BWW Interviews: OUT LOUD Theatre's Artistic Director Previews 2 WOMEN. 2 WEEKENDS. 2 SHOWS. Collaboration
OUT LOUD Theatre and La Voce: Theatre that Speaks are teaming up to present Shakespeare's Hamlet and Sarah Kane's CRAVE for the "2 Women. 2 Weekends. 2 Shows." project. Kira Hawkridge, Artistic Director of OUT LOUD Theatre, talked with BroadwayWorld Rhode Island about the family ties between the two troupes, OUT LOUD's upcoming residency at Artists' Exchange, and the perks of working with a nomadic group of performers.
VB: How did the "2 Women. 2 Weekends. 2 Shows." project come about? Is this a first collaboration between OUT LOUD and La Voce?
KH: It actually is. My folks and I - my two parents - we've collaborated a lot over the years, but this is the first collaboration of its kind. It came about because of Steven Pennell; Steve's the coordinator of the Urban Arts and Culture program which is at the URI Feinstein Providence campus, and it seemed like a really good fit because of the celebration of the URI, RIC, CCRI "State of the Arts" happening on the campus this month. It seemed like a good opportunity for us to collaborate because my dad works at URI, I'm a recent graduate of URI theater - I graduated in 2012 - and my mom is a graduate from Rhode Island College; so we all have ties to the universities that are part of this celebration, and we're also really excited about the notion of collaborating all together on this series of projects. So that's sort of how it got started, and then we just threw ourselves in from there.
VB: You mentioned you're teaming up with your parents for this project - your mother Patricia [Hawkridge] is the artistic director of La Voce, and your father Alan [Hawkridge] will be directing Hamlet for the company. It seems theater runs in your bloodlines! How has your family dynamic impacted work on the two productions?
KH: It's been wonderful to be able to grow up within the theater, and it's always been something that has been an opportunity. It was never something that they pushed me towards, but that door was always open for me to walk through if I wanted. From a very young age, I was surrounded by rehearsals, by classes, and going and visiting [my parents] when they taught in various colleges and universities. So a sort of rapport has built over the years from a very small age; I've had the opportunity to work with them as an actor and then, as I got older and when I graduated from college, I was able to direct my dad in a couple of productions. The dynamic has definitely changed and grown as I've gotten older, and I feel so lucky the older that I get because I'm able to share with them in this and have something to relate to them about and learn from them as I get older.
My dad was a teacher at URI when I was there and that was a really wonderful opportunity. When I was ready to go to URI, we both sat down and said we want to make sure that we have a very professional working relationship - it's just purely professional - and that we can work together and have a really good rapport in that way. I learned a lot by working with my dad at URI, and so now that I've graduated and we're all doing our own work in the area, it feels really great to be able to collaborate as equals. It's just wonderful!
VB: For the project, La Voce is staging a Youth Summer Shakespeare production of Hamlet and OUT LOUD will present Sarah Kane's CRAVE. When did the two companies settle on this pairing of shows? How do the two plays connect or contrast?
KH: My mom sort of landed on Hamlet first, and she's got an incredible group of theater artists that are graduating from Beacon Charter High School in Woonsocket. The Youth Summer Shakespeare was an opportunity for her to work with those students and to give them an opportunity to perform before they graduated from school, and to have a last hurrah with those students and other students in the area. Since the young man playing Hamlet is 17, and Marc Tiberiis II (who is the co-founder of OUT LOUD) and myself are the "old folks" because we're playing Claudius and Gertrude, everyone's just sort of pushed down a peg in regards to age. It's really fabulous to be able to work with these students and to see what they're bringing to the table at such a young age.
That was the first thing that was part of the collaboration, and thinking about something that would pair within that weekend but would also be something that had a completely different vision and completely different energy, we landed on CRAVE. And the real reason behind that is that OUT LOUD has slowly but surely been moving in the direction of exploring creating visceral and immersive experiences, and so CRAVE seemed like a wonderful opportunity to throw ourselves into, and to also find that connection between this heightened text and this heightened awareness of body and physical within that text. I feel like both Shakespeare and Sarah Kane sort of demand that you find those elements of connectivity and of real truth. So that's where we came about in connecting those two pieces.
VB: Are any of the young people involved in the Summer Shakespeare program coming in from the colleges as well, or are they all coming from the [Beacon Charter] high school?
KH: Actually, Ben Church, who is going to be a sophomore at URI, he's playing Laertes, and then there's a lot of URI grads. Marc Tiberiis II just graduated, and myself and Travis Greene (who is playing Polonius) [are] 2012 graduate[s]. So there's a lot of alumni involved in the production as well.
VB: OUT LOUD announced a 3-month residency coming up at Cranston's Artists' Exchange in the fall of 2014. Is that the longest stretch of time the troupe has put down roots?
