During the month of April, I am meeting individually with each actor in the show to talk about the piece, their role in it, and their process. In preparing for these meetings, I've been trying to specify what the world of this play is.
It's not completely in 2016, as there are characters that sound like Austen.
It's not completely in the Regency Era, as there are characters that sound like you and me.
How do you give concrete answers to normal stage questions like, "What year is it? Where are we? What are we wearing? What does the room look like? What are we hearing in this world?" when the play straddles two seemingly very different worlds?
I'm finding that the simplest answer is, you don't.
Instead, I'm looking more closely at the circumstances under which I wrote this piece, and using those to understand why it made sense to me, at that time, to have Lydia screaming "HELLS YEAH!" whilst Mr. Darcy is flipping words around in that confusing, Regency way, "Do not you feel inclined to dance?" And I think it has to do with my curiosity around the way a writers' brain works.
I've never thought of myself as a writer. So in taking on this project, I felt a need to understand how a writer thinks. I was fascinated by the idea that some writers can imagine their characters in a room together and listen to what happens between them. However, this is a terrifying prospect, because in order to do such a thing, an artist has to relinquish control and be okay if the dialogue is initially weird or kind of shitty.
I am not particularly good at relinquishing control or allowing my work to be kind of shitty.
So I tried to keep myself safe by simply copying & pasting dialogue from the novel into a Microsoft Word document. I loved Jane Austen. How could I possibly think that I had anything to add to her brilliance? But if spending hours at a computer copying & pasting Regency dialogue into a Microsoft Word document sounds super boring, tedious and devoid of any creativity, that's because it is.
Something had to change. I mean, the reason I love Jane in the first place is that sometimes she says things in a way that pulls on my solar plexis and makes me go "YES! THAT. I HAVE EXPERIENCED THAT, BUT NEVER KNEW HOW TO EXPRESS IT BEFORE." So how could I provide that opportunity to an audience that, perhaps, is daunted and disconnected from Austen's language?
Elizabeth is already written as a character that stands out in the Regency world. She says what she thinks, a trait that today is still responsible for making people stand out from a crowd. So she became the voice of my frustrations, joys and struggles as a writer.
In our adaptation (I can hardly call it mine anymore, with 25+ folks working to bring it to life), Elizabeth Bennet is a writer. She is writing her story. And initially, much like I did, she tries to take control of it. She brings each additional character to life, almost forcefully, conducting the conversation. But she quickly realizes that her sense of control is false and fleeting, and her characters start to take over. They start to speak to her.
When I stopped trying to push the show in a particular direction, and I started listening, weird (and sometimes shitty!) dialogue started coming out. I couldn't tell you why Darcy needed to be Regency and why Lydia needed to say BTW. But they did.
So here is the world of our play: We are inside a writer's mind.
As you watch the play, you are watching the creative process unfold. Characters sound like us and simultaneously not like us, and that's okay. Elizabeth has a laptop, and that's okay. The Meryton Dance music is rock n' roll, and the Netherfield Ball music is classical, and that's okay. All of it is happening in Elizabeth's mind, where she is trying to make sense of the events happening to her using whatever references make sense to her.
And by the way, this is also why we have so many smaller creations happening all the time, under the umbrella of "The Pride & Prejudice Project." Pride & Paraphrase, #CrazyJane, Darcy Dub, our upcoming live events, these are all part of our journey to let go of control over the creative process, and find those nuggets of gold in this story. You don't get the nuggets without making a lot of weird shit first.
We are exploring the questions:
How do we release control on the creative process?
And what happens when we do?
Thanks for your time. Much love,
A few nights ago we invited our cast of 13 and our designers/crew of 9 to our itty bitty apartment in order to read the script, aloud, all together, for the first time. I was reminded of when I invited about 10 actor friends of mine over several months ago to read the script, and I thought cramming in 10 people would be hard.
So 20 should be a piece of cake!
Remarkably, armed with food, warmth, massive amounts of art supplies and every available surface in the house, we made it into an absolutely lovely evening.
We began with the paperwork, contracts, waivers, all that good stuff, and quickly moved into designer presentations. Despite some of our designers being unavailable (it's what happens when you try to schedule a meeting with 20 people), we had presentations from all of them, giving everyone a better sense of the world we'll be creating with the play.
