Hello from post-Brexit London, where Rachel, Jess, Matty, and Nick joined our Scottish collaborators on Monday to begin rehearsals for Anything That Gives Off Light. It’s a surreal time to be here to say the least, working on a play exploring (among many things) collective and self-interest, the Scottish independence movement, and America’s second amendment.
We begin performances at the Edinburgh International Festival on August 16, and can’t wait to be back. If you will be in town for the festivals, you have 13 chances to the see the show, but many performances are selling out already. Book a ticket now and have a drink with us after!
We are so. excited. to announce that our latest collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland, Anything That Gives Off Light, will make its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2016.
From the press release:
Every light casts a shadow…
The National Theatre of Scotland, the TEAM and the Edinburgh International Festival are delighted to announce the world premiere of a new co-production Anything That Gives Off Light, which will premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2016.
Anything That Gives Off Light uses the Scottish Enlightenment as a lens through which to examine the contrasting and overlapping national myths of Scotland and America. This new collaboration is set to premiere in August 2016 and marks the debut of the TEAM at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Written collaboratively, Anything That Gives Off Light, is led by Rachel Chavkin, the TEAM Artistic Director, and Davey Anderson, whose work as Associate Director with the National Theatre of Scotland includes Enquirer, To Begin, Black Watch and Home.
Anything That Gives Off Light follows the story of a Scottish man who, after years of living in London, catches the sleeper train north to the heart of Scotland for a homecoming he’s been putting off for years. In a pub, an American woman drinks alone, trying to remember who she is while forgetting where she came from. When their paths collide they set off on a tour of the Highlands, slipping through the cracks between present and past, waking and dreaming, the real and the imagined. But as they shed the layers of their national identities, the ghosts of dead philosophers, crofters, cowboys, myth-makers and soothsayers get ever closer.
Featuring live music from the Scottish-American folk tradition, and the TEAM’s trademark athletic performance style, this foot-stomping collaboration explores the tension between self interest and sacrifice and the individual and the collective in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
We’re looking forward to another summer in Scotland!
Our tales are similar but the endings are different…
As Scotland grapples with the question of nationhood, we’re heading back to Edinburgh to develop a new work with the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish artists Davey Anderson (who worked with us on Architecting), Brian Ferguson (Blackwatch original cast) and Sandy Grierson. With the philosophies of the Scottish Enlightenment as our springboard, we’re diving into the murky depths of each of our national mythologies to ask how both Americans and Scots are trapped and liberated by the stories we tell about ourselves.
We head to Glasgow for continued development in mid-July, and will present three work-in-progress showings at the beginning of the Fringe, August 1-3 at Summerhall. Tickets and more information here.
The TEAM is a lot older than we used to be. Time makes that true for everything, but it doesn’t make it less poignant.
When we started work on A Thousand Natural Shocks in 2005, we rehearsed at 10AM in the basement of a bar. It was sticky and dark and smelled the way a bar does when you are sober. We played the young people of Hamlet, inheriting a world of our fathers. We were still young enough to be precocious. I went to rehearse from 10-3, waited tables from 4-12, made enough to scrape by, and woke up ready for more.
We’ve grown up now. It’s not a bad thing. Time’s got to do its job, and all things must change. We pay ourselves now. We have proud accomplishments, but in our 30s we can no longer be the new babies on the block. We have things like an office and a board of directors now. Occasionally there are presents in our green rooms.
The TEAM has never been ironic, so it is with awkward honesty that I point out that our new show is about youth. Adolescence. Primer For a Failed Superpower is us writing a love letter to our children about what it was like to grow up with America as a Superpower. We are no longer exploring our own inheritance, but now preparing to give.
We spent two weeks this summer in London, at The National Theatre Studios. We picked up instruments for the first time and with great pride learned to play one song together. We explored ideas about parenting people and countries, honoring the past, constructing the present, and creating new forms in which to share our work. It was one the best experiences I’ve ever had with the company. I felt how sincerely we had grown in generosity of spirit and mind. I saw the incredible new work we were making, constantly striving to break into new forms and ideas.
And I mean, c’mon: I got paid to play pretend with my friends in a land across the ocean for a few weeks – what could be better?
