THE HABITAT BLOG
Goings on of The Habitat Community
What is the project you’re working on?
The project that I am working on with the Directors Playground is called “Think Before You Holla.” It’s a working title because I recently realized I may need to change it. It is a devised anti-street harassment piece that explores and dissects the sexual objectification of women through gender-based street harassment and the overall effect that it has on the harassed person’s psyche.
How did it come to you?
In 2014, my theater company The Movement Theater Company actually found an article about a really incredible artist. Her name is Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and she has an art series called “Stop Telling Women to Smile.” She does sketches of women that she knows or women that she meets just with their natural expressions and underneath she puts phrases like “My name is not baby,” or “Stop telling women to smile.” “Women are not here for your entertainment.” She then wheat-pasted them starting in NYC but now it’s gone all over the world. So we found this article and put out a call to various female directors in New York that we knew and wanted to work with and I submitted as well and it worked out somehow. I received a short workshop to put some ideas together and see what happened. And then we got an opportunity to present a piece as part of the 2014 Harlem Arts Festival. Leading up to that I developed the first iteration of the piece, which was really just 3 non-connected vignettes that all explored specific questions that I had. That led to further individual workshops and me interviewing a bunch of women that I knew, and also some that I didn’t know. I also asked for submissions of stories of street harassment or objectification from people of all kinds – funny stories, scary stories, all over the spectrum.
How did you learn about The Habitat and Directors Playground?
I knew about the Habitat just from knowing rad ladies working in theater. I also learned about the Habitat because I’m really good friends with Alex Keegan who was in the first group, and is continuing on this year. And so I saw that they were opening their second round of admissions, and I was fully intending to apply – I had already started gathering materials. Then Alex sent me an email that was like ‘YOU NEED TO DO THIS.’ So I did.
What have you gained and learned, both personally and artistically, from the Directors Playground?
In regards to my piece, the most valuable thing has been the sense of accountability. Having different presentations and showings and open rehearsals and having Caroline as my check-in person just to be like “are you doing the thing that we said you were going to do? Did you reach out to people? Did you send that email?” That’s been really helpful because that was probably the main thing stalling the development of the piece. I would have a really great weekend workshop and I would get really great feedback and then there would be no further support or follow up from anyone. I would get caught up in working on something else or I would get afraid of working on this. There was no one pushing me to continue. There was no one saying “well you have to have something to show cause we’re paying for the space.” That was really helpful. And then, of course, having the feedback of all these really smart, wonderful, talented humans has been invaluable. Everyone’s kinda in the same boat. No one’s approaching it from the sense of “well I didn’t like this because” or “well I think you should do this because.” In the Playground, you know there’s no personal gain out of offering feedback. It’s really just people being like “This is what I have noticed from your piece.” “This is what you’ve said you’re going for and you’re either hitting the mark or you’re going in a different direction which is also fine, just know that you’re going in a different direction.” The workshops have also been really great again because of those conversations. They are exposing me to ideas that I might not have really explored on my own, but also just the knowledge that there are people with widely different experiences personally and professional than I have. Even so, we’re all still on the same wavelength. Which makes me think that we’re all kind of doing something right just in terms of personality and artistic drive.
What do you see as the future of this piece?
It’s going to be presented as part of the DC Fringe through a company I’m involved with called Ally Theatre Company. The company is run by two of the rad ladies that I worked with when I was Assistant Director for a tour last year. That’s happening in July, so it has to be finished. I’m treating this DC Fringe as a workshop production, to get more feedback from that production and to see where to go next. I’m hoping to submit it for more residencies and more intense, more specific developmental opportunities.