How to Be: Q&A with Choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg

How to Be: Q&A with Choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg

How To Be, a new creation by Vancouver’s iconic dance & theatre creator Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, opens April 12 at The Cultch Historic Theatre! Produced by Tara Cheyenne Performance, this piece was presented as part of Boca Del Lupo’s Micro Performance Series and at Dancing on the Edge. We are excited about its premiere at The Cultch! We had a chance to ask Tara a few questions and learn more about the inspiration for How To Be:    

 

L to R: (top row) Kimberly Stevenson, Tara Cheyenne, Josh Martin, Bevin Poole, (bottom row) Marcus Youssef, Kate Franklin. Photo by Wendy D

Hi Tara! We’re thrilled that your piece, How To Be, will be premiering at The Historic Theatre April 12-15. The image for the show expresses a dynamic relationship between the performers – what is the relationship between them?  The photos were a riff on bad family portraits. Family often being the first place we learn “how to be” for better or worse. We are playing with the relationship between how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about others. It’s a great quagmire of heartbreak and comedy.

Does this piece contain your signature comedic style? What are some of those comedic elements? Well I think it’s funny! The performers/collaborators are all extremely talented and funny people. They each bring hilarity and vulnerability as we track “how to be.” Comic elements? I think it’s possible to find comedy everywhere; our pain, our loneliness, our egos run amuck. Certainly our endless cultural obsession with defining the correct ways to be is absorbing and funny.

What inspires you about exploring the topic of “how to be”? My own futile desire to find the right way to be. And of course as I’ve explored this I find we are all wrestling with the question, and frustrated with ourselves for not knowing the answers. Of course there are no answers. What does it even mean to “be yourself”?

The show seems to explore a fine line between fragility and persona – can you talk more about this? We are all uniquely ourselves, one in the universe and composites of every personality and experience that has touched us. Asking the question “how should a person be?” opens us up to our own vulnerability, our own fragile tentative fumbling. Where does my persona begin? Where does the “self” end? Can I find the answers in a Facebook questionnaire? What does my answer to number 7 really say about me?

If we fail at how we think we should be, what’s left? I think we fail all the time at this. Our emotions, our bodies, our minds betray our ideas of how/what we should be all the time. But isn’t  that wonderful? Fascinating and infuriating? Failure is possibility.

How to Be runs from April 12-15 in The Historic Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

IGNITE! Design Mentorship Goes Goth

IGNITE! Youth Mentorship Participant Nina Sky Robertson in 'Garbage Girl'

This week we’d like to spotlight one of the mentees from The Cultch’s

IGNITE! Mentorship Program — Nina Sky Robertson. Robertson was selected for a mentorship in Stage Design and has been learning the ropes from accomplished artist/designer, Alice Mansell. This brand new mentorship program in costume and set design is intended for aspiring young stage designers wishing to pursue a career in the arts. In the inaugural year of this program the assignment was to transform The Cultch lobby into a veritable Victorian gothic funeral parlor,  for the world premiere of Tara Cheyenne Friendenberg’s Highgate (exciting, no?)

With the show opening this week, we managed to do a little Q&A with Robertson and her experience in working on the set of Highgate.

A: Can you tell us a bit about your design background?

N: I am a life long ‘odd’ schooler. I have attended an assortment of public programs and schools ranging from a democratic free-school to an academically driven philosophy and english program. The most relevant educational experience to this mentorship has been a series of apprenticeships with world renowned artists from Vancouver, Toronto, and Mexico. I truly believe in life-long learning.

A sneek peek at The Cultch lobby for Highgate. Photo courtesy of Christine Quintana

A: Why The Cultch Mentorship Program?

N: I came to the mentorship through a conversation with Robert (Youth Program Manager). I had mentioned wanting to expand my textile arts practice into theatre design and two days later an incredibly lovely email arrived from him mentioning the program and asking me to apply.

A: Tell us a little bit about what the mentorship has entailed.

N: It has entailed – at least for Highgate and with Alice – a considerable amount of draping (predominantly Gothic, Victorian objects) some pattern drafting, not to mention the chance to create a relationship with Alice and gain insight into her process and history.

Highgate creator Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg (Dance/Choreography) and Alice Mansell (Stage Design)

A: What are your plans for the future?

N: I intend to continue to expand my textile arts practice, hopefully moving further into the theatre community in the next few years and continue with a broad smattering of other arts, travel and academic projects.

If you want to see Robertson and Mansell’s creation firsthand, you’ll have to swing by The Cultch and get your tickets to Highgate which runs May 1 –  4 and invites you for ‘a morbid romp through Victorian funerary culture. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love a good morbid romp?

Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg: Cultch Artist-in-Residence

Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg is a Vancouver based dancer, choreographer, director and all around creative person. Right now she can be found completing an artistic residency at The Cultch, working hard on Highgate, a piece that explores Victorian funeral culture. We caught up with Tara to find out a bit more about Highgate and how she feels about completing an artistic residency with us here at The Cultch!

For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us what a residency is?

A residency is when a theatre (or arts centre) invites an artist to create in their space for a concentrated amount of time. The theatre supports the artist and the work in progress by providing space, technical, and administrative support. For the artist, a residency is a great opportunity to really focus on a creation without distraction.

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