Posts Tagged ‘Object Work’
Object Work returns to the Magnet stage as this month’s Director Series show, starting Thursday, April 5th at 10:15 pm. We spoke with director Charlie Nicholson about the power and meaning of object-based improv.
How did you come up with the idea for an object-driven show?
Object Work came together at a moment in my life when I wanted to see the world differently. I was sad and lonely, looking to reconnect with comedy and theater in a meaningful way. I gathered together nine of the most wonderful, inspired people I knew, improvisors who made me feel excited about the possibilities of life and performance and art. We experimented together, developing an approach to playing that honored the many facets of an inanimate object and allowed us to turn anything that was thrown at us into a toy.
Always on my mind were the “performance object” discoveries I made in college, in Paul O’Connor’s stage shop building props for my and others’ plays, and Gabrielle Cody’s classroom, where we once spent an afternoon identifying the formal qualities of a stage full of chairs. I thought of my puppeteer friends Joe and Kali Therrien who welcomed me into their creative world at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. They continue their work in the streets and public parks of New York. And I thought of my parents, all four of them, who each demonstrated the strength of holding contradictory perspectives. These people taught me about the power of choosing an approach to the world that is intentionally unusual, to find pride in difference, and to celebrate the coexistence of many possible meanings. I made my best effort to carry this philosophy with me into Object Work rehearsals. I wanted performers to follow their individual instincts, to externalize their thought processes, and contrast with each other in their collaborations on stage. We found it to be very effective to limit our focus to a single object, as the object grounded and centered the group, forcing the group to physically share with each other, even as performances expanded to bizarre, dramatic, and unexpected territory.
By directing this show, I wanted to change the way I saw the world. I wanted to wake myself up, to cultivate a space for magic, to bring my imagination to life, and believe in bigger ideas. I wanted to push forward toward what was possible despite a powerful inclination to reduce my expectations. That was three years ago. Now it is 2018, and the world feels even heavier and harder. I feel more pressure to submit and accept the limitations of a disappointing reality. But every time I rehearse or perform with Object Work, I rediscover an immense sense of potential hiding in plain sight within our unmoving and seemingly inanimate world.
Your show features improv based on an actual (non-pantomimed) object. What sort of objects have been featured in the past? What’s the boldest choice someone has made with an object in previous shows?
In recounting the objects that we have been used for previous Object Work shows, I will also share some of the layered meanings of each object, IE how the object transformed and what it meant to us in the moment. Over the course of a 45 minute show, each object is reinterpreted in multiple ways, sometimes as a character, sometimes as the object that it literally is, sometimes as the physical embodiment of an emotion or idea.
I remember the Christmas lights that became an airport landing strip and the model school bus that changed performers into giants. There was panic when a string of sliver streamers malfunctioned as curtains in a the car wash, a sunflower stalk knocked a grand-slam straight out of the ballpark, and a bride tossed a bouquet of real pizza over her shoulder and into the audience. An abandoned cardboard box became a lonely neighborhood kid’s new house, lipstick was marked on foreheads as repentance ash, and a rain poncho returned from the grave as a ghost. There was even a show in which the performers used my body as the object, lifting me up to the ceiling and at one point using my hands and feet as telephone receivers to call each other.
If you were going to a desert island and could only bring three items you actually own, what would they be and why?
I would bring my deck of Fountain tarot cards so I could tell stories about the future, my favorite pair of magenta spandex shorts, to keep myself grounded in my past ( I have many good memories wearing the shorts), and a coil of rope, because one can accomplish so much with just a little piece of rope, especially on the desert island where I now live. Send help! Or at the very least, check out Object Work this Thursday at 10:15pm at the Magnet Theater!
Catch Object Work at 10:15 every Thursday in April!
