at Wales Millennium Centre in March 2016, and featured Sara as the enigmatic Maureen.

Sara Beer as Maureen in ‘Cosy’. Photo: Farrows Creative

What has come clear to me in the writing of this extended blog is the importance of Unlimited in supporting, nurturing and promoting work – in enabling creativity to flourish and artistic careers to thrive. It is such a remarkable hydra organisation with many heads and needs to be congratulated, I feel, for its ground-breaking work and determination to bring about change, its considered efforts for a more equal, and culturally diverse society.

Unlimited is an arts commissioning programme that aims to embed work by disabled artists within the UK and international cultural sectors, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people. Unlimited has been delivered by the disability-led arts organisation Shape Arts and arts-producing organisation Artsadmin since 2013, and is funded from 2016-20 by Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, British Council and Spirit of 2012.

Unlimited and all the funders: thank you.

#UnlimitedCommissions

http://petersau.com

http://www.rameshmeyyappan.com

http://weareunlimited.org.uk/about-unlimited/

Kaite O’Reilly’s The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues: an Unlimited 2017 International commission

Unlimited, the largest supporter of disabled artists worldwide, unveils latest commissions with £945,000 to support ambitious artistic work

and I’m one of the fortunate.

What follows is the press release from Unlimited. I will write about my project tomorrow and my remarkable collaborators in the UK and Singapore – but this evening it is wonderful to celebrate all of the remarkable talent given this great opportunity….

From the Unlimited Press Release:

An adventurous range of projects giving voice to disabled artists producing standout work that is “must see” not “should see”

Announced this afternoon at the No Boundaries conferences in Manchester and Hull are the six new Main Commissions and seven Research and Development (R&D) awards, and forming the two new additional strands for this round of Unlimited are five Emerging Artists commissions and six International Collaboration R&Ds. These works, selected from a pool of 269 strong applications, of which 60 were shortlisted, span a wide range of disciplines, and have been created by talented disabled artists from across the UK.

Tuesday 28 March| Unlimited today announces 24 ambitious new commissions and awards spanning a range of disciplines spotlighting talented and diverse disabled artists working in the world today.

Funded by Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, British Council and Spirit of 2012, and delivered by Shape Arts and Artsadmin, Unlimited has, since 2013, provided near to £1.8 million in commissions as well as mentoring support to 72 young and emerging disabled artists.

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer, Unlimited says “This year’s commissions have for the first time been divided into three strands – Main Commissions including several research & development awards, and new for this round, Emerging Artists, and International Collaborations, which see disabled UK artists working with disabled artists from across the globe. The response to Unlimited’s commissions call-out has been staggering and we are thrilled to announce the 2017 awardees from 269 applicants. The newly commissioned artists will be developing their works over the coming year and will be unveiled to the public across 2017 and 2018.”

The 2017 commissioned artists include:

Research & Development Awards are granted to:

Emerging Artists commissions go to:

Finally, International Collaborations (R&Ds) are given to:

Tony Heaton OBE, CEO, Shape Arts, says “One of my last but very pleasant tasks as the outgoing CEO of Shape is the announcement of the next round of recipients of Unlimited commissions and awards. The panels have selected a diverse and eclectic mix of work which will amaze and engage, with some surprises! I think the range of ideas we have funded will once again show disabled artists at their creative and ambitious best, so sit up and take notice!”

Manick Govinda, Head of Artists’ Advisory Services, Artsadmin, says “The third round of Unlimited commissions proves that so much exciting, provocative, political and beautiful work is being created by disabled artists. These ambitious commissions carry Artsadmin’s ethos to help develop and produce great work by artists.”

The judging panels comprised independent high profile disabled artists, curators, critics and senior staff members from organisations including Extant, Southbank Centre and Tramway.

Ruth Gould MBE, Chair, Main Commissions Panel & Artistic Director DaDaFest, says “Unlimited is without doubt one of the most significant developments in creating opportunities for disabled artists and companies to lead in the arts. By challenging and exposing artists to wider audiences and critical acclaim, as well as supporting venues and galleries to take risks, Unlimited provide a way for increased recognition and profile raising of the huge talent and creativity that the lived experience of disability presents. I am so proud to be part of this”

Sarah Pickthall, Chair, International Commissions Panel & Director, Cusp Inc., says “These are life- changing artistic collaborations for artists and their proposed projects which will impact local communities internationally and change the way disabled led innovation is experienced and understood.”

