Levi King’s Emerging Director Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the fourth blog post by Barbadian actor & director Levi King, the current participant in the Emerging Director Residency Programme held in collaboration with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). Levi’s fourth week was all about facing challenges, and learning to adapt in order to overcome these. It was also a reminder that, in any project or production, clearing these hurdles is a group effort, and it is important to have a support network (both personal & professional) to call on and collaborate with to reach your goals. Read more below:

Weaknesses, Challenges & Adaptability

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin

I had plans. Like, nuff nuff plans (nuff means a lot, to whomever may be reading this blog but is unaware of the particulars of Bajan syntax). I had plans for how I was going to approach this residency. I had plans for how I was going to arrange the time, and even gave some thought to how I was going to handle any contingencies… I was still not fully prepared. One thing that makes a difference in any situation, is one’s ability to adapt to challenges.

In light of the plans I had for myself and this residency, circumstances had different plans for me. As is usual with anything requiring more than one person, where one or more of the people already have daily commitments, scheduling was hard. Admittedly, this is one weakness I have; I can organise my own time, but not other people’s. Still, I had to make it work. I had to recast an actor two weeks before we were supposed to show. Another had a situation with work that made their participation seem unlikely at the time if I wasn’t able to work out a different date. At the time that occurred, I was already too close to the date to recast as the character played by this actor is central. I had just one rehearsal, and halfway through my mentor arrived and gave me copious amounts of notes and things to think about and change. Needless to say, anxiety grabbed me from behind and put me in a full nelson hold *arms flail helplessly*. There were other challenges as well, but we don’t have enough time this episode to cover them all.

“In the face of challenges, you are met first by your weaknesses.”- Levi King

So I saw just my weaknesses, focusing on planning in the wrong areas, needing a different approach to my rehearsal process ( I was doing what I knew instead of challenging myself to really experiment because I was afraid of not having enough time). I froze for a bit when the challenges with time and recasting came. I actually thought for a minute that I may have had to cancel the showing because it would not have been ready. I had, for a few days, a crippling fear of failing. I felt overwhelmed a bit by the challenges, but challenges come with every endeavour in life (life, we gotta talk bout this, can it not be easy sometimes? Everything does gotta find a point to stress ya out at?). Many of my concerns were handled after meeting with Katherine Kennedy (Fresh Milk) and Janelle Mitchell (NCF) and discussing the challenges that I had. We came to arrangements.

Cool.

So.

Most crises averted, I still have work to do though.

“In the face of challenges, you are next met by opportunity.”- Levi King

Fortunately for me, I was able to call on people I know to assist (that’s all I did for the whole process lol). With the actor that had to leave the project, I was able to call on another actor I know to come fill in the position. My mentor Sonia has this way of working, where she makes you confront yourself and overcome the issue facing you in an encouraging atmosphere. This was instrumental, since all she had to do was mention what she was concerned about, for me to look at it differently. My S/O, Luci, also a professional theatre practitioner, was able to offer invaluable observations when she was at the first rehearsal.

I had to look at each challenge as an opportunity. The recasting, an opportunity for new collaboration. The rescheduling of performance, an opportunity to explore handling challenges with corporate bodies. The scheduling issues with actors, an opportunity to collaborate with the cast in solving the problems we were facing together, instead of dealing with it alone. Lil depression, an opportunity to instill some of the discipline required to succeed in life.

With each opportunity, you strengthen your adaptability. In theatre, as much as the responsibility for how the show works is on the director, it is still a team effort. As much as the director has to adapt, so do cast and crew (and they really did cause my next rehearsal was hype). The NCF and Fresh Milk adapted to the challenges and worked with the team to make everything easier. It feels like the team and I may yet make it through. So I look to the next week, which is my last in the residency, with determination. I have shaken off most of the feeling of being overwhelmed, but I am still keeping some because you know what people say about growth happening when you’re uncomfortable. I remain grateful for the challenges, because they make me stronger. In a world of corn flakes, I am still learning to be porridge when I feel like warmed over tap water.

