THE VOIRE DIRE PROJECT, a creation of producer Liz Amadio, returns to the stage (and gallery) on May 6th in what Amadio describes as "The Photography Cycle." This 4.0 version continues Ms. Amadio's work in mixed art forms and we had the opportunity to chat with her for more on her upcoming production at Medicine Show Theater.
LocalTheatreNY.com: How would you describe The Voire Dire Project?
The Voire Dire Project is an integrative project where four theatrical teams each develop a one-act play inspired by a work of art - in this cycle, a photograph. Voir Dire, rooted in the Ancient French: ‘to see, to speak (the truth)’, is purposely spelled differently to distinguish it from the legal proceeding. But the goal is the same – assembling a group of people to collaborate on a search for the truth. In our case, that search is a creative truth, a spiritual truth. There is no absolute right or wrong - just a relationship. Each story is unique to that team, inspiring a magnificent tapestry of image and story. There are 25 artists represented in this project, including photographers, creative tech & production team. Of the fifteen Theatre Artists attached to the four plays, all are women.
Cosmic Orchid produced its inaugural cycle of The Voire Dire Project in Spring 2016, featuring work inspired by paintings. The second cycle was a revised and developed reincarnation of those plays, integrating and recasting the teams. The 2018 Conscious Glass Residency created five plays inspired by blown-glass art with performances in the Art Glass Studio. We are very excited about the work we are creating, inspired by the powerful images in this 4th cycle - The Photography Cycle. We are also grateful to be honored as recipients of a Puffin Foundation Grant, and a LIT Space Subsidy for this cycle.
The Process: The project begins with ‘Art Inspiration Sessions.’ This is a meeting where the director, playwright and actors are introduced to the art work. No one can see the art or know anything about it ahead of time – not even the title. This is true, save for one logistical exception.
As Artistic Director, I curate the integration, so I do see the art ahead of time. I call this being ‘contaminated with preconception’. It is important that the process be as pure as possible. Not only do I not want anyone to see the artwork, I especially do not want any Theatre Artists to know what inspired the visual artists. That would plant seeds in their psyche. No matter how hard they try to be objective, human nature dictates they would emulate the theme in concert with the artist’s intention.
The Artists write an Artists Statement about the inspiration for/meaning of their work, but the theatrical team is not to see it. When the art is introduced, the theatrical teams answer a series of five questions - exploring their impressions, riffing off one another, sharing and building inspiration. The playwright, fueled by that session, then has two weeks to write the play. Initial rehearsals explore the draft, revisions are made, and the subsequent rehearsal process develops a fully-realized piece of theatre.
Just before tech, the artists see the plays and write a second artist statement – their response to the play that was inspired by their art. Only then does the theatrical team get to know anything about the artist’s inspiration.
A small body of each Artist’s work is curated, along with the inspiration piece, and is on exhibition for the entire run of the theatrical production. The Artist Statements of both the Visual Artists and Theatre Artists are incorporated into the performance.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Tell us about your theatre company, what type of theatre productions would you say you mostly produce?
As a producer of integrative theatre, Cosmic Orchid curates new work that integrates performing and visual arts by developing theatre inspired by art and contemporary culture. The Voire Dire Project is our signature production and we produce one cycle per season. Our performances integrate Culture, Visual Art and Theatre into a unique audience experience.
Our focus is to demystify the creative process and highlight the role of inspiration. There is nothing unique about inspiration. All creativity is inspired. What is unique is that, rather than bury the inspiration, we offer it to the audience - integrated into the performance experience. We live in a digital world where so much of our existence is integrated. You can’t get your nails done without texting, checking your emails. By exploring this integration, our hope is that the audience experience resonates with themes from their own integrated, often chaotic lives.
We want the conversation of 'collective creativity' and 'blurring the lines of the respective art forms' to resonate once our audience walks out the door. Not only do we wish to engage the audience in this exploration, we hope for them to ultimately see themselves as artists, in whatever life roles they embody. We want to engage community in future performances, as audience members and as artists.
One of the things I’m most pleased with is the fact that we do community outreach when we assemble our teams, inviting past audience to submit for the current project.
Our core mission is to sponsor projects of underrepresented artists - women, single parents and reemerging artists - those whose journey in life may have become an obstacle to their art, instead of a catalyst for it. That’s where the deep emotion is harboring under the surface, just waiting to be channeled. That’s where the depth of human experience is mined.
