Friday, December 16, 2011


Just as we at Rorschach have moved into our new digs at the Atlas Peforming Arts Center, so too has our blog. Find blog entries HERE on our brand spanking new website!

We will keep this blog around as a historical record of Rorschach behind the scenes so you can always check back here for classics like our "get to know you" series to our audience interaction discussion. Just take a look at the posts from October 2005 and prepare to be entertained.

And check us out on our new blog.
More importantly check out our shows at the Atlas so you can see stuff like this:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It is never to late to have a Happy Klecksakah!

Seamus here, author of No, Batsheba, reporting from rehearsals. Quick personal note: I've known Natsu, our director, for years, since she's a professor at my alma mater, but we've never worked together as writer and director on anything. When we kicked off the project last week, I couldn't help but wonder if we were up to the challenge of turning Grace Overbeke's story into an entertaining ten-minute tale of anti-Semitic Santas and Christmas Eve grudge matches.

After the first half-hour of sitting in on last night's rehearsal, my face hurt from grinning so much, and after another half hour of watching slow-motion fisticuffs and hearing Soneyet's TERRIFYING
Batman voice, my entire upper body hurt from doubling up laughing (and from eating more than my share of the delicious cookies that Karin, our host and Evil Santa extraordinaire, made for us).

Here are some reflections from the cast to tide you over until we shower you with cartoony splendor this weekend!

Soneyet: Wrapping rehearsal for the night, when your director tells you to go home and come back with an even sillier love your life!

Karin: Did you know that Santa Klaus is antisemitic, a martial arts champ and has certain
food allergies?
More secrets to be revealed in No, Bathseba!

My dad is way cooler than your dad & our Christmas adventure kicks your Christmas adventure’s face in.– Love, Batsheba O’Malley-Hirschberger

Klecksing all the way!

My parents created so many lasting traditions in my family. I will never forget the Christmas routine, a routine that I still follow to this day, every time I am home for the holiday. I know that on Christmas Eve I will go to church with my parents (the only day out of the year that I attend church services) and that the church will be packed with families. My parents and I still attend the children’s service full of children and complete with a live nativity. I know that no matter how old I get, I will still laugh every time the camel pees on the altar. I know that when we arrive home, we will sit together and eat and drink coffee. This ends in the unwrapping of one gift. I know it will be pajamas, always pajamas to wear for the night. When I wake I will eat breakfast and gift opening will begin shortly after. After gifts are open and bellies are full, we get ready to go to my grandparent’s house where another set of rituals and traditions will take place. There is comfort in tradition. Comfort in the knowing of what will happen next. I don’t know what will happen to these traditions after my parents are gone. Will my brother and sisters continue the traditions that our parents create for us or will we create traditions with our new families? Slowly growing apart as our traditions break down.

As I sit and think about our play for Klecksography, I cannot help, but to be reminded of family during the holiday seasons. No matter what your faith is, it seems that holidays are filled with families, the ones we are born into and the ones we create. During rehearsal, many conversations came up about family traditions around the holidays. No matter how old we get, it seems that when we are at home for the holidays, we fall back into the same patterns and customs as when were children. Siblings bicker and fight and arguments are to be had. Memories from holidays past are brought up and reminisced on. This falling back to an older time is what can make bringing a guest to a family holiday all the more awkward. Having to constantly catch up someone who is not used to your family or not aware of certain “family rules” can often feel out of place or placed into the position of “outsider” not matter how hard people try to make them feel welcome.

Our play centers on this idea of connection. How do we connect, both literally and metaphorically? How do we integrate an outsider into long held holiday traditions? And more importantly, how do we connect to our family after the loss of a loved on?

