Tag Archives: Mobius Strip Theatre Company

Hong Kong, Singapore, Womenspire 2018!

Mid April already, richard iii redux completed for the time being after a terrific Wales-wide tour – and now far-flung travel beckons. I leave next week for Hong Kong, where I will be leading a six day workshop on inclusivity and forms of storytelling for ADAHK

I was last in Hong Kong in 2016 with my performance text about Frida Kahlo, the 9 fridas, directed by Phillip Zarrilli and produced for the Black Box International Festival at Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, in association with Mobius Strip, from Taiwan.  It will be fascinating to spend more time in Hong Kong working with local theatre practitioners, learning about their approaches to inclusive practice. I’m hoping to have an opportunity to see new work as well as explore the art centres and galleries of Kowloon, where I will be based.

From Hong Kong I will fly directly to Singapore, to begin rehearsals on my Unlimited International Commission And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. We have just released tickets for the World premiere of this dialogue about difference, disability and diversity from opposite sides of the world, premiering on 25 May 2018 at National Museum of Singapore Bit.ly/and suddenlyidisappear

The production will tour to the UK in September, and I will give further details of the venues in England and Wales, plus special guests, closer to the time. My thanks, as ever, goes to our funders and supporters: Unlimited, Arts Council Wales, and the British Council, who alongside Singapore International Foundation and Centre 42 will make this innovative intercultural project possible. Meanwhile, here’s the glorious video featuring Sophie Stone, Ramesh Meyyappan, Sara Beer, Peter Sau, Grace Khoo and Lee Lee Lim, made by James Khoo with director Phillip Zarrilli:

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I was wonderfully surprised earlier this week to get an email from Chwarae Teg, informing me I had been shortlisted for their Womenspire 2018 Awards. Chwarae Teg is a charity working to redress the gender balance in the workplace in Wales, with a vision to create: “A Wales where women achieve and prosper.” I didn’t know I had been nominated for the Culture award, so to discover I’ve made the shortlist of four has been an incredible pleasure and privilege, making this quite a week. I’ll be celebrating the talent, passion, and vivacity of women in Wales at Womenspire 2018 at the Wales Millennium Centre on 5th June.

 

 

the 9 Fridas in Hong Kong

 

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Frida Kahlo goes to Hong Kong!

Delighted that my performance text about Frida Kahlo – the 9 Fridas – originally produced for Taipei Arts Festival in 2014 by Mobius Strip Theatre Company, in association with Hong Kong Repertory Company, will transfer to Hong Kong later this autumn. The production features an integrated cast of male and female, disabled and non-disabled performers from Taipei and Hong Kong, all representing aspects of the great disabled Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Directed by my long term collaborator, Phillip Zarrilli, the production is in Mandarin, with some Cantonese and Spanish. I will be travelling to Taipei to re-rehearse the production with Phillip, and then to Hong Kong, where the production will be part of the International Black Box Festival at Hong Kong Repertory Theatre 27-30 October: http://www.hkrep.com/en/events/16-bb4/

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When there, I will be giving some talks on disability arts and culture, and leading writing workshops.

I’m immensely excited about this, and so looking forward to being back in Taiwan with the wonderfully talented actors and designers of Mobius Strip – the production is visually stunning. It will be interesting to revisit the production and see its transformation into a black box studio.

 

 

A hat trick in 2016… UK, Germany, Hong Kong….

And here’s something I hope I don’t often do – puff out my chest and blog (brag?) about me me me…

I started this blog to write about process and creativity, to document various routes through writing and collaboration in live performance. This is terrific when you’re in the rehearsal room and have wonderful fellow artists to bounce off (and photograph), but it’s perhaps not so riveting (or possible) when in the slow dark hours of solitary revision, or research. This is why I’ve been focusing more on other writers, workshops, and small publishers of late whilst I’ve been cautiously working my way through the tentative revisions of a play and a novel.

But in the midst of what feels creatively like a deep winter, growth stirs underfoot and although it is only November, I already have confirmation of shoots appearing, particularly for March 2016. This is what I wish to share with you today, these emerging green tips…

February 2016 will start with rehearsals in Cardiff on the play I am currently writing. Cosy is an Unlimited commission, which you can read about on my sister blog here.  It will premiere in Wales in March 2016, directed by Phillip Zarrilli  with a cast of six fabulous female performers, and I’ll be posting more about the dates and details of this when the season launches shortly.

March will also bring the German language premiere of my play about the survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury – The Almond and the Seahorse – translated by Frank Heibert as Mandel & Seepferdchen. The premiere will be 24th March 2016 at Mainfranken Theater Wurzburg, Germany. Details in German here. I’m fortunate to have worked before with Frank – he translated my debut YARD  (The Bush Theatre 1998, winner of the Peggy Ramsay Award) for the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, where it ran for two years as Schlachthaus.

