This tense new American play by Kevin Kautzman (Finborough Theatre, Nouveau 47, History Theatre) about online surveillance and National Security Agency data collection was part of Theatre503's ObamAmerica Festival. I provided dramaturgical support before and during rehearsals to facilitate a smooth script development process for the playwright. This sensitivity to a collaborative working process produced a detailed, multi-layered production that unsettled and surprised audiences.
When Claire's hacker brother disappears after releasing classified documents, their uncle Joe suddenly arrives to pressure her for information about his whereabouts. Is Joe working for a secret government agency or is Claire just paranoid?
I created a compelling atmosphere for this production in which the audience's sense of what was factual kept changing. I wanted to create a feeling for the audience of being observed but not knowing why, when and where this observation was taking place. Audiences were made to feel what it must be like for whistleblowing fugitives such as Edward Snowden: not able to trust anyone because everyone might betray you.
My production provoked audiences to question who watches them and for what reasons in a world with constant CCTV coverage. Invoking Michel Foucault's concept of a panopticon structure for social observation and normalisation, we examined how a constant threat of surveillance and discipline has driven us towards the symptoms of collective paranoia and an obsessions with secrecy. The play's dialogue manifested these problems as characters communicated through code and irony, therefore I worked with the actors to examine what was "unspeakable" between the characters in a world where everything is potentially seen and heard by anybody.
By Kevin Kautzman
Theatre503 (June 2014)
Starring: Kelly Burke and James Sobol Kelley
Set: Anna Driftmier
Producers: Lydia Parker and Robert F. Bradish
Part of Theatre503's innovative Rapid Write Response program, this new short play examines polarities between the sacred and the profane through the lens of collective trauma.
In the aftermath of a London terrorist attack Alan looses his wife and his religion, whilst Michael finds that he's been saved by faith.
I created a simple staging in which two actors moved in and out of light. I underscored their stories of conversion with different versions of Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel, shifting between the original and a remixed version to support the script's change in perspective between moral purity and adulterated spirituality.
My economic and restrained production put the script's storytelling front and centre, allowing audiences the opportunity to explore the characters' moral ambiguities.
By Kokil Issac
Theatre503 (April 2016)
Starring: Freddie Machin and Dean Logan
Short Plays and Responses
A provocative examination of Britain's education system by secondary school teacher and playwright Michael Chappell (BBC's Doctors, Gigglebiz, Southwark Playhouse) that pits the head teacher of a Catholic school against a younger, idealistic colleague.
Even at a Catholic school "results always come above religion" . How can a Christian institution reconcile its values of community, charity and compassion with an education system that reduces students to statistical data and encourages teachers to give grades that help enhance the school's funding?
I worked with the actors to create a hyper-naturalistic performance style to support the play's punchy and didactic dialogue. Structured as an unresolved argument between two impassioned characters, the rehearsal process developed a nuanced shape to their battle of wits through an exploration of the characters' unwritten backstories and personalisation of dramatic stakes to ensure the play's urgent arguments were presented to audiences in the manner of a prizefighting boxing match.