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Coming Up: Red Soul Days Gainesville

Red Soul Days, a passionate, homegrown multimedia event to raise awareness about inequality, violence, and abuse based on sex and gender issues. So named for the color of an aura that’s deeply in love, aroused, angry, and survivalist. So named for the

CerridwenWorks is building a fantastic and huge feminist multimedia event for August. We’d like the launch event to be a topical play addressing gender, sex, and/or LGBT issues. To heighten creativity and celebrate Gainesville’s abundance of talent, we’d like 2-3 writers to work together to produce a play that can be staged with the capacity for audience interaction. Humor encouraged! Email me at filmafic06[at]gmail[dot]com for details.

Other events include bands, burlesque, empowerment speakers, open discussion, and comedy. Feminist activism, in applied anthropology, means building dialogue in cultural ways, and digging down to find the root causes of inequality and structural violence and instrumental violence. This event aims to do so by targeting all audiences, not just the affected populations, and using the creative input of all concerned people, whatever their sex, gender, or orientation, to build a dialogue. During Red Soul Days, as we should all year, we’ll celebrate a multitude of positionalities and a complexity of expressive content.

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Nailed the Interactive Art Show!!

Friday was an incredible night. I have run a combined variety/art show and an interactive art show at the Civic Media Center in the past year. I was striving for a perfect blend of art showing, performances, interaction, and donation. I wanted to give artists an opportunity to show their work in a rich environment. I named this event The MageArt Experience, in acknowledgement of the real magic that art provides, both in its production and perception.

I finally got the right formula for this show, and brewed up a delicious artistic blend. We benefited from Gainesville’s Artwalk crowd, and our participating artists brought incredible energy and beauty. We had guests contributing to the collaborative canvas, purchasing art, and watching the performers with full attention.

With this show under my belt, I think that CerridwenWorks is well on its way to nonprofit status.

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2014 Here We Go!

Accomplishments so far:

P King posterThe Peppermint King at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre: My true producer debut. I’ve been building viral and visual promotional strategies for this innovative new show at the ART. I ran a moderately successful IndieGogo campaign to boost the production budget for this show and provide compensation for our designers, and developed the viral marketing strategy incorporated in our posters and the Gainesville Sun’s preview article (see the lead).

What’s happening this year:

Dearly Departed at High Springs Community Theatre. This darkly comical family funeral show promises to deliver on homestyle, heartstring-pulling humor.

VFest 2014 at the Tabernacle: a feminist / LGBT-friendly variety show of the Tom Miller Show ilk at 1982 Bar. Feb. 10.

The MageArt Experience 2014: an interactive show on February 28 at the Civic Media Center. Feb. 28. In the vein of TigerMonkey Extravaganza but with a greater emphasis of performance.

The Irreverent Comedy Show: a safe house for all things culturally offensive yet comically brilliant. TBA.

Movie Burlesque: combining film buffitude (is that a word?) with the reemerging art form of burlesque. TBA.

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Teatro de los Muertos

My anthology of 5 short plays about death and dying, Teatro de los Muertos, was a hit.
 
A collection of responses:
 
My mother:
Thankful for my children and what they have accomplished by working so hard toward their dreams. Last night I saw my daughter’s first produced play–actually five short plays–about loss. By turns heartbreaking and funny, her work gave a cast of talented actors an incredible range of emotions to play. I’m surprised I held it together. From the time my children were small, watching what they do has made me cry. Being a parent means a lifetime of tears (and embarrassing our kids) because they make us so proud.
 
Another audience member:
It was AWESOME! Excellent job by Rachel and the cast and crew. The subject of reincarnation in Act V is definitely Twilight Zone material.

One of my cast members:
Last night was insane. I can’t believe the show is over. Im going to miss seeing these people everyday, they’re all such beautiful people. This show was seriously one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever had. and i owe it all to my director. She’s the one that finally gave me a chance. She saw something in me and thinking about it makes me teary eyed :’) If it wasn’t for her, i wouldn’t have professional actors telling me “you’ve got it, you’re brilliant, you’re amazing.” It feels so surreal. I always thought I was going to be one of those people that never got farther than high school theater. There was a time that I was just going to quit theater forever and felt like i would never get to go as far as i really wanted to. and then Rachel gave me this huge role and now I have the confidence to go even further and further. Its all thanks to you love
 
