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Post-show Conversation with Playwright Andrew Hinderaker | COLOSSAL

PostshowconvoAfter the first Sunday matinee of COLOSSAL, director Summer L. Williams and dramaturg Ramona Ostrowski were joined via video by playwright Andrew Hinderaker from Chicago. The discussion ranged from the production process to the problematic culture of football to representations of characters with disabilities on stage, with enthusiastic audience response.

Pre-Game Press Conference

Want to hear more from the playwright? Andrew Hinderaker speaks with Dramaturg Ramona Ostrowski about the journey and appeal of “this pressure-cooker of a play.”

Ramona: Let’s have you kick us off, so to speak, by telling me a little bit about where the inspiration for COLOSSAL came from.

Andrew: It came primarily from two different places. There’s somebody in my family who’s a former athlete and has a spinal condition, and watching this person negotiate a new normal, physically, was something that was very much a part of my life. I tried to write about it in a different theatre piece in grad school, and that piece was not terribly successful in executing that story, but it did get me thinking about what it meant to tell a story physically. So that was one piece of the puzzle. Another piece was that one of my closest colleagues who runs the theater company that I’m a part of in Chicago called The Gift is an actor who uses a wheelchair. Our previous collaboration had nothing to do with disability, but working with him really opened my mind more to the intersections of theater and disability.

Also, I was down in grad school at the University of Texas at Austin, and that’s a theatre department that literally sits in the shadow of the football stadium. You know, a 100,000 person stadium that is really the biggest, most popular form of theatre at UT.

You’re not from Texas originally—did writing this play while you were there influence you?

Being there definitely amplified all of the things that were already sort of present for me. The interesting thing about Texas, I think more than perhaps any other state, is that football is so in the bloodstream at every level—Pop Warner to high school to college to the pros. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, which is a huge college football town, but the popularity begins in college. Certainly there’s high school football, but it’s not like Texas high school football.

 IMG_5031Did you play football growing up?

I didn’t, other than pick-up tackle games as a child. I don’t have the skill sets and abilities to play. I am pretty flow-less and grace-less. But a lot of people in my life are dancers. That’s really where Texas played a big role in this show, because UT Austin is a department of theatre and dance, and I became pretty close friends with a number of the grad student dancers. Movement really became a central point of exploration while I was down there.

You specify in the script that the role of Mike has to be played by an actor who uses a wheelchair. What made you make that decision, and have you gotten any pushback on it?

I was writing the role with my friend, Mike Thornton, in mind, and never anticipated the play would get a production, much less many! The challenge from my mentor was to write an unproducible play; to do something so big and ambitious that people would be like, “No, we can’t do this.” So initially there wasn’t anything about ability in the script because I thought, “Well, Mike Thornton’s gonna do it.” But once it became clear that we were going to get some more productions after Olney, I realized it was probably something that I should make explicit because Mike couldn’t actually do all these shows. After talking to a lot of folks in the arts and disability community, I realized that a lot of the narratives out there are about overcoming the disability, and then the role is often played by someone who doesn’t have a disability. I didn’t want to be a part of that; I made it explicit in the script because it just felt like a natural thing to do.

No one has said, “Well, oh jeez, then we’re not interested.” I think one thing that speaks to Company One and speaks to all the folks who’ve been great enough to produce this play is, if you’re going to take on a play with a cast this size, with choreography and football players and full contact hits and a drumline, you’re generally not going to be scared off by needing to hire an actor who uses a wheelchair. I think that the piece attracts companies that are drawn to both ambition and to difficult theater.

Company One Theatre is the fourth stop of this National New Play Network rolling world premiere, after Olney Theatre Center outside of DC, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, and Dallas Theatre Center. You were directly involved with the previous three productions, right?

AH: Yeah, I was. Very much so with the Olney—pretty much the entire production there—most of the production with Mixed Blood, and at least half of it with Dallas. It’s been great. I’m so fortunate because the evolution of the piece has been so incredibly well-supported, and has really given me a strong sense of what the play wants; what the play is and what it isn’t. It’s been great because I have had the opportunity to work with different directors and different casts in theatres of different sizes. You come away from that experience with revelations for sure.

What are some specific things you’ve learned about the play through the process?