Visual artist and Magnet performer, ANNIE MOOR, is on the podcast talking with Louis about improv and how her art, no matter the medium, always trends toward storytelling. They dive deep into how narrative shows come together and even discuss how jealousy can be a great motivator. Aside from performing at Magnet with Wonderland, Premiere: The Improvised Musical, and Object Work, Annie is also a Magnet instructor, an early childhood educator, a teaching artist, and a visual artist who will be selling her incredible works of art at the Union Square Holiday Market from November 17th to December 24th! So many ways to enjoy Annie Moor, so little time! (But at least this episode will live online forever.)
Annie recently started teaching Level One Musical Improv at Magnet, so Louis begins the podcast by asking her what she thinks is the mark of a successful Level One class. He also wants to know how teachers help students who have zero musical awareness – how to bring them to their voice? Annie find that sharing her own anecdotes of not knowing with students often puts them at ease. Louis comes up with a cool analogy about cutting tomatoes with a dull knife that relates to staying sharp and keeping things fresh when performing. As he is wont to do when musical improvisers are across from him, Louis asks about the use of narrative structure in musical improv. He and Annie get into how narrative shows differ from traditional longform and how picking an antagonist is really hard! Annie has been doing improv since 2008 but it took her four years to find musical improv, which has truly been her love. She’s been doing theater her whole life though and made the jump to studying animation when she went off to college where, Annie claims, she was the worst animation student NYU has ever had! More recently, her primary non-musical improv experience has been performing with Object Work, an improv show which uses real objects. Louis and Annie talk about playing out real life on stage and they ask, does a good kind of jealousy fuel us appropriately? Annie talks about how all of her artistic pursuits trend towards storytelling and narrative moments. She says that storytelling starts taking shape for kids around four years old and that she loves getting to see that development on a regular basis in her work teaching one through five year olds. To end the show, Annie and Louis play a rousing game of monologue hotspot! Sadly, due to a recording error, we lost this episode’s edition of A Serious Scene With A Jar Of Pickles. Only Annie, Louis, Evan, and Grant will ever know how truly delightful it was!
- Annie Moor
- early childhood
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- magnet theater podcast
- magnet training center
- musical improv
- musical megawatt
- new york
- new york city
- Object Work
- visual arts
Spartan improviser, Executive actor, and director of Object Work, CHARLIE NICHOLSON, sits down to discuss his upcoming Directors Series, harnessing risk on stage, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Throughout the episode, Charlie and host Louis Kornfeld find a great deal of common ground as they discuss things like ambiguity on stage, forgetting one’s self in a show, and how to approach leading an ensemble. It’s a beautiful episode with beautiful people and how about that pic, right??
To begin, Charlie opens up about his nerves regarding each show and how he channels them into preparation. He tells us why he loves The Medusa and how he seeks to inject something different into each show the performs. Louis latches onto the topic of small moments and they discover their mutual reverence for well-placed ambiguity. Then, Louis offers that works of art may serve as outcrops of ourselves which help us frame ambiguous moments. How philosophical.
Moving from the abstract to the human, Louis asks Charlie about his style as an improviser and they talk about Charlies love for risk-taking on stage. They also touch on Charlie’s favorite thing to experience in a scene partner. Louis makes a puzzle analogy, folks! Charlie talks about forgetting himself amidst a show and the conjuring of magic on stage. What does is mean to play “out of control?” Charlie and Louis offer up two competing definitions and discuss each. Plus, learn how Charlie’s natural curiosity fuels his performance and find out his recommended reading for Louis.
With its upcoming run looming, Charlie passionately shares with us his thoughts on April’s Directors Series, Object Work, which came to him in a dream. He espouses his love for extending ourselves beyond our bodies and bringing life to the lifeless. Additionally, Charlie shares how he approaches directing a group of experienced performers he so adamantly admires and he and Louis go on to discuss different learning and teaching styles. To wrap up the episode, Charlie shares some of his favorite books and media, and of course, he and Louis discuss RuPauls Drag Race.
Please, don’t forget to go see Object Work this April. Thursdays at 10pm.
*Charlie wants us to note that, at time of recording, he goofed on the authors name of Silently and Very Fast. He said “Catherynne Valero” but what he meant was “Catherynne Valente.”