‘Reveal’ series takes audiences behind the scenes at The Broad Stage
By Bridgette M. Redman
Getting to peek behind the scenes is often a privilege reserved for a theater company’s biggest donors.
The Broad Stage in Santa Monica is not only opening up the opportunity in a virtual way, but it is going into greater depth than just a talkback with the actors or an invitation to a rehearsal.
Their new “Reveal” series started on May 6 and will continue throughout the next season. They are free for anyone to watch. After the live premiere broadcast of each episode, the programs are available on demand. There are plans to offer three episodes for each of the next five original productions that The Broad Stage has commissioned for the next two seasons.
This month, the series begins with “Reveal: The TEAM’s Reconstruction (Still Working but the Devil Might Be Inside).” The episodes premiered on May 6, 8 and 15, each its own look into how this new work is being created.
The TEAM is a Brooklyn-based artistic group who are the collaborative writers of this project, co-directed by Tony winner Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) and Zhailon Levingston (“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.”)
“We really want everyone to get to know these artists,” said Ilaan Mazzini, The Broad Stage’s director of programs and activations. “They all have important reflections and narratives to share that I think are worth paying attention to. I hope that by watching ‘Reveal’, our audiences will connect the subject matter and the artistic voices of the commissioned work and find relevance in their own lives.”
Exploring building blocks of “Reconstruction”
The first episode centers on the new work, “Reconstruction”, and examines the TEAM’s unique athletic and emotional performance style as a collaboration between 23 artists. They explore whether intimacy can or should exist between “white-identifying and Black-identifying individuals in an anti-Black United States.”
It shifts back and forth through time from the Reconstruction era to the present day and they use a language informed by music, silence, poetry, fraternities and sororities, water and ratchet fashion. To explore how this works and what they do, The Broad Stage released three “Reveal” episodes:
• Episode 1: How “Primer for a Failed Superpower” primed the TEAM for Reconstruction.This provided a look at the history of the company and their previous work. “Primer for a Failed Superpower” was a concert of iconic protest songs that featured a 32-person multi-generational ensemble. The “Reveal” episode featured Stephanie Ybarra, Chavkin, Levingston, Orion S. Johnstone and Nehemiah Luckett.
• Episode 2: Finding Intimacy in the “Reconstruction” Room: The Role of our Process Chaplain. One of the roles the TEAM has is that of “process chaplain.” This person, Milta Vega-Cardona, coaches the show’s intimacy and during the episode explains how it is created, deepened, questioned and supported by her work. During the live conversation, Vega-Cardona is joined by other artists of the piece to talk about how her work affects their creative process. It was followed by a Q&A. In addition to Vega-Cardona, it featured Chavkin, Levingston,
JJJJJerome Ellis and James Harrison-Monaco. “This gets to the nitty gritty of the process,” Mazzini said. “They try to create the safety and intimacy within the rehearsal room so that they can dive into subject matter that may be difficult or uncomfortable.”
• Episode 3: Creating Reconstruction: “How We Make Is as Important as What We Make.” May 15 at 2 p.m. In this episode, The Broad Stage’s artistic director Rob Bailis interviews Chavkin, Levingston and members of the “Reconstruction” writing team. They discuss how the TEAM focused on decolonizing themselves and their practices. Their rehearsal room became rooted in anti-capitalist and anti-colonial practices. The panel in this episode discusses this process and interviews with the artist.
Building arts education into new works
Situated on a college campus, Mazzini explained that arts education and learning is central to their mission and they saw “Reveal” as an opportunity to include everyone in the learning process about the artists and the work that they’re presenting. The episodes, they hope, will prepare their community for the work that they’ll be presenting.
“Sometimes the artists are grappling with subject matter that takes a little bit of unpacking,” Mazzini said. “We really wanted to open up so that people were meeting the artists much earlier than just the few months that we’re doing a production. We wanted to bring people into the creative process and give them the opportunity to get to know the artists we think are so interesting and extraordinary.”
Other shows that will be part of the “Reveal” process include:
• “Iphigenia,” Greek myth and opera reimagined to raise social justice up for a modern time
• “Universal Child Care,” part concert, part play with a multinational cast exploring family and cultural norms of childcare
• “Being Future Being,” First Nation creation myths inspire a new path toward community stewardship of our lands
• “Yemandja,” the African goddess of the sea inspires this theatricalization about love, injustice and free will
The works are in the early stages of creation. Some have done readthroughs of early drafts, others are just starting the creative residencies that develop the pieces. Still others are already working with designers and are rehearsing.
There is no set format for what the “Reveal” episodes will look like as all of them will be programmed in partnership with the artists and responding to what they feel is important to tell about their story.
“Each ‘Reveal’ is very different,” Mazzini said. “There are typically three episodes and our goal is to share the who and the what, which can be programmed in different ways.”
While there will be some traditional conversations in the forms of panel discussions or interviews, there will also be documentaries or videos of their past work. A musical podcast and footage of a live concert will make up other episodes. Each episode will be chosen to help reveal the company’s genre, vibe and what they are interested in creating.
“That to me is what’s exciting,” Mazzini said. “It isn’t a cookie cutter kind of format, but it really is an opportunity to get to know the artists in the way that they’re helping to construct.”