Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Rime of Dramaturgy: Ben Evett @Edfringe 2016

Albatross is based on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and is a one man, multimedia production that expands on the story of the mariner and examines man's relationship with nature while taking a new look at the language of the famous poem. 

It will be running from the 5th to the 28th of August at Paradise in Augustines.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
My writing partner, Matthew Spangler, and I were looking for a subject that would give us the opportunity to create a solo piece that had a great story, and a strong central character who undergoes a profound journey;  and which would allow us both to use rich and poetic language and explore the relationship between live performance and state of the art multimedia. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was perfect – amazing character, great language and intense, almost hallucinogenic imagery, and a powerful message for the contemporary world.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I first approached Matthew with the vague idea for a solo piece.  He turned me on to the Rime and we started working.  We reached out to Michael Seiden, our Producer - who was working with Matthew on another project – and he leaped aboard to give critical support and resources.  

When the script was ready for production, I immediately went to Rick Lombardo to direct it. Rick and I have worked as director and actor on a number of projects, including Hamlet, and so I knew he was exactly the right person to take this piece on.  

He really pushes me as an actor, and has a deep understanding of digital media and technology in the theatre. The final members of the team were friends and colleagues from our Boston are theatre community – brilliant, competent, and great to work with.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I’ve been acting professionally for 30 years.  I’ve worked with repertory companies and freelance. As I have gotten older, I’ve become more interested in the challenges and opportunities of creating a piece from the ground up.  

Making original pieces is much more deeply satisfying than staging a previously produced play, even if it’s really great, because you really are shaping every facet of the experience, and investing your whole creative self in the process.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
This is the first time I’ve attempted something like that, so it’s typical for the one I’ve done!  But seriously, this whole experience has been new, and fantastic.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We love our show. Our audiences here in the states have been incredibly positive – with more than one person saying it was one of the best plays they’ve ever seen, and that it stayed with them for days afterward.  

We hope the audience at the Fringe will feel the same.  We hope they will find it exciting, funny, horrifying, and ultimately beautiful and moving.  We hope they will heed its call to action and mindfulness.  We hope it stays with them.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We worked really hard to make the experience immersive and inexorable. The show begins in a rather loose and fun way, then gets darker and more intense until it rises to a pure and profound place.  

And Rick - the director and sound designer - and Garrett – the lighting and video designer – worked really hard to make sure that the multimedia interacts seamlessly with the storytelling and doesn’t become a gimmick, but really feeds the audience’s imagination.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

Not really.  There are other amazing solo shows with great storytelling, so I suppose we’re part of that tradition to some extent, but I am not familiar with any other performance that marries the intense and urgent storytelling that the Mariner does with the rich theatricality of the performance environment.

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