Superfantasmagorique, et encore!

Su-per-fan-ta-sma-go-rique… we often use the word in rehearsal, to react to a new idea, some great blocking, an evocative portrait, a warm-up song where the listening is impeccable, a character who seems to be emerging through an improv, et encore…

Nous l’avons retenu comme titre de notre spectacle de retrouvailles, il y a bientôt sept ans, et encore…

It has been used to describe a square of Maritime landcsape that is framed by the window of the cargo van when we were on tour, et encore…

It can be our final offering to an audience that has been very generous and engaged, and whose members have asked a lot of questions after the show. Tous nos publics, me semblait-il pendant notre Tintamarrathon 2012.  Et encore…

Et bien sûr, ce mot décrit à la perfection la créativité, l’engagement, et le travail d’équipe, de notre troupe de cette année.

Why do we use that word so much? Why share it with our audiences?  I’m not too sure. Because our (very) unofficial motto is “Let’s go over the top to see what’s on the other side”?  Because it’s fun to say?  Because, in our Tintamarre community, there are many instances that require an effusive epithet?  Probably all of the above, et encore…

Next September, when we first meet to begin the process of creation of our next collaborative show, I will welcome into a safe space all the students from throughout the University who think they will, or might, accompany us on our journey.

A space to play.

A space where every idea will be welcomed, discussed, and considered.

Where characters will be suggested, sketched, shaped, accepted or rejected.

A space fit for a carnival of words, words, and more words.

Des jeux de mots.  Des mots nouveaux, inexistants peut-être, des mots pittoresques, poétiques, des alliances de mots, des mots qui se disputent, et encore…

Students of a second language – français et autres – can find that three types of words are missing from their classroom – le langage pratique, le langage poétique, le langage pittoresque.

Enter superfantasmagorique! Imagine if that word became a character – what would she look like?  How would this character walk? How would he be costumed?  Does she have attidude? Lots of attitudes?

There has never been a Tintamarre character by that name.  But since Hypersuperalphabétachimipifpafpatatrasvlanboumomégacrash (Bouffe, 2011), anything can happen… we’ve had a computer virus character, an i-Pod character… and this year, in CAMP, we created le Vieil arbre, les Arbustes, Ours, Hibou, Libellule…

It’s commonly believed that education confers permission – to choose, prepare and practise a career; to make many basic decisions, from voting to choose the mayor of Kappa City (Tintamarre’s megalopolous) to shopping to avoid food additives like Hypersuperalphabétachimipifpafpatatrasvlanboumomégacrash, et  encore…

But education can also contribute to the withdrawl of permission – la permission de contester, de protester, de jouer, de rire même.  D’utiliser des gros mots, des mots ludiques, des mots inexistants…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theatre can restore permission.  Tintamarre aims to celebrate our differences and to create collaborative theatre through deep listening to the stresses and rumeurs of our age and milieu: our troupe can, I think, lay claim to having restored some permission.

Here is a striking feature of CAMP : the remarkable silence during those moments de recueillement that followed the times when we offered permission, invited the audience to laugh, howl, scream.  In every audience. 

An actor noted, in the tour journal, that she observed boys in the back row of one of our playing spaces who were beat boxing to one of the songs – at other times those same boys were completely silent, and it was not the silence of indifference.  A tribute to them, to the actors, to the designers, to the play.

Vive le rythme!  Rhythm shapes the crowd, and the crowd shapes rhythm.

The show is a gift, and the spectators give in return.

Superfantasmagorique!

-Alex, le 16 mai, 2012

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The Final Few Days

It’s not over yet.

Over; finished; done with. The words hang over our hearts like clouds. How can it be that we performed our final show in Tweedie Hall today? Why is the tree back in the basement of Windsor Theatre Out Of The Box?

It’s not ever truly finished, though. Not until the last mug is washed, and the last bed cleared, and the final bit of dust swept from the kitchen with our multicolored broom can the tour be declared as over.  And looking at the state of our kitchen, where the remnants of supper and the overload of baking from the past few days seems to fighting a harsh battle for counter space, there’s still much time before any kind ofending is called for the Tintamarrathon 2012. Besides, there’s no time to think of the final performance when we’ve got four full days of tour to catch up on.

Wednesday saw us wind up in Windsor, Nova Scotia, for a double-performance day at Avon View High School. We were in the academic home of a former Tintamarrien, Chris, who welcomed us with a great big smile and enough pizza for everyone. Quel accueil!

