FREE LIVE WEBCASTS: MAD FOREST
Photo: Bard student Gavin McKenzie in Mad Forest, courtesy of Fisher Center at Bard.
THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE AND FISHER CENTER AT BARD PRESENT BARD’S PRODUCTION OF CARYL CHURCHILL’S MAD FOREST, DIRECTED BY ASHLEY TATA.
FREE LIVE BROADCAST PERFORMANCES: May 22 at 7pm EDT, May 24 at 5pm EDT, and May 27 at 3pm EDT
Running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
“DID WE HAVE A REVOLUTION? OR WHAT DID WE HAVE?” — MAD FOREST
Theatre for a New Audience and Fisher Center at Bard will present three free live webcasts of the Bard Theater & Performance Program production of Mad Forest by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Ashley Tata who adventurously reconceives Mad Forest for a specially modified version of Zoom which blends live performance—with actors from Bard each performing from remote locations across the country—and video technology. The American premiere of Mad Forest was in 1991 at New York Theatre Workshop and that production subsequently played at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1992. This is the first time Mad Forest has been presented by an Off-Broadway theatre since then.
Caryl Churchill, an iconic author of over 50 plays, has been “compared by a fellow writer to Pablo Picasso… Like Picasso, Churchill has an active political conscience, has had a big influence on succeeding generations and is a restless experimenter with form.” (London’s The Guardian).
The Romanian Revolution (December 16–25, 1989) ended with the trial and execution of Communist Party General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena. Three months later, Caryl Churchill, theatre director Mark Wing-Davey, and a group of students from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama traveled to Bucharest. Churchill wanted (as she described) “to see for herself what was happening.” The students were her collaborators. They stayed a little more than a week. By the summer of 1990, Churchill’s Mad Forest, directed by Mark Wing-Davey, opened at Central School to strong reviews. Andrei Serban invited Mad Forest to return to Romania where it played at the National Theatre, Bucharest in September, and then opened at London’s Royal Court Theatre in October 1990. In 1991, Mad Forest opened at New York Theatre Workshop directed by Wing-Davey with professional actors.
Frank Rich of The New York Times wrote Mad Forest is, “surprising… inventive… disturbing… surreal… it seems to seep beyond its specific events and setting to illuminate a broader nightmare of social collapse…”
Ashley Tata returns to Churchill and Wing-Davey’s collaboration with students and builds on the phantasmagoric nature of Mad Forest in her digital presentation.
This production began as a live theatrical production: the company rehearsed in person and planned on performing at the Fisher Center. Suddenly faced with cancellation due to COVID-19, Tata and Gideon Lester (Fisher Center’s Artistic Director) decided to move the production online. The creative team and cast would band together (via quarantine) to entirely reimagine the production.
Tata enlisted Eamonn Farrell, a director and designer, who, in the role of Video Designer, collapsed the formal and geographic borders of performance using Zoom. Andy Carluccio—a designer, engineer, technologist, and student of Farrell’s—wrote customized Zoom code as the production’s video programmer, creating a modified version of the software to enhance its visual and storytelling abilities and allow for camera editing in real time.
Tata writes, “We found the material breathed differently in this space… State-run, regularly televised addresses are the medium of choice for dictators, as it was for the Ceaușescus. Churchill’s play references the days when the television station was occupied by revolutionaries. They opened the doors so citizens—victims of the regime—could testify and bear witness to how governmental policies had affected them for decades… Transitioning to this format and incorporating it as a design and meta-theatrical element seems almost obvious.”
Designer Afsoon Pajoufar scrapped the original design for the stage and created around 125 individually designed virtual backgrounds against which students would green screen themselves. The green screens, lighting equipment, Bluetooth earbuds, props and costume pieces, and hardwired internet connections, when needed, were sent to student actors in their remote locations.
Fisher Center at Bard then presented a single performance of Mad Forest on April 10, 2020. TFANA’s Founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Horowitz was one of the thousand-plus people to experience this performance. Horowitz contacted Gideon Lester about the possibility of TFANA and Fisher Center at Bard collaborating to continue to rehearse the production and co-produce three additional performances for a wider audience.
Horowitz observes, “It’s thrilling to collaborate with Bard’s Fisher Center and Gideon Lester. What Ashley, the cast, and creative team made is something I hadn’t seen before. It’s powerful not because there is a pandemic, but because the director, actors, and designers are exploring in a fresh way how Mad Forest comes alive on Zoom—not as a replacement for live theatre, but as another way performance can happen.”
Phil Carroll*, Andrew Omar Crisol*, Lily Goldman*, Tim Halvorsen*, Mica Hastings*, Azalea Hudson*, Ali Kane*, Gavin McKenzie*, Taty Rozetta*, Violet Savage*, Yibin (Bill) Wang*, Charlie Wood*
Afsoon Pajoufar (Scenic Design), Ásta Bennie Hostetter (Costume Design), Abigail Hoke-Brady (Lighting Design), Paul Pinto (Compositions and Sound Design), Dan Safer (Movement Direction), Eamonn Farrell (Video Design), Vanessa C. Hart (Production Stage Manager), Andy Carluccio (Video Programming), Sean B. Leo (Video Engineer), Shane Crittenden (Properties Master), Anisha Hosangady* (Assistant Stage Manager), Maggie McFarland* (Assistant Stage Manager/Sound Operator), Laila Perlman* (Assistant Director), Angela Woodack* (Assistant Director)
Mad Forest is presented through special arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc., concordtheatricals.com. Special thanks for Mel Kenyon.
This production of Mad Forest was originally presented by UPSTREAMING: the Fisher Center’s virtual stage.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is the 2019-2020 Season Sponsor.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is the 2019-2020 Season Sponsor.