By Brittany Ann Meister
Hannah Tahtinen has been very involved in the creation of "Oedipus" from the very beginning. Aside from being very involved in the movement exercises used to develop a large portion of the show, Hannah has also been responsible for the masks, synonymous with Greek theatre. I asked Hannah to talk a little bit about these elements ahead of the show's opening this weekend.
Q:How has devised movement shaped this story?
A: So, for the first few weeks, the goal was to create a common physical language, to give the actors the opportunity to figure out how they move individually and as a unit. So, we would use a lot of movement exercises. We used a number of different exercises as a framwork to make ourselves make discoveries and stronger choices. Eventually we would know what would Achillian plus Nick's movement would look like. A lot of effort was put into moving with intention, and to say more.
I think the movement makes up for the part of the story that we do not necessarily see. Oedipus is King and his country is sick and dying. And so the story of Oedipus surrounds his own downfall. A big pieces of that is missing though. What are his people going through? What is a king without his subjects? The chorus steps in there and physically tells a lot of the story. I think it adds a lot of context.
One thing that Nick [the director] did that was really ingenious was, he looked at the Chorus lines and categorized them into five different speakers. Although the names of people speaking are generic, we found that many of the Chorus lines dealt with truth and justice. Many of the lines had to do with Oedipus' role as a leader and judgement and mercy. Each of these actors were given roles of Truth, Mercy, Country, Panic, and Gods. It works out really well. I think it gives autonomy, while keeping the unity of the Chorus. They are often the talking pieces of the Gods but they still have their individual voice.
Q: You also made the masks. Can you tell me a bit about those?
A: I made the masks out of a lot of household items and plaster strips. Each person was fitted for one or more masks and sculptural details were added on top, as well as details and paint. There were masks for each chorus member, Oedipus, Jocasta, and the government officials. The Gods have their own masks as well. It was a way to keep in touch with the roots of the storytelling and making it a little more obvious who was who and who was speaking. There's a lot of really charged emotions and the masks allow the audience to bear that empathize a little bit more. I think withou the masks, it might feel like too much. This the world you're entering in to, and there are a few times in the show were we break that, and the masks come off.
Q: Anything else you'd like to add about the show in general?
A: I think that one thing that goes hand in hand with devised theatre and VFR is why this company is taking this on. It ensures every ensemble member is an equal creative collaborator in ways that aren't often afforded to actors. Oftentimes, actors are responsible for their role and they'll see how other elements come together the week before opening. With the devising process, everyone's input is valid. We try a lot of things and throw a lot of things. I think it gives actors a feeling of autonomy and I think they're able to see. In the final act, there are a few moves in a few pieces where I remember the specific rehearsals that we found those moments. Anyone's work has the potential to make it into the final product. The stage manager was also involved in the devising. Ensemble focus was stronger, and for a company like VFR, I think it's right alongside the mission for those who are thirsty for those opportunities to get the chance to make the work their own. I think there's great reward in seeing the final product after creating something out of nothing together with the human capital of the ensemble.
By:Brittany Ann Meister
Nick Hurtgen, director of VFR's upcoming Oedipus, discusses a few details about his Greek tragedy.
What is different or unique about your Oedipus?
It has a lot of elements of what you’d expect from a greek tragedy, but there’s also a lot of devised choreography, which a lot of people wouldn’t assume would go with a greek tragedy. We've included a lot of modern elements.
The whole concept is based around making the audience feel uncomfortable so there’s a lot of jarring moments and decisions both with the design and the presentation of the characters that I think is going to really bring home that effect on people. Making them feel uncomfortable.
Why do you want to make them uncomfortable?
I think that tragedies, especially familiar ones, like with Hamlet and Oedipus, knowing the end of the story, allows the audience to protect themselves from the full emotional impact of the story. And by creating that discomfort it will have the audience focus in on the moment and lose track of where the story is leading to. So that when you get to the end and everything finally clicks together and the real tragedy of the play is revealed, it will hit harder. And the moral of the story, the main point of Oedipus, shows up at the end of the script in the last line of the play, “count no mortal happy til he has passed the final limit of his life secure from pain.”
And I think that line specifically is saying that you can assume that everything is going great, you can think it’s happy, but the universe will throw a wrench at you. You have to be able to protect yourself.
Keep an eye on our Facebook and websitefor more information about Oedipus in the new year!
By: Brittany Ann Meister
"Hamlet" opens next week and so I asked the cast to tell me why they think you should see our production.
Gypsy: The production is absolutely phenomenal, the sheer talent of the cast is a wonder to behold! It's a production of epic proportions: far off places, daring sword fights; a prince in disguise! Villainy! Plots! Romance! A little something for everyone!
Hannah: I think a lot of young actors and directors think of "Hamlet" as this daunting play that they are not experienced or talented enough to tackle, but one thing we've returned to over and over again in rehearsal is how relatable the story is to young people. Youth is a time of hesitation, second-guessing, self-loathing, and questioning our own existence. If a story touches us so deeply, if we understand it and identify with it, why shouldn't we tell that story? I think VFR's "Hamlet" takes the melancholy, long-winded Dane, the hot-headed Laertes, and the Barbie-doll Ophelia (to name a few) away from those stereotypes that are often associated with this well-known play. In VFR's "Hamlet," they are just kids trying to grow up, meet the expectations of their family, and somehow still remain themselves.
