Up Close with Maryann Green: Acting, Teaching, and Making Art on the Fringes

Maryann Greeninterviewed by Gabriella De Brequet

When did you start working in theatre and what compelled you to the art form? 

I’ve been doing theater since I was 10. I started acting “professionally” in community theatre in San Francisco in the mid-90s, and continued acting on and off since then. I worked for IATSE in college, and I’ve been directing pretty consistently since I got my masters’ degree 12 years ago, and have been a producer of alternative theater for the last 3 years. 

When I started acting as a kid, it was the sense of community I felt that kept me coming back. I was never a star, but I didn’t care. My older brothers were really into sports and the theatre kids were my team. As I got more into the experience of creating, performing, and later producing, theatre I realized that you can extrapolate that sense of community beyond your cast and crew – you’re really creating that feeling between performers and audience, and among the audience themselves, through this shared creative, thoughtful, emotional experience. Which is why I love what I do with Fringe and Live Theatre Workshop’s Etcetera program so much. I create a space where the connections can happen. 

How has teaching informed the work you do outside of the classroom? 

I love being able to share my professional experience with my students, both as an actor, and director. I love that I can tell them about how adults are keeping theatre in their lives, even if they didn’t study theatre in college, or if they have a “day job” that has little to do with the arts. But it’s also about how my experience outside the classroom informs my teaching. I apply what I learn from every show to how I teach and direct students. But there is the occasional moment, when I’m directing, when I’ll really get back to basics with the actors- what’s your objective, what are the intentions in this scene? And sometimes I’ll even do exercises with my actors that I would do in the classroom. 

What theatre trends have you noticed your students gravitate to and are they different from the trends you gravitate to?

What I love about my students is that by the time they get to my advanced class, they’re really willing to take creative risks. They’re willing to go on the journey with me and they’re as concerned, if not more so, with what they get out of the experience of creating theatre than pleasing an audience of their peers. They’re willing to challenge their peers’ (and friends’ and family’s) notion of what theatre can be. So we can do a totally avant guard piece, and Hamlet, and a modern dry sarcastic comedy all in one school year and they’re all in. 

Because of that we’ve kind of been able to push the envelope of what high school theatre can do. We were the first high school in Arizona to do The Laramie Project back in 2006, and Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses in 2016. 

What would you like to see more of in the Tucson theatre community? 

I’d love to see more community in our community theatre. I feel like each company operates in this little bubble that competes for audience as well as actors. I know that’s changing a little bit, and I can’t wait to see where it goes… Multiple theatres holding combined season auditions? Why not! Sharing your season early to avoid overlap? Yes please! Discounts for “industry” folks? Heck yeah! 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you want our readers to know about?

Tucson Fringe is hosting a brand new event this weekend called B/lending Forms, where we paired artists of different media (poetry, sculpture, stand up, spoken word, dance,mural, etc) and supported them through the creation of a new piece that combines their talents. That’s at Steinfeld Warehouse on Saturday July 20th. And of course applications are open for the 2020 Fringe Festival until Aug 31st at midnight. (info on both events at tucsonfringe.org

And LTW’s Etcetera Series submissions close on August 1st. 

 

The spotlight series is an on-going series where we spotlight local female and non-binary artists in the Tucson Community.

Up Close with Gretchen Wirges: First Love, Improv, and Getting Behind the Scenes as a Director, Actor, and Playwright

Gretchen Wirges
interviewed by Gabriella De Brequet

Which came first for you, improv or theatre?

Theater! Definitely my first love. Though, interestingly I spent a good part of my early years behind the scenes as Stage Manager, prop master, set designer. A few years after I moved to Tucson I was taken to an improv show and became a regular audience member. When the opportunity came to take a class I was really afraid because I didn’t know what I could do with a script. I went to and realized that the freedom and creativity and trust and community involved in improv was exactly the freedom I’d always wanted in theater. Now I can apply those skills and that sense of play and comfort to scripted works as well. It’s the perfect marriage of everything I love about performing.

How has teaching influenced you and your craft?

