Resident Director David O’Connor reflects on the launch of the Paula Vogel Mentors Project:
Saturday, September 14th was the first day that the Paula Vogel Mentor Project artists were all gathered together. The location was the inspirational Barnes Foundation. One by one over the morning, as the mentors arrived from the train, and the fellows from their homes, the first face to face meetings between mentor and fellow happened.
After introductions from Glen Knapp and Quiara Alegría Hudes, a welcome from Barnes representative David Perez, and an inspirational letter from Paula herself (That began with “You are all my heroes”) the writers started writing. The mentors each led a workshop exploring some aspect of how to generate new ideas. Quiara explored the basic nature of theatricality by challenging everyone to come up with things that you can’t represent on stage. We came up with Earthquakes, massive floods, audiences perched on the arm of a record player. But we also figured out how to stage those things. (It turns out - almost ANYTHING can be represented on stage!) Lucy Thurber led an activity where everyone wrote as a gift to one of their closest friends. One poem that resulted from that exercise, written by Emma Martin, had a few of us choked up. Aaron Jafferies asked all the writers to list the wildest things they have ever encountered, and led them on an imaginary encounter with those wild things, resulting in some highly imaginative and dangerous scene ideas. Marcus Gardley handed each writer an envelope of evocative images, and the writers arranged their images into a narrative (the wackier the better!). Lots of laughs and beauty as everyone shared their stories one by one. Finally, Christina Anderson led everyone on a character exploration exercise by listing wants and secrets and relationships of an imagined character. Each writer left with notebook full of new material and ideas!
During the workshop, each mentor and fellow had a getting to know you lunch, enjoying the crisp fall day. After the workshop, everyone headed up to 5th and Lehigh for dinner at North Star, where we joined by the artistic leaders of Power Street Theatre, Erlina Ortiz and Gabrielle Sanchez. We then went to Taller Puertorriqueño to see the amazing inaugural production of Power Street: Minorityland. This play explored the gentrification surrounding Temple University in North Philly in a complex, character driven story devised by the company of young, community driven performers, and was a very inspirational end to a long and amazing day of writing, community, and theatre.
Paula Vogel Mentors Project is made by possible by the generous support of the Independence Foundation New Theatre Works Initiative, the Nessa Forman (& Family) Fund at The Philadelphia Foundation, and Honorary Producers, Virginia & Harvey Kimmel.