Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Daniel Mauleón

00100sPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20171020142114901_COVER1. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

My focus in art is writing scripts for comics (and a few plays). I like to explore the juxtaposition of words and images. Often this is on the page, as opposed to a stage but there is a lot of overlap with the visual story telling of theatre. This is my first time working for 20% if you don’t consider chauffeuring Shalee to and from rehearsals.

2. How did you get into projection design, and what has it been like to specifically design for The Terror Fantastic?
 
Projection design is both new and old for me. There’s certainly a lot of overlap with comic illustration and visual storytelling that comes into the play. Plus I have a weird love for Powerpoint. However, taking what’s in my minds eye and putting it to paper or—er—projections is a different story.

My first theatre projections were for a Fringe show last summer. That required a more cartoony look and for a show I wrote. So I was mindful to not write anything out of my skillset. Terror Fantastic challenged me to stretch as a visual artist creating illustrations that were fantastical in nature but grounded in a realistic depiction.

Terror Fantastic has also given me the chance to start learning Qlab, which was another fun hurdle and I’m glad to add it to my tool belt.

 
3. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?
 

Like all 20% Theatre productions, The Terror Fantastic is filled with layers of necessary stories for generally under represented groups. Personally, I connect to Iz’s relationship to anxiety as it’s been something I’ve been working with most of my life.

For me, anxiety can cause shame as I react irrationally to false stimulus. No matter how much I understand something logically there are times I cannot help but act on fear. All the while considering in what ways my trepidation can help me.

I see a lot of truth in the shared performance of Addison and Hillary. The way anxiety rears its ugly head, while other times can provide a sense of comfort.
 
4. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
 
As a writer with plenty privilege, I think it’s important to challenge the systems that center me while pushing away others. In my chosen genre of super hero narratives that often means examining portrayals of masculinity, or providing heroes that marginalized children can see themselves reflected in. 
 
7. When you’re not rehearsing for The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
 

I’m excited to open so that I can play some video games. There’s also a lot of movies out that I’m excited to see. And I guess I should spend some time writing, but I also miss my cats.

8. In The Terror Fantastic, we get to experience some of the main characters’ fantasies. What are some things you fantasize about?

I mean, being a full-time artist would be pretty great. It’s one thing to write comic books off as a taxable expense. It’d be nice to consider reading them as part of a 9-5.

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Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Jaya Robillard, Stage Manager

DSC_01471. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?
I started stage managing in high school, sort of by accident. I signed up to be the assistant stage manager for my school’s musical because a few of my friends were cast, and I ended up falling in love with it. I continued stage managing through college and moved to the twin cities after graduation. This is my first 20% Theatre experience, and I’ve really enjoyed both the show itself and the rehearsal process.

2. What are your role(s) with the production?
I am the stage manager, a role for which I still haven’t come up with a good, concise explanation. Basically, my job is to make sure that everything that’s supposed to happen during the performance actually happens. During rehearsals, I write down blocking and communicate with designers about things we’ll need onstage. For performances, Scout (the ASM) and I make sure everything is set before the show, and I call each light, sound, and projection cue during the run.
 
3. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?
Mental health problems are still really stigmatized, particularly when they don’t manifest in neat and manageable ways. Iz is a very sympathetic character despite her flaws and bad decisions, and I think it’s so valuable for people who don’t struggle with anxiety to see things from her point of view, and to understand why she behaves the way she does. For those of us who do deal with anxiety on a regular basis, it feels good to see the things we go through–particularly when those aren’t things we always feel like we can talk about openly–represented with both truth and empathy onstage. I know that working on this production has given me the opportunity to think about the way I manage my anxiety, and has served as a reminder to make kind and healthy decisions for myself. I hope it does the same for many of our audience members.

4. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
I think that giving marginalized voices a platform is incredibly important for combating prejudice and inequality due to race, gender, queer identity, or anything else. If you never get a chance to share your experience, how can you hope for people to understand it? Some of my favorite shows I’ve been able to work on have been shows that focus on voices we rarely get to hear. There’s an incredible energy in the room when a group of artists who don’t usually get to tell their own stories have the opportunity to do so. Most of the productions like this that I’ve worked on have been about racial minorities, and it’s been a great experience to get to do something similar with queer identity with The Terror Fantastic.
 
