Get to Know Our Round 6 Reiser Lab Lead Artists
Get to Know Our Round 6 Reiser Lab Lead Artists
In 2013, the Alliance Theatre launched the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab to support and provide opportunities to artists of multiple theatre disciplines looking for a producing home for undeveloped work. Each year, the Alliance extends an open call for Atlanta artists to submit their projects for consideration. Three projects are chosen by a panel of judges representing local and national artists of varying disciplines. Each project receives $10,000 to use toward further exploration and development, as well as access to the Alliance’s artistic, educational and production staffs, and rehearsal spaces. In its inaugural year the Alliance received 68 applications, representing 204 individual artists.
It is the goal of the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab to celebrate the breadth and vision of Atlanta-based artists, to encourage collaboration among Atlanta’s artistic community, and to seed projects that will be produced here in Atlanta. The outpouring of applications for inclusion in the inaugural year of the program shows the vibrancy of the artistic community living in Atlanta and the need for further support of local art.
Read more about the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab Round 6 projects, and about the lead artists below.
The Yellow Wallpaper: Energized for a new generation with an expanded story and modern original music, The Yellow Wallpaper is a musical adaptation of the celebrated short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This haunting show tells of a rising writer and new mother who is afflicted with postpartum depression at the turn of the 19th century. She's subjected to the "rest cure", a misguided but popular treatment at the time: forced to give up writing, and isolated to a chilling room papered floor-to-ceiling in a ghastly shade of yellow. The young woman's descent into madness unspools before our eyes as she's enchanted by a mysterious, frightening realm behind the yellow wallpaper. Lead Artist: Hannah Church
Prisontown: In small, Southern Prisontown, the only decent paying jobs are at the immigration detention center. But with the arrival of a new inmate, everyone is forced to question the foundations on which they've built their lives and how far they're willing to go to protect them. Lead Artist: Lee Osorio
Honors US History: On the last day of 7th grade, Mr. Miller is trying to bring an inspirational close to the year's curriculum — but his classroom is revolting! One well-meaning teacher battles with a sentient SmartBoard, haunted projections, and voices from the past over the contested mythology of our national narrative. Lead Artist: Jake Krakovsky
Why this piece? Why now?
Hannah Church: I read The Yellow Wallpaper in college for the first time and immediately thought, “this could make a really great one woman show!” It has madness, haunting themes, and a feminist feeling that is timeless. As we get older we feel like society is always telling us who we should be and what our limitations are - especially as women, and we felt this real-life short story still echoes that hard truth 130 years later.
We started writing this show in 2010, and since then we have gone through the "Me Too" movement and a place where Mental Health is more freely accepted. In just ten years audiences are more interested in believing what a woman says is true AND a discussion about depression, particularly post-partum for all the mothers out there. This has been so encouraging for this show. An undeniable fact is that by age 40, 50% of the population will have or will have had a mental illness. In the creative world, we know that every artist struggles with some kind of depression at some point in life. We hope The Yellow Wallpaper shows how friendship, just one person caring, can be the difference between a happy or sad ending.
Lee Osorio: I spent the first years of my life in Lumpkin. Long after I left, Stewart Immigration Detention Center was built right outside of town. Stewart is one of the largest immigration detention centers in the country, and has one of the worst reputations. But it's also one of the best jobs in a town that has long been dying. When my brother, an immigration attorney, returned to town to work with clients detained there, I started to wonder about what life in the town would have been like if I'd stayed in Lumpkin. The play was born out of that thought experiment. It also explores my continued fascination with our ability as a country to value profit over people- like how we create for-profit, high traumatizing institutions that we champion as job creators for rural America without thinking about the effects on the people that are imprisoned and work in them.
Jake Krakovsky: It is, by any estimation, a weird time to live in the United States of America. Old norms and fundamental assumptions have been stretched to a breaking point. Contradictions between our national self-mythology and the brutal, broken realities of our country, (domestically and globally) are heightened and more visible every day. And we are bombarded on all sides by narratives that try to weaponize our amnesiac nostalgia against us — either through a return to “greatness” or a return to “normalcy.” Our project wonders: what “Great?” What “Normal?” All of us, myself included, have some delusions, misunderstandings, and ignorance about U.S. history. The play isn’t here to say “actually, here’s what really happened.” It’s here to wonder: how does the weight of all that mythology impact us, personally and collectively, as we try to navigate this bizarre and demoralizing present moment?
What is your creative process like?