I think one thing that has been proven true from production to production, and is so vitally important, is that the play has a certain precision and relentlessness and violence that isn’t adaptable. There is a certain level of violence in this pressure-cooker of a play where it can’t be allowed to become a little bit sloppy with the movement or the rhythm of the language. If you suck in your breath and tighten absolutely every muscle of your body until everything is unbearable and uncomfortable and tight, that’s the way that the play needs to feel up until that final moment—which is partially why it’s such a short play.

Also, though, the play became about different things in different cities. At the Olney, with an older audience, it became clear that this particular production was about care-taking. In Mixed Blood’s production, there was a little more focus on disability, because that’s something the company is really focused on. And in Texas, the football piece, of course, but also the relationship between two men became what the play was about. There were a number of people who walked out of the play when the two men touched each other. And it was because this particular kind of men, these hyper-masculine football men, were touching each other in a very vulnerable way.

That’s one thing we’ve been talking about in our process—it’s not necessarily the sexuality of the characters that’s dangerous or even interesting about this story, but the intimacy between these two big guys who are so hyper-masculine in a culture where masculinity means closing off emotions and vulnerability.

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Exactly. One of the things we’ve always talked about is that it’s absolutely not a coming out story. If Mike had told his father he was in love with his teammate, he would have been fine with it. The interesting thing is that he can’t tell his father because they’ve broken off all ties.

Part of the reason that the play has landed with folks is because we are really drawn to this violent performance of masculinity. We find it attractive, and obviously the play is out to disrupt that, but there is something that’s truly compelling about the play for the same reasons. As a person, and part of a larger society, I’m drawn to this particular brand of masculinity that I find hypnotizing. It’s an incredibly violent game, where these men are asked to really push themselves beyond physical boundaries and to put themselves in positions of extraordinary physical risk. Without question the play is written from the point-of-view of someone who both loves football and finds it grotesque.

Broadening our scope for this last question: what’s exciting to you about the theatre right now? Why do you make plays?

Right now I’m interested in a lot of collaborations that may cut across disciplines—into dance, into sports, into magic, into these forms where people are participating in performance before an audience.

I think that one of the greatest gifts that the theatre can give is the sense of being present. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m so rarely present in my life. In theatre, generally speaking, you’re like, “Sit down, shut up, and don’t go anywhere for the next hour and a half.” If we actually embrace how demanding we’re being, then we might embrace how much we owe our audience. The contract that we’re making is that every moment is going to matter because we’re not allowing you to do something else. We’re not allowing you to look away. So this all has to matter.

That experience that people who love football have when they go to a game that is electric, where they stand on the bleachers and scream? I’m interested in that emotional electricity inside of you. Why can’t the theatre do that? Why can’t it charge us into this animalistic place? At a magic show, people lose their minds. These feats of virtuosic magic are so powerful because they’re actually making us be present; that moment that you weren’t present, you missed it.

I’m not interested in smugness or commentary; I am really drawn to theatre pieces that unabashedly wear their heart on their sleeve—that are unafraid of being emotional. Our contract with the audience is to make every moment matter. That’s the value that I aspire to.

Post-show Panel of Experts | COLOSSAL

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Thursday, August 6 | 9:00pm, after the 7:30 performance
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, Roberts Studio Theatre
527 Tremont Street

Join us for a post-show discussion with dramaturg Ramona Ostrowski and members of the incredible community cohort who helped us put this show together: Noe Montez from Tufts University, Sidney Monroe from The Theatre Offensive, Adrian Hernandez from Boston College High School, and Beth Peters from The Accessible Theatre. The conversation will focus on the themes of the play, giving you insight into both the story and production process!

Post-show discussion with the cast | COLOSSAL

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Thursday, August 13 I 8:45PM, following the 7:30 show
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, Roberts Theatre
527 Tremont Street

Stick around after the show for a discussion with the cast of COLOSSAL!

Growing Up Gaysian Night!

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GROWING UP GAYSIAN NIGHT
Thursday June 11, 5:30 – 9:30

What a wonderful night! We kicked things off with delicious food provided by Chef Lucia Austria: chicken adobo, vegetable pancit and coconut bibingka to wrap up the meal. So yummy!