Schlachthaus by Kaite O'Reilly, Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin. http://www.kaiteoreilly.com/plays/schlachthaus/index.htm

Schlachthaus by Kaite O’Reilly, Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin. http://www.kaiteoreilly.com/plays/schlachthaus/index.htm

You can see some striking images from that acclaimed production, directed by Martin Kloepfer here. Frank and I have collaborated on other texts, and I feel so privileged to continue evolving this relationship across language and representation with such an admired and skilful translator.

Translation also features in my hat trick of the year, the remounting of my performance text about Frida Kahlo, the 9 Fridas. The closing production of The 2014 Taipei Arts Festival, directed in the Mandarin by Phillip Zarrilli, this Mobius Strip production will transfer to Hong Kong in October 2016, in association with Hong Kong Repertory Theatre. I hope to be back in Taipei for rehearsals and also at the premiere in Hong Kong in the Autumn. The autumn is a fascinating time to be in Taiwan, and my rehearsal/travel diary from the six weeks I spent in Taipei in 2014 was published by Wales Arts Review here.

There are also other projects afoot, publications and writing courses I will be revealing shortly (watch this space!) – but I hope that your own creativity is progressing slowly but surely. It may be winter, but there is still richness and fecundity in these apparent dreary November days.

A director’s perspective on research and development: Phillip Zarrilli on ‘Cosy’

I’m often asked about the research and development process attached to any project – What goes on? What purpose does it serve? The answer differs from project to project, depending on where in the process the r&d may take place. Sometimes it is to scratch the surface and begin exploring possibilities around a concept, perhaps collaborating with a team of actors/devisers/co-creators. For my work in progress ‘Cosy’, an Unlimited commission, the polished first draft was already in existence, written between productions over the past few years. I wanted to ‘hear’ the text in the air and outside my head, to try out some new sections, put it before an invited audience to get feedback, and to then reflect on possible future revisions.

A director’s purpose and focus for research & development hadn’t really occurred to me before (oops!). In my experience as a playwright, my own needs have always been paramount, so I’m grateful that Phillip Zarrilli, director of ‘Cosy’ let me reproduce his report on our two days research & development last month here:

'Cosy' r&d. Photo: Mike Salmon

‘Cosy’ r&d

Just as the initial two days of research and development on ‘Cosy’ have been of great benefit to Kaite O’Reilly as the playwright, our process has been immensely beneficial to me as the director. Very early in our process (1-2 May 2015) we auditioned a wealth of disabled and non-disabled actresses. We then spent one and one-half days (June 17-18, 2015) working on the script in the rehearsal room in Cardiff, and had a reading of the script-in-hand for an invited audience at Graeae Theatre Company’s Studio in London.

My first task as director of ‘Cosy’ is to assist Kaite in developing the best script she can within the context of what appears to be a ‘family drama’. Throughout our process, including our two days of research and development, I have provided dramaturgical feedback to Kaite as she has been refining and further developing the nuances of the script for the reading.

My second task is to actualize as best I can the potential of Kaite’s script through my work as we select the best cast we can for the six wonderful roles Kaite has written, and to guide the actors’ as they work on the nuances and complexities of Kaite’s script. ‘Cosy’ has a cast of six women including Rose (76 year old matriarch of the family); her three daughters—Ed (56), Camille (early 50s), and Gloria (late 40s); her granddaughter (Camille’s daughter, Isabella, 16); and Rose’s ‘friend’—Maureen. For the two day R & D period, we cast the core ‘family’ with five Welsh actresses: Rose [Sharon Morgan], Ed [Ri Richards], Camille [Ruth Lloyd], Gloria [Llinos Daniel], Isabella [Bethan Rose-Young]) who created a wonderfully dynamic and complex family at the reading. Finally, we cast Welsh actress, Sara Beer, as the quirky ‘companion/friend-to-Rose/outsider-to-the-family’.

Our first day of R & D began with a simple reading of the script so that Kaite could hear and respond to her first draft. After this initial reading we had an extensive discussion of the script, allowing actors to raise questions about their roles, and discussing some of the unique demands the script has for actors—the juxtaposition of the comedic element arising from the family dynamics once the female clan has gathered at the family home with the existential impact of how an aging woman faced the ‘facts’ of her aging and the loss of agency that confronts women as they age.

Having directed the premiere productions of two of Kaite’s other plays, ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ (Sherman Cymru, 2008), and ‘the 9 Fridas’ (Taipei Arts Festival with Mobius Strip and Hong Kong Rep, 2014), I know how difficult a task it is to guide actors toward the kind of nuanced playing of the types of characters that Kaite and the complexities of the situations in which she places her characters.