This will be the 2nd holiday that I have worked on a Rorschach Holiday show and it is always fun to rehearse and share in the holiday joy with fellow artists. Here are some photos of us in rehearsal. Enjoy.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grady's Klesksography challenge

Hey kids,

So rehearsal has begun for Full Disclosure, the pop'n, hip, socially over-aware quasi-comedy from Rorschach Company member Jason Linkins. As to keep it's subject a secret there will be little disclosed here, but I will reveal that the piece has gone through 4 drafts, two table reads, and has been blocked despite not having it's central character for the first rehearsal.

The name Klecksography continues to be impossible for me to pronounce. This is disconcerting for me as I have not only 3 years of German, but 4 years of Latin, so a simple combination word like Klecksography should be a no-brainer for me. Lets just say, I'm glad you didn't have to pronounce the words in the SAT vocab section.

I will be working on this pronunciation though the week, I have even typed into a spell and speak, but this does not seem solve the issue. I'd say keep up with my progress on facebook – but I don't acknowledge facebook as a legitimate vehicle for social interaction, so you'll just have to find me and ASK. (and in case your wondering, yes that means i am not on facebook, thank you.)

Grady Weatherford
Director, Full Disclosure

Merry Klecksing

Hello interneters,

Gearing up for the weekend? I know it is only Tuesday. But there is snow on the ground and the temp is 25. Clo enough to think about your next day off.

Here are some seasonal thoughts from Misty Demory. More blogging later, but for now, snuggle up, keep warm and get your tickets for Klecksography.


Since the 1930's children have left cookies and milk out on a table for Santa on Christmas Eve. It is thought that the idea to leave them out may have sprung from parents wanting to encourage their children to give/share during the great depression. The Oreo is the most popular cookie left out for Santa Claus. No matter what the reason, or why it started, cookies made, eaten, shared, or thrown at people on Christmas Eve are one tradition I hope never goes away.

Monday, December 06, 2010

I ‘klecks, do you?

I try not to make bold statements in public, because I usually end up looking like a jackass. I’ve learned from experience. I like to hang back and then
make snarky comments about others’ ideas. But I am going to go out on a limb on this one, that’s how much I believe in it. It’s time to ‘klecks.’ What is
klecks, you ask? Klecks is a new slang term for the new millennium.  It will replace all those other tired slang terms like “phat,” “sweet,” and “groovy.” Not
that anyone still says groovy.  It’s a noun, verb, and adjective all stuffed into one enigmatic package. Now, I’ve learned from my German friends that
‘klecks’ is an actual word in their native language that means, blob, blot, dab, smudge, blotch or stain in mine. But words are slippery, they change their
meanings all the time. Take ‘culture,’ for example: a hundred years or so ago culture meant to plant seeds. So, with your help, we can culture klecks in
our culture. Are we klecks?

James Hesla, Playwright
 Klecksography: Home for the Holidays, coming December 18th & 19th @ Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint.  Tickets are on sale now. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Climbing the Fourth Wall

This morning I posted a piece that Washington Post Theatre Critic Peter Mark wrote for Arts Post about audience interaction. It spawned a really interesting discussion on Facebook. I thought it was worth posting here so others could catch up, chime in, or just check out some of the other great articles people linked to within the conversation. Have more to say on the subject? Feel free to share it in the comments below.


Jenny McConnell Frederick I'm with Peter. If I wanted to be in the play, I'd be an actor. At Rorschach, there's more than one way around that 4th wall:

Arts Post - A theatrical manifesto: hands off the audience!

Michael Glenn Then what's the point of seeing a play? Why not just rent the movie?

William Aitken I agree with Peter on this one. I dont go to the theater to be brought up on stage. When I want to be on stage I audition.

Jenny McConnell Frederick b/c I believe it's possible to be totally invested and engaged in a live experience without physically being asked to participate. And I think in many cases, that forced interaction has the opposite effect--taking people out of the experience they were invested in.

Elissa Goetschius Hmmm... Where did I just read this? Oh, right! The NY Times!

