Thursday, 1 June 2017

Dramaturgy Doe: Eleanor Bishop @ Edfringe 2017

Created by Eleanor Bishop
In New Zealand there’s an issue that runs deep in rugby league teams, in Facebook groups between high school students, with a Prime Minister who believes it is his right to pull on waitresses pony tails.

In America they have a president who has bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” without their consent. We’re not short of reminders that there is a problem with rape culture and the value of consent in our societies.
Presented at Assembly George Square from August 3 - 28, Jane Doe seeks to open conversation about these issues through the collective reading of a trial transcript from a rape case.

Facebook: /wearejanedoe | Instagram: weare_janedoe

Listing: JANE DOE Venue: Assembly - George Square, Studio Two Prices: Preview £9, Rest of season £11 / £12 Dates: 3 - 28 August (No shows 14, 21) Time: 3.00pm Duration: 60mins

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I moved to the United States in 2013 (from New Zealand) around the time that the issue of sexual assault on college campuses was exploding (see the Oscar nominated documentary "the hunting ground"). I found myself on a college campus, surrounded by young people infuriated and confused by something that had seemingly just been named - rape culture. Around the same time there were a lot of high profile rape cases that were being reported in the media that were very similar, a young woman, drunk being sexual assaulted and not necessarily remembering it, and discovering evidence of her assault on social media. Those stories became the specific narrative for this piece. 
Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Oh yes. Theatre is a utopian space, we can make the world we want to see. And theatre is a space of high emotion, which allows us empathy in ways that are different to essays or novels. 
How did you become interested in making performance?
A mix of being in church plays when I was a child and having heated political discussion with my family. Community/ritual and politics have blended together in my practice. 
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?My shows start with a thorny, unanswerable, emotional question, in this case - what is rape culture? Why does it exist? I spend a lot of time researching and talking to people. With this show i have been able to refine it over time, as well as keep incorporating new material as it has toured to different college campuses in the States and I have interviewed more young people. 
Does the show fit with your usual productions?
This show was the start of my new practice of making explicitly feminist work, rather than more generally collaboratively, and socially engaged work. 
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
They will experience together as a community dealing with the specifics of rape culture - witnessing a trial transcript being read, asked to text in their responses. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I wanted to make them feel safe as possible as the topic and material is very difficult. We've done this piece in a circle, in community halls and in theatres. But the feeling of being together and supporting each other has stayed throughout. 

Written and directed by Eleanor Bishop and led by performer Karin McCracken, the court case is interwoven with reflections about sexuality and consent from young people across America, New Zealand and now the UK, as well as providing participatory opportunities for the audience - volunteers stand in for lawyers and witnesses, and are invited to respond directly to the performance as it happens, through text messaging.
Jane Doe began during Eleanor’s Masters in Fine Arts in Directing at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama in Pittsburgh. It has evolved through 65 interviews over three years with young people from multiple college campuses in the United States, as well as New Zealanders this year. When Eleanor returned to New Zealand at the beginning of 2017, one production of Jane Doe has continued to tour American colleges while Eleanor restaged a new one, which is now travelling to Edinburgh. This performance is led by Karin McCracken, a Wellingtonian based theatre-maker who until recently has been a specialist educator for the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, a non-governmental organisation that provides primary prevention sexual violence training. She is also a trained lawyer.
Eleanor is an extremely driven theatre maker who puts engagement with social issues at the forefront of her work. Before travelling to Edinburgh Eleanor will spend a month at the Citizen Artist Incubator, an EU initiative that prepares fifteen promising performing artists for their vital role in shaping our rapidly changing world.

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