THE HABITAT BLOG
Goings on of The Habitat Community
Tell us about APLOMB.
APLOMB is an ensemble generated and co-created piece about a young woman who has anxiety disorder who is diagnosed her senior year of college after a traumatic event. It tracks her life history/her history contending with this illness post-diagnosis, trying to reframe her identity throughout. It is with an ensemble of nine people – nine women who play many different roles both high school and college aged, and a college therapy group. It’s a look at how she reconstructs her identity in light of her relationship with her ex-girlfriend, seeing if she can both be a person for herself and also be capable of being in a caring relationship with someone else. That’s I guess how I would define it.
How did this project come to you?
This project came out, in a lot of ways, of a lot of places. We started in 2014. We literally started with a group of young women. I emailed a group of people and was like, “Come. Be in this room. Talk about anxiety disorder. Which was pretty amorphous. From there, with the group of actors who showed up, we moved from the general conversation into looking at a specific fictionalized story that came out of an interest in looking at young women in college, and creating roles for college aged young women. At the time the actors were that age, so it made sense. And we ultimately decided to have this huge event of a rave, which is her traumatic event.
We knew we wanted to incorporate a lot of highly stylized, highly theatrical stuff into this piece. It came out of an interest of, how do you create a setting from the point of view of one individual, and also incorporate a really highly theatrical structure where you’re seeing intensive choreography that fits really clearly into really intimate 2-person scenes? What is that juxtaposition? It came out of a mixture of dramaturgical interests and theatrical staging interests. Also it came a from my personal interest in staging stories of mental illness. How does theatre successfully or unsuccessfully look inside the mind of someone who is mentally ill and how can we use this as a platform to understand a commonly diagnosed disorder? Can we, can we not?
I interned at Women’s Project for a year when I first got out of college and I had an advisor there. We had a lot of conversations about all-male ensembles in theatre and why there was so much of it. She was very much like “where is all-female ensemble theater?” So many years later there is a little bit of me that was like, how cool would it be to create something that is all-female ensemble generated. I was excited to be like, what does a group of women putting on a play mean? We made a choice pretty early on that everyone would be playing a woman, that no one plays a man in the play. So what is it to create a structure that is inherently creating roles for several young women? How does that effect the piece, change the piece, change the tone? That’s a question we came up with, but also I attribute in my mind to the conversations I had with my mentor.
How did you hear about The Habitat and the Directors Playground?
I heard about The Habitat’s Directors Playground before it was formed. I think Katie had the idea for it, or in my memory Katie and Caroline maybe jointly had the idea for it and we talked about it back in 2014. I was already working on this piece. Generally, we talk a lot about like, what are ways that small companies can support directors? And I think as a hypothetical it was like, what would you need for your next project? I remember having a conversation before they founded it about what could a group that’s actually for young directors do? Which is an exciting conversation because a lot of the groups for early career working directors are no longer really for early career directors. Technically they are, but you apply to them and are like, “I have been rejected from like 5000 groups that portend that they are for someone my age and experience level, but like actually are not anymore because they have aged up as the people who founded them have gained more experience.” So there’s something really exciting about The Habitat wanting to create a forum for actual early career directors to explore and experiment. I was like, yes, I would like to be in a group that is supportive in that manner and actually feels like a safe place to develop director driven work as pure artists.
What do you see as the future of this piece?
The Habitat is very graciously supporting a workshop production this summer, which is very exciting. And I hope a couple of things. I will be very happy if it is performed in this context once and that is its charge. Like that in and of itself would be an accomplishment. It would be very exciting. I hope long-term, it can exist in a nonprofit-world run. I want to create something that’s strong enough to be in discussion in the non-profit theater world. I want that partially for the piece but also partially for the actors who have worked on it because that’s the most epic thing that could happen for them.
A third-tier goal is that I would like for it to go to college campuses as a play that could be produced, and also could function as a discussion mechanism for college students to talk about mental illness. What is mental illness on our campus? How do we support that, how do we not? The piece is ultimately about college-aged women, going through various coming-of-age moments in college. When I was in school we were always playing 40 year olds. Sometimes teenagers. Very rarely was anyone in school playing someone who was their age. And yet when you graduate, if you want to be an actor at least, you’re going to need to play your age. There is a great incongruity between what’s happening in universities’ productions and what the actors have to go do in real life. I hope that it can be something gets produced on campuses to give a lot of young, specifically female actors the opportunity to take on characters who they can hopefully see themselves in.
What have you personally and artistically gained from the structure of DP?
I’ve been fortunate to be in it two years so that’s cool. And definitely just the network of support and feedback in showings has been really cool. Also the master classes – a lot of them I’ve actually learned something in. And there’s something nice about just being in the room with other directors and just seeing how they work. I think I’ve learned a lot form seeing how my peers approach director-driven work and directing in general. It’s such an individualized field. It’s nice to be in a room with other directors so we can all say, oh cool we all do this weird job, often by yourself – we’re just with actors for hours and hours and hours. Let us discuss what it actually means to be a director. I think having access to that conversation has in and of itself been very supportive. When I think about how I approach my work and how I approach my career and directing which all feels very amorphous, it’s nice to be in conversation with other people who are having those same questions, confusion, struggles, etc. The Habitat is producing the show, so having a company believe in a piece is very exciting. That doesn’t often happen so I’m very aware of how unique that is and how supportively helpful that is.