PEP | Performers Exchange Project

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PEP has a new show on the horizon!

Convolution Hamner

Hi everyone, it’s Siân and Kara. For over a year now, we have been at times wandering and at times striding toward a two-person show of our own design. We are almost there.

The Convolution of Pip and Twig is a story of twins navigating the light and the shadow of a complicated love, through well-worn routines, and epic adventure. We are creating and performing this show with direction by Martha and text contributions from Jennifer. We are grateful to The Hamner Theater, who is giving us assistance as our presenter.

The play will have it’s inaugural run December 10-14 in the Round Room dance studio in the Old Michie Building in Charlottesville VA. Audience size will be very limited there, but the show will run again with room for a larger audience at Live Arts’ Founders Theater at the end of Feb 2015.

Keep an eye out here or follow us on Facebook for details and updates. We will be posting peeks into source material and our approach to play development, for those of you who like that sort of thing, and the wheres, whens and hows, for those of you who just want the facts. Thank you to Vu Nguyen for the groovy poster image above.

Now, we should probably get back to work!

Until next time,
Siân and Kara

Autumn Update

Hello Friends! It’s time to catch you up the current activities of our collective members here in Charlottesville and beyond:

Kara and Siân are in the process of creating a new (as-yet-unnamed) play with direction by Martha and text contributions by Jennifer. We will be posting more about this project here and on PEP’s Facebook Fan Page as the show moves toward performance in December 2014 and February 2015. We hope to see you there!

Jennifer has begun work on an MFA in Playwriting and has been working on her project, “While You Wait”, a “microgallery of mystery that is on an endless tour of our city. The Attendant asks you to spend 5 minutes alone with whatever is in the box”.
You can keep up with her here:

On the other side of the mountain, Doreen has been in the thick of teaching MFA students in the Shakespeare and Performance program at Mary Baldwin College.  She just finished directing a devised show with the students called Little Life. Based on three Shakespeare plays (Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, and The Winter’s Tale) and one play by Thomas Middleton (A Chaste Maid in Cheapside) this original performance traced the lives of the four heroines, or “lost girls,” from birth to death.  Next up on her plate she’ll be directing, Metamorphoses, by Mary Zimmerman for the undergraduate drama department at Mary Baldwin College.

In other news, Martha has been working toward her MFA in screenwriting. We gathered with some friends recently to read through her screenplay, Artist of the Beautiful. It was a perfect reason to spend time with some of our favorite people, to quietly inaugurate a friend’s beautiful new studio space, Native Pond, and to give Martha a chance to hear all of her (many times revised) words out loud.

artistbeautiful1.jpg Artistbeautiful2.jpg
Thank you for your support!
Love, PEP

Workshop: “Creating Physical Material for Performance”

PEP is now offering the following workshop at Live Arts in Charlottesville:

Creating Physical Material for Performance

(8-week session)

5 participants min/10 participants max

Learn how to create physical scores (actor-generated “material”) that can be used to create characters, blocking, and scenes for performance.

In the first few classes, actors will create a short physical score and learn every part of it with precision in mind. Then we will move on to manipulating this score with various treatments, such as speed and size. We will also marry these physical elements with text to investigate the potential possibilities for performance.

This class will introduce actors to tools they can use to deepen their control of their physical and vocal work and expand their range.

Please come dressed and ready to move. We will work in bare feet. You should also come with a short piece of text (5/6 lines) you have completely memorized. It doesn’t matter at all what the text is.

Who?  This class is designed for all levels of actors.

When?  Sundays 4:00pm-6:00pm, Jan 12-Mar 2

Where? 123 East Water Street, 4th floor (Rehearsal A)

Tuition: $160, $144 for Friends of Live Arts



Training workshop wraps up this weekend…

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Here are some photos from the past 4 months of our physical training workshop. Thank you to all who participated!

PEP offers Physical Training Workshop

We are offering a workshop on the methods PEP uses for actor training and building work. Martha Mendenhall will be leading the workshop the second weekend of each month, March through June 2013. We are asking that participants sign up for the whole shebang as each month will build on the work that came before.

There will also be an optional two hour training session every Thursday during this time, facilitated by Siân Richards and Kara McLane Burke. These are included in monthly training cost.

