Doing A Stage Adaptation of Felicity Starring Keri Russell

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January and February have been fairly mental, I was in the Philippines for 10 days, Korea for two, then did three weeks hopping between Canberra and Sydney for two developments. The one in Melbourne was at Arts House, working with Keith Armstrong on a new app for Arts House – see my previous blog post.

The one in Canberra, however, was working on a lovely new play with Aspen Island Theatre Company: Kill Climate Deniers Felicity: The Stage Play.

Felicity is a classic 90s teen drama, following the adventures of Felicity Porter (played by Keri Russell) as she travels to New York to attend university. Over two weeks, director Julian Hobba, designer Imogen Keane and performers Clare Moss, Cathy Petocz, Miranda Borman and Eleanor Garran worked with me on fleshing out the script, devising an appropriate performance and playing with dialogue.

One of the most exciting parts of the project is that in the show, when Environment Minister Gwen Malkin Felicity breaks free from the terrorist’s grasp, she heads through Parliament House playing a soundtrack of classic house and techno while taking out terrorists in a series of bombastic fight scenes. In order to bring those to life, musician Reuben Ingall and choreographer Adelina Larsson came on board and contributed phenomenal music and dance to the work.

The centrepiece of the action, of course, hangs from a brutal and chaotic battle set to the tune of Black Box’s 1989 hit Ride On Time. Dig:

(just by the by, I’ve never seen Felicity and I have no idea what a stage play adaptation would entail, other than that I’m probably for it, in principle.)

Are We The One?

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This week has been spent working at Arts House in Melbourne, developing a new digital phone app with media artist Keith Armstrong entitled Are We The One?

Keith is a superb artist from Brisbane who creates large-scale interactive installations, often with an ecological or sustainability focus. One of his previous works, Long Time No See, is a digital phone app that takes participants on a guided walk through their environment, prompting reflections on the systems they are a part of and encouraging mindfulness. (Similar goals to Best Festival Ever through a very different approach.) He’s a pretty extraordinary creative, and a reference point for me when I was talking to foreign artists about Australia’s art-science scene.

We’re collaborating as part of Arts House‘s Digilab project – four commissions for artist teams to produce new works under the banner of ‘digital theatre’. What is digital theatre? At least part of this project is about trying to figure that out. In practice, all four teams are creating participatory artworks mediated through digital phone apps.

Keith and I were matched by Angharad Wynne-Jones, who (I suspect) identified some common threads running through our separate practices. We met for the first time at the beginning of the first intensive development for this project. Perhaps in response to that blind date situation, we began by asking ourselves whether we might be able to create our own dating app.

First and foremost, we both joined OKCupid, RSVP, eHarmony and Tinder. Then we began pulling apart the online dating experience and rethinking it in light of our own practices. The result is a work entitled Are We The One? (in reference to the seminal Chinese dating show) in which two participants – ideally strangers – create the ideal date for each other, then go on the date that has been created for them.

In practice, what that looks like is this: each participant fills out a brief questionnaire, and then is asked to go for a walk around the venue, looking for places, objects and experiences that might appeal to their partner. They know virtually nothing about their partner, although information is gradually dripped to them as the experience goes on. The end result is that you’ve created a trail, a series of points on the map and moments for them to experience at each stop on the way.

When you’ve finished making the journey, it’s your turn to go on the trail that’s been created for you, finding the locations, listening to the messages and collecting the secret notes etc that have been deposited along the way for you. At the very end, you and your partner come face to face, and you get to have a chat about your shared experiences.

We’ve been working intensively at Arts House all week in collaboration with Steve Berrick from Perth’s pvi collective, who is programming the app (four apps at once – extraordinary) and doing paper trails around North Melbourne. From here, there’s another series of developments to come, before all four projects get premiered at Arts House’s 2016 Festival of Live Art.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with two questions. OKCupid is very good at drawing out information from its users to help it make compatible matches. There are more than 200 questions you can answer when building your profile – these are my two favourite:

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