Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Interview with Director of "Duck Hunter Shoots Angel"

Travis Brisini is a frequent contributor to the Slidell Little Theatre community, particularly the Theatre
Travis Brisini
for Young Audiences series. A graduate of LSU with a Ph.D. in Performance Studies, Travis has written, directed or performed a wide variety of pieces ranging from the traditional to the avant-garde. When not at the theatre, he can be found reading, writing and gardening.

We recently asked Travis to take a few moments of his time from directing Duck Hunter Shoots Angel to tell us more about himself. We believe you’ll agree with us — he’s a tremendous asset to our community.

Q: What was your earliest involvement in theatre?

BRISINI: I came to the theatre through a roundabout route: literature. In college—as an English Literature major—I began taking courses in Oral Interpretation (the performed interpretation of written text) and it changed my life. Rather than literature being an individual pursuit—and a consumptive one at that—oral interp showed me that it was possible to share my favorite authors and pieces with others through performance. From Oral Interp, my interests moved toward performance art, spoken word poetry, writing my own pieces and a host of other genres of performance. It was almost ten years until I was in a “play,” as they’re commonly understood. My first performance piece was a staged reading of a portion of “Travels with Charley,” by John Steinbeck.

Q: What attracted you to theatre to begin with?

BRISINI: Performance seemed like a meaningful way to get more out of my love of reading and art. There’s a certain sort of camaraderie amongst performers that was appealing to me as well: the theatre attracted people who cared about the arts, were comfortable acting out, and had good taste.

Q: What is it about theatre that holds your interest today?

BRISINI: My interest in theatre/performance today has a couple of dimensions. On the one hand, I find it very compelling as a paradigm for thinking about the world: what does it mean to seriously consider the notion of performance as the state of the world at large? In this sense, it’s a lot like the kind of process philosophy I enjoy. The other compelling feature to me is the capacity of performance to examine non-linear, conceptual, metaphoric or otherwise difficult ideas. Doing a performance about or inspired by ideas, and seeing what kind of conclusions are reached by the audience, is a certain kind of research.

Q: Tell us five plays you’ll never forget, and why:

Travis Brisini, bottom right, with cast of TYA
production of "A Year with Frog & Toad
1. Cataclysm!—an adaptation of S.I. Witkiewicz’s The Water Hen: This play stands out in my mind as an archetypal example of an imaginative, faithful adaptation. It retained the tone and general sensibility of the original, while tackling a host of issues not originally discussed in the 1930s staging (at least not overtly).
2. Cats—I’m not afraid to admit that I have a real fondness for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s oft-maligned musical. Partly this is because of the source material—T.S. Eliot’s book is a pretty unlikely source-text, and I’m a little jealous someone else got to it first—but most it’s because of the unusual wordplay and general weirdness of the whole endeavor. Its lack of an overarching narrative appeals to me as well, in an impressionistic sort of way.
3. The Lion King—watching this show on Broadway turned me off to musicals for years. Painfully true to the movie, and entirely dependent upon spectacle to trick the audience into forgetting that there was nothing new to see, I left feeling like as long as it was fancy enough, you could trick people into paying for anything. It took me a long time to get over my problems with the musical as an art form.
4.  The Ticket That Exploded—an adaptation of the William S. Burroughs novel of the same name: this work was really instructive in helping me understand how to go about putting together a challenging, disjointed, and daunting performance piece. It made me less afraid of a fragmented narrative.
5. Lay of the Land, by Tim Miller—this piece is an illustration of the powerful effect that a well-written, well-rehearsed, humane story can have on a controversial issue. Miller’s deconstruction of California’s Prop-8 was heartbreaking and inspirational.

Q: What play do you think people should see, that they probably haven’t?

BRISINI: Rather than a particular play, I feel like folks should look into the artists associated with the Fluxus movement: an odd little art movement of 1960s and 1970s typified short, disorienting little performance pieces that blur the boundaries between art and everyday life. The most well-known participants include Yoko Ono (yes, that Yoko Ono), Allan Kaprow, Lamonte Young and Joseph Beuys. I particularly like “I Like America (and America Likes Me),” wherein Beuys wrapped himself in a felt sheet and lived in an apartment with a coyote for a couple of days.

