Introduction to the show...
Video- promotional trailer from last year's show in June, 2013 at JACK, NYC.
As an artist and a teacher, I have been interested in the condition of synesthesia and how is it connected to the artist’s process. Synesthesia is defined by the American Synesthetic Association as a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses, such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people's names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception). Therefore, synesthesia literally means, "joined perception."
Synesthesia can involve any of the senses. The most common form, colored letters and numbers, occurs when someone always sees a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet or number. For example, a synesthete (a person with synesthesia) might see the word "plane" as mint green or the number "4" as dark brown. There are also synesthetes who hear sounds in response to smell, who smell in response to touch, or who feel something in response to sight. Just about any combination of the senses is possible. There are some people who possess synesthesia involving three or even more senses, but this is extremely rare. I grew up having these synesthetic experiences, often while sailing with my grandfather. I began to explore the nueroscience behind this condition and became fascinated with its relationship to art.
I had originally written, and performed this one-person show this past summer in June, 2013. JACK Theater in NYC produced half, and I privately funded the other half. I also involved two students (Curshion Royale Jones & Aidan Swanson) who came to NYC and worked on the technical and performance and designer Vanessa Leuck co-ordinated the costume. I have now re-imagined and re-envisioned the show from last summer and am pleased that it will be going up at Theaterlab, NYC as the opener for their main stage, in Jan 7-11 of 2015.. This show isn’t a finished product, so the performance from last year (June, 2013) will then be revised and retooled using new design concepts and technologies. Artists are often revising, retuning and often never feel they are done. This project will help us all to better understand the process of creativity as a constant development and reflection. This is a process I have already experienced, yet as an artist and practitioner I am still exploring. How do people (such as Performers, Musicians, Visual Artists, Corporate Creatives) develop synesthesia due to the demands of their job, and how does it inform their problem solving and creative choices? A few William Jewell College students (Returning - Aidan Swanson, Curshion R. Jones and newly Raquel Shaw) already signed up to be involved, and have acquired summer research grants and entrepreneurial grants to be able to work on assisting in the show this coming year.
I decided to apply for an innovation grant that I had heard about through the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. Since what we teach in the field of Acting, like synesthesia is cross modal, and applies to other disciplines, such as Psychology and Science. I wanted to better understand the Psychological and Neurological condition of Synesthesia and how it informs creativity. I was thrilled to find out that I had been awarded the grant to develop the show further, with a strong design team and in a larger capacity.
What is the show?
Famous artists in history such as Goethe, Fey Mann, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Nabokov, Poe, Baudelaire, Miles Davis, Eve Bess, Laura Nyro reported having the neurological condition of synesthesia. Over the last 30 years or so
It has still been a topic of shame and skepticism until now.
The topic has a larger interest and application this is reliant on information from research involving Neurology, Biology and Cognitive Science as well as personal biography. These conditions like Synesthesia and Aphasia are becoming more known because of authors such as Oliver Sacks (a best selling author in this field) beyond that the students would not know since this is a developing topic in academia and arts.
Music is also connected to every Neurological condition. It is as strong component of how we remember to tap into emotion, when all the other arts go away, music is the one that people universally connect with. Musicians are heavily synesthetic and that is the one art that is connected deeply to the performance piece in terms of the fluidity of senses such as water, ocean, sea and the sound of it. We internalize these sounds and they inform the way we perceive the world. This is a vital piece of the show in terms of the sound development and innovative design. Upon entering the performance space the audience members will each have a novel and varied experience interacting with the set; possibilities include using musical walls, interactive sound devices, and other new technology which will be will be conceived and constructed by the artistic team.
I will take the audience through an interactive performance process re-imagining the show through technical design and choreography, defining the neurological condition of synesthesia, sensory and emotional recall of real life events and seafaring folklore, and how these experiences aid in the creative process. In this performance a mix of both non-synesthetes alike will observe spontaneous moments of prepared written text, strongly driven by this theme and language, live audience interaction, high tech new and innovative 3-d projection, walls which react and illuminate sound, movement and themes related to the condition of synesthesia. In the final performance product, the audience will be able to respond if they like or feel so to share what their senses “see” so that we may capture what it is like to experience synesthesia in the moments of a living collage of process, and to take the journey in unfamiliar waters, as fellow mariners, navigating the creative coarse of synesthesia. It is my hope that this work will encourage people to expand their awareness of process vs. product so they are able to reflect upon how their own creative sensibilities and innovative technologies can enhance their world. This piece explores transformation and enlightenment to this ultimately powerful gift of a heightened level of perception as an artist.
