The Ampersand Project

Update: June 20, 2017

The latest application has been submitted to the Canada Council with quite a different approach than has been used so far and, as is often the case, the explanation has become clearer. This is the essential text of the new description of the project.

The Ampersand Project

[Describe your proposed activities, including the rationale for your artistic choices or the inspiration for the new creative work. Indicate when and where you plan to show the work. Include information about the key artist leading the projects.]

The plan is to bring theatre professionals together to create the staging manual for a Christmas Musical, a kit, that will be made available to all communities, which includes: template documents outlining how to mount the show in a gym, or a meeting hall, not just on stage; karaoke-type files, in case the community has no orchestra; dance scores; plus blueprints for sets, props, and costumes.

The libretto is based on “Lug’s Christmas Carol” one in a collection of short stories entitled “5 Fables for the Young at Heart” published by Double Dragon Publishing under my pen name J. Aldric Gaudet.

The story concerns a Christmas tree decorated with damaged ornaments who became damaged the year before in their successful efforts to save the lives of the family they are part of.

As my resume shows, I am a producer, director, and editor as well as the author and playwright. I have published 3 books of Shakespeare, a graphic novel, and the short story collection where “Lug’s Christmas Carol” appears.

Theatre has been in my blood ever since elementary school. Even while studying at Ryerson I was the first RTA student to stage a drama in the TV studios rather than a current affairs show for my term project. In my freshman year I was part of the company that took “Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs” to compete in Ottawa. In my sophomore year I co-produced a blacklight version of “Alice in Wonderland” and used the same text when I directed a Dundas Little Theatre production of “Alice” a few years ago.

My TV and Film career as Producer, Director, or Writer has always leaned toward dramatic fiction like the TV series “The Littlest Hobo” or the Feature Film “Baltic Storm”.

Theatre being such a comfortable fit it seemed a natural extension to bring my short story to the stage and because the story is about damaged ornaments I was inspired to imagine a musical fantasy which included the disabled as singers and dancers.

The goal is to create a safe and friendly environment for those who do not often get a chance to participate in, or experience, the excitement of putting on a show, the ones who usually end up watching from the sidelines.

This is a plan for two seasons. Season One, the music is composed and the lyrics written for a live streaming performance of an audio play version of the show with commentators describing what is not seen, as if they were seeing it, adding personal interest stories revealing how the disabled fit into the cast. That recording is made available during the Christmas season of 2017 and becomes a springboard to raise awareness in the performance arts community of the idea of including the disabled in musical theatre. That will serve to attract the rest of the creative artists needed to fulfill the roster for designing the show and overseeing its testing during a prototype production.

The show celebrates theatre, encourages the disenfranchised to participate, and showcases local talent.

[Briefly outline your work plan, including timeline.]

In early September the composer and lyricist will be tasked with a 2 month deadline for words and music. A voice cast will be assembled and the show will be live-streamed as an audio play in early December. The recording will be made available during the Christmas Season to garner interest in the project.

A postmortem of the live stream event and its audience response, will indicate whatever adjustments will be necessary for the stage show.

The first half of 2018 will be spent contacting and confirming the artists not already affiliated with the project. In August notification will be sent to all artists to prepare to meet in early September to discuss their plans for the project.

During the rest of September the artists will collate their contributions, integrate all elements, plan out how to handle participants with physical challenges, and work the dance routines and swing numbers into the design layout with the approval of the Safety Officer.

The template will be sent into the Hamilton community to organize its production which will be supervised by the contributing artists.

In early October construction will begin on the prototype sets and puppets supervised by the puppeteer and the Set Designer advisors.

After the community run closes, the artists will analyze response cards and debrief the project. Each artist will submit their final report and template documents by January 14, 2019 to the Artistic Director who will collate all material to send with the project review.

[How will your activities contribute to your, or your group’s, artistic development?]

This brings theatre professionals to the community level in order to design a musical celebration that is simple and safe for disabled performers.

Experienced and knowledgeable experts will be able to foresee where caution is necessary and avoid pitfalls while creating the template.

That way the best creative minds oversee the practicality and safety of the template right through to guiding the prototype production by local amateurs in Hamilton.

The artists will be challenged to design a fully flexible inclusive work, to create musical pieces that can safely integrate all ranges of music and dance ability, including choreographing the disabled.

Using video screens as an element of the theatrical palette is a natural extension of my TV experience which I also plan to explore more fully.

