War With The Newts
Opened October 27th, 2007 at The Red Eye Theater, Minneapolis
Based on the 1932 science-fiction, political satire by Karel Capek, this ensemble-created piece showed Sandbox take a huge leap in developing our visual and performance style. An allegory of the destruction of mankind, the play is told by an army of anthropomorphic newts using masks, music and dance to build a frantic and harrowing apocalypse through a pre-WWII European lens. Voted Lavender Magazine’s #8 Top Show of 2007 and Ryan Hill’s set design was noted as one of the top 10 designs of the year by City Pages.
Directed by Ryan Hill, Lisa Moreira, Heather Stone
Sets by Ryan Hill
Costumes by Andrew Lawrence Schiff, Leah Erato,
Music/Sound by Tim Donahue
Lighting by Heidi Eckwall
Katie Oliver: Stage Manager
Damon Brook, Megan Campbell,
Nicole Devereaux, Julia Fairbanks, Kristina Fjellman, Ryan Hill, Matt Kraft, Derek Miller, Liberty Nichols, Heather Stone, Nathan Surprenant
All photos by Richard Fleischman
Very exciting. I’ve always felt like SB would be a good home for my music. Even before I got involved with the company. I can remember being so excited with the way the movement and narration synced up with the music. All three elements came together to pushed an emotional energy. It was the first time my music was combined with other performance art and I loved it.
I also remember being very frustrated at times. I was so excited by the potential of the show, I wanted everything to be perfect and every musical detail to be accounted for. I did not have confidence in myself as a valued and trusted artist within the company yet. I wanted to have a lot of outside affirmation and cheer leading from the directing crew. Rehearsals moved on and I was forced to find confidence in myself and to make tough decisions alone. It was a very tough process to get through but in the end, I felt proud and strong about what I had produced.
It was a good learning curve figuring out how to work with the theatre company. It forced me to “walk the talk” and to be a solid independent musician. Of course it was good in hind sight. While it was happening I was very challenged and frustrated. With Sandbox, a big part of the curve is that it is ensemble theatre. Everything is being built by the ensemble all the way up till opening night. This is fine and a perfect fit for me (I’m largely an improvisational composer/ musician) but part of that learning curve was me realizing the way Sandbox worked vs. the paradigm of more tradition theater that was stuck in my head. I can remember coming into rehearsals and discovering stuff changed and getting upset that I had to re-work sections…
What I remember he most about creating this piece is my favorite parts getting cut. Captain Von Toch’s request for a gallon of beer and HAS’s original response to the discovery of a talking newt.
It was painful and disappointing watching this piece from the audience . A lot of audio cues where off, wrong music in the wrong sections. I just had to sit and not let on for fear of alerting the audience to the fact.
But it’s one of my favorite SB shows
We stayed very true to the Karel Čapek book – it’s an anti-war, anti-intolerance, anti-hubris story. Unfortunately, these topics will probably never lose their relevance. Talking newts made it fun.
War With the Newts provided our company a huge growth spurt. I think that this was the production that we discovered the Project Lead/Director leadership team method that we have used on every Sandbox show since. Although we didn’t know it at the time. During the creation process, the leadership felt muddy as three of us had the title of Co-Director – the idea came from Ryan, and he was definitely the keeper of the vision as well as a performer, and there was me, the view from the outside and guide of the creation process, and Heather, also a performer who wanted this opportunity to stretch her definition of herself as a leader in the rehearsal room. Especially in the beginning, it was confusing for the cast, as they watched our three-ringed circus act stumble through who was leading what and who to listen to when. Eventually we found our groove. Ryan created the leadership role that we would later name the Project Lead: the conceptual mother. I started seeing what the Director role needed to be: the creation process guide and performance polisher. Heather discovered that she is a powerful leader without having to be THE leader. In the Sandbox creation process, leading from within counts for just as much, if not more, than any named leadership role.
I loved the cohesiveness of the production – all the parts seemed to just fit, to be right, and the commitment of the performers made the whole thing work. As a director, I would like to revisit the second half of the show. I would like to see if we could find a way to keep the pedal to the metal up to that last moment of Marenka in the spotlight.
Fat Lady – ‘nuff said.
This was a really cool show – took me awhile to “get” it – I’m not a political person….and this was saying stuff that I probably still don’t quite know how to wrap my brain around. Ryan created a really cool set, too. And we learned that I cannot be allowed to paint. Ever again.
Megan Campbell Lagas
War With The Newts – so fun to perform, not so fun to create. Too many ensemble members and directors made for some chaotic moments. But enough said about that. Despite those challenges it turned out to be a fantastic show, husband Aaron’s all time favorite! I recall feeling not so confident about opening this show, it was just so strange story-wise and stylistically that I wasn’t sure if the audience would go along with us. Fortunately, they did. A couple of things that I remember working really well were creating the physical “rules of newtdome”, working working working on the opening “water, water, water” until it was just right (also remembering very sore thighs from that), and free-writing and physical characterization of cultural stereotypes for the newts-around-the-world. I loved playing with the homemade instruments from Lucas Royer, newt-pointing during pre-show, just being a newt for that 90 minutes or whatever it was every night was so animal and bizarre and fantastic, I did not want to stop being a newt. I’m now remembering trying to embody the idea of a newt acting human – ok, i’m a human, playing a newt, playing a human…what does that look like?
I was excited from Day 1 to work on this show, with this group of people. I had never seen a Sandbox show, so I didn’t really know what I was getting in to, but from the first day of rehearsal, I felt like Sandbox was speaking my language. As a dancer, I felt like I was finally able to draw on my physical strength when creating a theater production. I think I just fell in love with the Sandbox process from the start.
I remember the great specificity that the ensemble had to achieve in the movement for this piece. I was so thankful for the amount of time that we spent clarifying the shapes of our bodies, the movement through space, and the overall physical vocabulary for our story.
Every night performing Newts was risky and thrilling and satisfying. Because of our costumes and make-up, many people in the audience had trouble identifying specific actors, which helped them focus more on the story (in my opinion). The ensemble certainly developed strong quad muscles – all that squatting and running like newts! – and you never knew when a toe would tear through a tabi (our special footwear).
I felt incredibly honored to have been a part of this show and specifically, to have been able to create the role of Andy Scheuzer. This was the first theater production that my husband actually liked – so I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the last of Sandbox!