The Work in Progress: Part 2
Written by: Ryan M. Sero
Where were we? We were exploring process and marketing of the different companies of Frost Bites. Last time, you read about Alyssa Nedich and Jeremy Freibuger, using video, blogs, and images to reach out and make connections. If you didn’t, maybe go read that. They had interesting things to say about process. I know you’ll love what Anna Chatterton and Rose Hopkins have to say about their processes.
Normally, says Anna Chatterton, she would document her process, and she would absolutely use that documentation in a marketing campaign. Her Frostbites experience, though, isn’t “normally”, given that her play Within the Glass is opening at Tarragon Theatre – she’s a little busy right now.
The time frame she has been working with for her show at Frost Bites, Liatorp, hasn’t allowed those luxuries, so the process has been different. She does indicate, however, that with devised work – site specific projects included – she is very focused on documentation and the sharing of those documents.
She says that she is “…always including audiences into my development process along the way to production. But these are pieces that take years to create.” Years, are you paying attention? The normal process that Chatterton goes through had to be truncated and catered to the specific needs and possibilities of Liatorp, and so audience feedback and years of development has been confined to the director and actors, who Chatterton (the playwright) says she got feedback from during the creation process.
The main takeaway here is Chatterton’s dedication to the process. If she has the time, she refines for years, using documentation as a way to build the piece – both through marketing and intrinsically, as part of the creation process. If she doesn’t have the time, she still puts in the work, it just takes a necessarily different form.
It’s important to learn this, as an artist or an audience member, that art is work and toil. Whether a (relatively) short gestation period, like with Frost Bites, or with a longer process taking place over years (sometimes decades), it is important to maintain dedication and discipline. If you are an artist, appreciate this and learn. If you are an audience member, give it a thought the next time you are in a theatre; the thought about how much effort went into the work of the performers on stage. Every production from the smallest amateur ten-minute play festival to the largest theatres on Broadway are filled with artists taking time and, through a process of refinement (as Chatterton is describing for us) creating these productions. Give a thought to that; I don’t think you’ll see theatre quite the same ever again.
What has the dedication yielded? A piece built to grow Chatterton’s affiliation with Hamilton and other artists residing here.
“I wanted to do it for purely creative reasons, I wanted to do more work in Hamilton, I love the Cotton Factory, love site specific work, and I wanted to work with these three artists (Chris Stanton-director, Mike and Juno Rinaldi- actors) …so it’s a great opportunity to try out a new collaboration.”
“Process is very important to me.” I’m talking with Rose Hopkins, co-creator of The Distance Between Us and the Sun. She explains that she uses the process, not just to create the work, but to grow as an artist, which is an admirable bit of multi-tasking which must yield dividends. She extends this process to even the time she’s just hanging out with her collaborators talking about theatre.
“…to me, theatre is a communal experience.” Hopkins wants to document her process and use it to stretch into social media. As a younger-generation artist, she says she recognizes the importance of connecting over social media, and is “… really interested in creating work in the future that uses social media as part of the performance, so this is a way of testing those waters before going all in.”
Social media comes with risks, she says. She points out the vulnerability of putting something like this, a document or record of creative process, online where people might be judgemental or malicious. It’s a double-edged sword, allowing an artist to evaluate work and to be critical of it, to connect with an audience, and to engage in ways that artists in previous decades were unable to do, but it might produce backlash of an unwelcome and overly critical nature. Of course, that’s the name of the game, isn’t it? So, while Hopkins recognises the difficulties with posting such documents online, she also knows that putting your art out there, whether on stage or online, means facing the occasional bruised ego.
Hopkins says a big hurdle with documentation is knowing what to film. “I would start filming when it seemed like something interesting or relevant was happening – except I wouldn’t give it any context, so when I would go back to edit the footage, I’d have video of Liz and Adam doing something really neat but it would make no sense to an outside audience. I’m starting to get better at remembering that some things need to be explained to the camera.”
I ask if she’s ever worried audiences will see “too much” in one of these online videos – if she is ever afraid of that, and she says, pretty clearly, “I’m not worried about giving anything away. The nature of what we’re creating (site-specific, audio-performance work) make it impossible to really get any idea of the performance experience unless you’re right there.”
Through her campaign, she wants audiences to get to know herself and her collaborators. “Most of all, I hope that they know that we’re making this content because they are important to us and we want them to be a part of what we’re doing.”
That’s making a connection. All of these artists are talking about connecting with their audiences, with their spaces, and with each other. That’s theatre, right? That’s art, is it not? We create to say something, to connect, to be a conduit into experiences that are our own, that are other people’s, that are completely universal, or overwhelmingly unknown.
Frost Bites has artists using the space they work in to make these connections. The documentation, marketing, and social media presence of the artists behind the scenes (outside of their work itself) is a very interesting and positive way to connect. I encourage you to seek out these connections with these artists (and the other artists of Frost Bites) so you can see what they’re up to. I promise you, flipping through Jeremy Freiburger’s multi-locational HERE sign, or watching the vlogs and rehearsal videos of Alyssa Nedich and Rose Hopkins will inspire you to connect with Frostbites and come see the show. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
“You have to come and see my show.”
Frost Bites takes place from Feb 11-14, 2016
at The Cotton Factory, 270 Sherman Ave N.
CLICK HERE for more info.
Ryan M. Sero is a playwright, actor, and artistic director of Make Art Theatre. He lives in the North End with his wife Jody and daughter Pippa.