Teatro features 5 one-acts:
The Light in my Life: in the late 19th century, a mother losing her daughter to fever binds her life to her daughter’s. A true medical condition called Broken Heart Syndrome, the despair and stress over a profound loss can be a cause of death or severe illness. This was the original piece in this anthology, and features an emotive piece called “Her Hands,” as a monologue.
Death is Whatever: two teenage girls driven apart by their mutual friend’s untimely death recover with the help of a hand beyond the grave. I was tired of ghost stories in which the spirit only causes trouble or enacts vengeance. I wanted a ghost story with a happier ending.
Reincarnation: a grieving widow believes her husband has been reincarnated as an oak sapling. This idea came to me in a dream and I wanted to explore the intrigue of reincarnation as a very personal encounter, rather than a larger principle of theology.
Dead Men Tell No Tales: a young woman caught in a maelstrom takes matters into her own hands. No death anthology would be complete without touching on the subject of matter. I felt it was important to address the human aspects of murder, rather than resorting to moralizing or stereotyping portrayals of murder.
Death Becomes You: a troubled young person learns the precise details of mortality. A parody of multiple religious traditions while affirming the spiritual aspects of all, I wrote this “Wonderful Life” inspired piece to have a twist: rather than not being born, what would it be like if someone else took your life? What if the rules of the universe were handled in a way reminiscient of American bureaucracy? A favorite piece of many viewers of the anthology, “Death Becomes You” was my twisty, sarcastic contribution to the genre.
 
Influences on this anthology include Dogma, by Kevin Smith, Made in Heaven, by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon, It’s A Wonderful Life, based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip van Doren Stern, and certain segments of “Six Feet Under,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel,” in which characters have conversations with dead characters.
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Publication of Bullying News Media Analysis [ABIBS Research Update]

Exciting news: My semantic analysis of news articles on bullying, that I presented at the IASESP conference in April, was accepted for publication in the Journal of Contemporary Anthropology Vol. 4! The title of the article, “The Social Construction of Bullying in U.S. News Media,” describes my contextualizing research for my upcoming documentary. I am thrilled to have this validation and exposure for an anthropological approach to bullying, and the boost it will give to the future stages of my research.

Some highlights from the reviews:

The author has provided a thought-provoking and well-written paper on the topic of bullying and the application of folklore and media studies methodologies in the study and prevention of the phenomenon. I think that the paper adds much to the discipline with respect to its multidisciplinary scope. The author does an excellent job of backing up the use of the folklore/media studies approach. The paper is also an important addition to applied anthropology and can serve as a catalyst for further studies related to  bullying and other social phenomena.

This article discusses an interesting topic relevant to our contemporary society, cleverly set
against the backdrop of folklore studies and media culture. Overall the article has a strong potential and
displays a good understanding of related theoretical and contextual framework.

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CerridwenWorks Launches with Interactive Art Show

I selected a name for my applied art and theatre production agency, discussed here. The namesake is the Celtic deity of creation and education, Cerridwen. I find the name appropriate because Cerridwen, like all Celtic deities, defies the dichotomous associations of light and dark that shape the Judeo-Christian tradition. Elements of light and dark, birth and death, pain and joy, are needed for the act of creation. These collaging processes have always been appealing to me, as you might have guessed by the work of a set decorator and collage artist. Moreover, the very illusion of theatre and its deception to tell the truth has important educational qualities, which are all the more apparent to me the more I learn about the processes of enculturation and socialization.

So, the best solution for someone who loves art, theatre, film, and anthropology is to combine them all in a swirly goodness akin to the magic brewing in Cerridwen’s cauldron. I’ve participated in some events that blurred these lines, such as Galileo of Gainesville at the ART and Tom Miller’s Tabernacle of Hedonism. What I long for is an event with an explicitly activist and  educational purpose, and thus, considering the success of the first event, I re-brewed TigerMonkey Extravaganza.

TigerMonkey Extravaganza 2.0, at the Civic Media Center on Oct. 4 from 6 to 10pm, will be focused on the intellectual, artistic, and social exchange among artists and guests. Experience the beautiful work of gifted visual and performance artists and share via open mic.