Aidan Moesby, Chair, Emerging Commissions panel & former Unlimited awardee says,”It’s essential to provide opportunities for the next generation of disabled artists to develop as professional artists and performers, and as someone who has benefitted from an Emerging Artists commission in the past I know the difference it can make to an artists practice. Not only the funded time and space to work on your ideas but the benefits of being associated with Unlimited are invaluable. My practice has developed beyond recognition over the last three years and it would be nice to think this is the beginning of any amazing trajectory for those commissioned from this panel.”

 

Equality and Diversity Day – Wales International Documentary Festival 2017

Come along to discuss with me and many others why we need diverse voices in the stories we tell…

EQUALITY & DIVERSITY DAY – Why do we need diverse voices in stories we tell?

The Wales International Documentary Festival 2017                  supported by Film Cymru and Film Hub Wales

Thursday 6 April 2017, 11:30 – 15:30
Blackwood Miners’ Institute

Blackwood Miners Institute
High Street
Blackwood
NP12 1AA
United Kingdom
We would like to invite you to participate in a series of exciting events celebrating diverse voices in the creative industries. In partnership with training providers and organisations, Blackwood Miners’ Institute will be the setting for a FAIR of organizations, workshops and networking events.

FAIR of ORGANISATIONS and NETWORKING – 11:30 – 15:30

Chwarae Teg, Disability Arts Cymru, National Autistic Society , SHIFFT Female Filmmakers, Promo Cymru, Film Cymru, Film Hub Wales, BFI BBC, BAFTA Cymru, Creative Europe, Welsh Government, Wales Screen, British Council, BECTU, Community Music Wales, Women’s Aid, Iris Prize.

SOFA TALK – 12:00 – 13:30
Multi-award winning playwright, Kaite O’Reilly (YARD, Peeling, Persians) speaks to Carys Lewis, a Toronto and Cardiff based writer/director/producer (When Black Mothers Don’t Say I Love You, Afiach) about why we need diverse voices in the stories we tell.

WORKSHOPS

CHWARAE TEG 11:30 – 12:30
The leading economic development charity for women in Wales. This workshop will guide you through changes to working practices, whilst covering the implications for both employers and employee’s. Introducing you to modern working practices, how they can be successfully implemented in the workplace and some of the benefits to the organisation.

IRIS PRIZE Festival Director – Berwyn Rowlands 12:30 – 13:30
Distribution – how does it work? The Iris Prize is the world’s largest LGBT short film prize. This workshop will explore how film makers who create what is sometimes called minority interest work can reach a growing global audience by taking full advantage of the post digital world. The workshop will use real examples of LGBT short films which have been successful and some which have not!

DISABILITY ARTS CYMRU 13:30 – 14:30
For over 30 years Disability Arts Cymru has provided information, advice, mentoring and support to disabled artists, across Wales and across art form. This workshop will feature a screening of Changing the Focus, which explores the on-screen representation of learning disabled people in Britain, and the extent to which this representation has changed over the past 50 years. After the screening there will be a discussion with Ben Ewart-Dean and staff from Disability Arts Cymru.

DEMENTIA FRIENDS 14:30 – 15:30
In partnership with Film Hub Wales, this workshop focuses on how to become a Dementia Friend. Many UK cinemas and arts venues are already working to be dementia-friendly but many are unsure how to get started. It’s about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help. This session will be introduced by the newly appointed BFI Film Audience Network Access Officer and Film Hub Wales Strategic Manager.
TICKETS
Entrance to the Equality and Diversity Day is FREE! Register here through Eventbright.
Festival tickets give access to all film screenings and networking events for the three days of the festival. These are priced at £12.50 and can be obtained at the Blackwood Miners’ Institute box office on the day. Discounted rates are available for schools, colleges and third sector organisations by contacting Aleksandra at contact@widf.info

@widf2017     Facebook: WIDF2017    www.widf.info

In conversation with John E McGrath – disability and aesthetics – Disability Arts International

 

Delighted to be included in the British Council Disability Arts International newsletter, in association with Disability Arts Online. If you haven’t signed-up for the newsletter, I would recommend it. Apart from a conversation with John E McGrath of Manchester International Festival (featuring Claire Cunningham, Stopgap Dance Company, and my NTW production In Water I’m Weightless, which John directed), there’s an interview with Liz Carr, features on Graeae Theatre, Oska Bright, the aesthetics of access and more…. Information here.

 

“Disability culture brings extra richness.” An interview with the British Council

Earlier this month, as part of the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre, I was interviewed for the British Council website. What follows is a video link and additional material, below.