The cast of The 9 Fridas. Photo: Phillip Zarrilli

The cast of The 9 Fridas. Photo: Phillip Zarrilli

Our remaining session on the first day of development, and final session in London prior to the reading of ‘Cosy’ were devoted to (1) trying out new text Kaite was writing in response to the initial reading and our work on the script; (2) having ‘working’ rehearsals on each of the five scenes in order to begin to explore the nuances of each scene; and (3) providing directorial feedback to each actor on the playing of specific/key moments in each scene.

From my directorial perspective, it was a ‘luxury’ to have these days to work with this potential cast of six. In our day and a half of development work with the cast collectively provided our audience with a highly credible initial reading of Kaite O’Reilly’s second draft.

These two days together have allowed me to get to know each of these actresses as individual professionals, as well as how they might work together on Kaite O’Reilly’s dynamic and highly complex script.

And we’ve opened…. The 9 Fridas Taipei premiere

The cast of The 9 Fridas. Photo: Phillip Zarrilli

The cast of The 9 Fridas. Photo: Phillip Zarrilli

So we have opened – and to great responses.

It is extraordinary, the moment in the dress rehearsal when suddenly, for the first time, everything comes together. All those separate teams- the lighting design, the composer and sound composition, the set design, the costume department, the performers and director/playwright, the trusty stage management – suddenly all these individual bodies become one entity…. I sat in The Wellspring Theatre and saw all the aspects discussed in the many production and design meetings come together. It is a wonderful synergy – all the collective energies, imaginations and skills creating something other.

Every time feel like a small miracle. A production is a collective act of will – and faith. I am grateful to all my collaborators at Mobius Strip Theatre Company, the Wellspring Theatre and of course the Taipei Art Festival for this willing, generous and creative cooperation.

O'Reilly with 2 of her 9 Fridas - Bobo Fung and Faye Leong. Taipei 2014.

O’Reilly with 2 of her 9 Fridas – Bobo Fung and Faye Leong. Taipei 2014.

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Juggling productions – The 9 Fridas, Woman of Flowers, and Fun Palaces

It’s a phenomenally busy week – perhaps the busiest I have ever experienced with productions opening, rehearsals beginning, and deadlines looming all in the same five days..

'The 9 Fridas' last rehearsal before get-in at Wellspring Theatre

‘The 9 Fridas’ last rehearsal before get-in at Wellspring Theatre

It’s production week for ‘The 9 Fridas’ in Taipei. We have a group photograph at the end of the final rehearsal in Mobius Strip Theatre Company’s welcoming and creative studio – cast, crew, lighting and costume designers, company manager, director and playwright all squeezing into a final celebratory shot. Many take on their Frida Kahlo self portrait pose – including our fabulous stage manager, Knife (front row right), which tells a lot about our dynamic and sense of ownership of the material. The ensemble feeling and collective endeavour is inspiring and been very much my experience when working with the terrific Mobius Strip company.

Sandra, Knife and Jack backstage at the Wellspring Theatre. Bump-in.

Sandra, Knife and Jack backstage at the Wellspring Theatre. Bump-in.

‘Bump-in’ to theatres are notoriously tricky and stressful, but our stage management are full of energy and joie-de-vivre as the company start moving in, making the Wellspring Theatre our space, even for a short time.

Longshan temple, Taipei

Longshan temple, Taipei

Director Phillip Zarrilli and I make a trip to nearby Longshan temple, to make an offering for the success of the production. It is a beautiful space, filled with incense and flower and food offerings.  I could linger for a long time in such a vibrant yet peaceful place – but I have a rehearsal to go to.

Taipei is seven hours ahead of UK time, so when I finish my day’s rehearsal with Mobius Strip on ‘The 9 Fridas’, I skype into opening rehearsals with Forest Forge Theatre Company in England.

Kirstie Davis, director of 'Woman of Flowers' at first day of rehearsals.

Kirstie Davis, director of ‘Woman of Flowers’ at first day of rehearsals.

I don’t know how we managed before the marvellous invention of skype. Just as I skyped into the first read through of ‘The 9 Fridas’ in the Spring from Berlin to Taipei, I skyped into ‘Woman of Flowers’, my forthcoming production with Forest Forge Theatre Company, directed by Kirstie Davis. ‘Woman of Flowers’ tours the UK from mid-September and tour dates are here.

Attending rehearsals of 'Woman of Flowers' by skype.

Attending rehearsals of ‘Woman of Flowers’ by skype.

‘Woman of Flowers’ is a new text (which I will write about in future posts), and attending rehearsals to make adjustments and revisions is essential, especially as the script will be published. Miraculously the internet connection from Taipei to Ringwood is strong and I can answer questions from the actors and be a part of the process virtually, until I return to the UK and join the rehearsals in ‘meat space’ next week.  I’m grateful that Kirstie is such an open director, willing to incorporate new technologies into her rehearsal process – and for the actors for being unfazed at having the playwright present via a slim computer screen.