“Mi will move mountains with less than faith
Mi nuh frighten fi food, make the restaurant wait
Porridge badder than cornflakes…”- Hold It, Vybz Kartel

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ncf mark rgb2This project is a collaborative initiative, funded by the NCF Barbados

Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellowship 2018 Open Call

As a direct outcome of the Tilting Axis meeting held at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands in May 2017, the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies has come together with Tilting Axis to offer a Curatorial Fellowship to an emerging curator living and working in the Caribbean.

This Fellowship opportunity focuses on curators living and working within the Caribbean region, and is both research and practice-led, and mentor-based. The Fellow will receive a maximum of USD$5,500 towards a fee, travel, accommodation and living costs. The Fellowship is supported by University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies.

This Fellowship includes round-trip airfare from any country within the Caribbean to Austin, Texas, where the Fellow will have access to private accomodation, in the award-winning home of Susanna and Richard Finnell, local collectors, for a period of four weeks. During this timeframe, the Fellow will be able to view and work with the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies’ Collection along with the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies Collection, and the campus libraries.

This Fellowship also includes access to the 800-piece private Christian-Green Collection comprised of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American art works, with a dedicated focus on works from Haiti. The Fellow will also have access to the Christian-Green’s Reading Room and will be mentored by Lise Ragbir, the Director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies at UT, with whom he/she will work to produce a fully funded exhibition in the Warfield Center’s Idea Lab Gallery, in the Fall of 2019.

Application Process:

Proposals will be judged by an international jury consisting of curators, academics, and museum professionals, after which shortlisted candidates (3) will be invited for an interview via Skype.

The Fellow will be selected on the basis of a letter of interest stating how this opportunity and access to collections and archives would inform and develop their curatorial practice, and why they think they would be a good candidate. The proposal should be no longer than 1000 words, and can be submitted to: tiltingaxis@gmail.com.

Please enclose CV and two references.

The Fellowship will be conducted over a four week period in either the Fall semester of 2018 or the Spring semester of 2019. Exact dates to be determined in consultation with the mentor.

The submission deadline for applications is May 18th, 2018, and the Curatorial Fellow will be announced at the upcoming Tilting Axis 4 meeting in the Dominican Republic on May 31st – June 2nd, 2018.

Jurors will be:

  • Lise Ragbir, the Director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies at The University of Texas at Austin
  • Eddie Chambers, Professor in the Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin
  • Holly Bynoe, ARC Magazine, The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and Tilting Axis co-founder
  • Tobias Ostrander, Senior Curator, PAMM
  • Mario Caro, board member of Res Artis, Tilting Axis partner
  • Annalee Davis, Fresh Milk Barbados, Tilting Axis co-founder
  • Natalie Urquhart, Director, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands
  • Sara Hermann, Visual Arts Consultant, Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes
  • Joel Butler, Visual Arts and Exhibitions Coordinator, Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes

 

A True & Exact History – An Exhibition & Poetry Installation by Sonia Farmer

Fresh Milk is excited for our next public event, an exhibition & panel discussion on A True & Exact History – an erasure poem by Bahamian writer & artist Sonia Farmer, using Richard Ligon’s publication “A True & Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes” (1657) as its source material.

The opening night & artist talk will be held at 6:30 PM, Monday April 30, 2018 at Fresh Milk, Walkers Dairy, St. George, Barbados,  and the exhibition will also be open for viewing on
Tuesday May 1, 2018 between 10 AM – 2 PM.

Sonia will be in conversation about her work with Ayesha Gibson-Gill, Cultural Officer for Literary Arts at the National Cultural Foundation, and Tara Inniss, Lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

This event is free and open to the public. Directions to Fresh Milk can be found on the About Page of our website here.

RSVP to the event on Facebook here.

Artist Statement for A True & Exact History

I consider my writing practice a tool for disrupting and investigating existing narratives, forming a response that is not necessarily preoccupied with making new narratives to replace them, but rather exposing different narratives as a parallel, ultimately calling into question the inherent power structure in the existing narrative (such as historical accounts, folktales, mythologies, canonical books, etc). Experimental process of generation, such as erasure, found text, mistranslation, technological intervention, or other restrictive methods, are especially exciting opportunities to create direct responses to existing narratives by using its own language against itself. The resulting text then becomes the content for my final projects.