We made some cool stuff, we showed it in Edinburgh, they gave us International Festival Whiskey in the greenroom. Now we’re going to show it here, in our home borough of Brooklyn. We’ve got 45 minutes of raw material we want to show you. We want to hear what you think: what images stick with you, what forms excite you. We want to know if you think what we think is exciting. We want to play our Fugazi cover for you. It’s a casual vibe, and there will be beer. Come join us:
Primer For a Failed Superpower – work in progress showing
Saturday October 20th, doors at 8, show at 8:30
At Jack: 505 ½ Waverly Ave, Brooklyn
Hang out afterwards.
Kristen and LIbby during band practice in Edinburgh, August, 2012
Brian, Kristen, Jess, and Jill during performance of A Thousand Natural Shocks, 2006
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a fast and furious, crowded and amazing haboob of theatre and live performance of all varieties. There are, literally, 2,500 acts ranging from stand-up comedy to modern dance, bagpipe rock groups to sword swallowers. And of course, theatre ranging from highly compelling nearly wordless solo shows to (several) productions of Nunsense The Musical to Shakespeare and everything in between.
For the casual Fringe attendee, it can be daunting. More than likely, it feels, the show with the catchy title and interesting postcard graphics that you’re considering seeing this afternoon because they’re aggressively papering the house in an effort to convince reviewers that it is already popular and well liked so get on the right side of history–is going to be a painful way to spend a seemingly endless hour and ten minutes. But there are gems out there. You know there are. You have friends who have seen them. Or you’ve heard about them in the international press, or perhaps even caught one in it’s post-Fringe afterlife courtesy of a gem-hunting theatre producer. But where are they? They could be anywhere.
And thus there arose such a demand for reviews and other wheat-from-chaff sorting mechanisms that a reasonably well covered show running the duration of the festival might walk away from Edinburgh with a dozen or two published opinions of their hard work. Because there are in fact dozens of organizations, newspapers, magazines, websites, bloggers, leaflets, etc., who are in the business of trying to help a choice-weary public fill their afternoons with fringe fair. But now, of course, instead of having 2,500 shows to choose from, the casual observer may have 10,000 reviews to sort through. If only there was some further level of filtration, some triple-distilled extra-smooth way of learning what, at the end of the doggone day, is worth seeing…
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me, your humble TEAM blog, to be of service:
If you are hungry for more reviews of Mission Drift or other Fringe fare, the printing presses and the internets are your oysters. More postings and filtrations will live here as they come in, and of course there is always the “Press” section of this very website with a perhaps more complete list of things people have written.
I have had many firsts working with the group of misfits commonly known as The TEAM. I broke another person’s bone for the first time in a TEAM rehearsal. I performed as a professional actor on an international stage for the first time with The TEAM. And then we went to Las Vegas for a month together and I conquered a number of personal firsts including: my first visit to Las Vegas!, my first trip to a casino, my first time gambling for higher stakes than nickel-ante kitchen table poker, my first (and only) can of FourLoko, my first non-ironic uttering of “it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat”, and my first visit to a strip club (The Library, it was called. It contained shockingly few librarians sexy or otherwise), as well as a few other firsts that I shan’t mention here due to the limits of propriety/legality.
And now as promised, here is the Sardine Post: the photo- and video-documented experience of a boy who grew up 18 years landlocked sampling his first ever tin of sardines.
Sardines! Octopus! Tuna! Mussels! All in tins and ready to eat!
Given the stakes of this adventure, I knew it was important to give myself every advantage. The sardines were purchased at a sardine specialty shop in what appears to be the sardine capital of the world—Lisbon, Portugal.
After exploring the various styles of tinned sardines – smoked!; with lemon!; with tomato!; with spicy tomato! – I decided on a pack of whole sardines nestled in good old dependable olive oil. Once purchased, the guardians of sardine culture carefully wrapped my new prize in a lovely themed paper and tied it off with a bow. They did this not because a gift, but as if to suggest that any opportunity to enjoy sardines or other ugly tinned aquatic life was in itself a gift, an occasion to be celebrated by eating some sardines.
Sardines in their native habitat, a gift-wrapped tin.
Libby also had some knowledge to lend, a recent initiate into the world of sardine enjoyment herself. On the big day, she assembled for me all the necessary accoutrements – freshly sliced bread, a metric ton of lemon slices for squeezing atop the slimy bastards, and a small pile of sea salt in case there wasn’t enough ocean left in their fishy little bodies.
