HOTEL NEW WORK | Open Studio for Live Arts @ THEATERLAB
Hotel New Work is a curated series providing artists and audiences with time and space to take a detailed look at the theater-making process in an open studio setting. The program provides short-term residencies, including 40 hours of rehearsal time and performance space, to collaboratively-driven companies in the midst of creating ambitious new work. HNW serves as an artistic respite, where new works are given space to breathe, grow, and engage with outside eyes at an early stage. It is a place where artists of various disciplines can unpack their bags, display their ideas, and share the room keys with engaged spectators.
We began from a simple place: five female clowns of the silent film era. The company did extensive research on these women and their world, and shared that research with each other. From there we worked in three devising processes: clowning, improvisation, and The Tectonic Theater Project’s “Moment Work,” which stresses using of theatrical elements before performer, text, and narrative to tell a story. And we attempted to fuse the natural dance and physical comedy skills of the company, to create a new kind of kinetic performance experience.
THE SOURCE MATERIAL
We all immediately recognize names like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, but we don’t recognize names like Alice Howell, Marion Davies, Mabel Normand, Colleen Moore, and Louise Fazenda. These female clowns of the silent film era go unheard of, and shockingly, they were the bedrock of the industry: they were the first to make movies, they mentored Chaplin and Keaton, and they were writing, directing, and producing their own films at a greater rate then than women do now. But their time at the top was short lived. Women were not supposed to lead; women were not supposed to be funny. The men came along and stole the spotlight, “talkies” replaced silent film, and the women were forced into retirement. Silently, these women went on to richly successful careers in other fields, invested their money, and were millionaires in their old age. Our piece traces their timeline: from building the business, to demonstrating their incredible physical comedy prowess, to testing the boundaries of what was acceptable for a female body, to disappearing into obscurity. We attempt to bring them back into the limelight.