We make a conscious effort to keep production costs low so we can achieve our fiscal goal - to allocate 40% of our budget to Artists’ Honorariums. We opt for humble venues; stage with modest production values. We want the work to stand on its own, and for our Artists to be fulfilled and empowered.
Since our mission is anchored around Integrative Theatre, our work will always integrate more than one art form. Any play that we produce (when we start with a play) will also have a corresponding curation of artwork, which is created – inspired by – the visual artist’s impression of the play.
Our inaugural production, The Hoodie Play, sculpted the development prototype for Voire Dire. It was chosen for inclusion in the anthology, The Best American Short Plays of 2015-2016, and is being produced this season at Santa Clara University (CA), Wittenberg University (OH) and University of West Florida. It is a great honor for our work to be recognized and produced at the academic level.
LocalTheatreNY.com: You seem to be a one-woman, multi-tasking force. What are some of the biggest challenges of bringing this sort of production to the stage?
Assembling the teams, coordinating the scheduling of many hours of separate team (sometimes concurrent) and full project rehearsals, funding - garnering donations and generating tickets sales. Oh, and sleep! But the momentum from the inspiration of witnessing the magic as the process unfold fuels you. And as I always say, there is no better training ground for multi-tasking than being a mom!
The other thing that I think is a challenge, maybe not a challenge but a deep consideration, is that this is truly a collaborative project. It takes a certain kind of artist to be in this process along with a hoard of other artists. Nothing is in a vacuum. We are all part of a whole. You especially need to be ok with creative chaos, and at peace existing in the gray. If that turns you on, you groove on the idea that no one is in this alone - it’s all coming through the ether. Or put another way, it’s in you, but not of you.
We are blessed to have an extremely talented and generous team of artists in this cycle. Really, each cycle has had an amazing team. Some of our core artists have been with us since the first cycle and intuitively groove with the process. I imagine the project only resonates for the kind of artist that would merge comfortably with collaboration and uncertainty. It’s counterintuitive to a lot of artists’ training.
This is the first cycle where we held two of our Art Inspiration Sessions at the initial Full Project Meeting. I wanted the teams to cross-pollinate the work and it was magnificent to witness. Other than that, each team is not privy to the other teams’ work, yet a tapestry is being woven. These are not simply four different plays based on four different photographs. In fact, what happens is that a theme emerges – life, death, rebirth, transformation. Four very different stories inspired by four very different images end up being anchored around a common manifestation of the core human condition. Synergy.
It’s an evolving process with a myriad of future manifestations. I like to quote Jesse Eisenberg (as Mark Zuckerberg) in The Social Network. When ‘The Facebook’ takes off, his partner comes in wanting to implement advertising – the obvious revenue stream inherent in the project. Zuckerberg says no. They go back and forth a few times and Mark’s final retort is: “We don’t even know what it is yet.” That’s what I feel about The Voire Dire Project. We’re just skimming the surface here.
Why this venue?
It took us quite a while to find the optimal spot for this cycle. We needed a venue large enough to curate the art work (4 artists/4 photographs each) yet small enough to reflect an intimate, theatrical experience. Because of the art work, we need to be ‘in residence’ for the entire run and, of course, it needs to be relatively affordable. The Medicine Show Theatre is perfect in all regards!
For me personally, there’ll be another performance for iPower in late Spring, an inspiration refuel at Lincoln Center's Summer Intensive and some down time to concentrate on writing and travel. There are whisperings of staged readings and a collaboration with another company on a themed summer project. In the Fall, we’ll start the wheels in motion again, so the 2020 VDP cycle runs earlier in the season.
A performance of Integrative Theatre, shattering the duality of Artistic expression. Medicine Show Theatre: 5/9/2019-5/19/2019 - 545 West 52nd St, 3rd Floor Thursday, 5/09/19 - 6PM Art Opening Thursday 5/09 & 5/16; Friday 5/10 & 5/17, Saturday 5/11 &18 - 8PM Sunday 5/12 & 5/19 – Matinee @ 3PM.
The Medicine Show Theatre 545 West 52nd St 3rd Floor New York, New York
More information is available at http://cosmicorchid.com/thevoiredireproject.html