Q: What was the oddest play you ever saw, directed, or starred in?

BRISINI: My entire oeuvre is one big odd event. I’ve played a deranged fascist child, an unscrupulous postmodern medicine-show huckster, and Godzilla. I’ve co-directed 50-minute long fragmented dance numbers about wolves and suicide and written lines for glitter-covered washboards. Once I tied a long string to a bag full of cooked shrimp and hid in an upstairs window so I could pull it across a busy thoroughfare. Another time I released a bunch of ladybugs.

Q: What was the best advice you  ever received about acting?

BRISINI: I had a full-blown meltdown thinking about auditioning for my first singing role, mostly because I was afraid and too proud. My wife—paraphrasing my brother-in-law—reminded me that “you’ve got to humble yourself to learn new things.” This, oddly enough, is by far the most relevant, meaningful advice I’ve ever received about the stage. Pride prompts nothing but the desire to preserve itself; abandon your pride, and you’re able to embrace the new possibilities open to a beginner.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

'Duck Hunter Shoots Angel' Audience Guide Hits Webstands

The latest edition of Prologue, Slidell Little Theatre’s audience guide for main stage productions, features articles by award-winning writers and storytellers and even includes artwork by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

In this edition of Prologue, readers are treated to the backstory behind Mitch Albom's hilarious comedy Duck Hunter Shoots Angel, onstage at Slidell Little Theatre October 4 – 20, 2013. Within its pages, readers can explore more about the play and it characters as well as discover more about the writer, the director, a little equity playhouse in Chelsea, Mich., local duck decoy carvers and Slidell's duck-hunting past.

Here’s a brief glimpse of the talented people freely offering their time and talent to this edition of Prologue:

Kathleen Bader DesHotel

Kathleen DesHotel
I am a southerner raised in New Orleans, La.  My roots have been washed away by Katrina along with all our family photographs.  But, well, ah… things happen, and life is all about the next step and  maintaining the faith. Learning was encouraged, nay required of me, in being told to go to college and make something of myself.  After a few sputters at other careers, I gave in to everyone’s advice and became a teacher.  After 30 years of loving teaching, I retired to follow a path to my own creativity in writing. I have a loving husband who patiently supports and/or tolerates all my hyperactive endeavors.  Even when my body is tired, my mind revs ideas and plans.  I generously call myself a multi-tasker; yet, perhaps I am more of a tornado at times.    Life is unpredictable; I figure it out in pieces every day. It is important to feel good about myself and even more important to help, not hurt others.  I have written an art column for almost eight years for the Slidell Times Picayune and now for The Advocate. To relax, I take photos, write poetry, crochet, build and paint artwork on birdhouses, read, and reorganize the clutter being a tornado creates. In spite of all the twists and turns of life, I am continuously happy to be alive and making new discoveries about myself and my world.

John Case

John Case
John is a native of Brookhaven, Miss. and graduate of the University of Mississippi.  He is married to Brenda Lowry and they  have lived in Slidell, La. since 1973. John and Brenda own Lowry-Dunham, Case and Vivien Insurance agency and they have two sons Christopher and Alan. Writing is a hobby and John prefers to write historical fiction, however he has written some historical non-fiction.  Most of his work has appeared in Slidell Magazine but some has been in various newspapers and trade journals.

Bob Marshall
Bob Marshall

Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental journalist Bob Marshall has joined the staff of The Lens, where he will bring his widely recognized expertise to bear on issues of wetlands restoration, flood protection and coastal erosion. Marshall was a reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune for more than 30 years.

Don Redman

Don Redman
Don Redman currently serves as vice president of Marketing on the Slidell Little Theatre Board of Directors. An award-winning journalist, playwright and published author and poet, Redman was awarded the St. Tammany Parish President’s Literary Artist of the Year Award in 2006 for his adult comedy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia’s Wolf Note? When not volunteering for SLT, Redman is the associate editor of a regional travel magazine, and creator and sporadic contributor to The RedmanWriting Project blog.

Now celebrating it’s 51st Anniversary, Slidell Little Theatre is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization operated entirely by volunteers with no paid staff. SLT is dedicated to engaging, educating, and involving members of the community in high quality theatrical productions. SLT is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the St. Tammany Commission on Cultural Affairs.