We took a short break and ate some brownies.
Before reading, Jordan and I taught everyone how to paint an enso. It was lovely to see such interest in the core philosophy of our company. Enso's abounded and provided a new sense of presence in the room.
And then we dove into the script! With three missing actors, our brave ASMs stepped up and filled in for the necessary roles (with brilliance, I might add). So many beautiful moments happened that night. I think my favorite ones were when a cast member read a line completely differently from what I had in my head and an entirely new backstory/insight into that character erupted in front of me. They were adding depth to the piece that I didn't even know was there!
Following the read-through, we ate more brownies and pulled out the art supplies. I put out a large foam poster, magazines, markers, glue, post its, etc, and gave instructions to fill the poster with images we thought represented the world of the play, as we currently understand it. Some really exciting images appeared. We will continue to add to it once we begin rehearsals. You'll have to see the show to see the final collage... :)
All in all, a promising start to the process. I wish rehearsals were starting next week!
You can see the faces of our cast & crew here.
If you'd like to know where we want Enso to go in the next five years, go here or here.
If you'd like to see the first update of #enso4you, go here.
As it so happens, the same weekend our cast list went out, we also solidified our design ensemble. Our designers are also a wide range of ages and backgrounds, and we are officially international! One or our two sound designers will be doing her work from South Korea, the other from Southern Oregon, and our Choreographer is flying in from California!
The web grows.
Now, we jump into the good stuff. Here's what we have on our to-do list:
1. Discuss music for dance sequences with Logan & Cinthia (our sound designers)
2. Ask Julie (our choreographer) to create outline for Netherfield dance scene
3. Ask Kensie (our costume designer) to share her sketches of costumes
4. Ask Kelly (our lighting designer) to share her inspiration images of lighting
5. Meet with Michael (our set designer) to discuss his presentation of set ideas at first table-read
6. Write out the order of events for our first table-read (Next Wednesday!)
7. Figure out how to fit 20 people in our living room for table-read.
There's a lot more but I won't fill your head with all my mumbo-jumbo (just some) :).
On top of all this stuff for Pride & Prejudice, Jordan and I have been making some headway on what our next project(s) will be!
Here's a hint: Our next show involves 4 actors, a super cut-up script, and a rose...
On the day we remind ourselves to #spreadthelove (ie, Valentines Day), ye shall check your email inbox and then ye shall be in-the-know. And we will bring some love to ye! Here, here! Check it out!
CREATIONS? WHAT CREATIONS?
Two big things happening at the moment:
1. I continue to paraphrase "Pride & Prejudice" (and I'm probably making Jane turn in her grave...sorry Jane!). Check out the latest chapter, released TODAY: "Chapter 8: Planet Netherfield (narrated by David Attenborough)"
2. #enso4you began January 1st, 2016 and continues to fulfill and frustrate me. For anyone that isn't clued-in, #enso4you is my journey to create an enso-a-day for the people, places and things that inspire me creatively. My first update has been posted! Check it out!
3. And finally, a new creation project will be starting up soon, called Darcy Dub!! Can't say too much more on that yet, but I promise hilarity, Colin Firth and lip-dubbing (No Colin Firth was actually used or harmed in the making of Darcy Dub).
Thank you, as always, for everyone's continued support! We got good stuff in the making.
Now back to work.
P.S. You can see the cast & design team here: www.ensotheatre.com/shows. Yay!
In case you haven't seen our Facebook page, we launched sign-ups and announcements for our auditions about two weeks ago and have had a very enthusiastic response. Folks have been emailing me with how excited they are about this project, just based the information available to them online. We've already received audition submissions from actors between 19 and 60 across the Portland Metro area. And auditions aren't even until January!
We've received our first drafts of contracts from both our performance space and our rehearsal space, and all that is left is to iron out a few details and sign on the dotted line!
THANK YOU to ShoutHouse Theatre for hosting our rehearsals & auditions!
THANK YOU to Portland Actors Conservatory for hosting our performances!
And a very special THANK YOU to an incredible, last-minute donation which is allowing us to EXTEND OUR PERFORMANCE RUN!! Instead of performing one weekend, we are now performing TWO! Check out our dates on our Shows page.
FUN WITH THE IRS!
