Directing is latest eclectic role for Alice Nelson
Published By Bob Clark, Calgary Herald on May 30, 2012
Jacqueline Russell, left, and Alice Nelson examine female empowerment in Raunch (Photo Courtesy Citrus Photography)
Alice Nelson packs an awful lot of theatrical life into her 34 years.
For example, since completing her drama studies at the University of Lethbridge and studying for a year at California’s Dell-Arte International School of Physical Theatre, Nelson has:
Performed for several years in the South African townships as a member of Clowns Without Borders, an organization dispensing a laughter-is-the-best-medicine form of drama therapy aimed at situations that are very unfunny.
Completed her postgrad degree at Dell’Arte, specializing in ensemble-created physical theatre, a two-year program that involved co-creating numerous shows, ranging from an adaptation of a Roald Dahl story to the storytelling use of Balinese shadow puppetry.
Just finished her series of assistant directorship gigs under Lunchbox Theatre’s 2011-2012 RBC Emerging Director program, which culminates with Nelson herself in full charge of a production — Edmonton playwright Trevor Schmidt’s Mockingbird Close, a poetic story of two parents who discover their son is missing. The show opens a five-performance run today.
Oh, and did we mention the multidisciplinary feminist satire, Raunch, her hit co-creation with Jacqueline Russell that Nelson and Russell will perform as part of the Magnetic North Festival in mid-June?
“I like to think I wear a lot of different hats,” says Nelson, laughing.
“I’m pretty eclectic.”
We begin by asking what makes a versatile Calgary actor and trained improviser (an alumna of Loose Moose) who admits she’s always been “very passionate” about the process of creating as an ensemble, decide to hone her directing skills — as she has done over the past season at Lunchbox?
It’s because of what she learned at Dell-Arte, Nelson says.
Even in collaboration, “You need an outside eye, you need a coach — a director.”
According to Nelson, who assistant directed the Lunchbox productions of Peril in Paris, Last Christmas, Super 8 and The Whimsy State or the Principality of Outer Baldonia, her role on the sets of these shows was largely passive — that of a glorified gofer, who was there mainly to learn.
While finding it frustrating at times because she couldn’t participate, Nelson says, she also found it “weird, because you’re sitting back, not saying a lot — but you’ve really got to take it in.”
Though invited to contribute in discussion, “I really had to be aware and respectful of the director’s vision — even if I didn’t agree,” Nelson recalls.
Ironically, Nelson had no assistant director for Mockingbird Close.
“I’m all alone — which is terrifying.”
As for the production in question, she says, “it’s very un-naturalistic, very stylized, surreal.
“We’re going for an an almost David Lynch world with it.”
Which may or may not bring us to Raunch, a show that’s played to packed houses on the western Canadian Fringe circuit since 2008.
Nelson says the piece was inspired by Ariel Levy’s book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.
“I just loved her perspective that women are exploiting themselves as (sexual objects) and calling it empowerment.”
Especially at issue for Nelson in the whole subject of female self-exploitation is how it affects young girls.
“They have such horrible role models,” she says, pointing to some female pop stars, kiddie beauty pageants, and the reality show, Toddlers & Tiaras, as examples.
As it has done previously in Calgary and other cities, Nelson hopes Raunch will foster and facilitate dialogue on the pressing topic between parents and their daughters.
“We had one dad come (to the show) and bring his two daughters,” Nelson recalls.
“They were dressed in short, short miniskirts, lots of makeup, pushup bras — and they’re like, 12 or 13.”
Did Raunch prompt discussion between them?
“I don’t know, but I sure hope so,” Nelson says.
“We’ve had some teenage girls who come up after the show and thank us.”
Lunchbox Theatre presents Mockingbird Close by Trevor Schmidt to Saturday. There are two performances Friday and Saturday. Tickets: Call email@example.com
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
Read More at The Calgary Herald