Are We Pussy Riot?

Logan Ellis and Barbara Hammond in rehearsal for We Are Pussy RiotKent, WA
©Annabel Clark

Like so much of America, Hammond began following the story art collective Pussy Riot after their it slammed onto our social media feeds in February of 2012. That month, five young women entered Moscow’s Church of Christ the Savior, covered their faces in bright balaclavas, and yarled a punk prayer—“Virgin Mary, put Putin away!” The action was short—guards dragged them out after less than one minute—but the resulting media firestorm was long. After Pussy Riot uploaded a video of the event to YouTube the girls were charged with “inciting religious hatred,” tried and sent to labor camps for two years.

To tell their story, Hammond flooded herself with research material—she read exhaustively, attended protests at the Russian Embassy in New York, traveled to Moscow. The resulting piece, woven from real text and rich with music and audience participation (though not of an arbitrary, invasive variety), views the Pussy Riot story from many angles: the women themselves, the Western media that fixated on them, an orthodox Church employee, a Russian political prisoner without the advantage of Western media attention.

The play premiered at the Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepard University in 2015, where it was a commissioned work. Hammond and Ellis met the following year at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, and she mentioned she’d written a sort-of-musical about Pussy Riot. “When [Theatre Battery] read the play all together, what stood out was how it’s reaching out about international, socio-political events that might feel alien to our audience, but that because of current events in our country are going to feel extremely prescient.”

“This play and this company are a great fit because Pussy Riot was an anonymous art collective, and Theatre Battery is a loose collective of like-minded people with a collective voice,” Hammond says. “Pussy Riot was adamant that no admission was charged to any of their events, and Theatre Battery has radical hospitality.”

Radical Hospitality, a concept pioneered by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, is about eliminating barriers to entry. “Nobody who is not a traditional theatergoer has any reason to believe that 25 dollars or even 10 dollars is a good deal on a play,” Ellis says. “When you have no context, stepping into a storefront theatre with a play that you’ve never heard of is actually a big risk for people and a good reason to not want to do it.” And so, Theatre Battery tickets are free.

“It allows people to get away from the expectation that you’re purchasing a piece of entertainment, and more into the idea that you’re tapping into a community resource,” he says. “Just like a library or a church, everyone is welcome to this, and walking in isn’t going to cost you anything.”

Read the full article from City Arts here.

Tickets to WINTER, Written By Julie Jensen, Available Now

Written by Julie Jensen
Directed by Gary Graves
Jul 15–Aug 13

inspired by ROBECK in ENDING LIFE: Ethics & The Way We Die
by Margaret Pabst Battin © 2005 Oxford University Press

World Premiere #56: a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere

We have extremely limited availability on 7/30.
If a performance is full, please call the box office for information about the waiting list (510) 558.1381

A beautiful, empowering story about a woman whose once-brilliant mind is now diminishing. Her decline is troubling not only to herself, but to her family, who each have different ideas about what’s right for her. Meanwhile she’s ready to take matters into her own hands. Funny, touching, and very topical, WINTER is a thought-provoking look at our right to die.

Production Sponsors: Will & Linda Schieber, Tom White & the Leslie Scalapino O-Books Funds

“Jensen’s illuminating and powerful script finds the humor in the universal questions posed” -Salt Lake Tribune

WINTER is produced at Central Works as part of a NNPN Rolling World Premiere. Other partnering theatres are Salt Lake Acting Company (Utah) and Rivendell Theatre Exchange (Illinois). For more information please visit nnpn.org

TICKET PRICES

Advance tickets: $30
(Advance sales by phone thru Brown Paper Tickets: 800.838.3006)

At the door: $30–15 sliding scale

Pay-what-you-can: preview performances and every Thursday, at the door as available

Information & subscriber reservations: 510.558.1381

PERFORMANCE CALENDAR

Thu Fri Sat Sun
July 13
8pm
Preview 
PWYC 
14
8pm
Preview 
PWYC 
15
8pm
Opening 
16
5pm
Talkback 
20
8pm
PWYC 
21
8pm
22
8pm
23
5pm
27
8pm
PWYC 
28
8pm
29
8pm
30
5pm
Aug 3
8pm
PWYC 
4
8pm
5
8pm
6
5pm
Talkback 
10
8pm
PWYC 
11
8pm
12
8pm
13
5pm

RUNNING TIME

75 minutes without intermission
minimum suggested age: 12
Due to the intimacy of the performance space, we cannot allow children under the age of 7.

Barbara Hammond: VISIBLE FROM FOUR STATES Wins University of Arkansas Department of Theatre Kernodle New Play Award

The winner of the U of A Department of Theatre’s 2017 Kernodle New Play Award is Barbara Hammond for her play VISIBLE FROM FOUR STATES.

The reading committee—composed of faculty members, graduate students and area theatre-makers—also named Mia McCullough’s play Wisdom From Everything as a finalist. The contest, named in honor of U of A faculty member George Kernodle, had over 150 submissions this year, demonstrating the abundant diversity of new work being created by playwrights across the country.

VISIBLE FROM FOUR STATES is a lyrical drama that elegantly contemplates the intersection of commerce and faith. The play weaves together the plights of a struggling town that fights to stay on the map in contemporary America, while the residents confront their feelings about the death penalty as the prison up the road approaches its first execution in years. These themes and issues resonated deeply with the committee and pushed Hammond’s play to the forefront.