KH: Yes, absolutely! [laughs] We're excited about it! This season has presented itself in a really fantastic way because we've been able to sort of have mini-homes throughout Rhode Island, and we still have been able to embrace that nomadic spirit and those nomadic roots, but also heading home in a couple of different places and exploring those spaces for longer than we've had the opportunity to do before. Our residency in the Artists' Exchange is really very much because of Kevin Broccoli - it's completely because of Kevin Broccoli - he reached out to us and was really generous and wonderful about giving us this opportunity. He's just a very collaborative individual who's interested in reaching out to up-and-coming troupes and really helping them succeed. It's just a fabulous opportunity and we're really excited to be a part of it.
VB: The intimacy of AE's black box space seems well-suited to the company.
KH: Yes! That was the other thing; we were talking about which space we would be in - a couple of the pieces we have chosen are generally used in much bigger spaces - so Kevin and I were talking, he's like "So you're going to want to use the bigger space then," and I was like "NO - we want the tiny one!" [laughs] We're thrilled to be able to create those experiences in that little space. It seats only about 25 or 30, which is perfect! When you're just starting out, I feel like it's important that we keep our pieces that we're choosing suited to the amount of audience space that we have so that it feels like a full, immersive experience. We've chosen plays that have limited seating that fit to our audience base at the moment, which is perfect - it's exactly where we want to be. Obviously, the more people that come, the better, and we'll expand as we grow, but that's a wonderful place for us to be in the fall.
VB: Can you share any hints or teasers about the 2014-15 season?
KH: Our first production, which is going to be in September, is going to be Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, which I'm thrilled about. Alex Maynard - who's also a graduate of URI - is going to be designing the costumes, which I'm thrilled about. We're hoping to incorporate/collaborate with local musicians to create original music, so I'm very excited about that. That's going to be what kicks us off.
VB: Are there any other projects coming up for OUT LOUD during the summer, or are you focusing all of your energies on the fall season?
KH: Once CRAVE closes, I'm actually going to be collaborating with Kevin Broccoli through his company (which is the Epic Theatre Company) at the Artists' Exchange. We talked about it, and his summer production - I think it's more politely referred to as The Rooster Play by Mike Bartlett, it's a fabulous piece - we talked about collaborating and having an opportunity to be in that space, so it'll sort of lead into the residency. So we'll have an opportunity to explore that space through his company and to work together before OUT LOUD comes in in September. That will be the next thing . . . and then we'll jump into the residency for sure.
VB: OUT LOUD is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and also marking its second full year as a troupe.
KH: Yes, we originated in 2009 as a student troupe and we did one project together over the summer, and then when I graduated in 2012, I teamed up with Marc Tiberiis II and we decided we wanted to move forward with a fuller season and see where it went. We did All Hail Hurricane Gordo and an original compilation of Shakespearean love scenes called Amour with Bill, and then we also did This is Our Youth by Kenneth Lonergan and Cowboy Mouth by Sam Shepard. So that was our first full season of projects, and that was from 2012 through 2013. 2014 has been just as full, which is wonderful.
I'd like to think of it sort of like a rebirth; we originally called ourselves OUT LOUD and we did those student projects, and then in 2012 when I graduated we tacked on the "Theatre." [laughs] And it feels good to be able to continue the work on a more consistent basis and explore. You know, the best thing about it, especially working with students and recent graduates, is that we're a real laboratory opportunity to explore these different pieces and to see where they take us.
VB: What's on the horizon for the company in the next five years?
KH: [laughs] It's one of those things where "when it rains, it pours." We've been working slowly but surely towards this. When we did The Most Massive Woman Wins, which was our first project of 2014, it felt like everything sort of clicked, and our voice and our aesthetic suddenly felt full and vibrant and we were ready to move forward. It's always funny when that happens, to me, because it feels like it's come out of nowhere, but then you look back and you're like, "No! We've all been working towards this!"
Our third season - we've contained our seasons within the year, so that it'll be our 2014 season, [and] 2015 which will begin in January - we're splitting up our season into two-month increments (so January-February, March-April, May-June, July-August). Then once we hit August, then we'll see where we're at, but we're hoping to do four productions and to get some people involved. We're starting an Artistic Team program where we're looking for interested volunteers who might want to gain experience working within an artistic team in a new troupe, so that goes from production managers to people that are interested in communications and marketing to box office to education to new works. We're looking for folks who want to jump on with us and see where we can go from there.
The greatest thing about being nomadic is that each season can take on a new life and it can be a new schedule, it can be a new group of people. And that's really exciting, especially in these early stages of our troupe, to be able to work in different locations with different artists positively. It's really fantastic!
The Youth Summer Shakespeare Production of Hamlet will be presented by LaVoce: Theatre that Speaks June 19-21 at 7:30pm in URI Feinstein Providence Campus PAFF Auditorium. OUT LOUD Theatre stages CRAVE by Sarah Kane, also in the URI Feinstein Providence Campus PAFF Auditorium, June 26-28 at 7:30pm. Admission is free and performances are open to the public as part of URI, RIC, CCRI's celebration of "The State of the Arts." Visit OUT LOUD Theatre's website at www.outloudtheatre.org for more information on the "2 Women. 2 Weekends. 2 Shows." project.
Pictured: Patricia and Kira Hawkridge
Photo by Alan Hawkridge