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Interview with Playwright Danai Gurira

Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 4:56pm

By John M. Baker

John M. Baker : You sometimes describe yourself as “Zimerican.” How does having been born in Iowa and raised in Zimbabwe inform your work as an artist?

Danai Gurira :
I think it is a definite thread in my artistic pursuit. I feel I am part of both worlds and want to see them intersect. I want to bring the subjective African voice to the American audience. I grew up in Zim with all of us watching American movies, listening to American music, having their voice heard loud and clear way across the skies, but vice versa? Not so much. And why? Africans are equally as complex, interesting, and diverse, with fascinating stories and voices. So, bringing that voice to the American realm as much as possible is a driving force behind my artistic quest.

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Attis Theatre Workshop Testimonials - Ross Beschler and Janis Dardaris

Posted Monday, October 7, 2013 - 9:58am

Greek director Theodoros Terzopoulos and his company, Attis Theatre, visited the Wilma during FringeArts in September. In addition to performing Ajax, the madness, Attis led a five-day workshop for twenty-five Philadelphia actors. Mr. Terzopoulos’ systematic, physically rigorous methodology was well-received by the workshop participants, many of whom continue to meet weekly to practice these exercises with Wilma Artistic Director Blanka Zizka. The participating actors were gracious enough to share their reflections with the Wilma.

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Interview with Director Michael John Garcés - Part Two

Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 - 1:52pm

Michael John Garcés is the director for Danai Gurira's The Convert. He originally directed the play this spring for Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington, DC, in a production featuring the same design team and three of the leading actors who are appearing at the Wilma.  A week before beginning rehearsals in Philadelphia, he spoke on the phone with Walter Bilderback about The Convert, his career, directing, and other topics.

 

WB: And what are you looking forward to in getting a second crack at the play here at the Wilma?

MG: The richness of it and the size of it. I just re-read it recently in preparation for coming down to Philadelphia, and already I was like “ohhh I never…,” there were things in the play that I just never even saw before. You know, you’re kind of overwhelmed sometimes the first time reading a play, you’re just trying to catch up with it. And then the second time sort of feels like, you haven’t really mastered it necessarily, but at least you’re more in it, you’re able to be more present in it. Essentially, I’m oriented in the context of the play and now I can really start to see the trees and not just the forest. And that can be a very exciting part of the creative journey. And this is one of the handful of plays that I would say, in my experience, I am particularly excited about re-addressing because it just feels so rich. And I don’t think we had time or space - I was really proud of the Woolly production I’m not criticizing it - but I think it’s just a big play. So to be able to re-come into it and start from where we are now it will go much deeper and I’m excited about that.

 

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Attis Theatre Workshop Testimonials - Krista Apple

Posted Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - 11:30am

Greek director Theodoros Terzopoulos and his company, Attis Theatre, visited the Wilma during FringeArts in September. In addition to performing Ajax, the madness, Attis led a five-day workshop for twenty-five Philadelphia actors. Mr. Terzopoulos’ systematic, physically rigorous methodology was well-received by the workshop participants, many of whom continue to meet weekly to practice these exercises with Wilma Artistic Director Blanka Zizka. The participating actors were gracious enough to share their reflections with the Wilma.


Working with Mr. Terzopoulos and Attis, and having the chance to see AJAX: THE MADNESS, offered a new perspective and physical approach to the actor’s work. But the week we spent with the company has also radically changed my point of view on the purpose of an actor, the function of performance, and the responsibility of the audience. It has fundamentally changed how I think about, and approach, my craft.

The daily workshops focused on the power of the body. The power of the actor’s body. The connection between body, breath and will. It was physical training at its finest, connecting full breath work with mental discipline and deep core strength. For me, Mr. Terzopoulos’ method combines the best parts of many other physical acting techniques – Suzuki, Le Coq, and others – while maintaining a very clear and practical approach deeply grounded in the body. The work is more than breath and muscle; but Mr. Terzopoulos believes (and I agree) that the best mental and spiritual work is attained quietly and only through the body.

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Interview with Director Michael John Garcés - Part One

Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 - 2:20pm

Michael John Garcés is the director for Danai Gurira's The Convert. He originally directed the play this spring for Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington, DC, in a production featuring the same design team and three of the leading actors who are appearing at the Wilma.  A week before beginning rehearsals in Philadelphia, he spoke on the phone with Walter Bilderback about The Convert, his career, directing, and other topics.


WALTER BILDERBACK:
As I was trying to do some very cursory research, I realized I had forgotten that you are also a playwright. Which came first - the playwriting or the directing?

MICHAEL JOHN GARCÉS: Playwright definitely came first. I started writing plays after I moved to New York. I originally moved to New York to  be an actor and pretty quickly got fed up with some of the aspects of the business of acting and I think that spurred me to write scripts and things like that. And you know, as a young writer you’re trying to get things produced and you wind up just making it yourself and you wind up directing. So I fell very backwards into directing, and it was really other writers seeing stuff that I did of my own and saying, “Hey do you want to direct my play?” and kind of being like “Well, I’m not really a director, but sure!” And it sort of organically grew out of that kind of conversation and situation.


WB: Do they feed off of each other in your work?

MG: I think my directing is definitely impacted by my writing. My focus with directing has always been on new work with living playwrights and scripts that are at least on some level in the process of becoming. So the understanding I believe I possess of writer’s processes, and how I interact with writers is informed by my own practice. And I’m just a very text-based guy. All my impulses come from the text, I don’t tend to visualize things and work that way. I tend to come out of the rhythm and the images that are evoked in the writing. And I think that comes because I’m a text-based person and oriented towards written word and spoken word.
 

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