Posts Tagged ‘It’s So Learning’

Justin Jain is here to school you: Interview with Justin Jain

Posted March 7th, 2017

Way back in November, Berserker Residents co-founder Justin Jain—who can also be seen on just about any stage in Philadelphia—took the time to answer a few questions about their upcoming work at FringeArts It’s So Learning.  

FringeArts: What was the moment that you realized, we can make this into a show?

Justin Jain: This show was a bit of a departure for us in terms of the content-container conversation. All of our past shows began with a spark of an idea for content: “Let’s make a show about a Giant Squid!” or “What if the show itself was a post-show talkback?!” This one, however, was approached form-first. Back in 2014, we began daydreaming about performing a script written entirely by school children. That was kind of our entry point into this whole adventure. But the deeper we chased that rabbit—the more we realized other groups and organizations were already doing this (most of the time, better than we could)—groups like Philly Young Playwrights and The Mantua Project. So that led us to a left turn of instead of writing with kids, how about writing about kids—about childhood, about school. We started to bounce around ideas of other elements we’d like to bring to the table—the current state of American education, breaking theatrical form and conventions, playing with Bouffon. These all started to seep into the mix.

Coming fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, our artistic sensibilities were changing. We saw so many comedy pieces that were daring their audiences to participate in ways that we tend to shy away from as American Theatre makers. So that was in the mix too—how far will an audience go in playing with us? How can the dare be a part of the narrative?

FringeArts: Can you describe the stage/setting, and what it has allowed you do play with creatively?

Justin Jain: The piece takes place in a laboratory called The SimEdu Center, and is loosely inspired by some of our team’s experience as standardized patients for different medical schools. As an SP, you become a fake patient for med students to practice different cases. We daydreamed about how this idea could be twisted for the classroom—is there a way to build a simulation machine to train students for maneuvering the labyrinth of the American k–12 school system?

Because we thrust our audience into this simulator, we want them to feel as off-balance as possible. The playing space and audience space are one in the same. When the audience first enters, there’s no chairs but merely a grid of scattered numbers on the floor. As audience members come in, they are greeted by SimEdu Center technicians (the cast), who then give each member a series of coupons that will be used in the show. I’ll keep the rest as a mystery, but suffice it to say, starting with this level of audience engagement sets the tone for what is to come.

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It’s So Learning is BERSERK! Interview with Bradley Wrenn

Posted March 6th, 2017

Bradley Wrenn, co-founder of The Berserker Residents, was kind enough to sit down with the FringeArts team and talk about how they’re revamping It’s So Learning to reflect our new, terrifying political climate.  The theater-maker, clown, and deep thinker gave us a lot to chew on!  Read on, and join us at the end of the week for the newest iteration of It’s So Learning!

FringeArts: What was the moment that you realized, we can make this into a show?

Bradley Wrenn: The original impulse came from working with children as writers. We were delighted by their complete lack of regard for narrative rules and structures. But after a fair amount of exploration we found it to be a bit of a one trick pony and struggled to find a way in which it could be sustained over a full-length production. But we continued to follow the thread and found ourselves making material about school. About the emotions conjured at school. The anxiety, dread, joy and terror.  It’s So Learning is a show about the audience’s journey. A wild ride that dredges up all those strange icky feelings that institutionalized education has wrought.

FringeArts: Can you describe the setting?

Bradley Wrenn: It’s So Learning is 55 child sized classroom chairs surrounded by 4 black boards. It allows for a frenetic theatrical experience. The audience is made to twist and turn to keep up. Action happens constantly around them at all corners of the performance space. The audience is the main character in the piece. When making the piece we were always tracking their emotional journey. The performance is an entire emotional educational journey packed into 70 min.

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Adrienne Mackey on Fear and Pleasure in Performance Life

Posted September 4th, 2015

stars surviveWe’ve been running a number of pieces on the artistic life lately, in the context of After the Rehearsal/Persona. To wrap them up, we reached out to Philadelphia’s own Adrienne Mackey, who’s been involved with all sorts of wonderful, adventurous, collaborative and indeed critical work on her own and with her company, Swim Pony. She wrote movingly for us about life as a theater artist and how theater forms and informs the lives of those who create it:

By Adrienne Mackey

There’s a common stereotype of theater artists as loud, brassy, attention-loving people. This image that those who would associate themselves with the stage must be naturally larger than life, filtered down from Broadway’s multimillion-dollar enterprise all the way through the nooks and crannies of high school musical theater, is a false one, I think. I think this size and showiness is a put-on. I think it hides a deeper layer, one that is common in a great number of theater makers, of uncertainty and fear.

For a lot of us who actually go on to make a career in the arts, theater begins as a kind of training ground for being human.

In middle school I was shy and intensely quiet. My mother likes to point out how all the pictures I drew of myself in this phase of childhood show a figure with massive eyes that take up half of my face and a tiny and tight little mouth. I was a thinker, an over-feeler, a not-quite-sure-how-to-connect-with-the-world-around-me-er. I was fundamentally uncomfortable in my own skin, uncertain about how to express the person I felt myself to be, afraid of showing too much lest I do it wrong.

After the jump, theater and transformation:

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