Here are the details:

March 9 & 10
April 13 & 14
May 11 & 12
June 8 & 9

Saturdays  12pm-4pm
Sundays  9am-1pm

Additional Thurs training:
March 14, 21, 28.
April 4, 11, 18, 25,
May 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, June 6th.

Miki Liszt Dance Studio (our gracious sponsor)
McGuffey Arts Center, Charlottesville

$60 for each month,which is a total of $240 for the series.
Due in advance or in two installments (Thursday training included.)

Registration closes March 1st.

Whether this is completely new to you, or you want to go deeper with the training (Madwomen and men!), we hope you consider signing up.  Below are some of Martha’s thoughts on the value of this training, and what you can expect if you join us.

Please email us with questions at

All the best,


The three cornerstones of the training we will pursue are:

1.  PRECISION. The precision of the form – training exercise, etude or set
group form — is the first step.  This means learning something
completely and thoroughly by heart, which is only really possible with
lots of repetition.   Strive to reach the place where you can execute
the form without having to grasp for/worry about what comes next and you
have mastered the form’s elements.  For training purposes, an element
is any piece of an exercise, etude or form.  I usually refer to an etude’s
elements as physical material.  Your combined physical material makes
up the personal material that has been created by you.

Keep in mind that:

Each element, each part of the whole form, must be thoroughly comprehended.
A useful treatment tool for developing precision is honing in on one
element within a form and repeating it numerous times and/or executing
it backwards as well as forwards.  You can also deepen the specificity
by asking yourself questions such as:  Where is my weight?  Which part
of my body is leading?  What is my hand/foot/head doing at this moment?
No matter how much treatment (use of a tools such as speed, size, etc.)
you apply when working with a form, the precision of each element must
not be lost.  If precision gets fuzzy, drop the treatment and go back to
simply executing the form.

2.  TRANSITIONS.  It is generally common to rush through transition moments –
the moments that come between the individual elements – assuming that the
transition between elements — the journey — doesn’t hold the same value as the
gesture itself – the destination.  Making use of the moments of transition
between elements is the key to allowing opportunities for change and
surprise into your work.  Often, it is the transition between elements
that holds the potential, the moment of possibility in which the
audience will either be fascinated, wondering what will happen next, or
bored, already a few beats ahead of what is about to, predictably,
happen next.
Begin by identifying natural transitions.  In physical work, natural transitions
occur when you change levels, begin or end a piece of material, or just
before or after you step or leap through space.
As your work develops, it will become vital to challenge yourself by avoiding the
natural transition points and, instead, investigate less obvious (even
self-imposed) ones.  Playing with the placement and timing of
transitions will increase the rhythmic possibilities in any action.  The
use of pauses comes in to play here, and we will also address the
notion of sats, as it relates to transitions.
At first, transitions are about the ability to consciously manifest change, an
internal event.  Ultimately, transitions are about receiving an impulse,
instigated by an external event, to change.  You will begin by
consciously identifying or choosing points of transition, but the real
goal is to remain open to the impulse to change that is given from
outside – other performers, sounds, etc.

3.  TREATMENT. Treating your material is all about the how rather than the what of
your physical material.  At first, you’ll be treating your material in
order to expand the range of possibilities that you employ in your
performance work.  Actors (as does everyone) have natural affinities for
certain speeds, sizes and ranges of sound and movement.  Your first
task with any treatment should be to explore the extremes – from very slow to very fast,
very large to very small. This will obviously push you past your comfort zone, but it will
provide you with a much wider physical and vocal rage of possibility.
It will also increase your stamina.  Working at the extremes challenges
you to invest yourself 100% in what you are doing.
Working, at first, with extremes in treatments also makes it easier to keep track of
what you are doing when you change from one treatment and another.  At
first, stick to working with only one or two types of treatment each
time you go on the floor.  In this way, while working, you will be less
likely to loose track of or forget what you are working on.  There will
always be time to become more complex.  Keep it simple.  You want to
have control of your work, not allow it to frustrate or stymie your
ability to experiment.  Simpler, at this stage, is probably better.
Treatment tools include:
Reversing the sequence of action
Intensity or force
Rhythm (examples:  flowing, staccato, chaotic, or lyrical)
Working with sats
Physical dynamics (more on this later)

The Madwoman Project is open!

