finger on the counterpulse (artlog #8)

mes amis—

It’s always a treat to watch a play by someone you don’t know and then meet that person and discover that he or she is as much a delight as the play that she or he has written. Such was the case with Andrea Hart whose play ricochet I saw years ago at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in dear sweet Omaha, Nebraska. (They don’t call it “the theatre corn basket” for nothing! I do love a good gluten-free dough.)

It’s fun to have far flung friends and talented yet down-to-earth ones too. Andrea fits that dollar bill to a tree. I recall enjoying a most heart healthy meal with her back in San Fransisco where she resides a year ago and chatting about the trials and tribulations of our respective professions (for her that’s theatre … for me it’s full-time tooting!).

It was with great excitement that Andrea emailed me a few months ago with news about her acceptance to a very cool sounding residency between CounterPULSE, a SF-based gruppo teatrale, the University of Chimichanga—er Chichester—in England and a British theatrical duo called Action Hero (capes optional.) At Andrea’s suggestion I had an e-chat recently with CounterPULSE program director Julie Phelps to learn more about the program and the presentation that will result, Stranger in a Strange Land, on Aug. 27.

everyone should go to chimichanga u after they graduate from pizza–i mean pitzer–college

So Julie, I’ve read the press release… and want to be sure I am understanding correctly: Action Hero is British duo Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse and they work with U. Chichester… and CounterPULSE is working in collaboration with these groups and bringing in American artists, like Andrea Hart, to work in a three-week residency program. C’est vrais…?
Yes, this is correct. CounterPULSE has partnered with the University of Chichester to do “cultural exchanges”—bringing Action Hero to CounterPULSE is the first (hopefully) of these exchanges. The model is that the two orgs exchange artists who then work with local artists onsite to build a performance.

Very nice. I love cultural exchange esp. b/w orgs!
This is the first of what hopes to be a series of exchanges. Conversations and program development have been underway for approximately one year.

Très bien. Can you tell me a bit about how the residency operates? Are the American artists making their own individual work or is it more collectively done?
The workshop residency is really designed to investigate collaboration and exchange as a root inquiry—the particular themes that the artists bring will change (in the case of Action Hero they are looking at Americana and nostalgia).  In the spirit of investigating collaboration the artists are coming together and generating a group working environment, working in some version of collaboration—however that might look for the group. So at its core the artists are not “building their own work” but working together to build a collective expression of this particular collaborative experiment.

Mama mia. In addition to Americana and nostalgia—two of my own favourite topics!— can you tell me more specifically what the artists have been riffing on the past few weeks?
I think this would be a much better question for the artists directly.  I would be glad to put you in to direct contact with Action Hero and the other artists involved in the project as needed. Please let me know when/if this introduction should take place. As an anecdote, the artists dressed in costume and tailgated at the recent Raiders game.

I didn’t know that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” had banded into a sports team! Perhaps the artists can tell readers more about their progetti in the “Comments” portion below when they have a momentino.
What can audiences expect to see at the event on the 27th? Will the Americans go to England at some point?
That is hard to predict since the spirit of the project is really about allowing for the content to arise out of process and collaboration, so there has been no clear “end goal” that the group articulated at the onset. Again, I think this would be an interesting conversation for you to take up with the artists.

Noted. Might I add that “end goals” are for footballers… not for les artistes!
CounterPULSE is committed to invigorating and elevating the Bay Area artistic community. Stranger in a Strange Land will be the first of a series of exchanges of art and artists nationally and internationally. We believe that the quality of art produced by emerging artists locally will be strengthened by a robust dialogue with national and international peers. We also hope to significantly expand CounterPULSE’s work for social change by partnering with artists and organizations doing similar work in other places. Thank again for your interest in CounterPULSE and this program!

All thanks to you Julie! Now then… les artistes (I’m looking at you Andrea Hart, Elizabeth McSurdy, Ernesto Sopprani, Laura Arrington, Richie Israel, and Xandra Ibarra…!) I hope you find a time to chime in with your own thoughts and ruminations about the process thus far.

a bientot!


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2 Responses to “finger on the counterpulse (artlog #8)”

  1. Andrea Says:

    Things keep getting more and more interesting with this project. Every day what is “happening” changes. We mapped out a preliminary sketch for the final showing on Monday, which I’m sure will evolve in the next three days. As of now, I am actually, seriously contemplating singing a Bruce Springsteen song in front of an audience again. Something I swore I would never do again after seeing the video of myself at karaoke last week. One of the most interesting things has been how we keep trying to pin down what “America” is in a group full of people who are from every version of “America” possible. So the question becomes, what is that AMERICA (in all caps) that is definable? Does it really exist? Or is it something that is always being aimed for, but never quite captured. And then a lot of what seems to be coming out of the project is what are the repercussions of that image for those who fall short of it? How does the “American nostalgia” work toward our detriment?

    Those are just a few thoughts from a mind still reeling in the midst of it all. I’m hoping by Monday we will have found the stitching between all of these questions.

    • kippywinston Says:


      thank you for your words and musings.
      all i can say is that i hope you sing the BOSS!

      hope to catch you in sunny cali soon!

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