Caitlin: People should see VFR's Hamlet for so many reasons, but most of all, the love and passion the cast has for the text. It it no small feat to get together with any group of people and solve for a common goal. It is even more wonderful to have that goal be making language that can be difficult accessible to a modern audience. This cast does that, with heart, bravery, and a deep affection for the story. Hamlet in our hands is no longer a text from class or a movie you've sat through. It is a story about people you know and love.
Andy: Everyone at least is familiar with Hamlet but not haven't seen it the way we do. With care and truth we are going to explore this timeless story so that everyone can really understand what it means. It has tragedy, a little comedy, and everything anyone could want in a show.
Alex: 'Hamlet is considered by many critics to be the best play of the English language, yet few critics will agree as to the definitive reason why this is so.
For me, what makes Hamlet so incredible is the titular character's relatability, and the universality of his journey. While it's true that his journey involves the supernatural, his journey ultimately stems from life's greatest equalizer: Death, and the grief he feels over his late father. Hamlet faces something which inevitably all of us go through. His struggle embodies our struggles, his thoughts our thoughts; as such, we root for Hamlet to succeed, are enraptured by his soliloquies and are moved when his success comes with the ultimate price.
Brandon: To dispell the notion that Shakespeare is antiquated and out-of-reach. It is exciting, emotional, and relatable.
Tickets are now available! We'll see you next week!
By:Brittany Ann Meister
On Tuesday, anyone in the Whitewater area can catch some of the "Hamlet" crew as well as some of our board at the Irving L. Young Library. Claire Tidwell is an actor and our Community Liaison.
What is your position at the library?
I'm the the Makerspace and Programming Librarian at the Irvin L Young Memorial Library and as part of my job I bring in people who's talents and interests match those of the community members. Naturally I thought that VFR would be a great fit since it benefits all involved and the Whitewater Library gets to show off some amazing talent
What is this program about?
To See or Not to See" is a chance for Voices Found to branch out and show different communites what they are all about. Whitewater is a wonderfully art friendly community where several VFR members graduated from the university there. It's a way to bring them "home" and show off what they have been doing.
I have my BA in Theater with a double major in english Lit. I am currently attending UW Madison to obtain my Masters in Library and Information Sciences,
I am hoping the community of Whitewater will learn a little more about young theater life in Milwaukee and that VFR will get some exposure as well as interest.
By:Brittany Ann Meister
Jake Thompson went to Chapman University and focused on theatre studies, and in addition to being one of the founders of VFR, wears many other hats. Jake is a board member, actor, director, graphic designer, and sound designer for the company.
What do you do at VFR?
Lately, not much, which is cool. Now I don’t have to do as many things since we’ve stretched
the leadership board out.
Lately I’ve been doing composition for Hamlet and graphic design. I trust everyone to get things
done so it’s nice to take a breather.
How did you start working in graphic design? How about sound design?
When Joss Whedon released "Much Ado About Nothing" they had a contest to design a poster and submit it through
twitter. I didn’t win, but I didn’t know anything about photoshop, I made this 1960’s style thing,
which when I look at it now makes me cringe, but I entered this contest and it went from there.
A theatre company from my hometown needed help with their glass menagerie poster.
In high school and middle school I did a lot of video editing and I wanted to focus on editing
videos to music. In college it was about putting music to a play. More of a playlist.
During VFR I started exploring the design of it more. “Transition” music etc.
Can you tell us about the sound design for "Hamlet?"
I'm composing a bunch of original music for Hamlet. The concept is to write all of the music with the
play specifically in mind. More specifically than that, moments of the play, and how the actor’s
beats can influence the sound.
The song is tailored to the action. A lot like live scoring. An actor’s cue will prompt the stage
manager to give a sound cue to coincide with the action.
Can you give us some insight into the company's designs for this seasons?
I think it’s indicative of where we’re going as a company. Every poster was different, even the
paper dimensions. Every poster was it’s unique thing. It was a show by show basis, we did a lot
of shows. I wanted to see what worked the best. Taming of the Shrew and Richard posters were
long and skinny, I thought it would be eye catching and easier to hang on crowded bulletin
boards. I think they looked cool ,but ultimately it was too different.
Same thing for the text layout, which is arguably one of the most important part of the posters. I
was trying to find a way for it to work well, which was coherent.
This season, we got our stuff together a lot more. The posters represent that too. Each show
has it’s own color. Simple colors. 8 ½ by 14 paper, so it’s familiar but not too familiar. The font is
the same, the logos are in the same place. I wanted to have a sense of cohesion. I think we
found what sticks and I wanted to roll with that graphically speaking.
I was personally resistant to the idea of a cohesive theme and that’s a silly thing to be resistant
to. You want everything to look similar, you want brand recognition. Even if you don’t
consciously say, hey that looks like the poster I saw a couple months ago, maybe there’s a
As a preview of what to expect from "Hamlet" sound-wise next month, we've included a link (below) to something that Jake's been working on for the show! Check it out, enjoy, and keep your eyes open for more Hamlet fun coming your way soon!
Voices Found Blog
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