 

http://bit.ly/2cqS87G

 

Can you tell us about your new book, Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors?

It’s a collection of five plays, from Peeling, which I did with Graeae Theatre Company in 2002, right the way through to Cosy, an Unlimited commission that happened earlier this year at Wales Millennium Centre.

Some of the plays in the collection are character-driven and quite realist, but others are post-dramatic and experimental. I’ve been using what I call ‘alternative dramaturgies’ formed by a Deaf and disability perspective.

The word ‘disabled’ can be really problematic. I didn’t want to use the word ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’, and I think ‘atypical’ is a far more interesting term. I decided to use this word because the collection contains plays, performance texts and post-dramatic texts – so they are not one particular thing, and it’s unusual to have a collection like that. Also, the plays are for actors who are not the usual representation of what an actor may be.

How did you come to be an artist? What was your path into the industry?

I started out as an actor working with Graeae Theatre Company in the late 1980s. I was very involved in the disability civil rights movement, campaigning for equal access to public buildings, education and opportunities. The people that I was meeting at that time who worked in disability and Deaf arts opened up all sorts of opportunities for me to be experimental, making work as a writer, dramaturge and maker rather than an actor. I also just fell in love with the use of sign language.

So I became more and more interested in writing and working dramaturgically – and sometimes as a director – working with visual language. Around the same time I was very fortunate to win a couple of major playwriting awards in the so-called mainstream. So I had these two tracks going along in parallel, and the irony was that people in either culture, whether it be the mainstream or disability culture, weren’t really aware of what I was doing in the other track. This is why in recent years I’ve been trying to bring those two together, and the book is partly a result of that.

How do you think the UK and the wider international creative industries are doing in terms of creating opportunities for disabled artists and disabled-led work?

I think there is a huge amount that needs to be done. I am incredibly disappointed at how little has changed. There are lots of organisations that are trying to bring more diversity as a whole, and there are lots of incredible initiatives, but it’s taking much longer than I’d ever hoped. In 1987, I was lying down in front of a bus on a demo, because we wanted just to be able to have accessible transport. That’s beginning to happen now. I feel that I still need to be lying down in the front of the doors of the theatres and buildings that, whilst well-meaning, are still not actually allowing the breadth and variety of artists to make work and be part of that culture.

There are special initiatives, but those special initiatives for disabled playwrights or disabled practitioners, so far in my experience, don’t really lead to what they should, which is proper jobs and proper commissions.

And yet, we are doing far better than so many other places in the world. So I may be complaining, but I’m also really grateful that we have examples and models that we can share with our collaborators internationally. I’m very excited by that, and that heartens me and encourages me. But I still think we really could do better, and how we will do better is by having more disabled and Deaf cultural leaders.

How do you think these opportunities could be made more available, to allow artistic leadership among disabled artists?

I think there’s a big issue here about whether we want to have diversity that is in actual physical bodies or whether we want diversity culturally. If you have a woman making work, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be feminist theatre that she’s making. Just because you have someone who might be disabled making work, it doesn’t mean it’s disability culture. Disability culture encourages us to question normalcy, to question the very narrow, confined representation we usually have of what it is to be human. That, for me, would be the real political shift.

What do disability arts festivals like Unlimited offer audiences and artists?

What would be fantastic is to make sure that we have some of the innovations and the aesthetics of access used widely in the so-called mainstream. I’ve been trying to bring the same kind of innovative work with the same kind of content that I would have been doing in disability arts and cultural context to a mainstream platform. Creatively, it’s incredibly exciting to have more diverse theatre languages in a piece of work. I want us to have more theatre languages, I want us to be more accessible. I don’t want it to be an add-on. I want the sign language, I want the audio description, I want the projections to be integrated and used creatively as something for the audience as a whole, regardless of impairment.

But I also want disability arts and cultural festivals in their own right to continue. They provide a place where people can cut their teeth and can be mentored and developed. Festivals like Unlimited enable us to take risks and to fail – and to succeed – and to take the successes on to reach a wider audience.

Having our disability festivals also just gives more diversity. I really like going to a very specific festival because it also allows those of us that have been doing that for 20 or 30 years to see what’s new, to catch up with the old comrades and colleagues, and also just to keep pushing, questioning, checking, “Are we still needed? Do we need to actually still be out there, demonstrating? Or are we now being completely included in the mainstream?” And I think, at the moment, we’re not being included in the mainstream.

What advice would you give to young and emerging disabled artists who are at the beginning of their careers?