Encouraging the disabled to take part – screens with live puppet close-ups – mixed swing and dance choreography – creating a production template for community use. These are all unprobed areas of artistic expression worth exploring.

[If there is anything that has not been asked that is essential to understanding your application, provide it here.]

Even though the intent here is to create something for use by community theatre it is a valid contribution to professional performance arts by exposing the disabled to the joys of the theatre.

In a world of competitive para sports why not para song and dance? Sport is not the only sustenance for the human soul.

The U of BC study on the impact of paralympic games showed that 23 percent of the employers surveyed said the Games had increased their willingness to hire people with disabilities. Attitudes were changed with familiarity.

A community production involves people of all ages, from all segments of the population, who participate voluntarily on equal terms, interacting and co-operating to create one special celebratory event.

A parent could be rigging lights or on stage portraying ‘Mr Kelley’ while their child could be portraying ‘Sandra’ or backstage building sets. That is its most satisfying dynamic.

Communities that take on this project will, at the very least, understand accessibility needs better.

The template will be designed for flexibility to ensure that the production can support itself in box office returns. And, as is traditional in theatre, ornament costumes can be as simple as cast members carrying iconic placards, or as complicated as full body costumes.

[Provide a one-sentence summary of your project.]

To have theatre professionals create the staging manual for a Christmas Musical Fantasy which encourages the disabled to participate.

LUG 2017

The following are excerpts from The Ampersand Project’s recent submission.

Summary

To create the staging manual and template documents for a community theatre musical fantasy which encourages the disabled, among others, to participate.

The Ampersand Project

The idea is to create a staging manual, a kit that will be available free to all communities, a template for the show to be mounted in a gym, or a meeting hall, not just on a stage. The kit will include karaoke files, in case there is no orchestra, plus documents with dance scores and blueprints for sets, props, and costumes.

The challenge is to create a show script and staging manual adaptable to any size community, to create musical pieces that can integrate all ranges of music and dance ability, including choreographing the disabled.

The song and dance numbers will be designed to include whatever diverse range of talented enthusiasts are capable of taking part, making each production a reflection of that community’s population.

Impact

Mounting a community production involves people of all ages, from all segments of the population, who participate voluntarily on equal terms, interacting and co-operating to create one special celebratory event.

A parent could be rigging lights or on stage portraying ‘Mr Kelley’ while their child could be portraying ‘Sandra’ or backstage building sets. For me, that is its most satisfying dynamic.

The Choreographer’s task will be to design and score chorus line movement that allows for anyone who can follow a beat to participate. That kind of flexibility in all aspects of the project makes each production a unique reflection of that community’s perspective.

My idea for community theatre posits that this project has two audiences. Obviously, those who come to watch the show will enjoy its uplifting theme, but those in the community who participate in its production will experience its theme as they become familiar with the talented performers living locally who happen to be physically challenged.

Specialty Groups

The aim of this project is to involve the disabled in the community. To encourage anyone who can follow a dance step or carry a tune to join with the rest of the chorus on stage, dancing and singing and celebrating.

In a world of competitive para sports why not para song and dance? Sport is not the only sustenance for the human soul.

The UBC study on the impact of paralympic games showed that 23 percent of the employers surveyed said the Games had increased their willingness to hire people with disabilities. Attitudes were changed with familiarity.

Any community that takes on this project will, at the very least, understand accessibility needs better.

Lug’s Christmas Carol: A Stage Event

Community Theatre

Community theatre is an exciting way to bring diverse peoples together. The resources necessary to mount a production involve volunteers of all ages, from all segments of the population, who participate on equal terms interacting and co-operating to create one special celebratory event.

This event is designed to include those not ordinarily considered for the chorus line.

That is what the original story is about. The wounded and the broken. But it is not a sad story, it is a joyous one, a celebration.

Ground Breaking

The project intends to break new ground.

Creatives will be challenged to design a fully flexible inclusive work, to create musical pieces that can integrate all ranges of music and dance ability, including wheelchair choreography.

Ornament costumes can be as simple as children dressed in black, carrying iconic placards, or as complicated as full body costumes. This deliberate flexibility allows for the inclusion of dancers with missing or damaged limbs who will fit right in with the story of damaged ornaments.

The song and dance numbers will be designed to include as many talented enthusiasts as are capable of taking part, each production a reflection of that community’s unique perspective.