The core of my artist book A True & Exact History is an erasure of one of the most formative descriptions of the English Caribbean in the seventeenth Century, Richard Ligon’s 1657 guidebook, “A True and Exact History of Barbadoes.” This project began during March 2016 at a writing residency at Fresh Milk, an art platform in St. George, Barbados, where I encountered Ligon’s book through their Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Using the language, imagery, and thematic drives at the core of this text to disrupt the teleology of colonial Caribbean history, these unbound poetic fragments scattered among a shifting landscape simultaneously re-create and resist narrative as a device of cohesive history, ultimately calling into question what it means to write “a true and exact history” of anything.

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About Sonia Farmer:

Sonia Farmer is a writer, visual artist, and small press publisher who uses letterpress printing, bookbinding, hand-papermaking, and digital projects to build narratives about the Caribbean space. She is the founder of Poinciana Paper Press, a small and independent press located in Nassau, The Bahamas, which produces handmade and limited edition chapbooks of Caribbean literature and promotes the crafts of book arts through workshops and creative collaborations. Her artwork has been exhibited throughout Nassau including at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. She is the author of “Infidelities” (Poinciana Paper Press, 2017) which was longlisted for the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. She has also self-published several chapbooks. Her poetry has won the 2011 Prize in the Small Axe Literary Competition and has appeared in various journals. She holds a BFA in Writing from Pratt Institute and is currently pursuing her MFA studies in Book Arts at the University of Iowa. 

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About Ayesha Gibson-Gill:

Ayesha Gibson-Gill M.A Arts Management (Greenwich), B.A Theatre Studies (Acadia) is a writer, director, actor, drama tutor, arts administrator, producer, former radio announcer, sometime vocalist and always mother.   In 2017 she conceptualized and artistically produced a signal CARIFESTA XIII event, Word for Word- Night of the Literary Masters, along with other literary engagements. She has been the Cultural Officer for Literary Arts at the National Cultural Foundation Barbados since 2012.

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About Tara Inniss:

Tara Inniss is a Lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at Cave Hill Campus, The University of the West Indies (UWI). Her focus areas include: history of medicine; history of social policy; and heritage and social development. In 2002-03, she received a Split-Site Commonwealth PhD Scholarship to study at the UWI/University of Manchester. In 2007, she completed a Masters in International Social Development at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Dr. Inniss has served as a delegate for the Government of Barbados on the World Heritage Committee, and was a member of the Research Team which assembled the Nomination Dossier for UNESCO World Heritage Property Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. She currently sits on several committees for the Barbados World Heritage Committee, Barbados Museum and Historical Society and is Secretary-Treasurer of the Association of Caribbean Historians (ACH).

Levi King’s Emerging Director Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the third blog post by Barbadian actor & director Levi King, the current participant in the Emerging Director Residency Programme held in collaboration with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). The third week came with its own set of obstacles to overcome, in terms of casting choices, remaining on schedule and evaluating strengths and weaknesses; but Levi has risen to the challenge, keeping in mind that a residency is best experienced as a space for growth and problem solving rather than a point of pressure. Read more below:

Third week curses

So, I heard one time that productions are sometimes plagued in the third week (that is, productions with a four week rehearsal time). This means that in the third week it looks like things are about to fall apart, much like the mid-point of a screenplay.

NARRATOR (O.S.)
Will they be able to do it? Can they overcome the obstacle?

Well this third week was challenging. On good advice from my mentor, I had to recast a part in the production. Finding someone was a challenge, but I finally was able to get someone to agree to be part of the production, which comes with its own challenges. How will I fit all these schedules into a workable rehearsal schedule. I have no idea. Then I start to worry about whether I’ll be able to get the actors to work well together, will I be able to get them to the places the material will take them to and bring them back? Questions, questions, questions, problems, problems, problems.