This project is still evolving as an extremely immersive technically interactive installation piece, which is highly adaptive to the space, and environment in which the artist chooses. The emphasis will be on re-adapting performance process and how such innovation is an expression of entrepreneurial spirit, strengthening individuals and organizations. Successful Theatre organizations nurture and enhance new ideas in approach and design. Students involved in the development and rehearsal process will learn skills related to a novel way of working in which they will implement in their own entrepreneurial artistic process.
The way in which we will use multimedia in performance will be revolutionized with the use of a modern museum theatre approach of technical instillation, possibilities include sound inducing walls, 3-dimensional projection and interactive costume design. The audience experience will be fully dependent on the experiential process in which this design informs the performer and audience reaction. Students will record these findings and respond with their own points of view regarding how this experiential performance informs their own philosophies and modes of thinking through critical research and reflective writing.
We will show others how to devise, collaborate, implement and market this process into their original work. We will demonstrate to them how to go from a conception of a creative idea to research and finally development and implementation. Artists will engage in a new area of global or ethnic/multicultural theatre through working and thinking across disciplines. They will apply interests and experience that extend beyond his or her specialty, and encompass broader approaches to art, practice and creativity.
Students travel to the location for rehearsals, tech and performance and via Skype or Face-time will work with myself and the creative team of designers assisting and contributing to the process. The students who may not be able to be on site will have the opportunity to share both scholarly research and creative problem solving with designers.
Multiple Roles/Multiple Effects
Through the exploration of role-play, innovation in design, and audience immersion, we will develop an alternate mode of creation and collaboration not usually implemented in this type of process in our current field.
After the show
This blog is following and recording the creative and innovative design process, and students research and contribution to the process in their role as assistants and interns.
I will conduct a workshop to build a community focused faculty presentation, using pieces from the show – either visually through video clips or Acting out the piece live in a symposium-involving faculty from different departments (Psychology, Biology, Art, Music) talking about the subject matter of the piece. For instance, faculty from the English department talking about biography, to understand different ways of knowing or being with synesthesia. This interdisciplinary presentation connects us with Psychology, Biology, Art, Music these chosen faculty members could accompany the performance section with a presentation on a particular aspect. Observations about what this faculty gleaned during the workshop with students on understanding the performance can be a day or week long unit in my performance class where we will invite students and others to participate. In this way various students and faculty from these disciplines can engage in a more holistic experience, become exposed to the live presentation, and use the knowledge acquired by Neurological journals and research instead of simply reading it they will have an outlet to share in a performance to the college community. We will also provide feedback forms so the audience of the college community can reflect on having interests and experience that extend beyond his or her specialty, and encompass broader approaches to art, practice and human knowledge. This paper could also be presented at a conference or symposium.
The development in rehearsals of this production will serve as workshop framework for artists to use as a model for developing and marketing their own solo or group touring performances. We have procured Broadway sound, costume and technical set designers who are on the cutting edge of innovation in their field. We will be collaborating with these designers in the rehearsal process of this piece. The end product results in a collection w this part of synthesis the focus on learning outcomes & process rather than end goal. This production model can adapt to any situation or site specific needs of the environment in which the product is performed. Other performing arts institutions can look to what we are doing as a model for their own new modes of devising an interdisciplinary process. I will be teaching a workshop at Theaterlab this summer (TBA) regarding this process.
Jan 7-11, 2015
Opening reception Jan 7!
Sound Design - Music Consultation- Ethan Popp
Costume Design - Vanessa Leuck
Set Design - Leon Wiebers
Co-producer - Orietta Crispino
Lighting Design - Haejin Han
Dramaturg - Noreen C. Barnes
Video -Art direction/editor - Curshion R. Jones
Choreographer - Marisa Guida
More info about the Creative Team:
Tony Award Nominated Arranger, Orchestrator, Musical Director, Musical Supervisor, Conductor, Musician on Broadway
Smash (TV Series) (music producer - 1 episode, 2012) (music supervisor - 1 episode, 2012) (orchestrator - 1 episode, 2012) (producer - 1 episode, 2012) Broadway production of Rock of Ages, Glory Days (Broadway), Tarzan (Broadway), the Philadelphia premiere of Billy Porter’s Being Alive, the New York workshop of Spider-Man (Julie Taymor/Bono and the Edge of U2), We Will Rock You (German premiere), Disney’s Aida (German premiere/European tour), Mamma Mia! (German premiere), Forever Plaid (U.S. tour), Radio City Musical Hall Christmas Spectacular (Mexico City production), Fame! (U.S. tour) and others. Ethan is also currently Music Supervisor for Hedwig and the Angry Itch Starring Neil Patrick Harris on Broadway
Vanessa is a New York City-based costume designer who, after receiving a BFA in Fashion Design from Savannah College of Art and Design, has been working in the field since her graduate training at Virginia Commonwealth University. Immediately after receiving her MFA in Costume Design she took an internship at Walt Disney World as a sketch artist and costume designer for its theme parks and resorts. After that beneficial experience she moved to New York and started her career in the city as a costume designer and assistant designer. Ms. Leuck has designed for Disney on Ice, Off-Broadway, at several regional theaters and colleges, as well as with professional dance companies. In addition to her design work she has assisted on several large-scale productions including THE LITTLE MERMAID (Broadway), RINGLING BROTHERS BARNUM AND BAILEY CIRCUS (five productions), DISNEY LIVE, and DISNEY ON ICE. Regional experiences include productions with The Philadelphia Theater Company, American Music Theatre, Sierra Repertory Theatre, The Fireside Theater, Arundel Barn Playhouse and more. Ms. Leuck believes that communication, research, color theory, and character driven choices are the foundation of a solid overall design. Her design work combines her hands on experience with fashion design knowledge, attention to detail, and love for the art of storytelling.
