by Austin Owen

Dramaturg Austin Owen
Austin Owen is a Bay Area-based dramaturg & theater-maker making his FURY Factory debut. When not freelancing, Austin is the Literary Manager & Resident Dramaturg at FaultLine Theater, a small new-works company in the heart of San Francisco.

A Host of People – Cleopatra Boy

As artists there is no ‘9 to 5’, so when the scheduling stars aligned I jumped at the chance to speak with the leaders of Detroit-based A Host of People, Sherrine Azab and Jake Hooker, about their upcoming Raw Materials performance.

Austin: What is the inspiration for Cleopatra Boy?

Sherrine & Jake: We were at a museum to see an Egypt exhibit. We realized there was all this misrepresentation of Cleopatra and that her narrative was taken away from her through white men writing her history. After the election it started to resonate with us that this was a pattern since time immemorial — that we’ve been conditioned to be led by white men since the Roman Empire. It’s a big piece — it crosses over centuries — there is a lot of content we are still shaping.

Austin: Is there a source text you are using? A mix of various texts?

Sherrine & Jake: A lot of texts, but there’s a scholarly article to which we keep returning. It’s from a woman’s perspective and sheds light on the ways other people writing about Cleopatra imparted potential biases and distortions. We use Shakespeare, Shaw, Plutarch, even the Cleopatra film — crossing generations, tracking the ways Cleopatra’s image was mutilated.

Austin: What excites you about performing in the Raw Materials program?

Sherrine & Jake: As with any work in progress, showing it’s totally terrifying. This will be the first performance of the piece. We typically work over a period of eighteen months in four phases so this will be the completion of phase one. We are excited to have conversations afterward and hear what people see, feel, and respond to in the work so we can take that feedback forward onto the next phase.

Cynthia Ling Lee – Lost Chinatowns

I spoke with Cynthia Ling Lee about her Raw Materials performance via phone on a sunny Bay Area day, the warm weather matching the warm conversation in beautiful synchronicity.

Austin: What is the inspiration for Lost Chinatowns?

Cynthia: I moved to Santa Cruz for a job and was excited to move back to California as I had taught in North Carolina for three years and I missed Asian people and Asian food. One of the first things I did was email my colleagues and ask where an Asian market was in town and they all responded saying there was nothing in Santa Cruz. I then learned from a colleague that the lack of Asian culture wasn’t an accident: They were purposefully removed. It turned out this super-left idealistic town was also an epicenter of anti-Chinese racism back in the day. I’m using Chinese-American poetry, Trump election speeches, and historical documents about the removal of Asian peoples from Santa Cruz to connect the initial removal to our current moment.

Austin: What excites you most about performing in the Raw Materials program?

Cynthia: I am excited to share the stage with other wonderful artists and get their feedback. I am interested to see how people resonate with the material and what connections they feel to the current moment.

Are there next steps for this work past Raw Materials?

Cynthia: 3Girls Theatre Company is producing a version at Z Below at the end of July. Additionally, CounterPulse has kindly awarded me a performing diaspora residency starting in July and through the Fall which culminates in a two-week run in December.

The Stations Ensemble – Stations 2 (Bearing the Burden)

I am hard pressed to find a better start to the morning than coffee, but conversations with artists bring an energy that caffeine cannot. My chat with Jubilith Moore of The Stations Ensemble about their Raw Materials performance was just the boost I needed.

Austin: What is the inspiration behind Stations 2 (Bearing the Burden)?

Jubilith: This work is based on my family history; it’s very personal. I have never done anything this biographical, that’s very new for me, and I am fusing it with my training in traditional Japanese theater forms. Ultimately, I wish to create three different plays with the same structure and each play will feature a woman from my lineage who will take on their second station, that of bearing the burden

Austin: Is there anything specific you are hoping to glean from your Raw Materials performances?

Jubilith: I am particularly interested in the relationship between the music and the text, how the music can embody or inform or interact with narrative and be a partner in the play as opposed to just wallpaper. It’s important to me as a theater-maker that the story is clear so moments of clarity or confusion for the audience will be helpful.

Austin: What excites you most about performing in the Raw Materials program?

Jubilith: I feel like I am onto new creative territory, I’m at the edge of my knowing and I want to be surrounded by kind intelligent people.

Raw Materials Program B performs July 17 (8pm) & 19 (7pm) at Z Below, 470 Florida St., San Francisco.