“Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation”

I just wanted to take a moment to say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with Wayne State University undergraduate students on this exciting translation of Lysistrata. They opened the show last night – I am so proud of the energy and excitement they brought to their work.

Congratulations, team! Have a great run!

“Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation” at the Bonstelle Theatre. 2015

Lysistrata Program Note

For the past five weeks I have been working with Wayne State University students on Lysistrata. Below is my program note for the show – explaining the reasoning behind choosing burlesque as the concept for this translation of Lysistrata.

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“Burlesque is a private joke between you and the audience that slowly reveals itself as the clothes hit the floor.” – Tanya Cheex

The performance history of Lysistrata is rife with feminist productions of this classic battle of the sexes. From more traditional productions, to musicals, to abstracted performances – the gender politics at the heart of Lysistrata have earned it the auspicious title of the “first feminist play in history.”

I experience feminism as a type of humanism – a striving for equality focused around gender parity. When I first read this translation of Lysistrata, I knew that burlesque was my way into this story about war, gender politics, and sex. Both Lysistrata and burlesque actively perform an exaggerated version of femininity, and challenge gender roles and sexual politics. Both use sex as a tool to accomplish another task. Both taunt social taboos. And both are ridiculously fun.

At its core, burlesque is a type of humor that hangs on the absurd – a parody often heightened by a striptease. Burlesque, like most art, has had several reincarnations. It first exploded into American popular culture in the mid-1800s thanks to Lydia Hiller’s British Blondes. These women scandalously wore pants and portrayed men on stage in their spoofing of the Greek story of Ixion. From these early comedic roots burlesque can be found in the history of Follies, cabaret, vaudeville, Fosse, and the Broadway musical.

In the early 1990s a group of sentimental performers revived this rich American and European tradition. Neo-burlesque, as it has been coined, is a conscious act of agency – displaying only what the performer wants to display in an act not curated by, or seeking validation from, men. It is a genre of performance that embraces sexuality, femininity, masculinity, and self-expression. Neo-burlesque features women (and more than a few men) of all shapes, sizes, and races challenging gender norms and taking ownership over one’s own sexual power.

Our production of Lysistrata takes you back to Athens through the veil of neo-burlesque. Very sexy, powerful, and a lot of fun, we encourage you to hoot, holler, whistle, and gasp – and please, enjoy the show.

– Amanda Grace Ewing, Director

New Season, New Headshots

Headshot 2015

I’m thrilled to announce that I had new headshots taken last week! Photos are courtesy of Mark Harris Photography. They’re so awesome.

Sneak Peak: Precious Little

Director’s Note Precious Little

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Trying to capture the essence of something that exists, but can’t be totally understood or adequately described through words is the reality of Madeline George’s play, “Precious Little.” While language is central to its plot, trying to use language to describe this play always leaves me grasping. It’s ineffable.

The number of conversations I’ve started with “…uhhh… well… there’s a gorilla in in?” is staggering.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Western philosophers began exploring language in relation to our perception of reality – this movement is now known as the linguistic turn. This questioning of language brought dynamic scholarly exchanges about whether or not animals have language, whether experiences you can’t describe are experiences you’ve had, and a broad questioning the nature of language itself.

We discovered in the rehearsal process that there often comes a time when the actual words do not seem up to the task of describing how we feel – so instead we have to find other ways. Sometimes sidelong look, a way of holding hands, or a gesture can feel like a more accurate way of communicating than trying to find the right words. In this way we create our own language as we go.

So how does one sit down to write a director’s note about a show that tests the limits of human language? While it may be a challenging task, it is much easier than describing what it means to be a mother, a friend, a lover, or even defining and describing what it means to be a stranger.

It has been an honor to collaborate with this incredible team of artists, and a privilege to now share that work with you. It has been very sweet, eppsa sauzhinutte. Thank you.

Amanda Grace Ewing, Director

“Precious Little” at Matrix Theatre Company opens June 11th

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

While we all take a few days off to relax with family and friends, I am thrilled to be spending Memorial Day weekend with the all lady cast of “Precious Little” by Madeline George at Matrix Theatre Company.

“Precious Little” is at its core a struggle and celebration of experiences that can’t be adequately described through words. This play explores the limits of language and the true nature of communication.

“This type of show is new for Matrix Theatre,” says Matrix Artistic Director Megan Buckley-Ball. “I couldn’t be more excited about it.  It will give our audiences a chance to step away from the realism they’re used to seeing here and give them a taste of the experimental.  The overall message of the show is both relatable and important, so I’m really looking forward to hearing feedback from our patrons.”

We have been experimenting with movement, speech, and digging deep into the text over the last couple weeks. We are now halfway through our rehearsal process and I’m struggling to find the words to express this experience.

So I’ll leave you with these press releases and this quote: “Whatever you do, something will happen. It’ll be a new life, and you’ll be inside it.”

Precious Little 1

Pictured in header: Linda Rabin-Hammell
Pictured above: DeAnnah Kleitz-Singleton

Photos courtesy of Megan Buckley-Ball

Press:
Broadway World
Detroit Performs
EncoreMichigan.com

Another great review for “The Glass Menagerie”

Rosie Sharp of the Knight Arts Detroit Community Blog:

“Overall, a tight performance, doing a lot with a little. While “The Glass Menagerie” maintains some outmoded language and concepts less relevant considering the options afforded to modern women, the play’s examination of the fate of those left behind carries some resonance in a city whose hopes have been raised and dashed a hundred times since the play’s original debut.”

“The scene between Laura and Jim (portrayed by Zach Hendrickson) is the most moving of the performance, and gives both actors a spotlight to shine, lifting our hopes for Laura before—in true Williams fashion—they are extinguished, literally and figuratively.”

The Glass Menagerie Reviews are In!

Review from The Detroit Free Press:

“In the capable hands of director Amanda Grace Ewing, this familiar material is imaginatively staged without being overly showy. Best are the beautiful pantomimed interludes in front of a phantom mirror. Amanda adjusts her hair and hat just so and is reminded of the glory days when she would receive as many as a dozen gentleman callers in a single afternoon. Heikkinen’s Laura, much more pretty than plain, admires herself in the same mirror. She reaches a hand out and grasps it lovingly with the other, a hint that she, too, desires someone to free her from crippling loneliness.”

“For the past three years, the Puzzle Piece Theatre has been a gypsy company of sorts, but now it has landed in the cozy confines of the Abreact Performance Space. The intimacy there proves vital to this “Glass Menagerie.” How can you not be engaged when a gentleman caller, just an idea in the first act, is now living, breathing and standing in the aisle only an arm’s length away from you?”

Review from EncoreMichigan.com:

“The current Puzzle Piece Theater production of the play, directed by Amanda Grace Ewing, appreciates the pliable nature of Williams’ text and its interpretation, creating a kind of theatrical sandbox in which the characters can dramatically frolic in pain and heartache that travels well beyond the confines of the playwright’s American south.”

“To reinforce the conceit of the memory play — that this is not absolute truth, but rather how the present Tom’s subjective mind perceives it — the production design takes corresponding liberties. Schroeder’s lighting design particularly unburdens itself from strict scene breaks and transitions however it sees fit, and sound design by Ewing plays up moments of aggression and sentimentality with a range of cinematic scores that push themselves boldly to the foreground.”

A Sneak Peak!

Here’s a little sneak peak of some movement we’ve been working on for “The Glass Menagerie” with Puzzle Piece Theatre. The show opens in less than two weeks – March 13th! Make sure you’re getting your tickets!