En attendant un public…

C’était une salle qui convernait parfaitement à l’expérimentation. Nous n’avions que le trois-quarts de l’espace auquel nous étions habitués, sans même avoir un endroit pour se changer… une scène qui convenait parfaitment à la collaboration, donc.

The horror!

The students were wonderfully enthusiastic–we didn’t have the time for discussion with the first group, sadly, but we had fun at lunchtime, speaking with some who had seen the show, and letting others hide behind the curtains during an all-school game of hide-and-seek. We had a workshop with the drama class after the second performance, where we made portraits and warmed up our faces and taught people the Miramichi Folk Dance.

We were glad we’d warmed up with Wigglebottom the previous day–because Thursday started off with Miramichi Valley High School. We drove through wind and rain and moose, loaded out, and let the three Miramichildren in the group be reunited with fond memories (and dance sequences) about their time in the auditorium. It’s true–you leave a part of yourself in the spaces you call home. How wonderful, for me, to see Lauren, Allison, and Amanda in their element.

Rain-driving

L’auditorium à Miramichi

The audience was wonderful. We got loads of reactions from the group during the play itself, as well as baker’s dozen of intriguing questions. Did we always create plays about things that were in the news? How long had we been doing drama? Was Lauren coming home? (That last one was from her little brother.) We wish we could have stayed, but we were awaited at Bonar Law Memorial High School–so we packed our things and drove off in our magical van.

We were welcomed at Bonar Law by David, un tintamarrien de longue date. Ça fait plus de vingt ans que le Tintamarrathon visite Rexton, et c’est David nous a accueilli chaque fois! Quel dévouement…

En attendant

The stage for the show was a bit more constrained than normal, given the fact that we had to play within an existing set… of a house. (A forest in a house on a stage in a school. Meta-theatre at its finest.) The audience didn’t seem to mind; they hooted and hollered at our hooting and hollering, and asked wonderful questions about the process, and whether we could come back next year (we’ll try, we promise!).

Afterwards, we had a long conversation with David, who is retiring this year. He gave us his impressions of how audiences and students had or hadn’t changed in the past twenty years, and in his experience as a teacher. We talked about the importance of celebrating our differences, whether through plays like Tintamarre or by offering courses in the Mig’maw language at Bonar Law, which has a 50% First Nations student population. We were surprised and delighted when we heard that there was a truly thriving dialogue between cultures at that school–youppi! Vive le dialogue!

Après le spectacle

Serious business, le théâtre étudiant…

The next morning saw us blinking into the sunlight as we rose for our final day of school shows. We went out with much more of a bang than a whimper: three shows in the same space, back-to-back-to-almost-back… it was tough to get into the cars–not only for lack of sleep, but mostly because we knew that, when we returned, we would have to return them. No more road to be on. No more fist-pumping out of the window to the Baha Men. No more games of Think Tank.

As we drove over the swelling hills and into the sunlit valleys of Nova Scotia, though, I started to feel a kind of happy, nervous energy. Perhaps it was the landscape around us, green and slowly warming to the new life around it. Perhaps it was the memories of all the friends we’d made in all of the schools before this one, who were thinking about us and waiting for us to come back. Perhaps it was the joy at knowing that we would make new friends that day. I looked around me at the sleeping faces and smiled. It was all three–and it was going to be a good day.

The optimism we all gathered during the drive proved to be quite useful, because we got an interesting surprise upon arrival: the forty minutes we thought we had to set up had suddenly shrunken to… fifteen minutes. Yikes.

L’arrivée à Springhill

Quick–to the van! Load everything out! Find the stage–do we have enough room for the platform? No! Crap–a flat’s broken. Get the drill! Do we have loose pins? Are all the costumes out? Hang the sheeting! Set the Woodstock! Air out David’s shirt of its built-up sweat! Get the cushions! Done? Done. Whew.

It took us ten minutes to set up, warm up, and get into costume. Un tintarecord.

We had three very wonderful and very different audiences for the three shows. The junior high school, raucous though they were, got completely engrossed in our antics–so much so that they might not have been expecting Bear and Hibou to sneak up behind them and roar near the end of the play. (Some of the teachers seemed particularly delighted about that.) The high school students were slightly more subdued, but came up with excellent questions during our discussion. Where did we get the bear fur? Was there any trouble learning French? We had further questions with students who came back to us during our lunch break–thanks for coming to talk to us, guys!–and even discussed possible themes for future shows.