The result? Aside from one mid-chew surprise, thumbs up all around. But don’t take my word for it from the calm, cold light of the day after. Please enjoy this new and improved video, artfully shot and sound mixed by Mikaal Sulaiman, in the living room of our flat in Edinburgh.
This Saturday we jumpstarted our rehearsal process for the newest version of ARCHITECTING, which will make it’s US premiere in NYC this January.
There were two special purposes to this rehearsal ( we start up full time towards the end of November ) : to read the newest script version out loud, and to have a visit from Minister Linda Fabiani – a member of Scottish Parliament and Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture.
Rehearsal took place at Montgomery Gardens, our shared rehearsal/storage/office space. It’s a wonderful share with brilliant artists and we like to refer to it as “the office” because it makes us feel very official. There is a coffee maker and everything. There is also half a naked mannequin and bunches of fake flowers and a wall painted with bricks. It is located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where many of us live. I dare guess that it is as far into Brooklyn as most visiting international politicians have ever ventured ( though what do I know ).
Minister Fabiani arrived with colleagues, including some who work for The National Theatre of Scotland. We had doughnuts set out, and apple pie, strawberries, coffee and even tea. I should stop blogging about the TEAM’s bad eating habits before we have to stop eating nachos AND doughnuts. We also eat a lot of spinach, I swear.
Our guests were very well dressed, and totally game to hang out with us in our little basement space. After explaining a bit about the show ( which only some had seen in Edinburgh ), and the characters we played in it, we jumped right into it. By it, I mean we improvised. I mean we jammed. I mean we labbed. I mean we warmed up.
What do I mean?
The TEAM has built something all our own, which we have yet to decide on a formal name for. The dorkiest but most descriptive to me is “jamming”, as if we were musicians with instruments. As they tell you over and over again in drama school, our bodies and voices are our instruments. We jam together improvising scenelets and dance moves – sometimes silently and sometimes vocally. Sometimes it is very abstract, and sometimes linear and realistic. We follow the outlines of Viewpoints subconsciously. Most of the time our jams are a collaboration with at least one of our designers.
We’re starting to build what we are calling the Overture at the beginning of ARCHITECTING. It will be an overture not only of sound, but of theme, flavor and time. So, after months of not formally seeing each other in rehearsal on our feet, we got up in front of these important and generous folk and played pretend.
We were tumbleweeds swimming, and pageant contestants, patriots and horses. It felt brilliant and exciting and a productive way to start work on the beginning. Afterwards, we chatted with our visitors about what they had seen, and it was wonderful to hear that it had been exciting to watch. Minister Fabiani was so articulate and interested, and gave us the most lovely compliment to the tune of ( paraphrased ) “I felt like I was in Eastern Europe”. This was a huge compliment to us, and Rachel talked beautifully about our relationship with the National Theatre of Scotland as a “miracle”, and our experience with cultural diplomacy. I request her to repeat her thoughts on this cultural diplomacy here on our blog – my paraphrase would not be nearly as good.
I felt a glow of importance around what we are doing, and the relationships we have made, especially in the UK. I’ve learned so much simply by getting to spend hunks of time in another country and having incredible conversations about art and politics with its residents. It was such an honor to have Minister Fabiani join us for a morning, and I thank her for her interest and intelligence. The visit motivated me to keep on with what we have started, which is no small feat as we all grow older and yearn for health insurance and steady income. As Jess put it, ” I have faith that this is important enough that it will all work out “.
OK sooooooooooooooooooooooooo that was fast. And totally beautiful. Wow the weather in Brooklyn here right now is aMAzing. And it’s not pishing down rain as they say in Scotland either. Sun! It’s crAZY!
We had a brillant 5 days and 4 weeks and an excellent and super safe flight home. I have been thinking about the phrase, “Home is where the heart is” and how I always assumed it meant, You heart is always found in the home that you grew up in OR the place that you live in, currently, now, the most. But – what I learned while being away, in many foriegn rooms, hotels, and theatres, with LOTS os strangers, is that wherever your heart is, there is home for that moment, for that day.
And so it totally flipped my perspectual gaze on that easily misapprehended clicho.
My heart was definitely in Scotland. And the Traverse theatre. And in my throat watching people cue up for tickets to our show hours in advance. And throughout the course of our play, my heart was in New Orleans. And deep seeking into my imagination for empathy and understanding. Thinking about my grandparents and their grandparents and how people build their lives here in America. And what gives those lives meaning.
I am feeling very lucky to be a working part of this creative machine.