HC: My friend, Julia Appleton, signed on to write the music in 2015 and since then we have learned how important readings are for this work. First, we story board everything we would like to tell, and then just start writing. It was an epic long script just 6 months ago but we were able to see the story in its entirety from every character's point of view. Then from there we just started cutting and tightening and trying to find the moments we still needed. That's where readings come in handy. We can hear the repeated beats, or feel a transition that isn't flowing, or where our readers are zoning out or nodding their heads in agreement. It gets us out of our heads and really see what the audience is connecting to because at the end of the day that's what we want. For the audience to leave the theatre and start a conversation about everything they just saw and how it reflects the world they live in today.
LO: Generally speaking, it's ugly. Truly. It's messy, stressful, and angry. Nothing about it is cute. I can't make a deadline to save my life. I'm bad at it.
Luckily, I have try to surround myself with a great group of collaborators that keep me on track.
JK: It depends. I am generally more at ease in a collaborative process — I love improvising, spit-balling, playing around with like-minded partners in creative crime. This process however began with a long period of research and writing, an often lonely experience.
For me, the writing is 95% pulling teeth, 5% sudden inspiration. I had a playwriting professor who once announced, after I explained that my writing either happens all-at-once or not at all: “Well no wonder your first drafts are such trash!”
Why are new works important?
HC: Fun Home was the first all female writing team to win a Tony Award and that was in 2015! I have a BFA in Musical Theatre so I'm in LOVE with this craft, and have made it my entire life. We have finally reached a world where all audiences get to hear every point of view! From gender, race, culture, age-there are no more limits. And that diversity makes the world of story-telling so rich. Everyone's voice can be heard and we are so humbled and proud at the same time.
LO: The world is changing. We need scripts that speak to the moment that we're living in and create space for conversations that we need to have.
JK: “The past isn’t dead,” right? And I firmly believe it — I read old stuff all the time that is more experimental and avant garde than half of the new works I see. But for theater to be alive, to be an organic thing, it has to constantly grow, it has to respond to its moment. Sometimes new work can mean reaching into the past and ripping something into the present. But new work is crucial for the survival of the form — if the theater is to remain relevant (and, for lots and lots of people, it already isn’t) we have to adapt and respond to our moment. Not just in terms of content, but how we share our work, through what structures and mechanisms and models. If we’re just doing the same old musicals for the same audiences, if tickets are $25, $80, $1000, then “theater” has come to mean something very narrow, specific, and empty. New work should mean not only new stories, but told in new ways, told by and for the people for whom theater has by and large been uninviting and inaccessible.
What has it been like working with the Alliance on this project?
HC: This is a dream come true for The Yellow Wallpaper. When I got the phone call that our project was chosen I started crying in disbelief. It was an institution that I absolutely adore saying "we believe in your work and what this story can do". In Atlanta I'm mostly known as an actor and teaching artist so to be able to flex this playwriting muscle so freely has been liberating in a stressful, creative, dream-like way. I can't believe Susan Booth took the time to watch our show in process and send us the MOST thought provoking notes. We have felt such support from the Alliance and we will be forever grateful.
LO: The biggest benefit of working with the Alliance is the vote of confidence from theater makers that I respect that this project is worth pursuing. Plus, the chance to share my work with an audience.
JK: It’s both encouraging and a little scary to have the support of such a large and well-known institution. It feels like a lot of pressure — the Alliance put their name on this thing, I’d better make sure it’s good! It’s an extraordinary privilege to have access to this theater, its wonderful team, its impressive resources. I feel so fortunate that the project was chosen, and very grateful for the help my team and I have received.
What is your artistic mission? What are your hopes for the Atlanta arts scene? What are your hopes for beyond that?
HC: What a great question. I think back to my college days and my Professor shouting "Be Bold, Make Brave Decisions" and that's echoing in my head. I think as storytellers we get to decide what our art is for. Is it thought provoking? Are we trying to provide our audience a happy escape for a few hours? Are we trying to be political? Our options are endless. As long as Atlanta continues to work as an ensemble, sharing ideas together and to keep pushing to be the best diverse community we can-it will always be exceptional and new. Atlanta has been so supportive in my adult life, I can't see myself leaving. I hope to keep working with my mentors and peers as I start my 30's and to give back to my community of young artists to help them in the same way I was nurtured at 23 when I moved here.