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Dinner was followed by an excellent workshop on identity with Hung Nguyen from BAGLY, exploring intersectional complexities of being queer and Southeast Asian American.

We capped the night off with a wonderful performance of EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM!

 

90’s Night & Cahllege Mixah!

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Our 2nd Cahllege Mixah was a fabulous post-show Karaoke showdown ripe with amazing 90’s hits to fit the time period of EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM. OneRush Member Jose Goddoy hosted the nights festivities.

All had a great time singing along to Whitney, Britney, Fiona Apple, and  a bevy of 90’s classics. Big Ups to Joan, who won our audience-favorite prize package, including a stuffed frog (like FERGIE from the show), a copy of George Michael’s album FAITH, and a copy of the script of EDITH signed by the cast and playwright A. Rey Pamatmat!

Special thanks to the staff of the Calderwood Pavilion for hosting us, and to the apprentices from Commonwealth Shakespeare Company for coming out to party!

BosTEEN Artist Night – EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM

EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM
Friday, June 5th, 2015, 6:00pm to 10:00pm

Our fourth BosTEEN Artist Night featured a terrific workshop on Forum Theatre from the teens at Hyde Square Task Force. Workshop participants got a great intro to the format, and took part in conversations to motivate social change and unpack opportunities where we can all serve as catalysts in our communities.

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Attendees had a break for pizza and mingling before going downstairs to an excellent performance of EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM!

Thanks so much to Hyde Square Task Force’s ACCION Community Theatre for coming out to lead the workshop, and to everyone who attended!

We’ll see you all back here in July for COLOSSAL!

SteamCRUNK Night – SHOCKHEADED PETER

We had a Steam-tacular Friday the 13th! A full crowd joined us for SteamCRUNK night, with members of the audience gussied up in their Steampunk finest, and an after-party with the Army of Broken Toys after the show at Stoddard’s.

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A SteamCRUNKED audience member poses with Walter Sickert.

 

Cahllege Mixah Night – SHOCKHEADED PETER

Company One Theatre invites you to our first ever CAHLLEGE MIXAH on Friday, March 20th, 2015!

Boston is home to more than a quarter of a million college students. With busy schedules and varying interests, many times, the communities of those students do not extend past their individual college campuses.  What will happen if there is time and space given for those barriers to break and students, regardless of institution, interact with one another?

Come to CAHLLEGE MIXAH and find out!  With activities designed to break the ice between students from schools all over Boston, backed up with the presence of food, Cahllege Mixah is set to be a fun night out with old and potential new friends, all while getting to watch awesome theatre.

Join us for an evening of activities and interactions, including a performance of SHOCKHEADED PETER, a musical by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott with original music by The Tiger Lillies, and featuring Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys.

We hope to see you there! Plus, Company One Theatre is offering a special discount for college students – it’s just $15 a ticket for the entire event! You can learn about ticket information by emailing our Street Team Member, David J. Castillo, at dcastillo@companyone.org

BosTEEN Artist Night – SHOCKHEADED PETER

We had a great BosTEEN Artist Night on Wednesday March 11!

60 students from 5 programs around the city came together for an amazing workshop on Devised Theatre, led by our very own C1 Apprentices! Fun and free pizza were had by all! Special thanks to the amazing folks at the Asian-American Civic Association for lending us space and extra hands!

Afterwards we headed down to the Modern Theatre for the evening performance of SHOCKHEADED PETER. The BosTEEN’s were a lively crowd for our first Wednesday performance. They also had a blast taking photos with Walter Sickert in the photo booth after the show.

If you’re interested in learning more about our next BosTEEN, please contact Street Team Director John J King: jking@companyone.org. If you want to follow along online with our BosTEEN Community, check out the Facebook Group page here!

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SHOCKHEADED PETER Studio Session – 2/19

What a great night and a great way to introduce the community to the show and the artists bringing it to life! We started with drinks and quesadillas at Papagayo, where guests had a chance to chat with The Army Of Broken Toys, director Steven Bogart, and C1 Staff. Then we shuffled down to the Modern Theatre for a sneak peak at a rehearsal, a visit from Walter Sickert, and a great Q&A with dramaturg Ilana Brownstein.

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