The annual conferences of the Association for Asian Performance and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education were held in my hometown of Orlando this year. It was hot (not as hot as Boston last year) but the heat was worth it to hear all the new scholarship, reconnect with colleagues, and meet new friends.
I presented a paper pulled from a chapter of my dissertation (pic below). The paper focused on how the characters were depicted in an opera Zuni Icosahedron commissioned and produced in a Jesuit chapel in Hong Kong called The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. The depiction of both character and music asked the audience to critically reconsider their relationship to performance. Interesting stuff!
Some of the panels I attended focused on new pedagogical ideas for teaching theatre history, discussions of new directions in immersive theatre, like Sleep No More and I made a special point to attend two workshops on the emerging field of stage intimacy direction. The conference was a great experience.
Presenting at AAP 2019 Orlando
Instead of celebrating the 4th of July with barbecue and backyard football, I hopped on a plane and headed to Hong Kong for a month to finish up the fieldwork for my dissertation (and managed to get started on a few other projects). It was difficult for our schedules to align, but finally, on my second-to-last day, I was lucky enough to score a 2 hour interview with Danny Yung. Yung is the founder and Co-Artistic Director of the avant-garde theatre company that my dissertation focuses on: Zuni Icosahedron. Running the gamut between collectively-created performance art pieces, site-specific video installations, and experimental interrogations of traditional Chinese opera, the only constant in Zuni’s eclectic performance style seems to be creativity. The interview helped to enrich the record of Zuni’s early years; after the first hour Yung remarked “This is turning into a kind of oral history!” Hopefully, this oral history will serve to bring more scholarly interest to theatre created by Hong Kong artists.
In addition to research, I also found the time to take in the sites, even getting a first hand chance to observe the anti-China extradition law protests that have rocked the territory for the past 2 months. I made sure to visit the beautiful new Xiqu Chinese Opera Center in the West Kowloon Cultural District (check the picture below), and did some hiking on the hot and humid Lamma Island.
Xiqu Center, West Kowloon, Hong Kong
On the Boat to Lamma Island
Tin Hau Temple, Lamma Island
5 years ago I set a goal to become certified in all eight weapon systems of the Society of American Fight Directors. I am happy to announce that today I have completed that goal. In the same day I tested in quarterstaff and smallsword while renewing in my favorite system, rapier and dagger. You can head over to the Video/Stage Combat tab on this website to see some of the tests. The culmination of an entire semester of learning and teaching stage combat was exhausting and exhilarating and a whole lot of fun. Ever happy to maintain a growth mindset, I have set my next goal to become a Certified Teacher with the SAFD. I know this will mean even more physical and aesthetic training, but I am up to the challenge. I only hope it takes less than 5 years!
SAFD Skills Test Crew Spring 2019
I had the chance to work with several graduate and undergraduate students on an exciting project this week: motion capture for a video game project at IU! Actually, I got to do mocap twice: once for an official IU media school project with a game company and the other for a class project on animation. It was an interesting challenge to suit up and play many different characters using only the body. In the process I learned that mocap actors, unlike actors on stage and screen, can play any type of character- the data points captured during the actor’s performance can be used with any pre-existing character model in the computer. Thus, I played the evil villain, the plucky sidekick, the tough guard, the sexy leader, the cunning thief, and the kind-hearted protagonist in the space of 70 minutes! I have posted the rough mocap video from the class project on the Video/Stage Combat page and posted some shots below.
Whit Fierce Mocap IU Spring 2019
Whit Mocap with Quarterstaff
Whit and Nate Mocap for Ara Fell IU Media School 2019
The pit, the pie, blood pumps, and lots of knives! Titus Andronicus has been a fun production to work on. Building the moments of physical violence has been a challenge, due to time and budget constraints, but both the cast and stage management team kept a positive attitude and learned a lot. For me, assisting with the stage combat has been an invaluable educational opportunity. I learned how to build a vocabulary that reaches both actors that are expert stage combatants and newer actors who need a lot of coaching to work through moments of physical altercation. In the end, a safe, exciting, bit of bloody fun was had by all. Check out some action photos from the show below.
Lavinia Held by Tamora
Titus is Behanded by Aaron
Titus Killed By Saturninus
Titus Drowns Tamora in Pie
Lavinia Kills Demetrius
I am thrilled to be the assistant fight choreographer for our department’s production of Titus Andronicus. Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy features a lot of one-sided violence, like torture and stabbings, rather than the usual back-and-forth two-way violence of a sword fight. The director and designers have planned for the use of a ton of stage blood in performance, which is an element of the theatre that I am unfamiliar with and excited to learn about. It should be an interesting challenge to assist the fight choreographer in balancing the amount of brutality called for with the storytelling needs of the play.
It’s the beginning of a new semester here at IU and boy it is hot outside! Thankfully the classrooms are all air conditioned.
I have an enthusiastic group of students in my Script Analysis and Introduction to Theatre classes. This semester I have introduced Canvas-based reading quizzes and an all-electronic paper submission policy in order to facilitate student learning. Since the department will be producing the comedy Barbecue by Robert O’Hara, we will be reading it in Script Analysis in order to better understand the process of going from page to stage. I am excited to see where the semester takes us.
Boston was boiling, with many days cracking the 90 degree marker but it was great to catch up with colleagues and friends at the annual AAP conference. I particularly enjoyed the performance workshop on dance moves from the Kabuki play Maiden at Dojoji. During the ATHE conference itself I presented a paper covering two quite different Chinese theatrical adaptations of Lao She’s satirical novel Cat Country as part of a panel on science fiction theatre. We had a good audience at the panel but the best part came afterwards when professor Sarah Bay-Cheng stopped me in the hall to tell me how much she enjoyed it. Ego boost! Of course, I also made sure to enjoy some authentic dimsum with friends in Chinatown–something of a rarity in Indiana. Amongst IU graduate students the consensus seemed to be that the heat was brutal but the conference was great.
I just received notice from my research chair that my dissertation prospectus has been approved. I am excited to begin writing my dissertation in earnest. First step: head to the library to gather the books needed for a comprehensive literature review. I have a feeling that I will be in the library a lot from now on.
I just got back from working as an intern at the Allegheny Alley Fight Stage Combat Workshop in Pennsylvania. The other interns and instructors were a pleasure to work with and it was a great experience to assist Fight Master Michael Chin on a smallsword class. Though this workshop was smaller than the Tourist Trap Stage Combat Workshop in Orlando, all the students were collaborative and energetic in their pursuit of exciting, safe stage combat.