Create a mutually supportive community to sustain one another’s work. Reach beyond the theatrical to the greater artistic community. If you like what someone’s doing, support it!
There are as many ways of telling a story as there are types of people that exist in an audience. Founded in 2012, Unspoken Theatre is exploring the historical and European roots of theatrical arts. Artistic Director Nina Kaye harkens back to the time of Shakespeare, where poetry and rhymes took centre stage, and the actors drew out the meaning in the text.
The upcoming project is a collaboration with her sister Natalie Kaye, through her new work entitled Walking Around in a Dream. How do you mesh shakespearean prose, the language of the roaring 20s, and a screw-ball comedy format? A staged-reading tomorrow will give you a chance to check out this work. Let’s Misbehave is a PWYC event, and a fundraiser for mounting a full production happening 8pm this Friday evening at the Riverside Bookstore (808 Queen Street East).
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Head out for an opportunity to support emerging theatre companies, who are creating their own opportunities to engage their art. There’s a show out there for all of us and this may be one for you!
1. How would you describe your role in the performing arts? Is it what you set out to achieve when you started your career, or did it change along the way?
NATALIE: I haven’t settled on a role per se; I’m a writer, playwright, director, producer, singer, dancer, aerialist, ad nauseum. My role changes from project to project, and often within a project I’ll play multiple roles. I enjoy this aspect of indie theatre; it allows for experimentation, variety, and discovery of new forms and perspectives. I didn’t consciously decide on a theatrical career. Theatre was my sister’s thing and I tagged along. Nina directed me in my first play; I was 3 and I played the eponymous character in Cinderella. I still remember my one line: “you wrecked my dress!” 22 years later, I have an M.A. in theatre and more than 30 productions under my belt, with both onstage and backstage credits.
NINA: Natalie is quite an experimenter, but when she finds an interest, she’s very focused. Writing is currently her strongest passion. Her new play, Walking Around in a Dream, uses deliciously crafted language. It has a delightful, unique hybridity that was developed through the study of Shakespeare as well as extensive research into the language, culture, and history of the 1920’s.
2. What was your motivation for participating in Unspoken Theatre? How has the experience been so far?
NATALIE: Nina founded Unspoken Theatre in May 2012 and premiered her own play, Unspoken. The company has produced two full productions, a number of workshops, and acted as dramaturge for emerging artists. I’ve been treading the boards in my big sister’s footsteps for so long. I decided if I ever want to catch up, I need to take a big leap. Sibling rivalry spurred me on to write, direct, and produce Walking Around in a Dream. Of course, Nina’s great to work. She’s incredibly supportive and she’s gathered such a talented, enthusiastic group.
NINA: Since starting in 2012 with the premiere of my play, the company has continued to foster the work of ambitious young writers. As an alternative to Mamet-inspired realism, we cultivate work with rich language and literary roots. Theatre has an extensive geographic and temporal history that is important to acknowledge – writing in the present with the looming influence of the past means that we are always reinventing the medium. Working on the dramaturgy of Nina’s work which spans Shakespeare’s time, the 1920’s, and our own has been a wild ride!
3. Tell us more about your upcoming PWYC preview event of Nina’s work, Let’s Misbehave. What kind of experience can the audience expect?
NATALIE: It’s a 1920s theme night featuring ukulele, singing, dancing, and a silent comedy film. It’s on Friday, June 28that 8 p.m. at the Riverside Bookstore (808 Queen St. East). The main attraction is a staged reading of my play, Walking Around in a Dream. It’s an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream into a screwball comedy set in Chicago in the summer of 1929, and written in the vernacular of that time to boot. The event is pay-what-you-can, and all profits go toward mounting a full production.
NINA: It will be delightful costumed fun – with cupcakes!
4. What do you see as the main challenges for theatre in particular and the performing arts in general?
NATALIE: Naturalism and Method acting practices were revelatory and incredibly significant in the development of contemporary theatre. Nowadays, this realistic approach is pervasive; “good” and “realistic” theatre are practically interchangeable. Inspired by Shakespeare, as I was, my play integrates rhyming verse, rhetoric, inventive vocabulary, and poetic devices, not to mention 1920s vernacular. My concern is that our predilection for verity means the play will be dismissed as pure artifice.
Bet you thought I’d say “lack of funding”! Well, yes, that too. There’s a limited pool of opportunities, hence all these self-producing young whippersnappers. I’m all for the cross-promotion, non-competition, artist collectives route. Create a mutually supportive community to sustain one another’s work. And reach beyond the theatrical to the greater artistic community: indie film, dance, graffiti, guerilla gardening, etc. If you like what someone’s doing, support it!
NINA: I agree with Natalie that we must support the development of other theatrical styles. One of the best ways to do that is by attending the theatre as an audience member. It’s notoriously hard to get bums in seats. Take your kids to the theatre! Take your friends, lovers, and family to the theatre! Good, bad, or mediocre, it’s a unique cultural experience that will enrich your life.
5. What words of advice do you wish you had been given when you were first starting out?
NATALIE: Be prepared to eat your words; real food costs money. In the words of Robert Benchley, “the free-lance writer is one who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
NINA: Sometimes the most direct route is to blaze your own trail. Be grateful for supportive family and friends. Make sure to support them in turn – there aren’t a lot of people who will support you unconditionally.