Every challenge is a creative and artistic opportunity to forge another element into the shape of the final outcome.

MC Lug

Lug, one of the ornaments, serves as Master of Ceremonies. He introduces the other ornaments who perform a dance parade and then their puppet double takes its place on the puppet tree.

A new ornament, Hummingbird, complains that the others are all damaged so Lug explains how hand-carved ornaments made by a loving father led to the life force infusing the tree and how that spirit passed along from father, to son, to granddaughter.

Those moments are re-enacted in vignettes spanning many years in once-a-Christmas glimpses.

The ornaments also re-enact their own stories, the climactic one being the enigmatic love story between Drummer Boy and Ballerina who fell in love at first suspension.

The initial parade of ornaments, the linking ceremony, swinging, and the mirror duet are the main song and dance numbers that surround this enchanting story, integrating dance, swinging, videography and puppetry.

In the end a series of accidents results in the tree catching fire, putting the family at risk.

The ornaments frantically swing together rocking the tree back and forth trying to tip it over but it doesn’t until Ballerina sacrifices herself to save them all.

The Finale

The big finish begins when the granddaughter glues Drummer Boy to the mirrored dance floor in place of the lost Ballerina.

With his drum gone and his sticks broken in the fall, his arms are poised as if holding an invisible partner.

His dance is a poignant soulful one of loss.

The ornaments hold a special linking ceremony and Ballerina’s reflection appears in the mirrored floor at his feet. She and Drummer Boy dance an imaginary dance, reflection to reflection.

Everyone joins in for the closing number, swinging and singing in joyful celebration.

Staging Areas

Centrestage Right for the home sets where the family stories are re-enacted on a turntable set that rotates during blackouts to exchange set pieces.

Centrestage for the tree which is operated by puppetry.

That leaves Centrestage Left clear for the swinging plus all Downstage areas for the parades, dances and other choreography.

Video screens either side of the proscenium show live close-up coverage from remote controlled cameras of the actions of the puppet ornaments in the tree.

At the upper corners of the proscenium are spotlight areas where Lug and Hummingbird interact and narrate.

The Ampersand Project

A gathering of creative performance artists with the purpose of designing a community event that celebrates theatre, encourages the disenfranchised to participate, and showcases local talent.

The event is a celebration of the Christmas season, the staging of a life-affirming musical fantasy.

It is the kind of project that vitalizes a community because it brings people together from various areas of life, ages and skill sets. That is its exciting dynamic. Parents can keep an eye on their rehearsing children while helping construct a set, or vice versa.

Those who come as audience will enjoy the show’s uplifting theme. Those who participate will become the theme, as the project itself is as much the theme as the story is.

Shaping it

The intent is to make the cliche hold true, use every challenge as a creative and artistic opportunity to forge another element into the shape of the final outcome.

The focus will always be making integration into each community as seamless as possible. That begins at the design stage as various artists working together, create plans and descriptions, then during preproduction as ideas develop and plans are adjusted, and finally after the show closes, where final reports are made based on hindsight.

The results will be the template for the show, completely flexible and adjustable for any community, and therefore each performance becomes a reflection of that community’s unique point of view.

The Shapers

Artistic Director – J. Aldric Gaudet – to oversee the project’s mandate and execution.

Director – to design the blueprint for the show and direct the first cast.

Choreographer – to design the dance numbers, integrating wheelchairs and swing work and manage the first performers. To create a template document.

Puppet Master – Melanie Skene – to design, create and construct puppets and train the first operators.

Composer – Mia Hackett – to write the music and to guide the first musicians.

Songwriter – Benjamin Hackett – to write the lyrics and guide the first singers.

Aerialist – to design the rig and to train the first swingers.

Set Designer – to create the style of the set and integrate it for quick scene changes and manage the first crew. To create a template document.

Costume designer – to design the costumes in consultation with the Puppet Master and manage the first wardrobe team. To create a template document.

Lighting Designer – to plan and design the lighting and manage the first tech team. To create a template document.

Video Technician – to program and coordinate the video and live cameras and manage the first video team. To create a template document.

Audio Designer and Technician – to plan and coordinate the sound and manage the first sound team. To create a template document.

Stage Manager – to schedule and coordinate the rehearsals and staging of the show. To create a template document.

Be a Shaper

If you want to be on the shape team contact me.