Potato Topos

A few weeks ago, a theatre company banded together for what might be the last time. Potato Topos won “Best of Fringe.” We had a cast party.

It all started earlier in the year when I thought it would be really cool to get a team together to make something for the SF Fringe. We had some zoom meetings in May and June, then started in earnest meeting twice a week in July and August. Each rehearsal session was four hours. My friend Dave said that he would be interested in making a documentary of this process, so there’s some hope that this time period will be known better in video format.

We spent some time doing authentic movement, improv scenes, and running little experiments. We had a work in progress show at the New Now and received feedback via comment cards and a Q&A after the show.

I’ve been a little lost for words lately thinking about how I’m still in the valley of projects and the post-show blues is real. I have had an ongoing collaboration with a squad that is now disbanded and our camaraderie was certainly the highlight of our summer. I appreciated how the four of us felt kind of like Spice Girls, each one a distinct flavor, but our squadness was strong and undeniable. The experience of the team entering and exiting the theatre felt powerful like a group of assassins, we all knew what we were going to do and everything felt dedicated and focused. There were moments in the rehearsals prior where we were still experimenting and finding new moments to throw into the show.

What worked: having snacks beforehand, being open to each other’s ideas, extra rehearsals towards the end of the process, ordained time for writing and feedback, check-ins at the start of our time together, making sure we had a script for our tech person and being specific about it, using playback apps for video projections and audio cues that didn’t rely on the internet (ha!, this had our tech person worried at the rehearsal)

What didn’t work: hot days made more stressful rehearsals, the ticketing site would say “sold out” when it wasn’t, I didn’t get awarded for any of grants I applied for, one of the teammates had other commitments early on in the process (which wasn’t all that bad, but I imagine a parallel universe with a different show with 5 people)

I really loved shopping for potato colored garments and discovered that I look great in shades of brown and it’s altered my sense of style ever since.

I also really appreciated the opportunity to do a fun project with really funny people. I am looking for more opportunities to reawaken that spirit again.

Below is text from the paper program

About the Show
The creators of Potato Topos are also the cast. In the tradition of devised theater, these four collaborators, Fenner, Dominique, Andrew, and Kat met twice a week for two months to exchange and develop ideas. This equilateral production style produces a unique give and take of group agreement and individual directions. Potato Topos combines dance, clowning, music, and storytelling, giving the audience a mosaic of expression styles.

Fenner Merlick
Fenner is an actor, director, and producer living in West Oakland. They studied Theater and Performance at UC Berkeley, and have since trained in clown, Suzuki, ancient Japanese theater, butoh and ensemble/devising processes. Most recently they completed a year at Dell Arte International School of Physical theater.
Dominique Nigro
Dominique Nigro is a lifelong performance artist and dancer of varied vocabulary based in Oakland, Ca. Infinitely inspired by both the natural and fantastical, their art aims to explore the merging paradigms of these worlds through delving into highly emotional feeling states, improvisation, and technical movement.
Domi also shares a love of plant and animal life through her photography.
Follow along: IG @earthenergy

Andrew Rose
Andrew Rose writes, dances, and paints. Since 2015 he has been attempting to atone for the murder of HitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, by the city of Philadelphia – a city the shadow of which fell upon Andrew’s childhood home of Eddystone, PA.
Please, accept the portion of “Potato Topos” generated by Andrew as a gesture of sorrow and contrition for the brutal dismemberment of that gentle robot traveler.

Katarina Countiss
Katarina Countiss is a visual artist with interests in improvisation, performance-making, and embroidery. She loves using the overhead projector to create unique light looks for theatrical experiences. Based in Oakland, California, Kat enjoys long walks, thrifting, manifesting passion projects and working with talented and funny collaborators. She has had so many laughs during the production of this show.
Stay tuned for more plant-based shows at instagram, @katcountiss

Special Thank Yous

Our gratitude goes out to Ellen Webb Studio and Dana Merwin of the NewNow for rehearsal space. Thank you to our documentation videographer, David Jones. Thank you to all who donated time and money to the project.


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