5. What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?
I am a big fan of performances that take advantage of live theatre as a medium. The types of stories we can tell onstage are often similar to the ones we tell in film and television, and while they are similar mediums in many ways, I particularly love seeing a stage performance that really wouldn’t work on screen. Examining what we do and don’t accept in different mediums helps us examine the full range of what we can do with our performances. I think our willingness to suspend disbelief for live theatre opens up the possibility for unique kinds of storytelling, from non-literal movement to having multiple scenes happening at the same time. I’m fascinated by performances that push the boundaries of what we can do onstage, and of what “a play” even is.
 
6. Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?
My next show is Cardboard Piano at Park Square Theatre, for which I’ll be ASMing. I’ve also recently joined Sandbox Theatre and am excited for future projects with them.

7. When you’re not rehearsing for The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I’ve been trying to expand my visual art skills, mostly drawing. I’m also a big fan of puzzles (jigsaw, logic, whatever), and my roommates and I try to have movie nights when we can find an evening when we’re all home together.

Come experience Jaya’s stage manager awesomeness in The Terror Fantastic!

Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Nicole Jost, playwright

Nicole Jost headshot 2017Meet Playwright NICOLE JOST, and then come see THE TERROR FANTASTIC!

1. Talk about your background as an artist and a playwright. Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

This is my first show with 20%! I have to shout out Shalee Coleman (fab director) for
bringing my work to the Twin Cities. I’m so grateful to her for introducing me to this
wonderful company. As for my background, I started writing plays when I started writing The Terror Fantastic. When I think about my growing up, it’s laughably obvious that I wanted to write. Whether it’s the notebook full of ideas I kept as a little kid, the song lyrics I collected as a teenager, or the way I’ve always quoted movies and TV – all signs pointed to writing. But I didn’t realize how much I wanted it until I got the idea for this play. It was scary to call myself a playwright – that opens the door for failure. But when I finally admitted to myself that this is what I want to do, it felt really good.

2. What inspired you to write The Terror Fantastic? What can you tell us about it that we won’t know just from seeing it? 

In college, I wrote a queer fairytale play. Mostly for fun. I put it down for a couple years.
At the same time, I was experiencing panic attacks. And I started to feel like anxiety was
this monster following me around. I would have a panic attack seemingly for no reason,
sitting up in bed, at the movies with friends. The randomness really bugged me, and it
started to take on a personality, this beast-like thing following me around and messing
with me. So, I got the idea to cannibalize my sweet little fairytale play, to write a play
that occupied two worlds (real life with a monster and a fantasy space). I was involved
with a theater company called The Inkwell in DC (where I’m from), and the way they
articulated an aesthetic of pushing boundaries in theater really spoke to me. The weird
plays they described sounded like plays I wanted to see. And I thought, wait a minute, I
should be writing plays that I would want to see! That was a big part of the inspiration.

3. What aspects of your [queer] identity are you hoping to express through The Terror Fantastic?

For me, The Terror Fantastic is about being queer without being “about” being queer.
What I mean is that the protagonist experiences universal stuff – fear, lust, mental illness, self doubt – filtered through the lens of her identity as a queer woman. That was really important to me, to strike that balance of representing my queerness (through a character who is not me!) without overriding my humanity. I am queer. And a person. Both. I also wanted to talk about fear for a queer character who can’t say without a doubt that they are safe in the world. How does that real fear intersect with her mental health, how does it create boundaries around space, and how do queer people wrestle with fear?

4. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?

When I first had readings of this play, I was incredibly moved by the people who
approached me afterwards to say, I have anxiety, and this is exactly what it feels like. I
think it’s important to say this stuff out loud, to combat the isolation that too often comes
with mental health issues. I also think it’s important to share stories of women’s
sexuality. I’d like to think that as a culture we’ve moved past the idea that men are
initiators of sex and women are receivers of that initiation, but I’m constantly reminded
that we are not. I find it really joyful to center a lusty woman in this story, even when
she’s so surrounded by so much darkness.

5. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create and/or the plays you write?