I think the advice that I would give to emerging artists of whatever discipline – and whether they’re disabled or Deaf or hearing and non-disabled – is always the same. We need resilience. We have to take risks. There’s new blood coming through, and they need to shake things up a bit. They have to find their own way of doing things. Find the allies who are trying to bring about change. I would say please remain curious, please remain defiant and questioning and passionate, and enjoy it. It has to be enjoyable, because otherwise, why are we doing it? Know who your forbearers were, acknowledge your influences, but chop it up, break it up, smash it up, make it your own.

Kaite O’Reilly was speaking to Jane Fletcher, Arts Content Editor at the British Council

Chevela Vargas, seated taiquiquan, and stinky tofu: second week rehearsals of The 9 Fridas in Taipei

Chevela Vargas haunts me. Her smoky, broken voice is the soundtrack to my dreams and the first thing I become conscious of when I wake. The raspy passion of her songs play in my head all day and then loop and replay in my mind all night. Torch singer, lesbian icon, rumoured lover of Frida Kahlo, her voice is part of the audio for the Taiwanese production of my script ‘The 9 Fridas’. The photo of her sexy and supine, her hand casually resting on the breast of a laughing Frida Kahlo is circulating our company like contraband.

Frida Kahlo and Chevela Vargas. Photo from Tumblr

Frida Kahlo and Chevela Vargas. Photo from Tumblr

We are in the second week of rehearsals with Mobius Strip Theatre Company, working on my performance text for the Taipei art festival. Inspired by the disabled Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, we are an integrated company of disabled and non-disabled practitioners, joyfully collaborating and sharing new skills.

Chih-Chung Cheng and Phillip Zarrilli in training before rehearsals

Chih-Chung Cheng and Phillip Zarrilli in training before rehearsals

Our director Phillip Zarrilli uses Asian martial arts in the training for his psychophysical approach to actor-training and it has been fascinating observing one of our actors, Chih-Chung Cheng, adapt kalaripayyattu and taiquiquan. Phillip is always very keen we adapt the martial art to the foibles and idiosyncrasies of our individual bodies, and was intrigued to encounter his long-term practice of taiquiquan in a new position – seated on the rehearsal floor, with Chung.

Chih-Chung Cheng and Phillip Zarrilli: seated Taiquiquan.

Chih-Chung Cheng and Phillip Zarrilli: seated Taiquiquan.

Taipei is lively, friendly, and so much fun. I was invited by the British Council and Taipei art festival to give a writing workshop and a public lecture: ‘Representations of Impairment in the Western Theatrical Canon’. This has been an area of my research for some time, developed partly during my on-going fellowship at Freie Universitat’s International Research Centre: Interweaving Performance Cultures.

In the dinner hour between the events I and my spontaneous girl gang – a group of fabulous creative Taiwanese women – headed for stinky tofu at a street cafe and the auspicious temple for match-making nearby.

Dinner on taipei street between creative writing workshop and a public talk

Dinner on taipei street between creative writing workshop and a public talk

The script is becoming more familiar to the actors, who are interrogating the content, asking questions, seeking clarity. It’s a hugely exciting time as the text begins to breathe and take shape. As a playwright, I am constantly editing and tightening the text as the different scenes start coming into focus. What may work on the page can trip, divert, or slow when put ‘up’ – the dynamics of individual moments, as well as sequences and the flow of the whole piece needs to be taken into consideration. Tempo-rhythm, dynamic and flow is of great importance to me, especially at this point in the process.

Phillip Zarrilli directing Faye Leung. 'The 9 Fridas' Taipei 2014

Phillip Zarrilli directing Faye Leung. ‘The 9 Fridas’ Taipei 2014

Makeshift props are beginning to appear in the rehearsal room and costume designer YS Lee is making some fabulous reproduction accessories from Kahlo’s paintings.

Costume designer Ys Lee with his replica of 'A Necklace of Thorns'

Costume designer Ys Lee with his replica of ‘A Necklace of Thorns’

One is his version of the necklace of a dead hummingbird from Kahlo’s self-portrait ‘A Necklace of Thorns’, used to great effect in the publicity for the production.

Bobo Fung in publicity material for 'The 9 Fridas' by Kaite O'Reilly. Mobius Strip Theatre/Taipei art festival 2014

Bobo Fung in publicity material for ‘The 9 Fridas’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Mobius Strip Theatre/Taipei art festival 2014

I can’t wait to see the costumes, including a leather corset he is making, based on one Frida Kahlo wore.