Springhill

Then came the final show–and we couldn’t have asked for a better audience. The grades four and five of Junction Road and West End Elementary Schools cheered and clapped at our warm-up, giggled at Hibou’s stares and Boris’ snapping, and were so engaged by the story that some looked as though they’d forgotten to breathe by the end of it. A forest of hands shot up for discussion, even though we only had seven minutes before everyone had to go back to the bus. Why were the tents destroyed? What happened to the dragonfly? Were our characters teenagers or little kids? Such fertile ground for dialogue… it was incredible to see how deeply our spectators were willing to analyze our play.

It was, we learned, only a part of the process that these students were going through. Thank you so, so very much to the teachers at Springhill, West End, and Junction Road for helping make the play so much more than a performance. Tintamarre extends much further than the group we call our family–we have Tintamarre aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews, too. Much as it’s possible to think of the tour as over, it will live on–in our minds, but also in those of our spectators, who will be discussing it, drawing pictures of it, and giggling when they remember how funny the Arbustes looked. We drove off into a gorgeous afternoon, tired and happy. Heureux qui, comme Tintamarre, a fait un beau voyage! Heureux qui, comme Tintamarre, voyagera encore et toujours!

The post-show debrief

And then… well, then came the aftermath. I won’t speak of it too much, if only to save further tears from some cast members–including yours truly. Besides, we’ll have a post coming up in the next few days to talk more about the final show, and some reflections for the tour.

Suffice to say–le Tintamarrathon 2012 a été une expérience phénoménale. It has taught us that theatre can, and does, change the world; that silliness is a necessary ingredient in life; that there is no shame in joy, or laughter, or spontaneity; que la célébration des différences et la réconciliation des torts ne peut se faire qu’à travers l’amitié et le va-et-vient d’un processus collaboratif; et que rien n’est impossible, si l’élan est là et l’effort est continu.

It has been a wild ride. But it’s not done yet.

Stay tuned, folks. The rest is yet to come.

Avec amour,

Hibou

A Slew of Shenanigans

“‘Suuup, Peeps?’ is how we should start the blog post,” suggests Alexis.

“How about, ‘You ludicrous fools!'” says Alissa.

Oh, dear. The inside jokes are flying. Tour, you see, is a bit of a bubble–and we feel like we’ve hardly left it in the past few days.

We’ve just returned from Windsor, Nova Scotia, where were performed not one, but two shows for Avon View High School–merci à Chris, qui a facilité l’atelier et la discussion!–and we are, to say the least, the teensiest bit tired.

Has it been a full week since we last updated? Oh, dear. We should catch you up on our crazy shenanigans…

We managed a bleary-eyed wake-up call on Thursday, for a show at John Hugh Gillis Regional High School. It was one of our most challenging stages yet, being a 180-degree playing area… with two support poles right at centre stage. We had to play wider than ever before–but were heartened in our projection and sight-work by the fact that it was Laura’s first show! (Rebienvenue, Laura!) We got loads of wonderful questions about language difficulties and the strength of our tree arms… as well as some delicious cake from the cafeteria ladies. Double bonus.

Our biggest stage ever!

There was a mad dash through a grocery store in Alma to grab some lunch before a performance and a workshop at Northumberland High School, where we had a great discussion about the differences between students and animals, and how to act like a bear. Thanks so much to all of the students who stayed behind after our Lion song to talk about the Tintamarre process and ask us what philosophy was and compliment one particularly handsome cast member’s vest.

Friday led us on a long, arduous trip all the way to Amherst, NS–a staggering twenty kilometres–to E.B. Chandler Junior High School. We interrupted the Multicultural Fair during our load-out (oops), but were incredibly grateful for the help of students in the setup–and the milk and cookies we received from the cafeteria! What a gorgeous way to end a show.

E.B. Chandler’s gym was another challenge, in terms of projection. We practiced bringing our voices out to fill the space with some cluster-chords, in the style of Mount Allison’s former Crake Drama Fellow, Mary Vingoe–never before has a gym sounded like a Buddhist temple. Our ming-ahs resonated all the way across the home of the sassy cheetah (see photo below).

Note the sassy cheetah.

Our arrival at Oxford was peppered with questions by the students who were playing outside. We were bringing in a forest! Were we the French play? Why couldn’t they come and see? Were we the ones who came last year? They remembered us, too–one of the girls we had met before was the one who thanked us in front of the entire audience. There was certainly a tiny bit of Friday afternoon craziness, but the show was certainly a highlight. The audience ranged all the way from grades four to twelve, so we had to play to all age groups, which challenged us just enough to give a great edge to the show. We felt welcome–and we got so many questions! How did we make the thunder? How did the play help people learn French? Why did we carry a Barbie magazine? Could we perform next year’s play right now? We were sad to leave–but didn’t dare finish our loadout without the obligatory playground photo shoot.

