Thoughts on the morning after

Woodland hound

Stay centred. Stay calm. It's going to be a long week. As the US thrashes out the election, and the UK prepares for another long lockdown, the wild world is still around us...and art...and beauty...and mystery. Kindness matters more than ever.

"To open our eyes, to see with our inner fire and light, is what saves us," says Chickasaw poet and novelist Linda Hogan. "Even if it makes us vulnerable. Opening the eyes is the job of storytellers, witnesses, and the keepers of accounts. The stories we know and tell are reservoirs of light and fire that brighten and illuminate the darkness of human night, the unseen."

Stay safe. Stay strong.

Woodland hound 2

Election Day

The hound and me

"What I want is so simple I almost can't say it: elementary kindness." - Barbara Kingsolver (Animal Dreams)

No matter what happens in the US election, it's going to be stressful in the days ahead. Please be kind to each other. Tilly and I send our love to American friends, family members, and colleagues in the Mythic Arts community.

Vote - smaller

The ohotograph of me and Tilly was taken by Ellen Kushner. The little election day sketch, "Bunnies for Biden," is by me.

Some exciting news....

A House of Pomegranates by Jessie M King

Dr. Rob Maslen and Dr. Dimitra Fimi, the good people who run the Masters in Fantasy programme at the University of Glasgow, have successfully obtained funding to establish a new Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic -- which will be the first of its kind anywhere. They've already created an extraordinary community of scholars in Glasgow, and the new centre is wonderful news for our field.

And Lo the City Lay by Jessie M KingThey are launching the centre with a online lecture by my dear friend Ellen Kushner, which I have no doubt will be splendid. Ellen will be talking about her creative practice and her award-winning novel Thomas the Rhymer (based on Scottish balladry), followed by a question-and-answer session.

Afterwards, I'll be on a panel with two of the field's most brilliant scholars, Rob Maslen and Brian Attebery, discussing the future of fantasy.

The launch event is open to all, so please come join us. Tickets are free, but they're limited (due to space in the Zoom webinar room), and they're going fast. For more information, and to register for a ticket, please go here

I'm very excited about the new centre, and also about this online event. Thank heavens our phone wires and Internet have finally been fixed! Prior to this, stormy weather kept knocking me off-line, which disastrous for my last online event (a panel discussion for ReConvene). We're having stormy weather again as I write this post, and the line is now holding up just fine.

But I think I'd better leave a dish of butter out to appease the fairies of Dartmoor just in case...

Edited to add: Tickets to the event have now sold out -- but don't worry! The organizers are making plans to live-stream the event on YouTube at the same time. Those joining from YouTube won't be able to ask questions during Q & A, but otherwise you'll have the same experience. As soon as I have more information on where to view the YouTube live-stream, I'll post it here.


The Frog Prince by Jessie M King

Illustrations by Jessie M King

The paintings and drawings above are by Jessie M. King (1875-1949), who studied at the Glasgow School of Art. To see more of her work, go here.

Theatre is Dead: a Myth & Moor watch party

Theatre is Dead

Guest Post by Howard Gayton

Hello, it's Howard here, inviting you to the online live premiere of my theatre company's new play, Theatre is Dead! -- an absurd dark comedy for the times we are living in. Live performances are running every Thursday and Friday night on Zoom throughout the month of June -- but this week, Myth & Moor is hosting a "Watch Party" for the Friday performance, June 19. (There's more information on how to join in below.)

About the company:

Peter Oswald and I created Columbina Theatre in 2016 to present new works rooted in verse theatre, mask theatre, Commedia dell'Arte, clowning, and tomfoolery. My own background is Commedia (I co-directed a touring company, Ophaboom, for twenty years), while Peter was Writer-in-Residence at Shakespeare's Globe (working with Mark Rylance), and has had his work performed at the National, on the West End, off-Broadway, and other venues around the world.

For Theatre is Dead!, we're joined by actor Alice Welby and stage manager Patrick Collins.