I always try to tackle social and political issues through a personal lens, shrinking the
capital “P” politics down to a person’s very real, intimate experience. All the oppression
“isms” show up in people’s daily lives, so as a playwright I can explore them through my
characters. I am a white writer, and I have been working to create three-dimensional,
believable, flawed, complicated characters of color. Not only because representation
matters, but also in the theater I am always conscious of the fact that my characters make jobs for actors. I can’t use my white privilege blind spots as excuses to write only white characters – that’s literally taking money from artists of color. Those blind spots are very real, though, so I need to do the research, listen, and remain accountable. Of course, queer experience and queer issues are very important to me, too. I guess I’m a bit of a narcissist, because even when I set out to write a cis character in an opposite-sex
relationship, they somehow end up a bit queer. Maybe on some subconscious level I
don’t really believe that non-queer people exist…

6. Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

I’m finishing my M.F.A. in Playwriting at San Francisco State University this May,
which means I’m juggling a whole bunch of different projects right now. I wrote a play
called Sucia that will be produced on campus this March – it’s a modern retelling of the
Cinderella story, about a young Chicana and her Ivy League dreams (spoiler alert: there’s
no prince in this Cinderella!). And I’ve got other things in the works: a vaudeville about
Betsy DeVos, a magical realist drama about a sex worker who becomes best friends with
her former client after the client’s death, a dark comedy about a woman with armpit
cancer in near-future America, and an immersive queer divorce play (in collaboration
with two other queer writers, which is so awesome!).

7. When you’re not writing awesome plays like The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

It’s fun to complain that being in grad school means I have no free time, but the truth is
that doing my homework is awesome. I took a big break between graduating from college and starting this M.F.A., so the joys of being a student are really clear to me. (Not that I don’t get stressed out and complain, too.) But outside of that, I’m an introvert, so I love spending time at home with my wife and my cat. That’s my total sweet spot. I also love to cook. I find it really calming. It uses a different part of my brain than writing does, and when I get way too full of language it helps me to do something sensory. I’m also one of those yoga people. I know, I know, it’s so boring and trendy, but I really love it. Anything that connects me to my physical body makes me happy. (And all that deep
breathing for anxiety!)

8. In The Terror Fantastic, we get to experience some of the main characters’ fantasies. What are some things you fantasize about?

I get a lot of energy from the initial spark of an idea (for anything, not just plays), and
that energy often sends me off into a fantasy about all the ideal steps leading up to an
ideal product. It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because I’ll just start work on
something and conjure up this vision of finishing it. And that vision can propel me, but it
also makes it hard to make adjustments when things change. So I have to work on being
flexible, and letting go of the fantasy a little. I’m also a teaching artist, so I run fantasy
classes in my head constantly!

Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Kassia Lisinski, Sound Designer

IMG_20170921_2108041. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

I have a background in multimedia art and writing, the latter of which I have been doing since childhood. While at school at the University of Iowa, I began to move towards video and audio augmented performances of what I had written, and was quickly nabbed by the theatre department when they realized I was able and willing to focus on contributing sound to shows. I found that I really enjoyed it and am very happy to be able to work with a radical, equitable company like 20% Theatre for the first time.

2. What aspects of your [queer] identity do you hope to express through your role(s) in The Terror Fantastic?

I’m hoping that my personal experiences with identity-related anxiety, depression, and trauma– which already color my work– will find some catharsis in this production. One of the things that I’ve found so amazing about queer theatre in the cities is the openness and sense of community– it’s possible to be very vulnerable and true with work and be celebrated and supported for contributing that authenticity.

3. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?

I suppose for the same reason as above– I’d really love to see some of the stigma of debilitating mental illness removed. It can be so isolating to be afflicted– which is really tragic because it is that sense of acceptance and support that a community provides that provides so much relief and healing to someone suffering from anxiety or another sickness.

4. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?

Queer identity, particularly the uncompromising acceptance of all its aspects of presentation, is dear to me. I also care deeply for ecological health and the experience of natural spaces, and the ways in which those are tied to psychological wellbeing. I use a lot of natural sounds in my work with the intent of a peaceful emotional impact, while a lot of humanmade and mechanical sounds translate into anxiety and conflict.

5. What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?

I have been very very enamored with the queer art scene here, particularly its diversity in terms of race, origin, and disability. I come from a small city in Iowa and there is very little there that is comparable. It’s been an exponential experience of learning and growing.

6. Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

I’m working on a one-act play right now as well as perpetually working on notes for longer stories. I also write poetry and occasionally try to get work published, but it’s something I’d like to focus more on over the long cold winter.

7. When you’re not rehearsing for The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

I work at an established theatre in their box office and administration. When not there, I spend a lot of time at home on writing, reading, bending myself into pretzel-like shapes, and lazing about with my very old cat. I’m not a super sociable person but I do also enjoy going to shows and spending time with a few much-loved friends.

