Devising A Solo Show, Part 1

Most often, the first phase of an Anthropologist show is the Investigative Phase. This is where we gather to test out source material, tug on thematic threads, experiment with design ideas and probe storytelling concepts. It's sometimes scientific though usually a bit more chaotic than systemic. But the most important thing to know is that everyone in the room is a deviser. We can all invent, revise, question and ponder together on equal footing. We can all be performers, writers, designers and dramaturgs. This can be both freeing and sometimes intimidating to stretch our artistic comfort zones but it’s always very fruitful. A unique aspect of our work as a company are our attempts to break down the barriers sometimes imposed by individual discipline.



While many times we begin with a larger cohort of invited artists who may change session to session, this time we created the show with a core creative team. Partly this was because of the nature of the work with its sensitive subject material. Partly it was the result of several collaborations over the past year that naturally coalesced into a group of five female collaborators. This team was present for the entire investigative process and script planning. Here are recollections from all five collaborators with their production roles highlighted so that you can understand the breadth of the experience in the room.


We begin...



I am not a museum person. I like my art to move and make sounds. When it was announced that this project would revolve around a painter, I was hesitant. However, this process has opened my eyes to a larger world of visual artistry and how deeply imbedded it is in the same damning cultural narratives as any other art form. Our core team is comprised of women with their own experiences of being artists in this world. Artemisia's art speaks to all women, everywhere, from every period in history. Her story draws a striking parallel to stories we have, as women artists today.



 Lynde bringing one of Artemisia's letters to a patron to life in close-up form.




MARIAH FREDA (Performer)

Having an array of artists in the room is always exciting especially when the disciplines vary so much. We are so very lucky that our visual designer, Irina, is first and foremost a painter, ya know, since we are making a play about a painter and all. Irina has been incredibly generous with her patience, letting me prance around the room holding a paintbrush incorrectly, gently mentioning that I should use tiny strokes or longer strokes during various scenes. One day in rehearsal I was (as I do frequently) scheming ways to insert pop songs into the play and I came up with a brilliant idea: What if, Artemisia, Italian Baroque Master Painter, jammed out to Taylor swift every time she made a painting.  Ya know, she could totally dance around the room, sing--really get into it!  Before I could even finish the thought Irina, quiet, patience, polite Irina jumped in with an enthusiastic, firm and uncharacteristic, "absolutely not!" Apparently master painters must have strong concentration and focus while painting. There's very little dancing to be done. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh, Irina saved the integrity of our show and I went back to searching for new ways to sneak in my beloved pop songs.


 Mariah mid-composition with Irina creating a costume.





This was my first experience building a show I would not be a part of in performance - and for an actor this is a strange thing. To do the research, to grapple with the subject matter, and to feel the emotions of the character ultimately hand it off; collectively building a solo show is not an easy task. I think identifying themes “what the show is” and pitfalls “what this show isn’t” was a very helpful mechanism that we used. This allowed us to argue, explain why, fight for what we each thought the show was and wasn’t. Ultimately I think this helped us avoid being trapped by found text, temper our tone, and find some balance in the piece. Often solo shows are also solo point-of-view shows, written and performed by the same person.  Artemisia’s Intent comes from many people - she is the voice of us all.


Brianna in a composition she co-created with Lighting Designer Wren Mitchell,

which would become the basis for the penultimate scene of the play.




IRINA KURAEVA (Visual Designer - Set/Costumes)

For me as an artist it is important to learn something new working on a project. Being part of the creative team of Artemisia, I rediscovered the Baroque period, its magnificent art and fashion.  Artemisia being created as one woman show was a great experience for me. During the devising period of the project I had an opportunity to be in a performer’s shoes. It was a fascinating experience, since I’m not a performer. I had a chance to express myself through the body language and create my own little pieces. For the full production, I had to create not only a costume and set, but the whole world of Artemisia’s emotions.


 Irina mid-composition as Aurora with a soundtrack by Bjork.




MELISSA MOSCHITTO (Director/Script) 

I knew when we started that making a play that dealt with sexual assault and the systems that enable it was going to be personally challenging. The subject material was often very emotional. It was both empowering and comforting to come into a room full of women artists that I know and love and to be able to process that day’s news with them but also to translate it into action and art. I really enjoyed the tactile experience of creating this show. I tend to be a word person and often, dealing directly with the source material and found text was demanding or brought up my past experiences in a way that I found difficult to articulate. So it was really exciting and gratifying to push myself to translate those feelings or that text into something visual, visceral, tactile. Building a world from paint, brushes, fabric and frames brought us closer to the real Artemisia.


Melissa showing a composition co-created with Stage Manager Mary Daniel
featuring paint, shadow work and sound design.




Upcoming Performances of Artemisia's Intent:

NYC: Thursday 7/26 @ 7:30PM at The Kraine

Providence, RI: Tues 7/31 @ 8:30PM & Wed 8/1 @ 7PM at The Wilbury Theatre Group



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