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
Review from “The South End” written by Anjelica Dudek. This review features interviews with the students involved in the production. Read the whole article here.
“The first scene opens up with the protagonist, Lysistrata, performing a solo burlesque to a sultry feminine cover of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” She eventually “strips” down to a sparkly magenta bra and matching bow tie and hat underneath a black suit coat and dress pants. She is the only character in the show who is contemporarily dressed, which represents her strong leadership skills and her modern viewpoints on society.”
“With the burlesque theme going hand in hand with the idea of a sex strike, we explore sexual agency as well,” said Hannah Butcher, who plays Lysistrata in the play, “because the women ultimately are in charge over how much of their bodies are exposed and when and how they use their sexuality. When they say no, they mean no, and this answer is respected — a huge subject for modern times.”
“Throughout the entire show, the audience is constantly exposed to verbal and physical carnal, which created an abundance of laughter, hoots and whistles–something that Ewing and the cast themselves all encouraged. This show may draw viewers in with its raw sex appeal and energy, but they will leave remembering the often forgotten voices of women, elders and trans-persons everywhere.”
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.
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.”
Pictured in header: Linda Rabin-Hammell
Pictured above: DeAnnah Kleitz-Singleton Photos courtesy of Megan Buckley-Ball