8. In The Terror Fantastic, we get to experience some of the main characters’ fantasies. What are some things you fantasize about?

The destruction of capitalist-colonialism, and the ability to leave my house without anxiety jitters (these are not unrelated).

Featured BALLAST artist: Walken Schweigert

WalkenArtistPortrait53Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

Music and theatre have been huge parts of my life for as long as I can remember. I began playing classical music on the violin when I was three years old, and performing in plays when I was four. Since childhood, I have been determined to make the strongest performances I could possibly make. When I was 18, my non-normative gender identity propelled me away from institutions of higher education and onto the streets, where I lived as a busker for many years. I hitchhiked from Guatemala to Venezuela, hopped freight trains from coast to coast and even traveled down the Mississippi River on a homemade raft. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a small troupe, I survived from what I made by performing and passing the hat. This way of life was profoundly transformative. To have my very survival dependent on my skills as a performer (both musically and theatrically) was the best education I ever had.

I have been involved in one 20% play before: I was a cast member of the 2012 production of The Naked I: Wide Open. It was a profound experience, and as such I’m delighted to be working with 20% Theatre again.

What aspects of your [queer] identity do you hope to express through your role(s) in BALLAST?

Music is my primary mode of expressing and uncovering the most intimate parts of myself. It has been my outlet, my source of healing, and helped me deepen my understanding of myself in traumatic and transformative situations. My rage, my desire for softness or gentleness, my process for dealing with pain and discomfort… that is all present in the music I make. My queer identity is a precious agony and delight that fills every note I compose.

Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of your performance with the community?

As a transgender person, ​I have struggled with being in romantic partnerships with cisgender people. The music I have composed for Ballast was inspired by those relationships. I see the characters struggling with some of the things that I and my partners have struggled with. I believe it is terribly important to not feel alone in those kinds of struggles. To know that you are not crazy, or broken, or falling apart. That you are doing the best you can to be true to yourself, and that at the end of the day that’s what we’re all trying to do, just be true to ourselves. And that looks different to different people. We are all in different places in being able to be true to who we are, and the journey to that beautiful place of mercurial truth is not an easy nor simple one. It is complicated, it is messy, and it is THE  work each of us has in our lives. Intimate relationships, if they are allowed to, reach those depths where we begin to share those most vulnerable journeys of discovering our own truths with others. We then open ourselves up to their judgments, their understanding or misunderstanding of your identity, or their identity. It is a beautiful process, but a difficult one. I wish to shy away from over generalizing, but I believe that for transgender people this is uniquely challenging. Ballast is a play that exposes and fleshes out that complexity, and therefore is a narrative I believe can be healing for my immediate and larger community.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?

​I am committed to dismantling white supremacy, colonization, patriarchy, queer/transphobia, and other oppressive forces that destroy our social and biological communities. ​Some believe that nature (including human beings) exists solely for us to utilize, commodify and exploit. My work attempts to erode that myth. I believe we are intrinsically connected with the lands and waters that colonization tries to dominate. I create art to give people a transformative experience to expand beliefs of what is possible culturally, politically, socially. For it is our experiences that shape our beliefs; what we believe in is what we love; and what we love is what we fight for.

What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?

​I have been greatly inspired by my mentors Stacy Klein and Carlos Uriona of Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, MA. I was an artist in residence at Double Edge’s Farm Center for almost 5 years, and I am profoundly grateful for everything I learned there during that time. I am also continually grateful for the work of theatre companies Mondo Bizarro in New Orleans, LA and The Hinterlands in Detroit, MI. Their commitment to​ their craft inspires me daily. Musically, I’ve been greatly inspired by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who I discovered as a young teen. Just as I was starting to feel trapped by the violin GSY!BE illuminated for me that to the contrary, it would be my instrument for liberation. I would also like to extend tremendous gratitude to Clear Creek Creative in Kentucky and the larger Alternate ROOTS network for embracing me so totally and guiding me towards a deeper understanding of the integration of community, art, and resistance.

Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

​Yes! I am the Artistic Director for Children of the Wild, a theatre company in residence indefinitely at Philadelphia Community Farm in Osceola, WI. We make ​original works of theatre and music that further the rewilding of industrial spaces and the human spirit as part of a common struggle for social and environmental justice.​ Currently, we are in production for The Wastelands, the first part of our operatic triptych inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. The Wastelands is a full-length original opera I composed inspired by Dante’s Purgatorio, featuring the work of Katie Burgess (another 20% Theatre artist). The Wastelands will be performed this fall at Philadelphia Community Farm September 29th-October 1st. All our shows are free of charge and open to the public (though we do pass a hat after our shows). You are invited to attend! Please visit our website www.childrenofthewild.org or https://www.facebook.com/wastelandsproject/ for more information.

