Hi there everyone! As this is my first post I will start off by giving some background information! My name is Olivia Wendel and I’m a rising senior in Gallatin studying Songwriting and Drama. I’m specifically interested in where those two things intersect, so the creation of song for theatre or the performativity of song in theatre. I’m currently writing this from a rehearsal room at Cornell University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. I’m watching two of my fellow ensemble members rehearse and break down a scene we are working on from Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, part of a studio project we are involved in for the week.
I’ve been here in “gorges” Ithaca, New York for five weeks as one of the 21 selected members of the 2015 Hangar Theatre Lab Company. It seems important to give some background on the Hangar Theatre itself, a place that I have grown so passionate about. It’s an amazing place, let me say. Before it became a theatre, the Hangar was one of the earliest airports in New York State. In 1975 the Hangar Theatre doors opened and in 1986 an adjacent set and costume shop was also built. There have been several Artistic Directors and right now the artistic director is Jen Waldman, who assumed the position in 2012. Jen is one of our mentors and frankly parents of the Lab Company including Steve Pacek and Stephanie Card, all working professionals in the theatre. They are the most extraordinary people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet and let me say so talented. They are here to direct mainstages at the theatre, mentor us crazy kids, and even perform on the Hangar’s thrusted stage. This summer the Hangar Theatre main stages are God of Carnage, Spring Awakening (I’m Wendla’s understudy!!), The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Talley’s Folly. More information can be found here http://www.hangartheatre.org/
So what am I doing here? The reason I am here is to first of all learn and further familiarize myself with my own actor process through learning different techniques of movement and acting. We rehearse shows and projects all day from 9am-6pm and take night classes till 11pm in different disciplines such as Laban Movement, Viewpoints, Monologue Workshops, and Devised Theatre. My research focus here is to break down the process of forming ensemble and what it means to work in an ensemble, creating exciting and poignant pieces of theatre.
One of the first things that we did as an ensemble was create a mission statement. Through a long process of word association and brainstorming we came up with: “We, The Hangar Lab Company of 2015, seek always to stay on the edge of growth. We will bravely risk who we are now to grow into the artist and ensemble we will become. We will bring positivity and joy to the unexplored areas of our communities. We will fail forward, and thrive in the unknown together.”
The Lab Company is fortunate to get to perform in all the KiddStuff shows, geared towards adults and their kids, as well as the Wedge series, plays that are free to the public that occur just outside the theatre doors under a tent starting at around 10pm. I have been in Emperor’s New Clothes (Kiddstuff) and Mud (Wedge) so far and I’ve already learned so much about myself emotionally, spiritually, and professionally.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to be conducting this research here in such a supportive and creatively thriving environment. We are spending all eight weeks fostering a beautifully unique community where such complicated and extraordinary work can exist and the ensemble can grow. Not only are there learning and working actors of all ages here, but we are also fortunate enough to house four Drama League Directing Fellows over the summer who teach, direct, and mentor the Lab Company members. Paul Bedard, one of our Drama League fellows runs Theatre In Asylum, a New York based theatre company that grants asylum to characters who the ensemble deems worthy of recognition. Their process is extremely ensemble based, working in devising theatre and creating entirely new works so he is someone that I will be interviewing. We worked a lot with Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints as an ensemble building tool and Dan Rogers, graduate of Brown-Trinity taught us a course on viewpoints so he will also be a part of my research paper.
Honestly I couldn’t be more lucky to be here surrounded by endless resources and love from my fellow ensemble members and directors. Can’t wait to write more later!
Finally, I wrote this song in honor of my experience in Mud. Feel free to take a listen! Original Song, “Mae”