A few weeks ago I sat down with Matrix Theatre Company Artistic Director Megan Buckley-Ball to talk about Kayak by Jordan Hall, and what I love about creating socially conscious theatre.
Here are a few of the stunning photos Tiffany Gaidica took at our dress rehearsal last night! I’m so excited to get this show in front of an audience! Only a few days left before we’re ready to share it with you all!
Annie: Kez Settle
Peter: Dan Johnson
Julie: Claire Jolliffe
Scenic & Properties Design: Charlie Gaidica
Lighting Design: Chantel Gaidica
Costume Design: Anne Suchyta
Sound Design: Casaundra Freeman
Producer: Matrix Theatre Company
Stage Management: Sarah Drum
We are one week away from opening day for “Kayak” – which is an especially fun coincidence because today is Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day. This has been an incredible process – from table work straight thru to movement and the additional creative elements that make the world start to come alive. I’ve been really proud of the collaboration on this piece: the movement we’ve built, the people we’ve created, and the issues we’re addressing.
This is an image from rehearsal last night – the set is about 80% complete. We are starting to finesse the language of the play. Tonight, we add the lighting into the show, tomorrow the sound, and Monday we put the rest together!
I don’t often talk about the rehearsal process, specific techniques I’m using, or my preparation for a production. But I’ve been having so much fun on Jordan Hall’s Kayak that I really want to share some of the work we’ve been doing.
To start, the text of Kayak has some very specific references to environmental disasters and human rights violations that are a result of an environmental crisis. As a director/dramaturg, I love a complicated text with nested references – it gives us a lot to dig in to. Jordan Hall has done an incredible job writing complicated characters, and then expands the complications by adding a real/surreal aspect to the crises mentioned: many of the references are imaginary but evoke real-world crises. These complications, these details, are opportunities in theatre. They’re things to thank a playwright for. They’re a gift.
We spent three days at the table, reading through the script, combing through a research packet I created, discussing the impact of climate change on the world.
Once we got on our feet, we started building a movement language, one that could be used throughout the play as an additional avenue for storytelling. This collaborative work involved mirror exercises, sculpting, dance, and other exercises that both created the movement for the show and an emotional through-line for the actors. As we continue to work with this movement, we add more layers, weaving in what we have discovered about the text, characters, events, and climate change. It’s been a really rewarding way of working.
And then last week we took the rehearsal outdoors – we went kayaking! An excellent exploration of the physical work, the sounds, the environment. And gorgeous. Here are some photos from our kayaking trip – I hope we see you at the show!
“Environmental Activism At The Center Of Matrix Theatre’s Next Drama”
by BWW News Desk Mar. 13, 2018
Matrix Theatre Company continues its 2017 – 2018 Mainstage Season with the environmental drama, Kayak, opening April 6 and running through April 29. The production runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. All performances are presented at Matrix Theatre Company, located at 2730 Bagley Avenue in the heart of Mexicantown. Tickets are $22 for adults and $17 for students, seniors, veterans, and active military personnel, and may be purchased in advance or, if available, at the door. Group rates are also available. For further information or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.matrixtheatre.org or call (313) 967-0599.
Alone in a kayak on a vast stretch of water, Annie Iversen recounts the strange chain of events that got her there. A doting suburban mother, Annie was blindsided when her son, Peter, fell in love with Julie, a passionate environmental activist. Climate change, S’mores, SUVs, and Noah’s Ark are all part of Annie’s story as she sets out to save her son and unwittingly throws herself into the path of events larger than she ever could have imagined. “Kayak is an exciting play about personal activism, and we feel this is an important topic to bring forward during these trying times,” shared Artistic Director Megan Buckley-Ball.
“What does everyday climate activism look like? How do we individually make a difference? One of the things I love about Kayak is how nuanced this show and these people are while they struggle with those very complicated questions,” shared Kayak director Amanda Grace Ewing (Northville). Written by Jordan Hall, the play stars Dan Johnson (Ann Arbor) as Peter, Claire Joliffe (West Bloomfield) as Julie, and Kez Settle (Clawson) as Annie. The production team includes Sarah Drum (Westland), Chantel and Charlie Gaidica (Royal Oak), and Casaundra Freeman (Detroit).
The final dress rehearsal on Thursday, April 5 is a “Pay What You Can” performance. To help eliminate the barrier between audiences and live theatre, patrons can choose to pay whatever amount they want at the door to see the preview show of Kayak. Tickets will be available at the door that evening and can be purchased in advance by calling the box office at 313-967-0599. Doors open at 7:30PM for the 8PM performance.
In its 27th season as a non-profit, community-based theatre, Matrix Theatre Company is located in southwest Detroit and uses the transformative power of theatre to change lives, build community and foster social justice. Go to matrixtheatre.org for further information. Matrix Theatre Company’s Mainstage Season is funded in part by Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Kresge Foundation, and The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation.
Photo Credit: Amanda Grace Ewing
DETROIT – BoxFest Detroit, an annual theatre festival that showcases and creates opportunities for women directors, has announced the winners of its 2017 festival. BoxFest Detroit 2017 ran Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons and evenings, August 18 – 26, at Planet Ant Theatre.
BoxFest Detroit produces festivals that grant women directors the opportunities to direct original shows of their choice and win awards to help further their careers in directing. The winning director of the festival-long audience vote competition is given the opportunity to direct a show with Planet Ant Theatre’s One Act Series. This year’s Planet Ant Theatre’s One Act Series winner is Charity Clark-Anderson. Charity Clark-Anderson is a graduate of Wayne State University and was employed as a social worker for the State of Michigan for over 30 years. Her retirement in 2010 gave her the opportunity to pursue theatre full-time. Clark-Anderson wrote and directed “Legacy” for this year’s festival.