Vanessa is a proud member of USA 829.
Leon Wiebers has designed productions in the United States and internationally. He is a current Fulbright Research Scholar working in South Korea. His recent credits include The Music Man for Glimmerglass Festival and the Royal Opera in Oman. He is a long-term collaborator at California Music Circus whose productions include My Fair Lady, Gypsy, Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me, Kate, Jekyll and Hyde, Aida, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Grease, West Side Story, The Fantasticks and The Scarlet Pimpernel; Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the San Francisco Opera Center, Cymbeline at Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Il Trovatore for the English National Opera, El Niño for the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, Cosi Fan Tutti for Sacramento Opera, Living Pictures for the Getty Museum and Antigone for Portland Center Stage. Awards include: Fulbright Research Grant to Korea, Back Stage West Garland and LA Weekly Awards for Three Sisters for Interact Theatre, LA and an LA Ovation Award for Ubu Roi at A Noise Within. He is current member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829.
Orietta Crispino is an accomplished theatre artist, born in Italy, she is a graduate of the prestigious “Piccolo Teatro” School in Milan, where she worked with the major Italian directors Giorgio Strehler and Massimo Castri. She later taught acting and directing there. Among her many theatre projects are: Passport No. 23.922, a piece she wrote and directed on the life of Tina Modotti; and a three year project in Trieste directing the plays of Pirandello’s Italian contemporaries She is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and the League of Professional Theatre Women. In addition to her theatre work, Ms. Crispino has done art projects on the body in its performative aspect. Her body research culminated in a performance piece with the photographer Vibeke Jensen, Camera Obscura, shown at PS1 in New York, Bogota and Trieste.
Studied Theater/Design & Tech/Stage manager at CUNY, Brooklyn shows include stage managing MOM (A Rock Concert Musical) and lighting design for Reasons To Be Pretty, The Violet Hour and Flyin' West at Brooklyn College. MFA in Design & Technical Theater.
Noreen has been a director, dramaturg and administrator for both professional and academic theatres for over 30 years, including Double Edge Theatre (MA), University of Oregon Theatre, Tufts University Arena Theatre, Eureka Theatre, Theatre Rhinoceros, Actors Theatre of San Francisco, and Richmond Triangle Players (where she is currently Associate Artistic Director). Her work as a director is cited in the Cambridge Guide to the American Theater. She directed the premiere production of Kate Bornstein’s Hidden: A Gender, starring Bornstein and Justin Bond, and served as assistant and dramaturg for legendary director Joseph Chaikin’s productions at San Francisco State University and American Conservatory Theatre. She recently dramaturged Natasha Lee Martin’s Confessions of a Synesthetic Sailor (NY).
Video- Art Direction/editor
Curshion R. Jones
Curshion is originally from California, Curshion started the Who I Am Series as an interviewing platform for people to be transparent and tell their stories. The series is now on the web, touring and will soon be produced for T.V. He has worked with actor Marc John Jefferies, attended the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and is CEO of Rsoul Royal Productions.
Marisa received her MFA in Theatre Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the 2014 recipient of the Thesis Fellowship from the VCU Graduate School for her thesis project, Remembering Imogene Coca, including an original musical, Not Afraid To Be Ugly, which is on it's way to workshops. She is excited to be back at VCU as lead instructor for Winning Presentations, an applied theatre course developed for the Business and Engineering Schools. Credits include; Off-Broadway: Tony 'N Tina's Wedding, National Tour: Ferdinand The Bull, Regional: Hairspray, 1940s Radio Hour, Hooray for Hollywood, Working, Reckless. Choreography: It's a Fabulous Life (RTP), Avenue Q, Hairspray (TheatreVCU), Producers (VA Rep), Ain't Misbehavin' (Fredricksburg).