Where did the time go??

I’m embarrassed, I must confess, at the difference between my last blog post and this current one. Where I’ve been in the last year and 1/2 has been an experience of how time can morph, slip, deepen, twist and speed up, all at the same time. I’m a new mom, a freelance working mom in the arts. With an acquired brain injury. So fatigue has taken on a whole new reality, as has this concept of sleep and rest (or lack of it). But in attempts to give a quick flick to this blog to keep its plate spinning, here is an update of what’s been up otherwise:

  • Reassembled, Slightly Askew whisked me off maternity leave with its Southern Irish debut in Sept 17 at the Dublin Fringe Festival, where it was lovingly housed at the fantastic multidisciplinary space at The Complex, led by Vanessa Fielding. It was nominated for 3 awards: Judges’ Choice, Best Design (Paul Stapleton) and First Fortnight. This led to it being programmed into three festivals in Canada: SummerWorks Performance Festival (Aug 2017, made possible with support from Culture Ireland and The MAC Belfast), High-Performance Rodeo, run by One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary, and the PuSh Festival in Vancouver, both for Jan 2018. I was also invited to represent Ireland at the PuSh assembly event in Jan 2017,  pitching to international presenters (made possible by support from Culture Ireland and Irish Theatre Institute).
  • At this summer’s SummerWorks Performance FestivalReassembled…. won the Contra Guys Award for New Performance Text
  • I’m thrilled that after many years planning, Reassembled…. will be at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital this month as in-house training for its multidisciplinary staff teams. I’ve piloted this model during Reassembled….’ s five year development period here in Northern Ireland in the various health trusts and in partnership with Community brain injury support organisations.
  • I have been commissioned to work with The Rainbow Project and TheatreofplucK to write an audio based walking tour of Belfast in which audiences hear the hidden stories of ethnic minority LGBT individuals in Northern Ireland, many of whom are refugees/asylum seekers. We piloted it at this year’s East Side Arts Festival and Belfast Pride and it will have its official premiere next year.
  • The ever–resilient, always-visionary, Accidental Theatre company has commissioned me for their second Rapid Response play series. I’m writing a piece about Donald Trump, which is interesting, being an ex-pat.
  • Starf*cker, which has been quietly under development since 2016 (with the support of Battersea Arts Centre in London and the MAC Belfast) , is going public at its first Scratch performance at the end of October at Battersea during the final week of a 3 week artist residency. It’s been such a joy to continue to collaborate with movement & music company Assault Events, as we began our relationship in 2010 working with text, movement & music. Like Reassembled…Starf*cker is based in interdisciplinary collaborative creation, with a bit of the tech being unknown, but exciting–this time we’re looking at performance technology (video projection mapping, also with the reputable Dan Shorten) and social media to tell the live stories of stellar autopsy… more soon!
  • While Reassembled…was on tour for 8 weeks around England with Battersea Arts Centre’s Collaborative Touring Network (Mar-Apr 16) , I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline & Jade at Darlington’s Jabberwocky Market, from which I’ve been able to provide mentoring to Jade on her new show about having Type 1 Diabetes.
  • I’ve been invited to work with the lovely Jamie Starboisky, founder and queer visionary of Queer Media UK and its festival, and photographer Therese Frare on an amazing VR project looking at the full picture of the story behind this iconic photo Therese took of David Kirby and his family, published by LIFE magazine & used by Benetton to raise AIDS awareness.  We’ve secured a residency week at the National Theatre (London) to begin our research and development process.
  • I’ve had the great honour to be Artist in Residence at the MAC Belfast in Apr/May, and will return in Nov/Dec (this time with more childcare support during the week!) to be creating and collaborating furiously.