For the 2017 festival, BoxFest Detroit launched an additional opportunity: a new Mentorship Program. In this inaugural year, there were two mentorship opportunities available: Assistant Directing for Frannie Shepherd-Bates, and the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Directorship. These positions grant two BFD 2017 directors the opportunity to shadow, learn, and collaborate with established, experienced, female-identifying directors. The program also gives emerging directors exposure to networking opportunities in the Metro-Detroit theatrical community. The 2017 Mentorship Recipients were Bridgette Jordan and Sarah Hawkins Moan. Bridgette Jordan currently attends Wayne State University and is pursuing her Master’s in English. She was awarded an Assistant Directorship to work with Frannie Shepherd-Bates on Tipping Point Theatre’s production of “The Impossibility of Now.” Sarah Hawkins Moan has been working as an actress, director, and educator across the country for the last ten years. She received the Sandbox Play Festival Directorship.
The goals of the Mentorship Program are to connect BoxFest directors with the greater Metro Detroit professional theatrical community and other female-identifying directors working within it, support the education of female-identifying directors, remove challenges for BoxFest directors associated with the cost of education and travel, and remove challenges for professional theatres associated with artist salaries.
The BoxFest Detroit 2017-18 Mentorship Associate is Frannie Shepherd-Bates and BoxFest Detroit’s 2017-18 Partner Theatre is Tipping Point Theatre.
BoxFest Detroit had an additional big announcement at their awards ceremony this year: Amanda Grace Ewing will replace Molly McMahon as Artistic Director. McMahon will continue to remain involved as a member of the producing team and also assist with the transition to ensure Ewing’s success in her new role. “Since pursuing graduate studies at University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, my capacity for outside work has changed dramatically,” said McMahon. “Serving as Artistic Director for BoxFest Detroit for eight festivals has been one of the great honors of my life. I look forward to staying on the BoxFest Detroit team as a producer and to continue working with Amanda Grace Ewing and Kelly Rossi on future festivals.”
“I am thrilled to be taking a larger leadership role with BoxFest Detroit,” Ewing said. “As an alumna of the festival, Molly gave me my first opportunity to direct – so I know hers are big shoes to fill. I’m looking forward to continuing the work she started and expanding our new programs to give our directors even greater visibility.”
For 14 years and counting, BoxFest Detroit has produced annual summer theater festivals, which creates the space and support for women directors of all experience levels to share their work with audiences. Learn more about BoxFest Detroit and its programs at.
Recently, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) asked me to write a regional spotlight on what I see happening in Michigan theatre. My short article is below. Enjoy!
Regional Spotlight: Midwest – Michigan
Spot Op: Amanda Grace Ewing
“I keep a variety of quotes from this year’s LMDA Conference on my phone, which I revisit when I’m feeling stuck or need some motivation. In the past couple of months, I’ve begun to look for a note as I scroll: “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Affliction: trouble, burden, distress, oppress. Comfort: console, solace, support, uplift. Both of these verbs suggest a physical act of resistance and remind me that bodies carry text. As the national conversation around equity and diversity becomes more robust, theatre companies in my region, Southeastern Michigan, are more purposefully considering the dramaturgy of bodies: who gets to tell what stories and how? Who is afflicted and who is comfortable?
My artistic home is BoxFest Detroit (BFD), an annual one-act theatre festival that showcases local female-identifying directors. BFD has, and continues to, function as a springboard for local women and their directing careers. This year, when the organizers met to plan the festival, we began with strategizing how to leverage our visibility as an organization in order to serve more directors. In response to this challenge, we launched a new mentorship program. In this inaugural year, there were two mentorship opportunities available: Assistant Directing for Frannie Shepherd-Bates and the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Directorship. The first award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to shadow, learn, and collaborate with a regional, experienced, female-identifying director at an Equity theatre; and the later award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to direct a one-act play at an Equity theatre house. Our goals for this program are to: connect BFD directors with the greater Metro Detroit professional theatrical community, support the education of female directors, connect BFD directors with other female directors working in the community, remove challenges for BFD directors and professional theaters associated with the cost of education, travel, and artist salaries. While we are still in our pilot year – we’re excited to see how this program will affect hiring and visibility of female-identifying directors in Michigan.
Another Southeastern Michigan theatre company looking to create opportunities for marginalized communities is Black and Brown Theatre (BandB). BandB was founded in the summer of 2016 to address the inequity of casting in Michigan theatre. Like many other regions, white artists dominate Michigan theatre, and when considering casting, white is synonymous with neutral. Despite the Detroit area’s diverse population, oftentimes actors of color are only considered in casting when the script breakdown specifically calls for a certain race. Since their founding, BandB has worked to interrupt this narrative by presenting staged readings, showcases, productions, outreach, and education for and with communities of color – each action driving BandB towards the goal of becoming extinct in the next five to ten years. One valuable act of BandB is a humble Google Drive of headshots and resumes of actors of color, that casting directors can ask for access to. Currently, the database is viewable by 64 directors and has the information for 84 actors of color. This simple task has completely negated any claim of, I don’t know any actors of color, I can’t find anyone for this role, etc., and generated access for actors and casting directors to each other.
I’m excited that BFD and BandB are challenging narratives around who is in the room doing the work, that there are more companies in our region asking questions about access and equity, and that theatres and artists are using the resources that companies like BoxFest Detroit and Black and Brown Theatre provide. I hope that as all of us connect with each other we can be a force to afflict those comfortable in the white narrative, and comfort those looking to see themselves in the texts we present.”