NOTE: PortFringe will be profiling PF14 Artists and their shows on this blog in the weeks leading up to the festival (June 24-29, 2014). The next snapshot is of PortFringe newcomers – the Mohawk Arts Collective from Bass Harbor, ME. It was a pleasure to recently discuss their FAMILY FRINGE show, why we create theater for young audiences, and what is special about summer theater in Maine barns…
Artist: Mohawk Arts Collective
Show: We Run The Ship
Description: We Run the Ship is a make your own adventure musical. This is a show for an audience of all ages and imaginations to decide where they want to go next. Featuring live music, new dance moves and puppets. www.weruntheship.com
PF: Tell us something we don’t know about you/your company, and your PortFringe show.
MAC: This summer, Mohawk Arts Collective will host over fifty artists from all over the country to develop new work and produce several world premiere performance events. Also, we perform in a Barn.
PF: There is a long tradition of devising theater and performing in Maine barns (for example, Celebration Barn, also appearing at PortFringe 2014). What makes summer theater experiences in Maine so unique and special?
MAC: I think it’s the change in pace and environment. Things move more slowly here and it’s beautiful in a whole other way. You get to look at the clouds and the stars and really listen to each other.
PF: What’s your own favorite part of the summer Mohawk Arts Collective experience?
MAC: It’s seeing what people do with the Barn. The space is completely charged with a hundred years of history, the windows look right out onto the harbor and upstairs there’s a costume closet, prop and lighting boxes and a library. I love coming into the space and seeing how people are using what they’ve found to work with to make something awesome.
PF: It’s spectacular to have some Down East representation at PortFringe 2014 – thank you for joining us! There’s some amazing theater happening in Maine, and yet sometimes we all get pretty isolated in our own communities. How important is it for Maine artists in all types of communities to connect and collaborate with one another? What are some of the challenges or opportunities that exist?
MAC: This is a great question. For me, it’s been completely challenging and I’ve only just started making connections. I spend a lot of my time in my house and the Barn or out of the state and I don’t spend enough time going to see people and things nearby. Tonight I went to dinner with a concert at a local soup kitchen and talked to other artists about performing here and met people and saw people I know. I think doing things like this is a good start, but there are people all over the state that I want to learn about and meet and get to know. I think we should have more festivals.
PF: I have to say, the WE RUN THE SHIP cast was absolutely charming at the First Friday Art Walk preview – but that was a week ago and the title song is still stuck in my head. Seriously. It’s catchier than “Let it Go”…! Devising a collaborative theater piece is complex – how is that process changed by adding the composition of original music?
MAC: Yes! Although I have not seen Let it Go, I can say with 100% certainty that our show is better than Let it Go. It’s hard for me to answer this question because Brittany and I always knew this show would have original music and this is the only way that we’ve worked together. Our last show actually had no dialogue. So in some ways it simplifies things because the music is so integral to the piece. We figure out the story together and she knows where the songs need to be and what they need to sound like. Then we write some dialogue around the music. Then we add the people and the puppets.
PF: Have any of the Mohawk Arts Collective folks presented work in Portland before?
MAC: Nope. First time performing in the big city!
PF: What are you most looking forward to about PortFringe 2014?
MAC: Being in Portland. We’re getting ready to take our work from the quiet side of the island to the big city and we can’t wait for Portland kids to get to run the ship.
PF: Lobster, or Steak? Discuss.
MAC: Lobster. We like to race kayaks from the Barn to the local lobster pound.
PF: Indulge us as we get a bit philosophical: What does the term “Fringe Theater” mean to you?
MAC: It makes me think of a big event with a lot of energy and action – a lot of innovative, resourceful, exciting, new works of performance and too many solo shows.
PF: And as we get even more existential: Why is theater important?
MAC: Because it’s a place that people come together in a world where it keeps getting easier to be apart. The experience of being at the theater is the experience of being part of a community.
PF: You’re brave souls jumping into the first-ever PortFringe Family Fringe Festival. Your show clearly appeals to audience members of all ages, but can you speak briefly as to why your ensemble is passionate about creating work for/performing for children and young people?
MAC: I think it’s the most important kind of theater you can make. These kids are going to inherit our world and they’re going to have a mess to deal with. We need to have an impact now and it needs to be in person. The theater is where we learn and practice empathy and if you’re good at empathy, you’ll be able to make the world better.
PF: What do you miss most about being a child?
MAC: I miss my grandmother. I miss the way things were. But I like how they smell the same.
SEE MOHAWK ARTS COLLECTIVE’S “WE RUN THE SHIP” AT PORTFRINGE 2014’S FAMILY FRINGE FESTIVAL!
Saturday, June 28 at 1:30pm – Mayo Street Arts (all ages appropriate)
Sunday, June 29 at 3:00pm – Mayo Street Arts (all ages appropriate)
for more information about PortFringe, visit www.portfringe.com