The Oxford Stage

Happiness is post-show yogurt…

Il ne faut jamais oublier de jouer!

Jungling around…

And then… the weekend. Oh, dear. Two whole days without shows. We swung from trees and baked pies in the sun oven, learned to play banjo and found our rooms turned upside-down. We read each other bedtime stories and ran an Italian run-through, and ate delicious boeuf bourgignion (although the vegetarian option was amazing, too).

Monday morning–a rough start. Our alarms dragged us out from the warmth of our beds and onto the road by six-thirty–gah–and… to our largest audience ever. Four hundred and ninety people! See this gym below? Imagine it filled. Holy cow. Even though projection was a huge hurdle, the audience was incredibly responsive–hats off to all of you, Colchester Junior High School!

Le gymnase à Colchester

The members of the cast that toured last year were very excited for the second show on Monday because the students at Harmony Height Elementary School were so excited and enthusiastic and they gave us their famous Harmony Height Clap! We also got to revisit our love of all things dragon–Who’s the coolest dragon? I’m the coolest dragon! My Aunt Ulva, she have dragons… The students were lovely–they answered all of our rhetorical questions during the performance, and had loads of questions about the tree and how our costumes were made. They also wanted to know why we kept singing about dragons. Maybe Hannah can answer that one…

Funky dragon…

Pour toi, Hannah.

After a three-hour drive, we slept overnight at the St. Stephen Inn before our morning performance at St. Stephen High School. The audience were neat–they even understood our French jokes! They wanted to know why the people from British Columbia had come all the way to Mount Allison and how long we had been doing drama. The student technicians who put on a great lighting show danced along to our final song–wonderful moves, boys. We wish we could have taken a picture, but the photographers were slightly occupied…

Quel auditorium!

We had so little time until our next show at Back Bay Elementary School that we decided to defer lunch until the end of our workshop. Ten minutes to load in and set up! Warm-up and set creation in front of the students! Talk about meta-theatre. It was one of our most intimate audiences, even though we had a whole contingent all the way from Deer Island–thanks for coming, guys! There was a veritable maelstrom of questions after the show, as well as a great workshop. We learned how to stretch our faces and make delicious fruit salad. The students were eager to share that they were preparing for their own play. Break a leg, guys! We’d love the video from that show…

Notre scène à Back Bay.

Today was just as big a day, with a three-hour drive all the way to Windsor, NS for not one, buttwo shows at Avon View High School. Chris, a former Tintamarrien, welcomed us by clearing the entire room before we got there and bringing us a pizza lunch. Formidable! The space was much cozier than we were used to: we played in the drama classroom, playing around with the props and dancing about on the desks.

“There are theorists who could write articles about what we’re doing here,” exclaimed Alex. “Talk about environmental theatre!”

We did an atelier with the drama class, and went much further than we usually dare go in the workshop process. We got to try out portraits of anger, letting students invent their own tableaux in groups of five or six. The results were astounding: the tension! The levels! The unintentional… er…edges to some of the performance! (Ceux qui y étaient comprendront…) It was so very rewarding for us to work with these students. We don’t usually have the time to go into anything deeper than our warm-up process. Having the chance to integrate a creative technique that is such an important part of the Tintamarre creative process brought a completely different dimension to the dramatic education we try to bring.

Tiens, un hibou et un arbuste…

And now? Well, we’ve devolved to sitting around at the kitchen table, sipping on tea and talking about Disney movies as Nathalie makes muffins. Life is good and we are tired. Tomorrow, we head all the way up to Miramichi, then back down to Rexton. Look out, world. We’re coming. More posts and photos soon–we might even have some of our tour journal entries appear…

Vive le théâtre!

-Hibou, l’Arbre, et tout le monde

A Forest in a Van

For the past three days, we have been doing the most peculiar thing: we’ve been following a forest across the Maritimes.

Over hill, over dale, thorough brush, thorough briar–it does wander everywhere, occasionally swifter than you might think a forest would normally spread. There’s a whole caravan of fools following it, too–going up and down and around with all of its twists and turns. Sometimes, the forest stops in a place–usually a school gym or auditorium–and starts to set down roots. We play with it, then, dressing up as campers and animals, singing to the tree and to whomever will come to hear us.

