(above: stills from the Documentation video Mark McBeth produced at the show)
‘Last Sunday was the one-night-only performance of Pluot Season. The devised theatre piece performed in the backyard of where I currently reside and the first in-person show I’ve produced since before the global pandemic of Covid-19. Some safety notes, all audience and performers were vaccinated and during the performance, the audience wore covid-masks.
It was really gratifying having a vision for a show where I was the “head costumer,” and then this being born out of it. During the pandemic, I spent many an afternoon embroidering what I called “collar bibs” and other handsewn accessories, at some point, I told a friend, if I were to go back to school, I’d want to get into costume design (in some world where I didn’t have any practical concerns and could follow my heart unabashedly). The curiosity of most endeavors of a grand scale, would I even like it? So I thought, maybe just do one show where I am doing the costumes and see if it still has the flavor of a dream after that.
So, I reached out to my good friend and collaborator Fenner about co-producing this show and becoming the director. They agreed and we manifested a list of performers to pitch to and created our team. We met for four sundays (this includes the show sunday) and shaped something that would become a 35-minute piece of performance art.
It was interesting becoming a host of the rehearsals. The venue was at my house and I had the responsibility of returning the props and costumes to the basement after the two workshops and show and making sure there were plates and forks for our dinners/snack breaks. Fenner is a director known for their rehearsal craft services. They provide the performers with a healthy and substantial snack or dinner and bake it into the timeline of our time together.
There was a fundraising component to this show. It was fun coming up with donor perks and even more fun getting money for the show. I’m reminded that I still want to do a post-mortem budget where I articulate for my own edification how much it costs to do a DIY show (aka no venue). A thing I would certainly do differently is analyze what needs to happen for the donor perks to be realized in ideal quality. I promised our lovely donors a commemorative zine and a commemorative postcard, but I didn’t have a photoshoot with the performers and that seems to be a bit of an oversight. I ended up using a photo from the promo photoshoot I had with Fenner for the postcard and to my minor horror, for the commemorative zine, I used screenshots from the video Mark Mcbeth produced from the show (see above photos). This is my responsibility to insist (as a producer) that we need to have fifteen minutes taken out of rehearsal time to do this thing. Better yet still, just map out the meetings and their goals in the pre-production phase. Ah, next time. High-resolution photos are very important if one is trying to make a portfolio of costumes to present to future collaborators. Sigh. Just continuing to learn over here.
It was a weird time watching the devised theater process (as you know most devised theater is weird). It was a curious thing because in some ways it’s anarchic, though Fenner was the director, there’s a lot of openness for people to suggest and pull into the show what they want to do, and it seems kind of cruel to get together such amazing people for such a short time and see what they do. These people bonded, but I think the upcoming deadline made for an intense process of working together. In some ways, too, I think that in creative processes we are curious to see what other people bring naturally that it feels imposing to have too much structure, perhaps. I think that’s the interesting thing about this particular process: it’s a combination of factors that create a unique atmosphere that is a universe onto itself and if we tried to do it again in the same way, there might be a completely different result.
Co-producing is a really great experience. Often in my work, I’ve done solo shows, and shows where I’m the only producer, so it was nice having meetings to go over the details of what to put into the cast emails and logistics about the show itself (there was a big to-do about how to get 25 chairs to my house). Fenner is a powerhouse, dedicated to a vision, and worked really hard to make the event one to remember. The day before the show, we had an errand hang and went to get stone fruit from Berkeley Bowl for the reception.
This was easily my favorite show reception because I knew we could stay in the backyard as long as we wanted. Most venues have a load-out time. Small details: I was happy with the quality of the fruit and its presentation. I washed them and made sure each one was good eating and that felt nice after watching our ritualistic celebration. I was also happy with Fenner’s choice of small cups, made the wine more savorable. Our wine sponsor that Fenner secured provided eight bottles of wine (red and white). It was a lovely way to finish the night. The reception was a great place to hear feedback about the show. I heard some very complimentary things. The costumes were appreciated (mission accomplished) and I give credit to Fenner as more than half of the costume pieces/props were provided by them and to Demi/Alex Ayuna for our “Jeremy” (the blank cloth doll). I mean credit to everyone, too, for being professional and creative. It was a huge success.
At the show, someone asked me “What’s your next show?” and it caught me off guard. I love the idea of having an answer to this question. I told him, I am interested in putting on a yard sale. I’m glad that there are more in-person shows to be watched this Summer.
I’m reminding myself to add to this post when the edited version of the show documentation comes in and some reflections about that. A non-traditional stage is not going to have great lighting baked into it and it was a unique endeavor as a “sunset show.” I accept that the documentation video is what it is. Like a lot of beauty, its fullness is lost in a photo or video. Performance art is an experience to have with your own eyes and ears and to inhabit a space where you can choose to look and focus and the heightened experience of being there with other live humans.
Another round of gratitude for everyone that made this possible. To the people who witnessed a very lovely time and to the people who gave themselves to a process.
*edit– here’s a highlight reel edited by Demi/Alex Ayuna
(program text) Pluot Season
A backyard multi-sensory experience
Sunday, June 6th, 2021
Pluot season is a time that comes once a year, as most seasons do. All is ripe with juiciness and we are so thankful that you are joining us. This fever dream awakening was merely slightly shaped by my directorial eye. It is as much for us creators as it is for you, and was lovingly created in three or so wild meetings of this sensitive and versatile group. When Kat approached me with the idea – a title and some visions – I flowered to the project for us all to ease back into the joy of togetherness. Let us bask in the glow of many voices laughing, embrace the unfolding seasons after so much wintering through all sorts of weather.
About the Performer Collaborators
Baylor Odabashian is a music, screed, and play writer,, tutor, occasional performance artist, and constant striving maker of good enough stuff. @spinningbaylorproductions
Demi / Alex Ayuna is a mixed media improviser, photographer, and dancer.
Dominique Nigro is a movement artist of varied vocabulary, endlessly inspired by the natural world and highly emotional feeling states. She also enjoys taking photos. IG @earthenergy
kevin corcoran improvises, arranges sounds and collaborates across disciplines in his bay area home and abroad. IG @orcora
Puja Tolton is a theatre artisan and illustrator based out of Oakland. IG @ladypujington
Simone Bloch is a French-American versatile performer who’s currently exploring the challenges of recovering from surgery. She’s happy to be one of the pluots today.
About the Producers
Katarina Countiss is a visual artist with interests in improvisation, costuming, and book-making.
Fenner is primarily a Devised Theater maker, actor, and creative facilitator based in Oakland.
Thank you to our videographer, Mark McBeth.
A special thank you to all of our donors.
And a joyous cheer for our sponsor
High Note Winery