Sara Barker in total agreement . . . there are people for whom a night at the theatre can be a wonderful entry into a vivid and exciting world and who, when approached like that from an actor, feel assaulted and undone. It's about respect. Perhaps, if a play is written with audience interaction, there can be a warning or a designated area for those who are interested in it to sit themselves . . .

Jenny McConnell Frederick yeah, Elissa--that piece covers a lot of what i'm talking about, and you're right Sara...having a clear contract with the audience upfront seem like it goes a long way in earning their trust. It seems like we as artists could think more deeply about how to gain the investment of our audiences without insisting on their participation.

Michael Grew While PM paints with way too broad a brush, there's plenty of times this kind of thing hasn't worked for me at all. I think it generally stems from whether it's being done for the play or for the audience; when the interaction stems from the production wanting to make the audience uncomfortable or thinking it'll make them pay more attention, I think it's obvious and comes off as forced.

As a sidenote, one of the things I absolutely hate most in the world is when anyone pulls that "Good morning!...Let's try that again, GOOD MORNING! That's better." bullshit.

Deborah Randall What is the job of the critic, though? Is it to define how theatre should be interpreted as a noun or is it to review the work at hand?

Jonathon Church I am surprised that so many of you don't understand audience interaction. I agree with Mark K in the comments, it's about timing and execution. Theatre for young audiences, for example, is helped by interaction. The kids know that they can take part in this live event and be as big a deal as the performers that everybody else is watching. It makes it exciting and memorable, and draws a sharp distinction between fun, vital, interactive and experiential theatre and stuffy old museum plays where everybody sits quiet and learns something, or else! Shakespearean audiences were routinely brought into the action to keep the play vital and engaging. ASC routinely uses this style and I performed with it for two years, visibly delighting probably 90% of the audiences I personally talked to, touched, questioned, and hid behind. Occasionally it went wrong, or the audience member didn't want to be involved, but most of the audiences, young and old, were familiar with our style and jostled to be down front and part of the action.

Like the time the whip got caught in the grid in a production Marat/Sade at Forum theatre, audiences love to be there on the night something unique happens. A mistake, an improv, a grumpy theatre critic crying about his stolen notepad, it reinforces the live and ephemeral nature of theatre. Seriously, sit home and watch a movie and lock all your doors if you don't want to interact with people. Get on your computer and click away. Stare at the floor in an elevator ride. But don't go to the theatre. Those are real live human beings telling a story, and sometimes that story needs to reach out and touch people, to break that forth wall, to make people realize that yes we can hear your cell phone and yes we see you texting, and yes we are doing something here and if you can let yourself be part of the moment, something wonderful and adrenaline filled might be coming at you or your neighbors at any second. We aren't going to press pause on this story so you can go tinkle, it's living and breathing and you better pay attention. We are going to bring it home to you if that's what we think needs to be done and it serves the play. Is it right for Death of a Salesman? Probably not. But Caucasian Chalk Circle or Mother Courage, Richard III or Midsummer Night's Dream? You bet. You over here, and us over there, doesn't bring the audience into the action and sometimes that is what is required. Sometimes all you need is thrust, or in the round, staging for the audience to 'get it'. And sometimes you can go a little farther. Sometimes it can only detract and you are better off with fourth wall and proscenium intact.

Audience interaction is a tool of the theatre professional, and like any other tool, it's not required every time and it's misuse can look pretty terrible. But it shouldn't be completely discarded as the article, and many of these comments, suggest. I suggest any of you who don't want to be jostled or recognized during your time in the audience just sit in the back, or better yet, in the lobby, watching on the monitor.

I can't wait till next week when Petermarks wants strict rules on making eye contact with the audience (Richard III was looking at my wife!), salad sneeze guards for the lip of the stage(those actors spit when they talk!), and lip synced performances (he didn't use the exact words in the text I have on my lap!). It's sad that this reputable critic doesn't get it, but it explains a bit about his reviews.