And what a journey it has been!

Pugwash Stage

Pugwash Stage

Oh, goodness!

Oh, goodness!

Over the past four days, we’ve done five shows in five schools–Auburn Drive, Tantramar Regional High School, Pugwash Senior and Junior High School, Birchmount, and Riverview. Whew.

We had a leisurely start on Tuesday, seeing as Tantramar Regional High is in Sackville–just down the road from us, in fact. It was our first show on a stage, with lights and everything. This is how you start to gain the ability to adapt the play–by throwing it into a completely different environment, without having tried it first. Experimentation as performance. The students there were wonderfully reactive. We’re so sorry that we weren’t able to have a discussion period! There were classes to go to, and Pugwash beckoned…

We had a twenty-minute lunch and made a quick drive to Pugwash Senior and Junior High School, where we discovered a wonderful, delightful surprise upon entering the gym…

…the students had drawn pictures of what they thought our characters might look like! Have you seen Ours? And the hyper-dramatic Libellule? And the surprisingly seductive Susie? Talk about motivation. Most of the time, the audience doesn’t have any idea of what our characters will be like, so we can mess around with their expectations and shape our own image. Here, we had to live up to what people had already discussed. Oh, dear. The pressure!

The show went wonderfully, despite the challenges of projecting in such a wide space, and the workshop that went on afterwards saw over a hundred students learn how to make fruit salad, wrangle a ball of energy like a cowboy, and become an intergalactic samuraï. And we managed to come back home by honouring another Tintamarre tradition: the Sandpiper restaurant!

It was, I’m sure you’ll understand, a completely serious meeting. Absolutely no frivolity or cake-eating of any kind.

Well, maybe a little dessert.

We were a bit bleary-eyed the next morning when we showed up at Birchmount School in Moncton, but we were soon awoken by the fact that our wonderful contact at the school, Natalie (a Tintamarrienne!) had been up part of the night making us some utterly scrumptious muffins. We graciously received them by devouring them, along with the fruit platter she sent along with two grade-five emissaries. Starving artists no more.

The Birchmount gym

Ils nous attendaient!

De la bonne bouffe…

The show went very well–what a great audience to have! They were much younger than our other publics, but their questions were just as fascinating. What was our favourite part about acting? Could we sing another song? We loaded back out among the throngs of admirers who wanted our autographs–such rock star treatment.

In Riverview, that castle in the woods, we played to an enormous auditorium–a completely different projection challenge. But each and every one of the students who came to see us came voluntarily–no coercion! And they stayed! That warmed our bunch of weary hearts… not to mention the fact that we got incredible technical assistance–what light design! Thanks so much for your help, Kelsey, Callum, and Nathan. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Lunch in the parking lot before Riverview

Il fait bon de se reposer…

En attendant un public…

Loading in

We were tired when we were in Riverview–hopefully, it didn’t show.

So much of the preparation before each show is about finding our level of energy and raising it past that barrier. It’s strange, how we can suddenly invoke a few rituals–some movement, some silly dances, a song we all know–and find that we’ve stepped aside from the world into abstracted space, a pocket of focus somehow tucked away from other distractions. Shows are about energy exchange, but they’re also about that space between the audience and the actors.

When we act, we’re in a different geography; we are midway between what the audience sees and what we understand as text, constantly adapting to serve one or the other. How privileged we are to get to negotiate these boundaries…

And the questions we got after the show! Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve had amazing audiences and questioners. In Pugwash, we were asked what we first thought about our costumes when we saw them. In Birchmount, people wanted to know what we were doing after the tour. At Riverview, we talked about transitional objects and childhood and Daniel’s puppet, Boris. I love discussions so very much–if only because they renegotiate our roles as actors. The questions are essential to what we think about the play–it churns it over in our mind, turns over the loam, aerates the earth of our mentalities. Questions, questions, questions! The only way to sow new seeds in old ground. Le texte reste, mais les racines poussent quand même…

Fun at the mastodon.

And now? Well, almost as soon as we got home from Riverview, we got an hour to pack, turn around, and hop into our vehicles for the road to New Glasgow, on the way to Antigonish–with an addition to our cast. Bienvenue, Laura! Tu nous as manqué…

Today, we head up to John Hugh Gillis Regional High School and Northumberland Rural High School. La route continue, and we keep following the forest. It’s growing on us, this tracking…

See you on the road.

-Hibou