Apr2017, Arts&Culture2, ArtsandCulture
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Naked Stripped Down

Naked was not just a performance; it was a process. Behind the ornate set pieces, dynamic monologues, and safe atmosphere was an enormous amount of work and intention. We sat down with coordinators Jordan Kaltenbruner, Andrea Denny-Jiles, and Bijah Spevakow to discuss the literal behind-the-scenes process of the Naked production and experience.

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Ava: What inspired you to take on Naked?

Jordan: It wasn’t really an inspiration; I was passed down the Vagina Monologues from upper years. I’ve always wanted to take on the show, but I also knew that I wanted to put a different spin on it. I held a big meeting in the atrium, and the community had a lot to say about restructuring the monologues. People were concerned that the Vagina Monologues were dated and appropriative, but agreed that the stories needed to be told. It was a huge responsibility to respond to everyone’s concerns; suddenly it became my role to transform the show while carrying on the tradition.

Varsha: What was the inspiration behind “There is Choice, There is Voice” and how do you think it served the overall show?

Andrea: We discussed as a team that we wanted to have an art show that complemented Naked. Not everyone wants to get on stage, so we wanted to broaden the scope for the art show to invite more voices to participate. The title came from conversations with many girls who have experienced a lack of choice or voice, so the art show was meant to instill a sense of self-agency. We opened up the themes to universal human experiences like identity, transformation, loss of control, and the body. We wanted to include men in the conversation too, so the art show was a good way to include multiple perspectives.

Ava: I like the idea that ‘there is voice’ also equates to ‘there are many voices’, which allowed the art show to exhibit those opinions.

Varsha: What strengths did each of you bring to the show?

Jordan: I’d like to think that I was level-headed (pause, laughs). I was always willing to be there with the women, actively listening and being present with them in meetings. My theatrical strengths included feeling ‘feeling’ on stage; meaning that I was able to direct the women in authentic ways.

Bijah: I was an in-between, not a director or an art coordinator, but rather a general communicator. Whether it was taking on rehearsals or organizing volunteers, communication was one of my biggest skills. I was also a prioritizer; I tried to help us focus on what was  important and what to let go.

Andrea: I think I was a helpful ideator; I was always coming up with things to do at meetings or rehearsals. I helped  do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that facilitated the connections between the cast. I was also thrilled with the set; that was something I’m most satisfied with.

Varsha: What are some things that most people don’t know about Naked behind the scenes?

Bijah: I think that a lot of people don’t realize how much of an open book it was. It wasn’t previously scripted, just an open call to performers to write and create their own monologues in a safe space. We needed a lot of time and space to get comfortable with one another before we wanted to share our stories. I don’t think this show could’ve happened without creating that space beforehand, because these are not easily shared stories to begin with, and therefore many of them might not have made it to the stage. In retrospect, we’re laughing about how the show came together in such an unbelievable way, because we had no idea what it would look like until the week before.

Andrea: Something I also think is kind of funny to look back on is the number of meetings we had; there was the weekly Sunday meeting with the girls but also the Wednesday meeting where the three of us had to plan the Sunday  meetings. Every single one was like a “little-mini project” that we took on.  In a way, this process resembles a ‘scrapbook script” in which the parts were all cut and pasted together.

Bijah: We also put an enormous amount of time into the order of the show. The interactions between the women and their pieces played a huge part in the production. We thought long and hard about how the heavier pieces contrasted with the lighter pieces so that they would not diminish each other.

Jordan: That reminds me of how much of a learning curve this process was. To give you a few examples, we learned about femininity and what is appropriate to say and not to say, about sexual assault and triggers, about counselling and what sort of services to have on board, and about creativity and how to work together. In the end we just pooled together our different strengths with a “fake it till you make it” attitude, and  managed to come out better friends than we went in.

Ava: What is the future of Naked?

Bijah: We want to take this show on the road to another campus next year. That would be pretty unreal. We’ve also talked about writing down our experience by creating a script for the process of the show. From the meditations to the rehearsal process, we want to capture how to best produce a show like this.

Andrea: People will have already seen what the show can be, so next year’s show will be inherently different.

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After the lights came up in the MPR, many Naked audience members walked away with broader perspectives on the experiences of women in the Quest communities. It is undeniable that an enormous amount of work went into designing this highly complex and intentional show. From the agentive, inclusive art show to the powerful monologues themselves, Naked completely transformed the Vagina Monologues into a unified narrative that was raw, moving, and highly impactful.

However, many of us might not fathom how immense the responsibility of creating a production like Naked was. The coordinators fulfilled every detail, from working with counsellors to fundraising for the Howe Sound Women’s Center, to leading deep breathing exercises for the audience before the show began. They managed to create a performance that was not only moving for the immediate audience, but will continue to impact the performers and members of the greater Squamish community.

 

Thank you Jordan, Bijah, and Andrea for your words and massive contribution to the Quest communities. Your dedication to women’s healing through art and performance has touched hundreds of lives within and outside of Quest. While we will never be able to fully quantify the impacts of Naked, we will continue to grapple with the significance of this show indefinitely.

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