We are in the midst of officially applying for non-profit status! Our Articles of Incorporation are submitted, Bylaws in-process, and very soon I will be jumping into the grand wonderfulness which is the 26-page 1023 Tax-Exemption form, required of 501 c-3 non-profits.
What this means though, is that every donation we receive once we are a non-profit is 100% tax-deductible for you!! This will become especially relevant in a little while...stay tuned, we have more awesome things coming for you. :)
Last night I invited 11 lovely actors and artists to squeeze into my SE apartment and read "Pride & Prejudice, an adaptation." Huddled around two coffee tables and a cork board propped up on a chair, we fueled ourselves with wine and cheese and laughed our way through the play.
I got some absolutely wonderful feedback in our post-reading discussion--it was fabulously exciting to see so many people get into a passionate conversation around this piece!
At the end, I asked how many of them would want to work on this piece, given the opportunity.
Every single hand went up.
A HUGE Thank You to the lovely people who took time out of their busy lives to support this story: Sarah Yeakel, Madeline Shier, Nate Cohn, Kensie Sempert, Alan Cline, Rose Proctor, Anthony Arnista, Elizabeth Parker, Angela Van Epps, Vanessa Peacock, and Cooper!!
Meanwhile, we have four interviews lined up with potential sound design candidates. Our proposal to do this show with a highly reputable theater in town is in. Two potential costume designers and a growing love for this piece.
More steps forward...
I wanted to notify you as soon as the decision was made: we are altering the date of the performance of "Pride & Prejudice, an adaptation."
Originally, we wanted the show to go up in Fall 2015. While there is a slight possibility that this could still happen, we've decided for a number a reasons that it will be better in the long-run for us to put the show up in Summer 2016.
Our reasons are:
1. Many of the spaces we are talking to about renting have already booked their Fall season, so availability is tricky. If we book a space now for the Summer, there are many more options available to us.
2. Fall is cold and rainy and dark in Portland. Summer is more likely to encourage people to come out and see a show with a never-before-heard-of company.
3. Pushing the show back to Summer gives us ample time to build the reputation of Enso and of the show. We will not be twiddling our thumbs while Summer rolls around. Oh no. On the contrary: We will use the Fall to contact schools in the area and we will be doing preliminary Jane Austen workshops with students before the show happens. This will A. Build excitement in the community about the project B. Allow us to build the first connections for Enso's future Education program C. Meet and work with students who may join Enso later.
I apologize if this news ruined any plans to see the show in the Fall. Do let me know if there are any concerns or questions about this change, I am all ears!
Also, regarding those of you who pledged to our Kickstarter Campaign: My goal is that by December 2015 everyone will have received their reward as long as the reward doesn't require the actual show (so the posters, videos, etc won't be ready in December, for obvious reasons).
At the moment, my life is filled with:
a. An internship with Third Rail Repertory Theatre
b. Nannying three days a week
c. Contacting teachers to set up Jane Austen workshops in schools
d. Teaching an acting class in Beaverton
e. Starting a(nother) small business...
Needless to say, it is FULL. But each of these things are part of the development of Enso, and are good, rewarding, wonderful things. The internship is allowing me to make connections in the Portland theatre scene. Nannying keeps my creativity alive and connects me to the parent-world (for future Enso Education purposes). Teaching builds connections in the education world. And this additional small business could eventually allow me to support myself enough that I can focus the majority of my time and energy on Enso.
Thank you for your patience. :)
Oh! and in case you didn't see our facebook page...
I can't give specifics...yet...
...we potentially have a space..
. ...it is a professional theatre space...
...it has professional lighting/sound/etc...
...it has comfy chairs...
...it is run by magnificent people...
That's all I can say for now! But we are quite, quite close to securing a real, live, actual, professional space....FOR REALSIES. Having this space means the show will happen in late July. BUT BELIEVE ME, THE SPACE IS WORTH THE WAIT. :)
All my love. And keep on spreading it.
Thank you so much for your patience the last two months, while Jordan and I relocated, reestablished ourselves and settled on solid ground.
It's been a whirlwind, to say the least. Over the last six weeks I have:
~Moved all my belongings into storage
~Interviewed for a new job
~Auditioned for an internship with Third Rail Repertory Theater (and got it!)
~Said goodbye to Southern Oregon!