As with most things, when you teach something you understand it on a very different level. I love to see students find the ability to be vulnerable and trust their own ability to be in the moment. This reminder always helps me focus on stage. I practice what I preach. Be truthful. Listen like a thief. Let go of story and embrace the relationship. I take deep breaths, I make eye contact with my partner, and I listen to them and to the deeper meaning behind the words. I always perform as though one of my students is watching.

Gretchen Wirges (center) as one of three in the Chorus of Stones, the gatekeepers of the Underworld, in Euridice, with Leah Taylor (left) and Julia Balestracci (right). Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Gretchen Wirges (center) as one of three in the Chorus of Stones, the gatekeepers of the Underworld, in Euridice, with Leah Taylor (left) and Julia Balestracci (right). Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

What do you think Tucson’s improv and theatre community is lacking?

On a practical level, rehearsal space. Haha. No, but really. It’s kind of symbolic of the bigger issue I see. I’m on the board of the Tucson Fringe Festival. And what Fringe focuses on is providing a beautiful space that allows artists to create. But Fringe is only one weekend a year (January 9-12 by the way! Woot!) Some theaters are encouraging a bit of this with new play festivals and late night series for local writers and performers. But we can do more. We can create more spaces and creativity workshops/outlets to encourage writers, dancers, actors, directors, song writers and visual artists. Can we collaborate? Can we inspire each other more directly? Can we put something on stage that is beautifully new and fresh written by a local playwright instead of one of the classics being considered? Can we designate one night a week to a think tank for local creators/playwrights/devisers? I just think we can do more to showcase the process of creation, instead of just the product.

Have you been inspired by any local comedians or performers as of late?

Amanda Gremel and Samantha Cormier, who starred in Always! Patsy Cline at Live Theater Workshop. The two of them really wove this beautiful story using humor and music. They both blew me away with the way they connected with the audience and each other. Samantha Severson in Stupid Fucking Bird at Winding Road. Vulnerable, powerful, and moving. Clair de la Vergne and Nicole DelPrete in Blood wedding. They were so, so, so lyrical and strong and truthful.

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects that you want our readers to know
about?

Sure! I’ve got a few:
Tucson Fringe is putting on an incredible event July 20th at Steinfeld Warehouse. It’s called B/lending Forms. Visual artists, performing artists (actors, singers, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, musicians, etc) and spoken word/poetry performers partner up to devise a unique multimedia performance for an exciting new project that blends art and expression. Presented to an audience in an art-gallery style walk through. It’s going to be incredible!

I’ve just started work on a devised piece of theater that will debut next season at Something Something Theatre! My intent is to take an age-old female trope and look at it from a feminist angle. It’s an exciting project and I’m really thankful to Something Something for the opportunity.

I’m also in rehearsals with the troupe I direct, Unwritten. We create a fully-improvised, full-length play using a theatrical form called The Woolf. It’s super engaging and really difficult to do well, but they really dig in and knock me off my socks every time they perform. We will be appearing at a to-be-named theater this fall. People can check out our Facebook page if they want to know about upcoming performances.

 

The spotlight series is an on-going series where we spotlight local female and non-binary artists in the Tucson Community.

Up Close with Alyssa Ruiz: an ensemble member at Stories that Soar!

Alyssa Ruizinterviewed by Gabriella De Brequet

How did you get involved with Stories that Soar!?

I was apart of Stories that Soar!’s high school program at Desert View High School when I was 17 or 18, I ended up loving it and planned to audition for the ensemble, but I got a school scholarship, so I went away for two years. As soon as I came back this summer I auditioned and got in, and I don’t regret it at all. It’s so much fun!

What has working with Stories that Soar! taught you about your community?

That kids are very aware of everything that happens to them. They are a lot smarter than we think they are. Adults underestimate youth especially, so I’ve learned to accept everyone no matter their age. I don’t necessarily agree with the statement “The older, the wiser”, I think with age comes experience, but a child can be just as wise.

What do you think every performer can benefit from being part of an ensemble?

You learn how to collaborate and especially in Stories that Soar!’s case you play a variety of roles in the same show. As a performer you learn how to to use your body to create multiple characters. Are you everything and every one.