Anxiety.

I hadn’t spent much time at Fresh Milk due to other challenges, but also because I only have so many hours and can’t spend all of them just reading.

So I have my actors, I am confident in their abilities, I am hopeful about mine, I still have challenges with scheduling (to be honest this is one of my weaker points that I need to work on, I am good at organising myself and my vision, but need help with production management and stage management).

NARRATOR (O.S.)
Will he be able to rise to the challenge?

Challenge… accepted? If there is one thing this residency has made me confront, it is some of my weaknesses, and I know one residency isn’t what I need to fix every issue I have as an aspiring director. It also has made me realise two important things, this third week slump:

  1. I began to focus on all the problems I was having and went from a state of merely whelmed, to slightly overwhelmed.
  2. I forgot one of the most basic pieces of advice I give to everyone else in my life. Focus more on solutions (not politically affiliated), especially in the middle of the problems.

I had to remember to be solution minded. Couldn’t get the situation to go mostly how I wanted it, so why not just roll with the tides and be glad for the fact that there is momentum until I can figure out how to make that momentum faster (Shout out to Luci for working through a slight issue I had today, shout out to Rosette on that convo this morning for giving me that strong reminder).

So I’m still in the process of figuring it out, granted this is what it’s all about. It’s taking it to questions, questions, questions, solutions, solutions, solutions.

Still anxiety though.

Till next time folks.

NARRATOR (O.S.)
Tune in next week for…

LEVI
Big man, who is you and why you all up in my blog?!

NARRATOR (O.S.)
anotherblogfromLeviabouttheresidency.
(runs away)

Third week blessings.

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ncf mark rgb2This project is a collaborative initiative, funded by the NCF Barbados

Levi King’s Emerging Director Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the second blog post by Barbadian actor & director Levi King, the current participant in the Emerging Director Residency Programme held in collaboration with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). This week, Levi reflects on his first session with his mentor for the residency, Barbadian performance artist, theatre director, writer and educator in theatre arts Sonia Williams. Their discussion reminded him that as important as it is to be detail oriented, it is equally critical to focus on the fundamentals of a project, ensuring there is a solid foundation to build upon. Read more below:

K.I.S.S.

So when taking on something as important to your development as a first residency, it is easy to overlook some things. Having spent some hours this week speaking to my mentor Sonia Williams, I came to a conclusion. I was so focused on details, that I was not giving the right focus to the whole project. In the conversation, my mind started to go where it usually does; following the trail the words are creating til it comes across something seemingly unrelated, but which pieced together well in my head. It went a little like this:

Mentor: *asks a basic question expecting a simple answer*
Me, an intellectual: *responds with long winded thing that is barely part of the answer*
Mentor: *asks same question again*
Me, clearly not intellectual enough: *dials it back and sees the actual question being asked, tries to answer that*

Then we move on.

This process basically took my ears and wrung them, dug into the file-o-fax in my brain and produced a saying I saw or heard somewhere a time ago: K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Stupid. I was missing the forest for trying to look at each tree, I was missing the whole painting for looking at each brush stroke. I wasn’t on the wrong path entirely, but I was making it harder for myself than I needed to, because I wasn’t asking myself the basic questions I should have been.

I wasn’t keeping it simple. By keeping it simple I don’t mean abandoning any intricate details of what I envisioned. I simply mean that I was leaving out some fundamental basic things that would strengthen the work I was doing. I had to revise my approach to these fundamental aspects of how I was working and keep it simple. In this case, keeping it simple meant, for me, not to overlook the fundamentals.

My lesson this week was about these fundamentals, even though the conversation was about Grotowski, Brecht, Boal, Stanislavski, working with actors, and going through the script. Damon Wayans said in a performance (and I’m paraphrasing from the show My Wife and Kids), “Don’t forget the fun-da-mentals, because that’s what makes da mentals fun.” So lemme go forward and do de rest uh dis werk. Til next time ppls.

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ncf mark rgb2This project is a collaborative initiative, funded by the NCF Barbados