Both our guests and the participating artists have the opportunity to share their artistic experiences via open mic. Participants and guests are encouraged to share their stories about art, beauty, and inspiration, respond to an artwork in the show, or perform spoken word. Too often is there a gap between the art and the appreciator, whether it is anonymity, unfamiliarity, or the distance between the stage and the audience. In Gainesville’s thriving artistic community, the gap is small, but can still be bridged by allowing guests and artists to switch roles in an artistic dialogue. Moreover, all participants and guests work together on the “collaborative canvas.” Acrylics, pastels, crayons, charcoal, and pencils will be available at the event so that all may contribute to the development of a large, unique work of art.

I’m very excited about this event. Most of CerridwenWorks’ events and outreach will not be of this nature, but I expect all its fundraisers to be. I’m still working on the full business plan for tax filing purposes, but I expect to register as a Sole Proprietor until the agency expands to include its core staff, at which point we will reapply as a 501c3.

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Summer o’ Theatre

This summer was a particularly fertile one for theatre in Gainesville, and proved to be a major portfolio boost.

Stage Manager

On May 24, 25, and 26, the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre hosted the new Gainesville Shaw Society‘s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Geneva. My friend Krsnaa Fitch loves Shaw’s works and asked me to be her stage manager. The particular demands of the piece—even an abridged form, as we did—included furniture and costumes appropriate to the late 1930s and an approximation of three major political leaders of the era: Adolf Hitler (fictionalized as Battler), Francisco Franco (fictionalized as Flanco), Benito Mussolini (fictionalized as Bombardone), and Neville Chamberlain (fictionalized as Sir Orpheus). We partnered with the Hippodrome Theatre again and also enlisted the talents of Gainesville costume Jason Bendure to develop the costumes. Ken Brown of the Hipp worked on our set, and under short notice.

Once again, I found myself on stage as well as managing the show. In a delightfully meta twist, I assumed the role of the Secretary to the League of Nations, who is revealed to have conned the assembled dictators and plaintiffs in the final act. Calling the shots in the plot and backstage!

The most important aspect of the Geneva experience was that it revealed my capability as a production manager (and my ability to do a Swiss-French accent), especially under a short deadline. I am an excellent stage manager, but sometimes, due to a busy calendar, it’s better for me to coordinate a production team than to record rehearsals or be on-book. And I have increasingly more professional connections to get the supplies, loans, and donations that the designers need.

As such, my initial role on the Acrosstown board as Design Manager (aka master of the Props/Costume dungeon that no one else braves) was combined with this new role, as Production Manager. I also was encouraged to take on the role of Board Secretary, since I instinctively take copious notes.

Perhaps the most important role is the development of ARTiS, which I will discuss in a post to come.

Then, I partnered with George Steven O’Brien to develop the set for A.R. Gurney’s A Perfect Party, which played June 14-30. The set, a den-turned-family-room-turned-study, as described in the set, required a specific combination of swank, comfort, disillusionment, education, and artifice. You can see photos of the work here. As the theatre’s Production Manager, I agreed to serve as Production Stage Manager, but ended up getting more than I bargained for when one of our actors had to take medical leave and your trusty stage manager, the eternal understudy, had to take the stage! Now I’m experiencing a resurgence of the acting bug, and will appear in adaptations of W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw ” and Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” as part of the ART’s Fright Night play festival.

Producer

It has long been my dream to run an agency that combines the production & distribution of documentary films and socially activist plays with the development of workshops and curricula that use audiovisual media. This idea first germinated when I was considering career options and asked myself what my ideal job was. When my keyword searches ceased to generate results, my collage mind saw the potential in such an agency, and I began developing its model and mission statement.

However, I had never produced a show or handled any business aspects of a production. As fortune would have it, Mr. O’Brien’s company, TigerMonkey Creations, needed a boost, and I had met many talented people who I believed to deserve exposure. With the help of the Alachua County Rapscallions, I organized 14 performers and 5 artists for a multimedia variety and art show, with a silent auction and raffle, to benefit TigerMonkey Creations.  Along the way, I adopted Dragon*Con’s model of providing short parody skits to entertain the audience as performers set up; to do this, I, with four other people, created SketchyYeti, an improv and sketchy comedy troupe that parodied infomercials, drug commercials, and reality shows. We also performed a couple of live skits.

The show was a relative success, although I had stretched myself too thin. The show launched SketchyYeti and gave Gainesville poet Charles Ely an opportunity to demonstrate his choreography (with yours truly). It raised about $270 for TigerMonkey Creations. I was thrilled with the outcome and realized I had successfully organized over two dozen people (including organizers and staff) to create a socially engaging multimedia event! I was a producer, and I could make the agency happen.