(as well as the usual funding applications, funders’ reports, producer-related emails, marketing bumpf and social media shtuff– all the time obsessing about my baby’s sleep-not-sleep patterns)

I hope not to be quicksanded by time & my good intentions before this next post…

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‘Reassembled, Slightly Askew’ in London at Battersea Arts Centre

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(image by Richard Lavery/Tickle Here)

Reassembled… is off to an amazing start to its 3 week run at Battersea Arts Centre as part of their ‘A Nation’s Theatre Festival’, in which it is the only NI show to be invited to participate. It’s been in the very capable hands of NI actors, Stephen Beggs & Mary Lindsay:

Mary STephen out front

Coverage so far includes various London-based publications:

Time Out

listed as one of Time Out London’s ‘Hottest Theatre Openings’

The Arts Council NI’s website, a fantastic 4-star review from Lyn Gardner in The Guardian, a heartfelt blog post from Webcowgirl, and post-show feedback from audiences:

“If you see just one production in London this year, it should be this.”

“Profound evening…a real must-see!”

“Wow, what a thought-provoking 90 minutes, a slick and rounded arts experience.”

“Amazing… [I was] touched and impressed.”

“It is moving, beautiful, fragile and deeply important. Thank you.”

“Best binaural piece I’ve seen this year so far (you’re the 4th). “

“I felt more exposed than ever.”

“Such a deeply moving experience.”

 

With the show running until 28 May, there’s more feedback and reviews to come…

‘Reassembled…’ comes to London this May ’16

ANT RSA screenshotThanks to Reassembled…‘s director Anna Newell (2016 Ellen Stewart International Award Finalist for Artists and Theatre Companies Doing Socially Engaged Work with Youth), Reassembled… has been invited to be part of Battersea Arts Centre’s ‘A Nation’s Theatre Festival’ this Spring, 11-28 May.

A Nation’s Theatre Festival is a two-month celebration of theatre from around the UK from April – May 2016.  There are over 60 shows and events in the festival, across 17 London venues, performed by more than 350 artists from outside London. Reassembled… is the only production from Northern Ireland that is participating.

“It is A CELEBRATION of the UK theatre ecology, shining a light on the breadth of innovative theatre and ideas produced by companies, artists and theatres from around the nation. It’s an opportunity for London audiences and theatres to experience, recognise and champion work from around the UK. It is A PROVOCATION to encourage conversations and debate:

  • How can we reverse the flow of theatre from London out to the rest of the UK?
  • How do we encourage more arts provision outside of the capital?
  • What can theatre tell us about politics, devolution and identity?”

Tickets are available at www.bac.org.             BAC logo

Research, development and funding (2013-2015) was made possible by:

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‘Trouble’– Theatreofpluck bring stories of NI’s LGBT community during the Troubles to the stage

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After 5 years of development, wrangling with production concerns about funding and creative concerns about how to honour over 46 interviewees’ stories within theatrical limitations, I was thrilled that Trouble finally had its world premiere at The MAC as part of 2015’s OUTBURST Queer Arts Festival (the only 10-day multidisciplinary queer arts festival in all of Ireland, which I co-founded in 2007 with a team of many queer artists who’ve worked tirelessly to grow it to its success today, nearly 10 years on).

Jane Coyle’s 4 star review in the Irish Times of TheatreofplucK‘s production (directed by Niall Rea & Anna Newell) cited it as ‘a chilling and challenging piece [that] shows how far equality and gay rights have come in NI– and how far is left to go.’ Chris McCormack called it a ‘provocative performance installation’ in his review.

Audiences described it as:

“Compelling and moving.”

“Fantastic. Lots of reminders about how far we’ve come. Great that our stories have been captured and shared. “

“Everyone should be made to see this. School syllabus!”

“That was totally amazing theatre. I never say that.”

“Really interesting and informative content. Good range of performers/interviewees, men, women, different sections of the community and a good age range. “

WOW. Back in time and very very moving. You captured the times brilliantly.”

“Very emotive performances, I am a bit dumbstruck to be honest. Still very true in today’s world too. Thank you for that, feel very privileged to have seen it.”

“Excellent performance. Innovative mixed theatre piece. Dynamic and inspired way to tell such an important and often invisible story. Needs to go out round the north and wider afield. Tender, shocking, funny, uplifting, beautiful, brave – very clever and creative again from Shannon Yee.”

