The ‘Cranky Critic’ Don Calamia and ‘A2 Arts Addict’ Jen McKee have been attending theatre in Southeast Michigan and reviewing shows in conversation with each other. Here are a few quotes from their review of “Kayak” at Matrix Theatre Company.
““Kayak” is the perfect show for such an intimate space as the 50-seat Matrix Theatre – and one of the smartest decisions director Amanda Grace Ewing made was the placement of the kayak, with its nose pushed into the seats. Since this is a memory play, with Annie talking directly to the audience about how she ended up in her predicament, the audience becomes part of the intimacy; we’re no longer passive listeners, but active participants who she’s directly speaking to. It’s like being part of a conversation at a party – only one of us is sitting in a Kayak. You can’t help but hang on her every word.” – Don Calamia
“Overall, I was really glad to be introduced to both Matrix (my first visit, believe it or not!) and to this play. Theater should be a place where human stories launch hard conversations, and I think Matrix’s team did a really solid job bringing Hall’s script to life.” – Jenn McKee
Audience response forms have started to come in and the incredible Megan Buckley-Ball (Artistic Director of Matrix Theatre Company) has started creating these beautiful testimonial images with quotes from the feedback. We’re going into the second weekend now and I’m still so grateful for all of the artists that put their time and energy into exploring the many questions and conflicts raised when discussing climate change.
We were also included in the bi-weekly segment “Theatre Talk” on NPR’s Stateside. They did a short synopsis of “Kayak” and hit on how extraordinary Kez Settle’s performance of Annie is! Click here to listen to the coverage.
Tonight is opening night for Kayak! We had a lovely preview last night, it was so good to have an audience there to breathe that last element into the show. Tonight we will officially open this production and set it out there for the world – I’m so excited!
I’d also like to share my program note here. It’s been a wonderful journey and I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such incredible people.
I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if small acts of everyday “activism,” being an active bystander, carrying a reusable water bottle, voting, buying local – really make a difference. If I’m not out there protesting full time, trying to influence popular understanding of an issue, can I really say that I practice activism? If I’m just, say, making art in a 50-seat theatre in Detroit, am I really doing the work? Does art count as activism? I sure hope so, because if it doesn’t, why are we all here? We have to use the skills we have, whether it’s community organizing or producing a play.
I first encountered Kayak in 2012, at that time Julie’s bravery and her sheer will to unapologetically pursue the things she cares about, struck a chord – one that encouraged me to ignore fear and take big risks. I have worked on this play for me, but also for my family, the cast, the creative team, and for you – the person who has come to take a risk with us tonight. I hope that we clear some of the path to the answers.
The events that happen in Kayak act as a reminder that we can’t be inactive. We can’t be paralyzed by the weight of the questions. It’s my hope that this play introduces new questions into your consciousness, that it influences your understanding of climate change, or presents questions about the connections between climate change and systemic oppression… or that it simply influences you to recycle your water bottles. Respond to those questions with the skills you have to make change around them. While I don’t think any of us will ever have definitive answers to any of these questions, we have to use the skills we have.
When I think about the priorities in my life that must come first, I think about family, about social justice, and about art. These aren’t neat priorities; sometimes I get to make art with my family – like on this show. (Shout out to my husband for the awesome babysitting of our goddaughter and his unending support!) Sometimes, I make social justice art for my family. Sometimes, these priorities feel so impossibly large that I feel like my personal morals and ethics are in question if I’m not able to clearly fulfill them. Most of the time I’m aiming for my art to be the way I practice social justice to make the world better for my family – and hope the product comes close.
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!