~Gone to Texas for a week (to visit Jordan's extended family)
~Started a new job the day we got back from Texas
~Hunted for an apartment in a seller's market (Portland is at 98% capacity!)
~Moved our stuff out of storage
And in the midst of all this I have used every spare moment to make Enso connections, find space for our show, and begin putting the pieces together for an education program. So here is how that's been going: AWESOME.
I sent out a big email to some Portland theater folks to see if anyone was willing to chat with me over coffee. I ended up meeting with 5 or 6 different people, all of whom were eager to help and provided me with lots of useful information about the theater community.
I've contacted just about every high school and college in the Portland/Beaverton area, offering our free Jane Austen workshops and asking if we might be able to rent space. I've also contacted a number of theaters--in fact, I am currently in conversation with the Artists' Repertory Theatre (considered by some to be the second-largest theater in Portland) to rent their space.
Dennis Foster, co-founder of the Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts (where I taught acting in Southern Oregon) has given me an acting instructor position with his group, and has been absolutely stellar in his support for Enso and our project. He is connecting me with many valuable people in the area and helping to boost my reputation so that we can slowly build support for an Enso Theatre Education program.
Our new apartment is half-furnished and filled with unpacked boxes, but it is TOTALLY WORTH IT, to be able to spend time creating this beautiful thing. In fact, I'm currently writing you whilst sitting on my floor with our computer in front of me, also on the floor. :)
I also wanted to share with you where some of the money is going. Because of your spectacular support, I was actually able to pay four of the behind-the-scenes people who were absolutely critical to the success of this Kickstarter: Arden Kilzer created our poster for the staged reading, Autumn Harrison edited two of our promotional videos, Garrett Lushingtonmanaged our website, and Logan Anderson, as you know, is our phenomenal musician. THANK YOU SO MUCH YOU GUYS for helping me make this happen!
Quick Tangent: Logan Anderson has actually launched his own Kickstarter, to assist the making of his second album "The Company" (some of you will be receiving it as part of your reward for donating to this campaign!). I've heard a few of the songs on this album and it is awesome. Plus, it's always fun to guess what kind of instrument Logan is using, because he's used everything from tea cups to plastic bags. Check out his Kickstarter here, listen to the songs in his video and see if you can guess the instruments he uses: http://kck.st/1GK5Kkb
Part of the money will also help us to pay a marketing student to manage all our social media pages, and to connect us with places to hang flyers, etc, as we prepare for the show. So if anyone knows a Portland college student studying marketing, looking for a little extra cash, but mostly for resume experience, please let us know!
And last but not least, I've begun yet another editing process with the script...seeing the staged reading come together was incredibly helpful in allowing me to see what works and what doesn't. I'm very excited about some of the new changes being made. :)
Thank you so much everyone for your love and support! Keep a watchful eye, because as soon as we solidify a space, we will be in full-tilt advertise and spread-the-love mode.
All the best,
Went to add the latest update to the blog and saw that whoops! I completely spaced and didn't add some former posts that I had already drafted. So, here are the bits and pieces you need to know.
Just want to keep everyone in the loop! I am moving to Portland, OR with my partner-in-crime, Jordan Mackey, on June 3rd. Thus, I may be a bit off-the-grid, so your patience in June will be much appreciated, as we will need time to unpack, settle in, and start making those connections all over again in a new city.
Later in May, 2015:
The first Kickstarter reward was delivered last weekend (yay!) when I visited with Shereen Motarjemi to have tea and conversation! For the Tea with Me reward, I've created a sort of "kit" that I bring to each donor's house. In the kit are three different loose-leaf teas to choose from, my Yixing clay teapot, tea cups, tea condiments and fresh pastries! Unfortunately, when I visited Shereen, I was visiting my family in the Bay Area and didn't have my Yixing teapot with me, but I got to borrow my Dad's beautiful Japanese pot, which worked out just fine. :) After visiting Shereen (and thanks to her inquiry: Are you going to perform a tea ceremony?), I decided it would be fun to learn at least a little of the Japanese tea ceremony, and perhaps more about how tea would have been served in Jane Austen's time. I've always wanted to anyway! So that's what I'll be doing between now and the delivery of the next Tea with Me reward!!