Hammond is a playwright living in New York and is currently under commission from the Royal Court Theatre. Her plays have won recognition and awards from many national and international sources, including New Dramatists, the National Endowment of the Arts, The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and more.

Hammond’s play will receive the $500 award and has been given a workshop as a part of the Arkansas New Play Festival. It received a staged reading Friday, June 16, at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and will be performed again Sunday, June 25, at 4:30 p.m. at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville.

Hammond is in residence to workshop the play. For details about Sunday’s reading, as well as the Arkansas New Play Festival, visit http://arkansasnewplayfest.com/.

Through the Kernodle Award, the Department of Theatre in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences supports and encourages the creation of new work for the American stage.

“A Searing Poetic Riff on Race in America” — CITIZEN, An American Lyric

We are so proud of this glorious production. Let’s make sure as many people experience CITIZEN as possible. We must stand up and speak out, as artists, now more than ever.  Onward! — Stephen Sachs
CRITIC’S CHOICE! “Powerful!” Los Angeles Times. The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed and award-winning encore production of ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ is the centerpiece of CTG’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. A searing, poetic riff on racism in America written by Claudia Rankine and adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs. Directed by Shirley Jo Finney, featuring Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tony Maggio, Monnae Michael, Simone Missick and Lisa Pescia.

“Two Degrees” by Tira Palmquist at the Jones Theatre parallels climate change, a life’s meltdown

Kathleen McCall and Jason Delane in “Two Degrees” at the Jones Theatre. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

The day “Two Degrees” had its world premiere, Denver experienced a record-breaking temperature of 80 degrees. You might have thought that Mother Nature could not have offered a more apt lead-in for a review of a play about a climate scientist who’s been drafted by a college friend, now a high-ranking senator, to appear before a Senate committee. Yes, the balmy weather was a bit unnerving (if pleasing) but the Denver Center’s production of Tira Palmquist’s play proves to be far more than an issue outing.

The play opens onto a dimly lit set to the sounds of mutually gratifying sex. Emma (Kathleen McCall) and Clay (Jason Delane) met in a D.C. hotel bar and made their way to her room. Each knows next to nothing about the other. That’s Emma’s rule. We learn why soon enough when Clay goes to the bathroom to get dressed and another man, a memory, walks into the room. This is husband Jeffrey (Robert Montano). While Emma was taking ice core measurements in Greenland, an unfathomable personal disaster took place back home in Boulder.

Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano in "Two Degrees" at the Jones Theatre. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom for the DCPA
Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano in “Two Degrees” at the Jones Theatre. (AdamsVisCom for the DCPA)

The play gets its title from the notion that, according to some scientists, 2 degrees Celsius is the threshold that, once exceeded, will lead to us to irreversible environmental upheaval. For Emma, the margin of disaster turned out to be more mundane: Someone had too many drinks and there was a crash on a Colorado road.

It is no easy task maneuvering the cataclysmic. The play’s twofold approach is impressively fluid as it moves between Emma’s past and her present, between her grief and the planet’s forewarned misery. The thaw that Emma researches threatens the way humankind lives. But the one she is experiencing epitomizes the benumbing and melting that humans go through after disastrous personal loss.

As the men in Emma’s life, Montano keeps gainfully busy portraying Jeffrey as well as Eric, Senator Allen’s exacting chief of staff, and Malik, an extreme weather carpenter at the Greenland station. His impressive triple duty is more than economical: it underscores Emma’s fragility. “Not now, Jeffrey,” she says sharply to his apparition more than once. “Not now!” But the other men, looking like variations of her husband, gnaw at her.

Emma is a tricky character to inhabit. As comfortable as she may be on the ice or in the home that she and Jeffrey share, she finds herself less sure-footed on D.C.’s slippery terrain. McCall is at her best capturing the character’s anxious energy, her defensive prickliness. It’s Emma’s frosted interior that occasionally begs for a more still approach.

Sen. Allen (Kim Staunton) and Eric represent the sausage-making aspects of governance: the horse-trading, the pragmatism. Staunton imbues Sen. Allen with a easy confidence. Of course, she can work a room. Still, a slip of the tongue during a wine-fueled visit with Emma could have forced the play into too much interpersonal drama. Instead, Staunton’s get-things-done portrayal underscores just how hard-nosed she’s become since their college days. Credit, too, director Christy Montour-Larson’s deft trust in the play’s ideas and emotions and the audience’s appreciation of the subtle movements between the expansive and the taut.

Kathleen McCall and Jason Delane in "Two Degrees" at the Jones Theatre at the DCPA. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom for the DCPA
Kathleen McCall and Jason Delane in “Two Degrees” at the Jones Theatre at the DCPA. (AdamsVisCom for the DCPA)

The sleek, evocative set (by Robert Mark Morgan) suggests the icy minimalism of Greenland as well as the very different chill of Washington, D.C. Charles MacLeod’s lighting — along with projections by Topher Blair — tease the set’s panes of glass and ice. You heard right, ice. The understated sound of dripping underscores the play’s global anxieties but also hints at the drip, drip, drip of emotional torment.

Read the full article from The Know here.