The final commitment of the week is my Agent 160 commission for the Cardiff Fun Palace. I’m proud to be one of the patrons of this company set up to address the gender imbalance in theatre (only 17% of produced plays are by women), and this project is special, commissioning 16 short monologues by women playwrights all across the UK. The work we make and the individual projects created by other pop-up Fun Palaces will be shown over the weekend of 4th and 5th October across the UK and the world. My deadline looms. Time seems elastic and my working day mounts to 16 hours as I swing between time zones, writing when the UK has yet to wake and sleeping while the UK working day comes to an end. I’m delighted to be part of the Fun Palace initiative set up by Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings to commemorate legendary theatre director Joan Littlewood and her radical vision.

You can read Stella Duffy’s latest blog on Fun Palaces – by, for and of the people here  and the fabulous treats in store for the Cardiff Fun Palace, set up by Agent 160 Theatre through their blog. All events are free, but you can support this initiative in Cardiff Bay through their kickstarter campaign.

This may be the last from me for a few days.

I’ve got quite a few things going on….

 

 

Western Mail interview: Taking a Welsh stage drama about a Mexican artist to Taiwan

Karen Price of The Western Mail interviewed me on the cusp of ‘The 9 Fridas’ opening in Taipei.

Original interview can be read at http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/taking-welsh-stage-drama-mexican-7679916

 

Faye Leong in Mobius Strip offices, The 9 Fridas, Taipei

Faye Leong in Mobius Strip offices, The 9 Fridas, Taipei

Q: How did the Taiwan project come about?

A: The Taipei Arts Festival has been trying to get director Phillip Zarrilli over from Wales to Taiwan to train and direct a production with a Taiwanese company for some years. He put forward my performance text, The 9 Fridas.

The theme for the festival this year is ‘ways of looking’ and my text invites us to perceive this famous artist in a different way from the usual representations of her.

Q: What is ‘The 9 Fridas’ about?

A: It is a collage of impressions and stories reflecting the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and the fictional journey of ‘F’ through the nine hells of the Mayan Underworld.

‘F’ is accompanied by a chorus of figures who, like her, are and are not Frida Kahlo, but whose stories echo actual events from Kahlo’s life – the betrayed wife, the political activist, the disabled radical, the fashion icon, the struggling artist and so on.

Q: Where did you get the idea from?

A: I’ve been obsessed with Frida Kahlo since I was a teenager, and this will be my third project in 20 years about her.

I love the fact she’s a disability icon (I identify as a disabled person), and didn’t let the perceived limitations of her gender or impairments impact on her creativity, political activism, or emotional life.
Q: The Sherman Cymru/Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru production Llwyth was previously staged at the festival. What does it mean to have productions with Welsh connections shown in other countries?

A: This text for ‘The 9 Fridas’ originated in Wales but it isn’t a Welsh performance per se – it’s about a German-Mexican artist written by an Irish playwright living in Wales, directed in Mandarin by an immigrant Wales-based director, acted by performers from Taiwan and Hong Kong!

I’m grateful for the interest in my work across the world. This September I will have three productions on simultaneously (in Taiwan, Estonia and England). I can but hope it will be seen one day in Wales. Most of my work is currently produced outside Wales.

Q: What has been the reaction from people there ahead of the premiere?

A: We sold out all performances several weeks ago and don’t open for another fortnight, so there’s been a buzz.

We’ve had a lot of TV and media coverage and three cultural commentators/critics attending rehearsals and writing various long articles about the production as a focus for the unique actor-training approach developed by Phillip Zarrilli, using Asian martial arts.

There’s a lot of excitement around the production largely owing to Phillip finally being here.

Q: Personally, what do you think you’ve gained most from this project?

A: It’s been wonderful working across cultures, with so many collaborators working from rich traditions.

I’ve particularly enjoyed observing, during the past six weeks, the training process Phillip has led the actors on – a psychophysical approach does not work from psychology, and it’s been fascinating watching the actors learn and adapt performance techniques to suit this non-naturalistic play text.

I’m always so excited and grateful to be welcomed into a different country or culture and learn how to communicate and collaborate in new ways.

Q: Any plans to stage it in Wales?

A: I can but hope…

Q: What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

A: My new play, ‘Woman of Flowers’, a reworking of the Bloudewydd myth from the Mabinogion, tours nationally with Forest Forge Theatre from September and there will be just one date in Wales – Aberystwyth Arts Centre on October 29.

In the longer term, I’m working on a new Arts Council of Wales-funded production of ‘Playing The Maids’. It’s a collaboration with Gaitkrash from Ireland, Jing Hong Okorn from Singapore and Theatre P’Yut from South Korea. It will premiere at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff in February 2015.

9 Fridas is being staged at the Taipei Arts Festival from September 5 to 7. For further details about Kaite O’Reilly’s work, visit http://www.kaiteoreilly.com