Out of the three loose-leaf tea options I brought, Shereen choose the Jasmine Green Pearls, which were sublime. We talked about the possibility of making "Pride & Prejudice, an adaptation" an audio book, what it means to ask for help in our pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps society, and the significance of tea ceremony.
WOW! Thank you Shereen! Little did I know that delivering the "reward" part of the Kickstarter process would be just as inspiring as the creation of the campaign was. I can't wait to put pen to paper again and think about the possibilities for P&P: already I've been meditating on what this script would look like on film, the full staged production of course, and now, audiobooks....hmm....
If anyone has any audiobook-connections, or film-connections in Portland, OR, let me know!
...because of course that's the other part that's been taking up my time lately. MOVING. Oy. I always underestimate how much time, energy and work goes into moving. And did I mention ENERGY? I keep getting surprised by how tired I seem to get these days, and then I remember: oh yeah, moving is physical and mental. I eagerly await getting to Portland, settling in, and making all those wonderful connections. :)
While I was home with family, I was also able to see two of my closest friends, Monica and Amy, also Kickstarter supporters! So I treated them to some tea as well, this time the Earl Grey Creme and Rooibus Chai. Amy is going to become one of my business advisors, and I very much hope to see Monica auditioning for us in the future!
And finally, I got to meet Sabrina (who is AWESOME and I can't wait for our Tea in Portland!), visit family friends Sylvia, Cathy and Simone, and see my grandmother, Aunt Donna and Uncle Alan, ALL Kickstarter supporters. It felt so good to thank them in person!! THANK YOU! Their rewards (and all of yours!) will be coming very, very soon. :)
Thank you, everyone, again for your patience with me during this transition. My next update will be from Portland! Hurrah!
All the best and all the rest,
First and foremost, I apologize for the lateness of this update. The last month and a half has been busy, to say the least, but I finally have a moment to reflect, give my thanks and breathe (as much as is possible with a stuffy nose). :)
After many months of preparation, I launched our Kickstarter on March 1st and set my sights on the staged reading of the show, which I assumed would be the event to bring us closest to our goal of $3,000. You can imagine my face when, after only 5 days into the campaign, we made our mark. It was very much like this:
And the love kept spreading, and the journey continued, and the ensemble grew. During this journey I spent hours by myself (and occasionally with one or two cast members!) on various street corners, painting the enso symbol, asking for people to paint with me. Those hours were a rollercoaster: Much of the time my thoughts were of how totally pathetic and ridiculous and alone I was, and why-on-earth-am-I-here-freezing-my-butt-off, and please-make-eye-contact-with-me-hello!-I-exist-and-I-just-want-to-make-your-day-better-so-I-can-go-home-and-put-on-a-freaking-sweatshirt. But then there were moments of utter ecstasy and joy: when a family with three very energetic children asked to paint with me (I taped your paintings to the table so you could take them home after the show you saw at the Craterian, I hope you got them!), and the Wanderer who came and sat with me and told me about his dream to create poetic film and travel the world, and even the Texan who called me "sweetheart" and had no interest in what I was doing but just needed someone to listen to his story. Those interactions made it worth every second, freezing-butt or no.
Rehearsals started for our staged reading. I wanted to give more. So we took the "reading" and added fully performed, memorized scenes that we rehearsed outside of the scheduled rehearsal time. Logan Anderson composed beautiful, original music for us. Our lighting operator added additional cues to support the story. And I was blessed with a cast that wanted to explore, play and dive more deeply into the text. There is no way we could have created the performance that we did without that extraordinary group of people. They supported and encouraged and lifted me as much I as I tried to support, encourage and lift them.
Opening night, I was a nervous wreck, if I'm being completely honest. I had no idea where to stand--by the door, where I was awkwardly watching people donate to my project, or by the stage, which belonged to the cast, or backstage, where my cast needed to get ready without me? Finally I took a very deep breath, decided to do what I'd been doing the last month: make connections. I wandered in and out of the audience, introduced myself, and met the people attending my show. And once I did that, all the nervousness melted away. These were just people! Wonderful, extraordinary people who had taken time out of their busy lives to see this story. Excepting about five seats, we had full houses for both performances. On the second night of our performance, members from the Jane Austen Society of North America attended: they LOVED the show, and would I attend their meeting this Sunday to talk about the project? YES. (insert fist pump here) And the ensemble grew.
