Songs And Stories from JANE/EYRE – A New Adaptation 0

Grapefruit Lab’s premier production takes a new look at Jane Eyre from a queer perspective, with original music by Teacup Gorilla and Dameon Merkl.

It is billed as an exploration of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. The new look at the 1847 Charlotte Brontë story features original songs by Teacup Gorilla and Dameon Merkl (Lost Walks, Bad Luck City). The creative team behind the hybrid play/concert adaptation is author/musician, Miriam Suzanne, and former director at The LIDA Project, Julie Rada.  They describe it as a dark and often humorous look at the early feminist novel — bringing a contemporary, queer perspective to Jane’s story.

2017 © Grapefruit Lab Julie Rada | Kenny Storms | Miriam Suzanne Denver, Colorado

My email Q&A with Miriam Suzanne

EL: What was is about Jane Eyre that inspired you to create this as your first full-length show?
MS: Julie has loved Jane Eyre since she read it in school. When she proposed it as one of several options, Miriam had to do some research to get caught up – and fell in love quickly. (Julie Rada clarified: “I didn’t read it in high school. I read it a few years ago for fun.”)
We were excited by the first-person, internal perspective of a woman growing up – a format that jumps quickly between exposition, private emotional ruminations, and cutting political statements. This is complex woman, trying to find independence in a world that won’t allow it. She’s acutely aware of power, privilege, and class in every moment – and willing to step outside the story to address it.
Meanwhile, she’s just a kid growing up: falling in love, experiencing heart-break for the first time, and pondering death, religion, and forgiveness. She’s in the action, and also looking back on it. This wild mix of personal and political, action and reflection, is how life feels to me – and I find that interesting to explore. We highlight it in production by having two Jane’s on-stage, passing the story between very personal moments, and outside commentary or narration. Lindsey Pierce plays in the action, with Miriam commenting as she provides underscore with the band.
For the second edition of the novel, Charlotte Brontë (as Currer Bell) writes a scathing preface – a defense of her character against pious critique – and then suddenly wanders off into a tangent about her favorite author: William Thackeray. The books has an attitude, and an agenda, in addition to an interesting character. We love the tangents as well as the layered authorship – Brontë writing as Bell, who writes as Jane, narrating from 10-20 years in the future. So we put Brontë on stage as well, played by Julie – sometimes defending her work, and sometimes commenting on it from a more contemporary perspective.
EL: How would you describe the music for anyone not already familiar with Teacup Gorilla?
MS: Teacup Gorilla was once called “too moody for pride” – and that seems
 appropriate. We merge instrumental “post-rock”/”indie-rock” aesthetics with poetry, and story-telling – for a sound that is both moody and cinematic, even when we play at bars. We enjoy big dynamic shifts, and carrying the audience along on a journey from one song to the next – shifting musical genres as necessary to get where we’re going.
According to Tom Murphy in the Westword: “Teacup Gorilla’s amiable creative approach, unorthodox roots and sense of community have resulted in a sound that is difficult to pin down: part instrumental rock, part glam, part psychedelic, part jazz-inflected. And it sounds like nothing much else in this highly imitative era.”
On a more practical level, we’re often compared to early Modest Mouse, Explosions in the Sky, and Velvet Underground. For this piece we’ve also taken inspiration from Django Reinhardt, Parlement Funkadelic, Mark Knopfler, Anglican hymns, and elsewhere.
EL: You described the project as “bringing a contemporary, queer perspective to Jane’s story.” — there are many intersections of identities that can be encompassed in ‘contemporary, queer perspective’, can you describe what queer perspective(s) are at work in this adaptation?
MS: Julie and I are both “contemporary queers” – so on a very basic level, our own perspectives fit that description, and we’ve gone out of the way to include our perspective in the piece: adding ourselves to the authorial stack: writing as Bell, as Brontë, as Jane. And we’re not alone: there are queer women in the band, and playing music before some performances.
But we also bring an understanding of queer history, queer theory, intersectionality, and contemporary thought to a story that is both feminist and problematic at times. When Brontë writes about Jane’s close, physical relationships to Helen Burns or Diana Rivers, we can read those as queer relationships – written before “lesbian” or “bi/pansexual” identity-groups had formed. So we dig into that un-named queerness and draw it out. Suddenly Mr Rochester becomes one of several love interests, treated on equal footing with the others.
We say “queer” with a sense that it is different from a more descriptive “lgbtqia” – a way of understanding fluid identities, sexualities, and labels – concerned with intersections of the political and personal. Queer theory starts from questioning “normal” – what is it, who decides, and what power dynamic is behind it? That’s the same foundation that Jane seems to work from: constantly questioning what she’s been told about gender, class, religion, mental health, and so on. Sometimes that provides problems for us, when Brontë’s understanding of race and colonialism fall far short – brushed to the side without much thought. How can we as adapting authors comment on that, and critique the story as we tell it?

