I’ve featured a lot of book and webcomic Kickstarters on this page, so here’s something a little bit different: a theatrical Kickstarter. The students of Oakland School of the Arts are taking a very personal theatrical creation, “Signs of Our Occupy,” to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, and they need help with production expenses. In the following interview, conducted through OSA theater teacher Michael Berry-Berlinski, the students of OSA talk about why this project matters and why you should help them raise as much money as they can:
ANTHONY: Hello OSA! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me about “Signs of our Occupy.” Let’s start with the easy question: what is “Signs of our Occupy” about?
“Signs of our Occupy” is an original theatre production consisting of 14 monologues, each expressing a unique perspective on the Occupy Movement. The show looks at issues and hot buttons that involved thousands of people in the Oakland area. The show is political in nature, but we do not take any particular political position. Instead, we offer commentary on the events themselves, as told through characters that are fictional in nature. Each of the 14 monologues are based on actual signs created by protesters in the movement. ~ Sarah
ANTHONY: Most of us were distanced from the Occupy movements (in Oakland, in New York, and elsewhere). They were just images on the screens of our televisions and computers. In the Kickstarter video, several of you talk about the events of Occupy Oakland happening just outside the school. How did it feel to be at the epicenter of something so large, so international?
Our school was at the epicenter of this movement in Oakland. This was exciting, yet at times, scary. Daily we heard the police, the riots, the protesters, the loud sounds of breaking glass. At times we felt like we were in a war zone, yet we knew that there were people marching in the street for a better Oakland. It was cool to see our school on tv, or to see friends and family in the crowd. There were a lot of times I was proud to be from Oakland, then other times when it was embarrassing to see people in my city doing so much damage. Being so close to the scene, feeling like we were a part of the movement, that was an experience unlike any other and it will stay with me for a very long time. ~ John
ANTHONY: We rely on the Arts to put society under a lens and bring attention to important issues, but that scrutiny can be double-edged. Sometimes, we end up filtering the message so much that it becomes diluted and loses impact. In your stage production, how are you dealing with making the universal personal?
I think everyone has felt suppressed in some way or another in their life. What makes this topic appealing to an international audience yet very personable at the same time is that the themes are so relatable. People of all races, nationalities, social statuses all struggle at some point. We know this show will be recognizable to so many people because the themes of standing up for justice, community and solidarity are universal, yet at the same time they are very personable issues for people. ~ Amy
ANTHONY: The format of “Signs of our Occupy” reminds me of shows like “The Laramie Project,” which has endured controversy and censorship/banning. Has there been any reaction of that kind so far to “Signs?”
We have not staged the show yet, however, we do see a mixed reaction when people learn we are doing the project. Most are very excited…..they think it is a cool concept and really important message. They also love we are doing it at Fringe and sharing Oakland with the world. Still others feel it was such a personal thing, that they are not 100% loving the idea of the show. ~ Lukas
What has the writing process for “Signs” been like? How are the monologues being crafted and refined?
All 14 actors have been teamed with 14 Literary Arts students from our school and we have all selected a sign that we connect with. From that, we began writing, giving a unique perspective in each of our stories. There are some pieces that are pro-movement, some that are anti-movement. All are personable and come from our own experience or point of view, through the fictitious characters we are creating. We are just wrapping up a 4 week revision process and now starting to move into the blocking phase of rehearsal. ~ Cameron
ANTHONY: How did the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh come about?
Our Director takes a group to Edinburgh every 2 years to perform. This year we created this original work and then set out to raise the $60,000 to make the dream possible. We have booked our own airfare, hotels, venue space to perform, etc. It is a lot of work. We hope to continue on the success from 2 years ago at the Fringe and set the standard for other students inn our department to go in years to come. ~ Ashly
ANTHONY: The money from the Kickstarter will go to defray technical production costs so that the families of the students can concentrate on airfare, hotels, and other such costs. How intricately technical will the production be? Will there be a multi-media aspect, and if so, how is that being incorporated?
We will have sets, lights, sound and costumes to pay for the trip. We will have multimedia and video as well as some other special effects. Our show will contain music both live and pre-recorded. All of this takes money to create, buy rights to and then transport overseas. By contributing to our Kickstarter campaign, you play a huge role in helping us defray our costs. ~ Elana
ANTHONY: Will there be an opportunity for supporters of the project to see the production? Will it be filmed, or performed in the US at a later date?
Yes! Our show will be performed in Oakland at Oakland School for the Arts Blackbox Theatre in June. It will be open to the public and of course, our AWESOME supporters! Tickets are $20 each and all proceeds will go towards our trip! Please stay tuned for show dates which will come soon! ~ Max
ANTHONY: What do you all hope the long-term effects of “Signs” will be, especially on other teenagers?
To expand the views of individuals and to allow them to think about revolutions and social change. We want people to leave the theater wanting to make a difference in the world around them. We hope to speak to a great human need of reclaiming the political space in which we live. Hopefully from this, people will remember our show and our message and how we were all represented in unity. ~ Nia
And there you go, straight from the students’ mouths. You can find out more about the details of the Kickstarter and what perks backers can expect by going to the SIGNS OF OUR OCCUPY Kickstarter page. If you donate, tell them Anthony sent you. They have 19 days left in the campaign and while they’ve already hit their $7,500 goal, the more they raise the better!