Jenny McConnell Frederick Audience engagement has its place and a lot of valid uses. And I saw some ASC shows when I was younger, and they're really great at what they do. And it truly works in a really powerful way. I get that, but it needs to be used judiciously and with purpose. For ASC and their mission, it makes sense.

I would argue that not everyone who's dragging the audience out of their seats has such a clear need for that kind of interaction in order to communicate their story.

I think it's hard for any of us who make a living in live theater to be objective about what impact audience interaction has on those who appreciate and support the work, but for whom theatre is not a way of life. Should the audience experience be our number one priority?--debatable. But is it worthy of consideration?--absolutely.

There are so many amazing things about the live experience--you mention a lot of them, Jonathan--the cell phone ringing, the unexpected experiences--the audience is by definition interacting with the work in live theatre. There's a wide range of possibility that exists between staying at home in front of your DVR and being pulled up on stage to perform for a crowd. I think we can have more faith in our medium to do what it does best.

Yasmin Tuazon I'm totally behind audience interaction/involvement if it fits the action or style of performance. If done right, it can be a very inclusive & connecting experience. (I think particularly of the way "Memoria Brassica" worked at the Source Festival.) There's also a difference between interacting with an audience and expecting them to participate.

The performer/audience relationship needs to be cultivated like any other. Boundaries & expectations need to be established. Performers need to (a) create a safe space for the audience, and (b) be savvy enough to involve only those who are game.

For performances where the goal is not audience comfort - that is fair game too. Most shows like this don't hide it, and I believe there's a certain "buyer beware" implicit.

At the end of the day, if the reason for the performer/audience relationship is clear and substantial, it can make for good theater. Otherwise, it's just another convention that, misused, can bore or annoy.

Jonathon Church Well, the extreme version of this where audience members are actually pulled up on stage is not something to take lightly, as you suggest. In my experience, it works best when you've kept it light, brief and them in the seats, looking for your eventual scene partner and not just diving in before gauging someone's openness to the moment. It gives them a chance to get used to it, and to telegraph their feelings about it. If they don't make eye contact, move on. If they look uncomfortable or embarrassed, move on(hopefully thanking/apologizing to them verbally or otherwise). Your enthusiastic audience members will be apparent after just a few brief asides and a small bit of eye contact. Sometimes your most enthusiastic audience members can be the last ones you want on stage, as they have their own idea about what's going to happen next.

I would agree that not everybody who is doing this is doing it right or needs to be doing it. That can apply to any area of theatre though. Petermarks seems to suggest that it is all bad because he doesn't want it or has had bad experiences. Everybody has their opinion. His is louder than most. But no matter who suggested it, would we as quickly get rid of the use of footlights, stage makeup, strobes, smoking, stage combat, or any number of things which when done poorly make the whole enterprise look bad or the audience feel uncomfortable?

I think we can have "more faith in our medium to do what it does best" by understanding in the first place what we are trying to do. Our medium is a wide and varied place with a variety of skill levels, training and subscribers/audience expectation. Let's not decide to only do modern plays because some inexperienced high schoolers did Julius Caesar poorly, for instance.

I find it surprising that Peter Marks doesn't seem to see this distinction or has never seen audience interaction work. The fact that the denizens of the Zinoplex may have been wholly unprepared and resistant to it is not surprising though.

I wonder what you are hinting at about Rorschach's way around that fourth wall. Other than non-traditional spaces, I can't recall anything too fourth wall breaking in past productions. Performing in a fountain or a greenhouse or a metro is non-traditional, performing in an arts complex blackbox in the round isn't so much. You just change the shape and location of the fourth wall.

Des Kennedy what a great discussion! Well done Jenny (and Peter). here is an interesting article from this side of the pond...

Joel Reuben Ganz There are clearly Many different angles on this argument. And both sides have valid concerns. the use of audience interaction can be a powerful tool, or a distraction from what you are trying to accomplish. But it certainly depends on What the objective of the piece is, and then How one employs the technique/s of breaking the 4th wall.