Costumes and Makeup

And finally, I returned to the Hippodrome for their production of Avenue Q, as wardrobe manager. Needless to say, it was an unusual experience to be dressing both puppets and humans. The show is a particularly ripe combination of satire of American society, parody of children’s edutainment, and musical delights, and was a joy to work on. The songs, however, were quite infectious.

To bring the design work full circle, I did skull makeup on the lead singer of Braineaters A-Go Go, a Misfits tribute band, for their debut performance at the 1982 Bar in Gainesville. Considering the aesthetic of Teatro de los Muertos, this seemed a good sign of things to come.

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Documentary to Shoot this Fall (ABIBS Research Update)

Great news!

I have navigated the maze that is IRB paperwork, and got approved! I will begin my documentary project (stage 2 of ABIBS—Anthropologically Based Investigation of Bullying in Schools), in which I interview public school educators in Alachua County about bullying, this fall as supervised, UF affiliated research (#2013-U-486; sounds like a submarine, doesn’t it?). I have also elected the thesis option for my Masters, and the documentary serves as both preliminary research for my dissertation research, and part of my thesis research. My substantial academic reading, combined with my content analysis of news articles, will inform the documentary. What’s different about this project from similar projects (namely, the documentary Bully, which I found to be excessively melodramatic and uninformative) is its grounding in anthropology, specifically the tenets of labeling and game theories, and its attention to the educators, who are often villainized or simply ignored in news media coverage of school bullying, as I confirmed in my media research. The documentary will be short (15-30 minutes, depending on the amount of footage I get), and interview-based, although I may provide helpful graphics, Davis Guggenheim-style.

So here’s where I am:

Project Statement

This project intends to examine bullying as a sociocultural phenomenon and contextualize its occurrence and treatment in an anthropological framework. As outlined below, I will examine the mediated definition of and response to bullying, the bullying culture in relation to the social negotiations of children, and the ramifications and effectiveness of anti-bullying legislation, media, and programs. Through such examination, I hope to develop a sociopsychological explanation, within an anthropological framework, of the structural and ideological characteristics of the United States that allow for bullying and harassment, and assess whether bullying has responded to anti-bullying programs.

from the proposal:

The best tool of anthropological research is the interview that is grounded in a comprehensive portrait of the institution or community. Thus, at this early stage of research, I would like to gather data from school administrators, teachers, and parents via informal interviews, and contextualize this data in Alachua County’s policies and history. Information gathered in this stage will appear in the documentary film, but not in any paper to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. The informal interviews will help me do three things:

  • Develop my research questions for a formal paper.

  • Locate additional persons interested in further participation in the research in later stages.

  • Guide discussion prompts and points of argument to be used in the documentary film and educational materials for use in anti-bullying workshops and awareness events.

Progress:

  1. Understand the mediated social construction of school bullying, to inform future research on how it influences school policy and educators’ responses. Check!
  2. Interview educators to gain their valuable perspective and understand the intersections among policy, law, anti-bullying awareness, and educational philosophy and ethos. This fall!
  3. Develop an anthropological model of violence, aggression, and social negotiations that is applicable to (a) children and (b) a school institution. Currently: see below.
  4. Conduct formal surveys to assess bullying and its sociopsychological factors.
  5. Interview children to gain their perspectives on bullying behavior and factors, and anti-bullying policy and workshops.
  6. Develop workshops, seminars, and films to effectively tackle the bullying problem.

Up next:

The time has  come to assemble my thesis proposal, which requires a specifically anthropological examination of human violence. This past semester, I conducted a literature review of bioanth and primatology articles on aggression and violence, but literature on non-pathological violence among children is limited to the psychology journals. Currently, I am building the lit review/theoretical orientation of my proposal using the research I did for class and the work of some “pop” anthropologists, including Steven Pinker.

The time has also come to develop the “operative” parts of a funding proposal. One might expect interdisciplinary projects to be eligible for even more types of funding, but in fact the opposite is true. Because this project can influence and inform more pragmatic efforts, such as anti-bullying workshops—and I hope it does!—that is an important aspect of its social and economic worth, according to funding agencies. Its unusual fusion of filmmaking and anthropology as applied to education policy and without, as of now, a pragmatic outlet, excludes it from several fruitful sources. I welcome suggestions/links.

 

Special thanks to Drs. Ieva Jusionyte, Scott Nygren, and Rick Stepp of UF for all their support and assistance!