As we head into Week 2 of ReVamp's Artist Lab: Beyond the Surface, we thought this would be a good time to give you a little background on this most recent ReVamp project, as well as a sneak peek of what is still to come!
ReVamp's Artist Lab was born out of our mission to create opportunities for theatre artists, particularly women and women-identifying artists, in Philadelphia. We not only want to hire as many women and women-identifying artists as possible as directors, writers, actors and designers to work on existing pieces or pieces created by Collective members, but want to provide opportunities for them to create their own work and tell their own stories. We also want to help connect theatre artists who haven't had the chance to work together or maybe even meet each other. We're interested in projects that are unique and a little daring.
Out of all these impulses, ReVamp's Artist Lab was born. We would pick six women and women-identifying theatre artists of different backgrounds and specialties, pair them up, give them the same source material, parameters and budget, and turn them loose to create three brand-new theatrical works. ReVamp Collective had no artistic say in the work was produced - we wanted to see what these intrepid, creative, bold minds would come up with on their own. And boy, did they deliver.
Before we delve more into the specific pieces created by our artistic teams (Amanda Jensen and Sara Vanasse; Lesley Berkowitz and Cat Ramirez, and Joan Lawson and Stephanie N. Walters), a little background on the source material: we chose the Grimm's fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red because, as a fairy tale, it's structure is familiar and there's a lot of room for interpretation. Snow White and Rose Red is one of Grimm's lesser known fairy tales; it hasn't been "Disneyfied." The Snow White and the Seven Dwarves tale is a different story altogether; their only commonalities are the name Snow White and the presence of dwarves. Since there weren't images or ideas about this story embedded in popular culture and our collective consciousness, we thought it would be a good starting point for something new and different. We also liked that the story focused closely on a female relationship, that of the sisters Snow White and Rose Red, and dealt with themes of kindness, kinship, perception and discrimination. And even though the story ends with marriage, the pursuit of romantic love is not the main focus of the story. Speaking of, on an interesting sidenote, an earlier variation of the tale of Snow White and Rose Red was The Ungrateful Dwarf, written by a female writer, Caroline Stahl in the early 19th century. Stahl's version does not end with marriage, and, according to the limited information available about her life and work, Stahl was generally not a fan of the typical romantic fairy tale tropes. Fancy that. More backstory on Stahl and her version is available here and here.
I'm happy to report that our artists have now added their own unique stamps to this time-honored tale. Wilder, devised by Amanda Jensen and Sara Vanasse, with Juliette Gobin and Garyce Hoffman, used the story as a springboard to explore the tension between danger and security, innocence and experience, and life and death through text, movement and visual imagery. Wilder sadly closed on Sunday, but the images evoke the competing senses of joy, fear, hope and depression that infused the show.
This weekend, Lesley Berkowitz and Cat Ramirez take audiences on a literal and figurative journey. Snow White Rose Red is an interactive piece in which audience members follow Snow White and Rose Red, here two college friends, throughout the historic Plays & Players Theatre as they navigate the tricky journey of post-college life, including unanswerable riddles, awkward mornings-after, and job trolls.
ReVamp's Artist Lab closes out (sadly!) Nov. 17-19 with They Belonged to the Sunlight, devised by Joan Lawson and Stephanie N. Walters. Their take draws on parallels between the siblings Snow White and Rose Red and the real-life Grimm brohers, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, and explores a myriad of fairy tale tropes as the sisters try to break free from the page and into the real world.
Please join us for the first of what we hope is many more Artist Labs to come!
- Kristen M. Scatton
Photo credit: Shamus Hunter McCarty