In December 2015, TROUBLE transferred to Belfast City Hall as a video archive installation, celebrating ten years since the UK’s first civil partnership ceremony there. Despite this initial progress towards equality, today Northern Ireland remains the last place in the UK and Ireland to enact the same-sex marriage legislation.

photo 2Trouble is dedicated to PA McLaughlin, Sean Morrin, Peter Quigley, and all other NI LGBT activists the community has lost over the years; as well as the 46 contributors who kindly entrusted me with their stories. Research, development and production was made possible by support from the Arts Council NI and Belfast City Council.

A secret story in a tiny tent for Belfast-based babies in the world’s first BABY DAY

 

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Tiny Tents for the Sea of Stories (Photos by Simon Hutchinson & Grant Jones)
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Tiny Tents for the Sea of Stories (Photos by Simon Hutchinson & Grant Jones)

BABY DAY is the brainchild of Anna Newell, director of Reassembled, Slightly Askew, in her role as Artistic Director of Replay Theatre Company. You can see a video of the day’s events (the first in the world!), here, courtesy of video artist Conan McIvor.
I was delighted to be one of many writers for the ‘Sea of Stories‘ event who wrote special stories to be read by parents/guardians to their babies in little tents littered throughout Belfast City Hall and Ulster Museum last September. The title we were given to write from was ‘On the Night You Were Born’. Revisiting what I explored in Wiggle Giggle and my training in early childhood pedagogy, I focused on repetition and the sounds of words to animate the story between the reader and baby to write my story:

‘On the Night You Were Born’ by Shannon Yee

(Instructions: To read this story to your baby, there are things that you say and things that you do. It’s up to you if you want to say and do them at the same time or not.)

Do:             Sit down with your knees up and feet flat on the floor. Lay your baby on your thighs, facing you.

Say:             On the night you were born…

My world rocked, rocked, rocked

Do:            (Rock your legs together [and hence, your baby] side to side)

Say:            And …

Do:             (Keep your legs still)

Say:             Ruummmmmmmmbllllllllledddddddd

Do:             (quickly bounce your legs [and hence, your baby] one at a time)

Say:             And…Roll—roll-rolllllllled

Do:             (slowly lift one leg at a time)

Say:             And…

Do:             (separate your knees slightly so your baby drops a little)           

Say:             POPPED!

Do:             (pull your baby up quickly to land on your knees again)

(Go back to the beginning and repeat all again two or three more times from “My world rocked, rocked, rocked… “)

Say:             (hold your baby close and whisper) On the night you were born, my world changed forever.

Write-ups of ‘Reassembled, Slightly Askew’

Smithsonian RSA SI

An interview by Anna McNay for Studio International.

Plus a review by Jane Coyle:

“A real-life ordeal, captured by a daring, disorientating artistic collaboration, which works brilliantly on so many levels…It should be available on prescription.” ★★★★★–The Stage

RSA The Stage

After its inaugural NI Tour, my brain takes a rest

Reassembled, Slightly Askew had a tremendously successful inaugural tour around NI from late April through early June, at the Metropolitan Arts Centre (as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival), Derry Playhouse, Flowerfield Arts Centre (as part of Action on Brain Injury Week), The Burnavon, Down Arts Centre and Island Arts Centre.

Audiences have called it:

“One of the most amazing, moving theatrical experiences of my life.”

“An amazing piece of theatre. An amazing use of sound. Very emotional piece. Very brave piece of writing.”

“Without question, one of the most vital and emotionally engaging theatre pieces I’ve ever experienced. I’m walking away informed, questioning, invigorated and ultimately grateful.”

“I think the piece should be widely toured and publicized and used for training purposes. As someone who has been through a lot of hospital treatments myself, I think this resonates across the board for any medical staff in contact with patients. It is indeed also a story of hope—and of love. “

“…very moving, terrifying, humourous and will stay with me for a very long time. The best piece of ‘theatre’ I have EVER experienced.”

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Nurse Stephen Beggs prepares an audience for the neuro-trip

“It was one of the most participative theatre pieces I have ever been involved in.”

“Shows an entirely different aspect to theatre.”

After a much-needed break for the summer, it will be returning to Belfast as part of the Arts & Disability Forum’s BOUNCE festival, 3-6 Sept at the Lyric Theatre.

(Photo credits: Ryan O’Hare/SlackPress)

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