The Kickstarter Enso Ensemble is now international, includes people I have never met before in my life, and people from all kinds of backgrounds, interests, and livelihoods. Your generosity has allowed us to meet (and surpass!) all three of our goals so far:
1. We will be producing a full production of "Pride & Prejudice, an adaptation"
2. We will be able to pay everyone involved with the full production
3. We will be touring P&P (or scenes from it) to high schools across Oregon
THANK YOU for making all this possible. THANK YOU for your generosity, love and support. And THANK YOU for irrevocably changing my life.
All the best in the world,
As of yesterday, we have officially begun rehearsals for the staged reading of "Pride & Prejudice." Unlike most staged readings, we do not have a narrator reading the stage directions. We have 6 rehearsals instead of 1. And parts of our reading will not be 'read' at all--the actors will be on their feet, fully memorized, ready to go.
Then again, we hope that in some ways, we're not like most theater companies.
Because of the nature of this piece, and the type of work we are creating (ensemble-based, movement-driven), I felt it was necessary that our staged "reading" go beyond the script, just a little bit, to showcase the atmosphere of the piece. It also gives the actors a chance to dig in and sink their teeth into the material.
Last night I was honored to sit and listen and watch while a group of people (most of whom I had never met before the audition!) made this text I'd been working with for two years, come to life. How does that happen? How does the formation of an idea in my head bring a group together that perhaps would never have been together otherwise? I wrote those words at a table in Starbucks, the guy sitting next to me giving me strange looks as I silently mouthed the phrase I'd just written, giggling to myself and tapping the table in rhythm (for the Netherfield Ball scene, the actors create a poem of sorts that generates the atmosphere of the dance). And now my characters were real people, laughing and chatting and fighting and loving.
It's a surreal experience. And I won't deny there's always that ego voice that appears and waits for someone to say, "MY GOODNESS, Caitlin, this is the greatest play ever written!! You've captured the essence of Austen, modern-day teenagers and all of humanity in 114 pages! WELL DONE!" But of course...
...that wouldn't satisfy the craving. We are always wanting more love, more reassurance, more validation that what we're doing is meaningful. So I try as best I can to let that voice be there but I try not to attach myself to it. I take small satisfactions from our 15-year old playing Lydia, who has a moment during rehearsal when something clicks and she gets it, and there's this beautiful "ah ha" look on her face as she frantically scribbles notes in her script. Or the way the energy in the room perks up and closes in when our Elizabeth and Darcy are going at each other--our first "ensemble" moment. I remind myself that THOSE are the moments that matter, because those are the moments that turn into real, tangible connection on stage, felt by the actors and audience alike.
I forget sometimes that this is a process, and that it is not going to be perfect. I am not going to be perfect. And that's okay.
The ancient Romans believed in an entity called "The Genius." Creativity did not come from a person, it came from an unknowable, divine source. Michelangelo was not "a genius," he had a "Genius" that lived in the walls of his studio and would invisibly assist him with his work. (there's a point to all this, I promise, stay with me.) Because everyone accepted this idea, no one person could take full credit for their work. If your work was awesome, you didn't carry the full responsibility for that, because everyone knew you had help from your Genius. And if your work bombed, well, then everyone knew that your Genius just sort of sucked that day, so it wasn't all on your shoulders. This created a protective barrier for artists from the results of their work.
Then the Renaissance came, and rationalism, and divine spirits were pushed aside in favor of man being at the center of all things. And we lost that protective barrier.
I try to remember this idea when I get caught up in my "perfectionist" cycle. It eases the burden and reminds me I am not the sole creator and puppeteer of my work--there are so many forces at work in this universe that I just do not have control of. All I can do is show up and give my best. If my Genius wants to join me today, great. If not, at least I can say that I was there and I gave it my all.
Today is our second day of rehearsal. Let the record show that I will be there, Genius or no.
Spreading the love,
P.S. You can find out more about the concept of the Genius by watching Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk here.
Caitlin Lushington is the Co-Artistic Director of the Enso Theatre Ensemble, a teacher, director, and actress. Sometimes she works too hard, sometimes she forgets things, and she strives to put the car keys back in the same place every time. She drinks tea every morning from her TARDIS mug and "Mr. Tea" diffuser. She loves the morning and wishes she had a photographic memory, so she could remember the names of every person she meets.