LO: My mission is to interrogate thresholds. How much injustice do we have to see before we stop turning a blind eye to it? How many times must we bear witness before we speak up? How many times can we say something without being heard before we are compelled to take action? And how many times must we witness, speak out, and take action against someone else before we acknowledge our own complicity in systems of oppression?
JK: My mission is to make theater that has people laughing so hard they don’t realize they’ve had their assumptions shattered until it’s too late. Theater that mixes the laugh and the tear, that makes everyone in the audience forget they have a phone in their pocket and remember they are surrounded by human beings they can love.
I hope to see Atlanta branch out, shake off the fear of scaring the subscribers, get weird, get messy, get radical. I’m heartened and inspired by smaller, younger companies who are doing edgy new work. I hope to see an immediate end to the trend of “edginess” by way of depictions of sexual assault and violence towards women onstage. I hope to see appropriate content warnings become the norm. I hope to see theater that isn’t afraid to take an unpopular moral stance. I hope to see Atlanta theaters commit to paying their artists a living wage. I hope to see theaters become more grounded in their communities, become places of congregation, places of community, refuge, and solidarity.
I want to see an American theater that disposes with elitism and nationalism. I want a theater that finds a way to create self-sufficiency, that can survive and even thrive without corporate sponsorship and the limitations that puts on the work. I want a theater that is not only accessible to but uplifts and supports the marginalized, the queer, the indigenous, the impoverished, the undocumented. I want cheap theater.
As for myself, I just want to keep making weird plays and puppet shows, tell stories and sing songs, with my friends and loved ones and friends-to-be, and hopefully get paid while I’m doing it.
What, or who, are some of your artistic inspirations?
HC: Susan Booth, Rosemary Newcott, Lisa Adler, Marguerite Hannah, Jody Feldman, Emily Kleypas, Ann-Carol Pence, Tony Rodriguez, Rachel May, Clifton Guterman, Jaclyn Hoffman, Nichole Palmietto, Hershey Millner, Addae Moon, Justin Anderson, David Crowe, Tom Jones, John Ammerman, Richard Garner, Ricardo Aponte- the list goes on and on! Each one of these Atlanta icons gave me a seat at their table. I tired to soak in their genius like a sponge and it has turned me into the writer and actor I am today!
LO: I don't know how to answer this question without sounding ignorant or pretentious. So I guess I'll say life. I'm inspired by the world.
JK: These categories all overlap, but:
Songwriters and musicians: Leonard Cohen. Prince. Daniel Kahn. Tom Waits. Missy Elliot. John Darnielle. OutKast. Anohni. Phil Ochs. Das Racist.
Playwrights: Samuel Beckett. Suzan-Lori Parks. Bertolt Brecht. Caryl Churchill. Branden Jacob-Jenkins. Franca Rame. Dario Fo. Paula Vogel. Peter Barnes. Sarah Ruhl. Sam Shepard. Chekhov. Jean Genet. Young Jean Lee. Eric Bogosian. Jiréh Breon Holder. S. An-sky.
Poets and authors: Patricia Lockwood. Ursula K. LeGuin. Jericho Brown. Claudia Rankine. Layli Long Soldier. Kaveh Akbar. Italo Calvino. Michael Chabon. James Baldwin. Umberto Eco. Kimmy Walters. Sholem Aleichem. André Schwarz-Bart. Virginia Woolf. Douglas Adams. Joseph Skibell. Lauren Groff.
Historians, theorists, political thinkers and activists: Naomi Klein. Devyn Springer. Marcus Rediker. Angela Davis. Marx (Groucho and Karl). Edward Said. Howard Zinn. John Berger. Walter Benjamin. Assata Shakur. David Roediger. Frantz Fanon. Houria Bouteldja. April Rosenblum. Alex V. Green. Paulo Friere.
Where is your favorite place to get work done?
HC: Haha at home. In my office thumping my head against the desk, and then suddenly-an idea! I used to go to coffee shops or Panera but it's so loud I can't hear the voices in my head. If my house isn't available, I'll just sit on my laptop in my car too. Anywhere that's completely quiet with no distractions. That's the only way I get good ideas!
LO: Coffee shops with lots of windows.
JK: I wrote a lot of this piece at the Toco Hill-Avis G. Williams Library. Public libraries are the coolest thing in the world, an extraordinary public good, plus, this one has big open windows so you can stare at the trees when your brain is full of cobwebs!
In 7 words or less: why art?
HC: Art is the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.
LO: Only you know why for you today.
JK: We’re here for more than mere survival!