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Some PEPsters have been busy this summer working on THE MADWOMAN PROJECT, directed by Kay Ferguson. Siân and Kara are performing, and Martha led the ensemble in physical and vocal training. The text is the 1943 French satire, The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giradoux. It’s been a pleasure to have the time to train on a regular basis, and to collaborate with a strong team of talented artists, some we’ve known a long time, some we’ve never worked with before.

Note early start time in the evenings

+ 2pm Sunday matinees on Sept 16th & 30th

You can catch Act 1 for FREE on the Downtown Mall (corner of 3rd ST NE), and then follow the parade to The Haven on Market St for Act 2. Pay-What-You-Can at the door only. Suggested Donation $20 (half of all proceeds go to the Haven).  In case of rain, Act I will be in the Haven as well.

Here is the website with performance times/dates, photos, text about the vision, the process, bios of the performers and production team, etc.

If you are in the Charlottesville VA area in September, come check out a performance!

The current doings of Performers Exchange Project

Hello friends-

Here is an update on the current projects of PEP. We are not working on a group project at the moment, but we still have some irons in the fire.

Our very own Doreen has wrapped up all her hard work on her MFA in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College, which culminated in her first foray into film. Her thesis project was a silent black and white film based on Shakespeare’s A Winters Tale. Kara and Siân got the chance to participate in the roles of Hermione and Paulina. As a result of all her efforts, Doreen has been hired to create a brand new position at Mary Baldwin College, as the Company Manager/Director of Training for the Master of Letters in Shakespeare/Performance program. We are so thrilled and can’t wait to see the work she will make with the masters students there.

In June, Siân, Martha and Kara began work on The Madwoman Project, directed by Kay Ferguson. You might remember Kay as our guest performer for the initial run of Our American Ann Sisters at Live Arts in Charlottesville. Now she is producing and directing this new project and will be working with her cast of six through the summer to build a show that opens in September in Downtown Charlottesville. Martha is working with the actors on physical and vocal training, work that is based on the training she and Siân originally learned and worked with as company members of Theatre Du Jour in Washington D.C. As I write this, the cast (including Sian and Kara) and designers are hard at work. It is a huge luxury to get to spend time four nights a week training!

Jennifer has been working as Executive Director of CLAW USA for the last year.  CLAW, the philanthropic, theatrical ladies arm wrestling league that started here in Charlottesville (Founded by Jennifer and our friend Jodie Plaisance) in 2008, has sprouted leagues all over the country, which, collectively, have raised over $200,000 for donation to women’s organizations and projects. Just this month, the first annual SUPER CLAW, a smack down between all CLAW USA’s member leagues, took place in Charlotttesville and raised over $12,300 to be split among the eight wrestlers’ chosen causes.

Last November, Martha received a grant from the Winston-Salem, NC area Arts Council to publish her 60-minute version of Romeo and Juliet.  The book, titled The Shakespeare Guru’s Guide to Getting Shakespeare Alive offers tips aimed at teachers and directors for bringing Shakespeare’s plays in general and Romeo and Juliet in particular to life in a classroom or on stage.  It is now available online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Clearly, the PEPsters have a lot brewing.  We will do our best to keep you up to date on all  the details…

The Unearthing performances

Happy new year everyone!

Sian, Jennifer and Kara will be performing in THE UNEARTHING, an international exchange and site-specific installation dance theater performance directed by our friend and colleague Zap McConnell. She is an extremely creative and inspired director, choreographer, installation artist and activist. Her work is always worth experiencing. Come see us!

Wed- Sun Feb. 1-5
Wed- Sun Feb 8-12
Charlottesville, VA in the old gymnasium at the Ix complex downtown, next to PlayOn Theatre.

Here is the website for info about the project, specific dates/times and how to buy tickets:

If you are in the area, I hope you can check it out.
love, PEP

A Visit with Annika

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On Nov 11 and 12, Performers Exchange Project hosted director/performer Annika B. Lewis, founder of Kassandra Production in Denmark.

First a little background of our connection to Annika:  PEP’s method of training and creating performance came from our old friend B. Stanley of Theatre Du Jour in Washington D.C., via Sian and Martha, who studied and worked with TDJ.  B. met Annika when working with his mentor Ingemar Lindh in Italy. When she received a grant this year for her first US residency, B. arranged for Annika to perform her show and discuss her work at the District of Columbia Art Center (where he is Artistic and Executive Director), and asked PEP if we could put something together in our neck of the woods.