Photo courtesy of Stories that Soar!

Photo courtesy of Stories that Soar!

Do you have an all time favorite story that has been adapted for the stage?

Yes! A few shows back we did Lemonade. We performed it entirely in silhouette. This little girl wrote this story about this old man who would drink lemonade and eat toast with jam on the porch every day to remember his wife who had dementia that passed away. This little girl’s writing was incredible; her vocabulary was out of this world.

What are you looking forward to sharing with your audience on Saturday’s 2019 Best of Stories that Soar! show at the Fox Theatre?

All the work that the kids have put in! In total they wrote 15,000 stories this year. All the dedication they have put in to feed the Magic Box is incredible. They are invested in the Magic Box. It’s become something that’s essential to their school. Writing becomes less of a chore for these kids and that’s really powerful.

Magic Box at the Fox: Best of Stories that Soar! 2019 show will be Saturday May 11th from 3pm to 5pm at the Fox Theatre (17 W. Congress St.). For tickets visit foxtucsontheatre.ticketforce.com. For more information about Stories that Soar! visit literacyconnects.org.

 

The spotlight series is an on-going series where we spotlight local female and non-binary artists in the Tucson Community.

Up Close with T Loving: an Interdisciplinary Creator, Producer of Mischief & Magic, Justice Instigator, and Public Health Professional

1 Loving_SHOCO 2017_Julius Schlosburg.pnginterviewed by Gabriella De Brequet

T Loving is an interdisciplinary creator, producer of mischief and magic, justice instigator, and public health professional. Creating in the bend of whole truths through devised, ensemble, and traditional practice, much of T’s work focuses within/in service and prosperity of communities of color, LGBTQ, female-identified and gender nonconforming individuals, refugees, and migrants. They create through unpacking the body, juxtaposition, overlap, repetition, and disintegration and concentrate on unraveling false narratives and exploring liminal spaces.

Pronouns: they/them

When did you discover that you needed to pursue a career in the arts?

I don’t think I’ve ever decided to pursue a career in the arts, per se. But my junior year of high school was when I realized I wanted to cultivate a relationship with performance art.

Each year my high school did a spring musical. I was in Alpha Choir, so participation was required but as lead roles were shared among a small group of individuals, the rest of us weren’t necessarily encouraged to audition. Tired of being “(insert #) Tree from the Left”, my junior year I auditioned for the role of Adelaide in GUYS AND DOLLS and got it. Later that year, I was asked to audition for a festival touring production of SCARS & STRIPES with Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and landed it. Although these roles and productions were disparate in time, space, and subject matter, I saw numerous connections between them. The most significant residing in humanness— desire, trying, succeeding, failing, and going (whether pushed or choosing) into the fray again.

In performance art, I found new ways to connect to, discover, and understand myself and the world around me. It gave me access to examine, pick apart, and re/weave the threads that connect us. That’s what I’m pursuing.

What qualities do you look for when choosing to take on a project?

Primarily, I look for projects anchored in good people who are willing to take risks, explore beyond the page, and create and learn from and with each other. I’m interested in interdisciplinary projects—blurring genres, development techniques, and methods/mediums of presentation and projects that mess with traditional senses of what theatre is, how it looks, where it happens, who participates in the creation, and whom it is for. I look for projects that uplift truths, voices, and beings ignored/buried and challenge colonialist ideas and norms. I look for projects that implicate and instigate reflection on who we are, how and by whom space is taken (up), and how we re/create (shared) place.

Do you have any dream roles or projects?

Yes, yep, indeed. Currently, I’m soul deep in Britteney Black Rose Kapri’s Black Queer Hoe and can’t stop imagining, in slips and slivers, my being living this magic in performance.

Also, Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf; Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (a biomythography in novel form that I’d love to explore as a performance work); Shakespeare’s King John (specifically the role of Constance); and Nicky Silver’s Fat Men in Skirts (as a director or Bishop or both?).

Are there any projects that you have done in the past that you would like to do again in the future?