My work cabin at the end of our garden.

About the play:

Theatre is Dead! began life in my work space here on Dartmoor: a small cabin at the end of our garden (pictured above). Peter and I had been developing the piece as a stage play when the world was turned on its head by Covid-19 and theatres all across Europe went dark.

I'd also been exploring the art of Foolery through the international Nomadic Academy Fools -- and when the pandemic hit, I helped to take NOA's training sessions online, working with Fools across Europe for hours each day via the Zoom platform. Through this, we discovered a way of performing on Zoom that seemed to reach through the computer screen to give a "live performance" experience to our online audience of Fools. I began to wonder if this could be applied to other areas of theatre.

Theatre is Dead  rehearsal for stage version

Meanwhile, Peter and I had a Zoom meeting to discuss the future of our company. Like many theatre practitioners whose work has been ground to a halt by Covid-19, we were asking the question: What now?

Looking again at Theatre is Dead!, it dawned on me how relevant to the pandemic lockdown it is: two theatrical clowns isolated inside the belly of a whale, wondering if their profession will survive. We staged a reading of the play over Zoom for family and friends, and their reaction was the same as ours: that it's both prescient and timely. "Get it out there," they urged us.

We quickly began work on adapting the play for this new form of … well, we’re not sure what to call it. It's not traditionally staged theatre, of course -- more like a hybrid mix of a radio play, a theatrical reading, and Zoom. It is also an experiment: can three actors, locked down in three separate locations (Bristol, London, and rural Devon) bring the energy of a live event to the rectangular box of computer and tablet screens?

The shows we're presenting this month will not be filmed -- the gathering of the online audience for each live show is an integral part of what makes this theatre, not film or tv. We’re trialling the name Screen Plays Cloud Theatre to describe what we believe could develop into a new form of online live performance -- allowing companies (particularly small companies) to present new works and trial new plays, especially now when the future viability of traditional theatre spaces is still uncertain.

Theatre is Dea Peter and I adapting Theatre is Dead! to Zoom during the Covid-19 lockdown

We are working on Zoom, despite its limitations, because it is so familiar to many people now -- but our aim is to develop a custom platform for theatrical performance, tailored to the needs of theatre practioners, and with more flexibility for audience engagement. If we can develop such a platform, then perhaps more companies will be able to develop shows. And perhaps this will be a life-raft for theatre, taking us through these trying times until we can all meet together in physical space again. 

Is theatre dead? We don't think so. We think it's still very much alive.

Theatre masks

Information on the Myth & Moor Watch Party:

Join us!Although you're welcome to come to any of the June peformances, Terri and I are inviting the Myth & Moor community to join us online for this Friday's  show, June 19, at 7:30 pm (UK time). The show itself is about an hour long, and you're welcome to stay afterwards to have a chat about the play with us.

Tickets are free, but please book your ticket as numbers for each show are limited. You can do so here. The show is performed live on the Zoom platform, so if you are new to Zoom, you'll need to sign up (for free) before the event.

On behalf of Columbina, Terri, and myself: We hope to see you there!

If you'd like to know about future Columbina shows, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. (We'll also be on Instagram soon.)

Columbina Theatre

At the Bumblehill Studio

Starting tonight...

Second final version

Peter  Howard  & Tilly...and then running every Thursday and Friday night through June.

Please come see what my husband Howard Gayton and his theatre partner Peter Oswald have been up to during the pandemic lockdown: creating onlive theatre for the age of Zoom, brought to you live from sheds in Chagford and Bristol. The tickets are free, just book one here. (Press the red "Select a date" button to pick the performance you want to attend.)

I've seen this bonkers, surreal, hilarious and poignant play during various parts of its development, but I'm going to watch it again on Friday, June 19th. Do any of you want to join me at that particular performance for a Myth & Moor watching party...? 

And just so you know: Columbina Theatre has the Tilly Seal of Approval. 

Drawing by Walter Crane