Aside from your recent involvement with BALLAST, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

I love to garden, to hike, to spend time in the woods any way I can. I love playing music with people around fires. I love being with my family and adventuring with my friends. ​

Dreams play a big role in BALLAST–tell us about a weird/scary/wonderful/funny dream you’ve had recently.

Lately I’ve been dreaming of being by the ocean. Last night I dreamt that someone dear to me was on trial. I was defending them and then helping them to escape persecution by running them out of town in an orange jalopy under a purple sky wearing a pink suit made of crustaceans.

Featured BALLAST artist: Piper Quinn

Piper Quinn HeadshotTalk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

I’ve been in love with acting since before I could speak in full sentences, but I really got my start in clowning and dance. I think body language often communicates just as much as dialogue, if not more so, and I can’t wait to bring this beautiful script to its feet. This is my first venture with 20% Theatre, and I’m loving every minute of it! Being part of a company that I support creatively and socially is a great experience.

What aspects of your [queer] identity do you hope to express through your role(s) in BALLAST?

My queer identity, like so many, is very fluid. It’s not always clear to me where I fall on the spectrums of gender and sexuality, and it often changes from day to day. Being non-binary, to me, is a very free and open identity, but it’s not always easy to hold that identity with confidence, and I really resonate with Savannah’s line “Queer, but not queer enough.” Even within the queer community, we must always be mindful to support and validate others’ identities, and be cautious of doubting or even erasing who someone is.

Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of your performance with the community?

Now, more than ever, people are struggling with how to be a “good ally.” It can be hard to know when to speak up and when to shut up. I hope that people can leave this show with a little more clarity, a few more answers, and a lot of questions to reflect on and discuss. There are many characters in this play who are doing their best, but who end up causing more damage than progress due to their limited points of view. I think this script can help many “almost there” allies to take one or two or three more steps to support and defend the transgender community.

When you’re not rehearsing for BALLAST, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

Besides acting, my main passion in life is working with children. I’m a youth worker at a school in North Minneapolis, teaching theatre and creativity classes for a wonderful group of first and second graders, as well as a part-time nanny. Education is such an important process, and I hope to continue planting seeds of kindness and tolerance. I also love exploring the great outdoors, drawing, and spending time with my amaaaazing friends and family.

Featured BALLAST artist: Margo Gray

Margo and Georgette Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

I moved to the Twin Cities two years ago after working in Chicago for a number of years and then finishing my MFA in directing. I had the pleasure of working with Ballast playwright Georgette Kelly previously, on a workshop production of her play I Carry Your Heart. 20% was one of the first companies I heard about whose mission seemed exciting to me, and from our first contact, Claire was a positive force, welcoming me into the Twin Cities theatre community with open arms.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?

The world has gotten scarier recently, and one cause that’s become more important to me is finding ways to help people with privilege increase empathy and understanding of groups they don’t identify with. Art can sometimes slip past the defenses people have built up around their world view and privilege and work on an audience’s subconsciousness or emotions in ways that dispassionate discussion doesn’t.

What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?

I lived in Russia for a while, and was very inspired by visually dynamic, physical, and highly imaginative work that was very different from the realism I’d seen in the U.S. The directors Kama Ginkas, Yuri Butusov, and Genrietta Yanovskaya particularly inspired me with the way they created striking, memorable images onstage and drew ideas out of classic texts I hadn’t seen before. The country has some real political challenges, but I found the artists I met to be generous, thoughtful, and open-minded human beings. Their adventures methods inspired me to think bigger in my own work.

Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

I’m part of a company called Playable Artworks that creates and curates interactive performance. Right now we’re developing a piece about well-meaning ally-ship, and we’re also working on creating opportunities for folks who create or work in interactive performance to come together and collaborate or share information. If that might be you, drop us a line! info@playableartworks.org.

When you’re not rehearsing for BALLAST, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

My partner and I are currently rehabbing a cabin in Minnesota’s Iron Range. We’re doing a lot of yard work, plumbing, and carpentry right now, but someday hope to get back to hiking and canoeing again.