Mostly no. I would like to work again with local writer, educator, and social activist, Lola Rainey, on an evolution of her American Haiko: PAIN, which focused on unpacking intergenerational trauma. I’m in sincere gratitude to have worked with her and To-Ree-Nee Wolf on this project that carved deep into me. They are both so talented, ferociously honest, and real in the most ‘fierce and deserving of all the mad respect’ kind of ways. I’m interested in unpacking a new generation of stories and more fully exploring trajectories of healing through this vessel.

But again, mostly no. I’m not interested in nor do I think it’s possible to recreate what has been. I’ve worked on amazing projects with magical people. Each project has offered opportunities for learning, growth, and cultivation. I don’t believe those offerings were given so I could come back to the same moment, but so I would have something to take forward into the world and build anew.

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects that you’re looking forward to sharing with the community of Tucson?

Yes. I’m currently working on a project located in queerness, gender, and culture focused on food as resistance. I was honored to perform a selection of original work examining and ruminating on Queerness, Color, and God, at Kore Press’s Queer Performance Salon, May 2018. I’m looking forward to continuing its development and sharing more with/in our community.

 

The spotlight series will be a continued series where we spotlight local female and non-binary artists in the Tucson Community.

International Women’s Day: Up close with Tucson’s Claire Hancock, Artistic Director of Artifact Dance Company

Claire

interviewed by Gabriella De Brequet

Claire Hancock holds a Master of Arts degree in European Dance Theatre from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, England, and earned both a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from the University of Arizona. In 2009 she began collaborating with colleague Ashley Bowman, and upon sharing their masters’ theses concert together, Hancock and Bowman co-founded Artifact Dance Project. They have been creating main stage concerts, short dance films and collaborative projects together ever since. In addition to her featured performances with Artifact, Claire performs as an actress with the Rogue Theatre and Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. She has danced professionally with ODC/San Francisco and River North Dance Company in Chicago, and has been a guest teacher and choreographer for organizations including the Limón Institute, Broadway Theatre Project, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Opera, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, True Concord: Voices and Orchestra, Arts Express, and Broadway in Tucson. Formative years of study include scholarships to the Houston Ballet Academy, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. She has served as rehearsal assistant for Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes and End of Time, as well as George Balanchine’s Serenade and The Four Temperaments, reporting to Leslie Peck and Elyse Borne, repetiteurs for the Balanchine Trust. Claire is a repetiteur for several of the late choreographer David Berkey’s works including his signature piece, Sentinel, which she has staged for Vassar College in New York, the New Mexico Dance Institute, and the University of Arizona and Artifact Dance Project. She is a Qualified Fletcher Pilates® teacher at Body Works Pilates™ in Tucson, AZ.

When did you discover that you needed to pursue a career in the arts?

As the daughter of professional dancers and dance educators, I have been immersed in the arts from a very young age. Moreover, I fell in love with many different genres of music and the visual arts early on, as my grandfather was both a jazz musician and print maker. As a result, I feel that the diversity of my early exposure to the performing arts has deeply developed my voice as a performer, teacher and choreographer and has heightened my curiosity for learning.

What qualities do you look for when choosing to take on a project?

I gravitate toward projects that present me with new challenges, continued growth, and discovery for all involved. I strive for versatility in my career and look for contrast and crossover between the projects I may already be working on.  

Do you have any dream roles or projects?

Any role or project that pushes me outside of my comfort zone and awakens parts of myself that might otherwise remain dormant.

Are there any projects that you have done in the past that you would like to do again in the future?

Recently I have given thought to revisiting some of the solo choreographic and film work I was doing during my graduate studies in London some ten years ago. I was exploring themes related to identity, duality, perception, polar opposites and the Tao Te Ching. It’s a broad line of inquiry that remains fascinating to me now.

Do you have any exciting up coming projects that you’re looking forward to sharing with the community of Tucson?

There are two productions that my colleague and creative partner, Ashley Bowman is choreographing and directing for our dance company, Artifact Dance Project that I’m looking forward to performing. Goliath runs March 21-24 in the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre and Monologue of a Muted Man runs May 9-12 in the Ina Gittings Studio 124.

 

The spotlight series will be a continued series where we spotlight local female and non-binary artists in the Tucson Community.