P.Marks simplistic and reactionary article is one sided, unevaluative, and dismissive of what can be a powerful and useful technique in theatre. If all art and theatre are presented in ONE way, is that art? and if audiences are Always allowed their safe space, are artists doing their jobs?

Jenny McConnell Frederick

With regard to Rorschach, my comment was an admittedly oblique reference to conversations we've had internally about the future of the company. Less a reference to our past work--though I'd say we're pretty consistent about not asking our audiences to perform for us.

That being said, in this thread (and others about this article from Peter), it seems many are affronted by his post. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the piece is a blog post--a vent, a rant even, about an accumulation of recent personal experiences as an audience member. I seriously doubt that Peter truly thinks all kinds of audience interaction should be banned. I take it less as an insult from the Washington Post critic, and more as a compelling launching point for a really valid conversation.

The article Des just posted has a lot of good examples. There are a lot of amazing things happening right now. Anyone who's been within feet of me in the last six months has heard me extolling the amazing experience I had at SLEEP NO MORE this winter. And that piece is actually a great example one way that an audience experience can be totally interactive--the audience is throughly submerged in the experience, but is virtually never called upon to perform. And that for me, is an important distinction.

Joel Reuben Ganz

I think that Peter's article, even considered as a "provocation"(which is a great way to inspire dialogue about art and How we do what we do), is a bit short sighted.
Even in Blog format, one would expect The main theatre critic in our area
to seek to present an argument that has balance and creates the space for a discussion, such as the one that many of us are engaging in here.
it would be great to think that he would be involved in this discussion.

alas, as with a lot of the reviews he writes, i find it lacking in perspective and evaluative thought.

as the head of a fantastic company that has always worked to examine the bounds of theatre and presentation, i'm aware that you are open to these experiments, and see the validity in all sides.

this discussion is good fun.
and i also enjoyed Des' link very much. i've read a bunch about the theatre in London and what they are playing with in this regard.

Matthew Frederick And I wonder what Jonathan is hinting at when he says that someone who has a different opinion of audience interaction doesn't understand it. Perhaps you can explain to me why my interaction should end once you've "invited" me onstage. At that point I'm part of the show and I assume my actions aren't scripted. Or are we still talking about children's theatre?

Jonathon Church I don't think I understand what you are saying in your final two sentences, Matt. I don't think that someone who has a different opinion of it doesn't understand, I think that anybody who has the opinion that it should be stopped, always and forever in every case, doesn't understand. And I think your interaction should *begin* once I've "invited" you to be onstage, not end.

Matthew Frederick And that certainly could be unpredictable depending on what sort of audience member/performer shows up that night.

Jonathon Church Yeah! And that is exhilarating.

Wyckham Avery this sounds like every production meeting at dog & pony dc... We like to call what we do "audience integration" because we too kinda hate the idea of being *pulled* on to stage, we do however love the idea of being *invited* in to the play somehow. Too often, as an audience member I am freaking BORED because I feel like the playmakers forgot there was an audience. So, basically I am saying "you're all pretty" or really, I think you are all correct. Live theatre should be alive and connecting with the audience and we as makers of this art should step up and find out how we do it, and not just assume the audience will like it cuz we worked wicked hard on it. Damn you Peter Marks for making us have a great conversation on FB!!

Rachel Grossman So thrilled to read eveyone's comments here. A parallel, separate but similar conversation engaged over my posting as well. Thanks Jenny and all for tackling this topic so awesomely. Giving me tons to think on.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Inside Klecksography

For those of you who want a closer look at Sunday, September 5th's KLECKSOGRAPHY here's a little behind the scenes action:

Read all four scripts here:

Technical Difficulties by Randy Baker (or The Inciting Incidents)
The Package by Allyson Currin
Feet Forward by Anne M. McCaw
Mass Times Motion by James Heslas


Want to know more about Klecksography?

Check back here after 4PM, September 5th.