And now back to the sofa where I despite the sun might sleep (avec my favorite accessory of le temps – a Virgin Atlantic red sunshade eye mask, which I wore EVERY single night in Scotland) while my kind subletter finishes his August with us upstairs.
It’s way too early for me to be awake and dealing with anything like impending jet lag, which I fear can hit you with Olympic Judic hijack quality stealth if you do not achieve a sufficient quantity of horizontal REM and maybe feel yourself and your heart, in whatever is it’s home, getting a little comatose.
It’s the last day of the Festival and we are all about to go to the theater to do our last show and then load out. Most of the set and props are staying here in the UK to be here for future touring of Architecting so it looks like we won’t be as much of a clown car of luggage heading back to the States as we were coming out here.
The run has exceeded expectations on all fronts. We won the Total Theater Award for best young company a few days ago to add to our three Fringe Firsts, and Dublin award. Even after the reviews came out people have continued writing about the show, in the culture pages of papers, on blogs . . . we even sat with a young woman who will be using Architecting as a source for her Masters Thesis. I have been blown away by the number of people who have written about the TEAM for their dissertations.
Looking back over the last month, one of the things I am most struck by is that we are being treated like a mature company – by the press; by our audiences; by our cololeagues. When we came in 2006 much was made of our youth – how astonishing it was that such a young group of people were working with such excellence. This time around, our youth is rarely mentioned (maybe we’re just getting old . . .) Rather, we are treated like adults, and the company is talked about as a mature entity with a legitimate ouvre and a coherent, unique artistic vision. It feels like an arrival.
I am excited to continue working on Architecting when we get back to the states, getting it ready for our US premier!
wow. holy mackeral. or should I say (the local) sea bream?
Scotland freaking ROCKS. the festival has been amazing. a totally challenging and beautiful convergence of art and life. the Traverse and the National Theatre of Scotland have been aMAAAAzing! as have the delightful pairs of parents and grandparents! who have come to visit us, treating us to hot meals of pub fare and dim sum.
we share beds and swap rooms. husbands leave for work in the states and girlfriends come bearing peaceful warm hugs from frenetic professional new york lives and through it all the forward motion of This Thing continues, sometimes threatening to exhaust itself, sometimes busting at the hinges, (no, like, literally) but there is this forward motion, this impetus to keep growing and This Thing revealing itself.
every show is an opportunity to learn what It actually is. which is wonderful. this bittersweet and constant Falling Short of a certain height that will be perpetually out of reach.
this is a good thing. i think.
aspirations making themselves known.
and my parents are here! they are currently THE delightful pair of incredible, happy, supportive, joyous, generous, courageous, faith inducing, faith filled parents who have believed in us and followed us here willingly since 2005 when we had absolutely no idea WHAT we were getting ourselves into. maybe they did. maybe our parents, all of our parents, just wanted us to be happy. maybe they thought we actually had something here. maybe they had absolutely no idea but they were willing to risk it anyway – thousands of dollars, air plane miles, a broken foot, some sweetened hearts, some trampled temporarily, inadvertantly, some salty tears and strange afternoons, fantastically bizarro nights – some air guitar, hundreds of cups of teas and coffees later, we are here.
Saturday, August 16th, 2008.
yesterday was the Roman Catholic holiday The Assumption, if I remember my Catholic schooling properly (I think.) I quite like the image: Mary, instead of dying per se, being assumed wholemeal (as opposed to piece meal) straight up into heaven.
I like it so much that we get to be here. This is a beautiful country. Even when it is pissing down rain (as they say) in your face and you’re cold and you’re stubborn and you won’t buy yet another umbrella, because the first one broke and sliced open your left thumb nuckle. Hypothetical. Is that how you spell nuckle? Nuckel. Woah.
There is a castle, and sea, and the most magnificent sky and letter R sounds. Beautiful people excited about making good plays. Full audiences. People Qing for return tickets. And a chance to do something pretty special that’s bigger than any one of us. Not a bad dream for a young woman to be living, a young woman from New Jersey and malls and hairsprayed French braids and cheerleading squads and trips to see Canadian geese and bowling alleys.
Everything is preparation.
(FYI, I think.)
I hear there is a full moon tonight.
Not 100% certain.
Somebody forwarded it to me in an email from Long Island City. Not sure where the message originally came from. Not sure if full moon’s the same over here and across the Atlantic.