JANE/EYRE

The Bakery (map)

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Eden Lane is a freelance journalist based in Denver Colorado

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“Honorable Disorder” – Q&A with Jeff Campbell 0

As artists continue to take charge of their work so they can create authentic representations of their own experiences many find ways to produce their work outside of large arts and culture organizations. Jeff Campbell built an audience in 2013 with a powerful and provocative piece called “Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?” doing just that. He has returned to Denver and to it’s theater community with a new work and a new theater company.

Set in the dynamic landscape of present-day Denver, Honorable Disorder is a story of reconciliation, growth, and recognition for a young black veteran.

Honorable Disorder by Jeff Campbell at Emancipation Theater Company
Honorable Disorder by Jeff Campbell at Emancipation Theater Company

Eden Lane:

For your first piece since returning to Denver you founded a new theater company (Emancipation Theater Company) and serve as Producer/Writer/Actor/Director for the premiere production “Honorable Disorder”; How did the company come together? How was if formed?

Jeff Campbell:

The concept of Emancipation Theater Company is inspired by the Marcus Garvey quote: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” Also inspired by the 1958 Academy Award Winning film “The Defiant Ones” starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. The film is about two escaped prisoners, who are chained together, one Black, and the other White, who must cooperate in order to survive. The ETC logo depicts two abstract characters, not specifically representing races, but rather the dynamic opposites of the human spectrum, bound together by their humanity, who must work together to overcome the matrix of forces that inhibit their experience as human beings. When I came home from Georgia, after being gone a year, I knew I wanted to form a company that represented freedom, justice and equality, and approach theater in for profit business model, like a film company, and donate to it’s non profit community partner organizations. I raised the money on my own, working my construction job. It’s a single member LLC, and I function just like a general contractor who hires tradesmen to create a finished product.

EL:

In “Honorable Disorder” you show us the world some Vets experience, and take us through the story of a neighborhood changing without appreciation of the existing community. The character Nancy says she doesn’t understand why people move to a neighborhood but don’t participate in the community. “Most of these folks move to this neighborhood, don’t ever become a part of the community once they here. Are they afraid of their neighbors or something?” How did these stories come together for you?

JC:

Veterans are disproportionately represented at the bottom of the socioeconomic landscape and in a rising housing market, they are disproportionately affected. I learned about the difficulties veterans face accessing their benefits while working for the veterans resource center in Georgia. I’ve been watching Five Points change over the last 15 years, but when I left in 2016, and returned in 2017, the change felt even more drastic. I chose to talk about those things simultaneously because they are so connected.

Theo Wilson (DeShawn Foster) in Honorable Disorder photo by: Celia Herrera

EL:

The intersection of arts and political activism has a long tradition. What do you think the role of the artist is in this community today?

JC:

Not only social commentary and “telling it like it is” but utilizing your power as a catalyst to gather the community in a way that folks on the frontlines of social justice can be highlighted and supported through your art monetarily. You cannot simply call yourself an activist because you “tell it like it is” in your art. Raise the awareness in the community of the people doing the work in the movement, and back them with dollars. Collaborate with organizations and individuals who are working towards social change.

EL:

How will you measure the success of this first production for Emancipation Theater Company?

JC:

If the community is inspired to continue the dialogue and take action.

Although there are 6 characters in the play from an archetypical point of view, there are really only 3. The Mother and the Sergeant are the same, they represent the embattled sages of wisdom. The veteran and the social worker are the same, both have the savior complex. The uncle and platoon buddy are both cynical co-dependent anti heroes. I approached the writing in that way in order to draw parallels in their lives and allow their commonality to be organically expressed through their point of view. Often we get so wrapped up in issues, and identities, that we forget that people are the same, no matter who they are. The antagonist isn’t a person, it’s our lack of understanding, compassion, and empathy for one another.

 

Honorable Disorder

Apr 7 – Apr 29Cleo Parker Robinson Dance

For Tickets visit

Emancipation Theater Co.

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes with the company of “Honorable Disorder”

Meet the cast

Posted by Emancipation Theater Co. on Wednesday, April 4, 2018

(My interviews with Jeff Campbell for Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?“)


Miners Alley presents Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps 0

This weekend Miners Alley Playhouse opened a new production directed by Josh Hartwell. Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps starring Casey Andree (Richard Hannay), Alaina Beth Reel (Annabella Schmidt/Margaret/Pamela), John Wittbrodt (Clown One) and Sean Michael Cummings (Clown Two) is filled with energy and charm.

Photo Credit: Sarah Roshan

Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have The 39 Steps,” a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre! This 2-time Tony® and Drama Desk Award-winning treat is packed with nonstop laughs, over 150 zany characters (played by a ridiculously talented cast of 4), an on-stage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers and some good old-fashioned romance!

Creative problem solving is required for any production of “The 39 Step” no matter how big the space or budget. It’s clearly impressive when a small company with a unique and intimate space like the team at Miners Alley Playhouse calls home can do so with design, wit, and a wink.  The opening night audiecne was delighted.

 

 

March 23 through April 29 in Golden. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30p.m; Sundays at 2:00p.m. Tickets are $15 – $38

Box Office 303-935-3044 or online at minersalley.com.

Miners Alley Playhouse is located at 1224 Washington Avenue. Golden, CO 80401.