Podplays . Long arms . Collaborative Adaptation

In addition to creating amazing audio plays to listen to while walking the streets of Vancouver, this past summer Neworld has conducted a series of DIY PodPlay Workshops. We worked with local writer/artist/facilitators to identify and partner with different community and youth groups. The initiative was funded through the Telus Community Fund. I asked one facilitator, Hari Alluri, to share some of his experience teaching podplays…. Check it out…. —Adrienne


Podplays DIY Workshop

Podplays. Heidi Nagtegaal, creator of the Hammock Residency, dubbed them “movies that play in your ears while you walk around in them,” during a Hammock Free Podplay workshop. This was before she made one, and after the Hammock Free School (a participant-driven skill sharing project organized by G. Amani) participants and I had combined neworld theatre’s Podplay curriculum with the desires of those who showed up that day, freestyled sonically and vocally, and watched a video recording of Adrienne Wong’s Podplay, “Look Up.”

Um, back up. I first heard about Podplays though a callout that was forwarded to me by a friend. Imagining them as radio plays set to the rhythm of a walking tour, I was immediately interested. I had been thinking about how place carries stories, having recently returned from the Philippines for the first time since immigrating to South Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories over 15 years before. Thanks to jet lag and close quarters, my mom and I woke up at like 3am every morning in the house her soldier father had built, and from then till sunrise every night for a week she told me stories about the village, herself growing up, her family and her ancestors that I had never heard before, stories I felt she must have been dislodging from the physical space around us: the wood and concrete of the house, the plants whose names I didn’t know she knew, the land itself.

Long arms. I wanted to make one. So, I walked through a snowy Vancouver afternoon down to Granville Island. Conversations with amazing writers Adrienne Wong of Neworld Theatre and Martin Kinch of Playwrights Theatre Centre built the notion in my head and I was planning my first theatre piece, learning more about unfolding story, about the particular constraints of timing a play to contend with street lights, traffic and people’s different walking paces, about what it meant to work with a sound designer (Rupinder Sidhu) as part of creating a script’s backbone, about dramaturgy and adapting it to a moving stage that the writer essentially has to push along in front of the audience’s eyes and imagination without letting it get in the way. I never did quite figure out that last part in time for the Podplays’ deadline, but I did build certain skills that changed how I write and learn enough about the process to eventually facilitate workshops for community groups to make short Podplays.

Collaborative adaptation. Every workshop is. This has been especially so with the podplays workshops. From the Hammock Free School to Leave Out Violence (LOVE) BC, to Asian Arts Freedom School Coast Salish Territories. Whether the group included young adults, youth or both. Whether participants knew their aesthetic or were fashioning it through the process. Whether the characters were themselves or invented. Whether set in East Van or South Van. Alleys, parks, residential, commercial. Whether the route participants walked – searching for objects that could help tell a dramatic story – was new to them or heavily personal, a place for lightly transplanting memory and imagination or one already weighed down with personal stories making demands. Whether the Podplays ended up as relay-style pieces that led to each other along the route or a single piece that weaved between perspectives. Collaborative. Adaptation. Along the way, some pretty damn good stories travelling through spaces that have millions more to tell. Almost every participant said they’d do it again. One, holding up a recording device, threatened, “maybe right after you leave.”

Poplays, like the creative journey, are about making choices within constraints. Here’s a few of the choices a few people got to make. Take a listen. It might remind you of a story you’d like to invent. Or maybe one that was part of inventing you. Either way, maybe you’d like to make one.

Hari Alluri  has been invited to bring his spoken word to the stage of many venues, including Toronto’s Dim Sum festival, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and Under the Volcano Festival of Art and Social Change. writer. performer. filmmaker: empower.

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