We had a lovely weekend together of performance, workshop and lots of talking and gathering.
Our friend Paul Menzer and Mary Baldwin College generously hosted Annika for a workshop, and provided the touring group with a beautiful place to stay. Doreen hosted the gang and our friends and colleagues from Staunton in her home for dinner and drinks and talking and laughing.

Early the next morning we headed over the mountain to The Hamner Theater in Nelson County and spent the day setting up Annika’s show for a one night engagement there. Here is where we must sing the praises of Boomie Pederson and Jay Taylor at The Hamner, our wonderful co-hosts for her performance. It is an absolute pleasure to collaborate with these warm, hardworking, risk-taking people. We are so fortunate to have such a resource for original work in our community.  And the audience at the Hamner was full, warm, supportive, and enthusiastic about her funny and smart show, Let’s Get Personal.

It was our pleasure to meet and host a kindred spirit, and to have an excuse to show off our home, our colleagues and our old friends here. We would like to thank all the people who helped us make it possible:

B Stanley
Dr Paul Menzer
Boomie Pederson
Jay Taylor
Peter Coy
Larry Hugo
Thadd McQuade
Tay Strauss
Corey Lloyd
Brett Santry

and we encourage you to support local businesses that support the arts:
The Hamner Theater
Mary Baldwin College -Shakespeare & Performance
Stuart Hall School
Ingrid Berger
Market Street Wineshop
DC Arts Center

Love, PEP

One Night Only performance by Annika B. Lewis!

PEP is thrilled to be hosting acclaimed Danish/Swedish performance artist Annika B. Lewis. She is concluding a 6 week residency in Washington DC, including a run at the DC Arts Center, and we will be presenting her performance at the Hamner Theater for ONE NIGHT ONLY.

Here are the details:

Performers Exchange Project presents

Let’s Get Personal

A performance by Annika B. Lewis

Saturday November 12th 7:30 pm
at The Hamner Theater
190 Rockfish School Lane
Afton, VA 22920

Suggested Donation $15
The performance is approximately 3o minutes long and will be followed by a question and answer discussion and reception.

Annika Lewis, in her Danish Arts Council-funded Kassandra Production LET’S GET PERSONAL, utilizes humor, absurdity and the self-help culture to deliver a provocative performance about the role of personal branding in attaining professional success.  Lewis, who is known for merging technology, theatre and dance, delivers this parody in the form of a motivational lecture and performance on how to successfully use blunders on Facebook and official public apologies for personal optimization. In twisting the entire milieu of motivational speaking she acidly comments on the roles of collective bedazzlement, radical political positioning, and the arts in a society increasingly driven by the experience economy.

“Let’s Get Personal” is a darkly funny riff on George Orwell’s “1984.”
– The Washington Times

Annika Lewis

Choreographer/director/artist Annika B. Lewis studied at Larssons Theatre Academy in Gothenburg/Sweden and at the Istituto di Arte Scenica (Institute for Scenic Art) in Pontremoli/Italy from 1987 to 1990.  She went on to complete her post-graduate studies in theatre in 2002 at Scut/Gitis, the state theatre school of Moscow, Russia.   Additionally Lewis has studied various forms of dance and choreography.  In 1998, Lewis founded Kassandra Production through which she has created work characterized by a conceptually strong interdisciplinary approach, mixing the trivial with the philosophical to examine modern humanity in a challenging and entertaining way.  Lewis has toured Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Portugal, Germany, Russia, Latvia, Belgium, Brazil, the United Kingdom and now the United States with her performances, installations and interventions. Her acting credits include: Year accountancies (2010), Let’s Get Personal (2010), Body Box#1 (2009), TWIST cabaret (2009), eXtasy (2009), Full Body Treatment (2008), Life Hacking (2008), XpositionREVERSE: Aarhus-Gothenburg (2006), Dancin’ Madly Backwards (2006), Life Is Fabulous (2005), Displacement (2005), XpositionLAB (2004), My Heart Is Yours (2004), Aurora Borealis: Aarhus-Reykjavik (2003), Delusion (2003), The Experiment of Choice/Limbo.03 (2003), Symposium X (2002), Real Time Open Door (2000), Real Time Lab (1999), A Thorn in the Eye (1998).

Come join us!