fbpx Directors Lab West Connects: Laurel Lawson and Diana Wyenn (ASL-interpreted) | HowlRound Theatre Commons

Livestreamed on this page on Tuesday 26 May 2020 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC-7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC-4) / 19:00 BST (London, UTC+1) / 20:00 CEST (Berlin, UTC+2).

United States
Tuesday 26 May 2020

Directors Lab West Connects: Laurel Lawson and Diana Wyenn (ASL-interpreted)

Disability and Equity as Creative Forces

Produced With
Tuesday 26 May 2020

Directors Lab West presented Directors Lab West Connects: Laurel Lawson and Diana Wyenn livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Tuesday 26 May 2020 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC-7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC-4) / 19:00 BST (London, UTC+1) / 20:00 CEST (Berlin, UTC+2).

Join us for a conversation between dancer, choreographer, and engineer Laurel Lawson of Kinetic Light and director/dramaturg Diana Wyenn. With work and process informed by disability, these disabled artists will discuss and offer perspectives on how practices of equity, community, and access are creative forces in the creation and reception of live performance.


Cindy Marie Jenkins: [Cindy’s audio is q bit muffled and distorted.] Hello everyone, I am Cindy Marie Jenkins and I am a producer of Directors Lab West Connects. For a visual description, I am sitting at an angle. A woman with short, dark brown gray hair parted on one side, wearing large dark glasses. I'm also wearing a light blue shirt with a black sweater and my background is a description of this conversation and it has the hashtag DLWConnects. Directors Lab West is the 20 year old, all volunteer-run organization launched every May. It provides an eight day intensive full of workshops, panels, and masterclasses for emerging directors and choreographers from all over the world. I’m going to do a quick [at this point, Cindy’s audio becomes completely inaudible at 1:05].

Diana Wyenn: Hey, Cindy Marie. Oh, it looks like it's improved, go ahead.

Cindy: Oh, great! Is that better?

Diana: I think it's working now, all right.

Cindy: Okay, apologies everyone. In case you didn't hear, I'm Cindy Marie Jenkins, one of the producers of the lab. And thank you Diana. Thanks everyone for your patience. So, yes, instead of canceling this year’s lab we chose to do 2020 by growing the community with Directors Lab West and have been overwhelmed by your responses and thoughtful questions in our first three days. Welcome now to the fourth of eight days of conversations crafted for and by theatre directors and choreographers livestreamed by our partners a HowlRound to their website and to our Directors Lab West Facebook page. You can join the chat, tell us who you are, where you're tuning in from and ask questions for the Q and A following our speakers’ conversations. We want to give a big thank you to Ellie Streifer for providing ASL interpretation. Ellie is centered in her screen with a black background. She wears a dark green short sleeve shirt, dark glasses, and has her hair pulled back into a ponytail. And now please welcome our speakers, Laurel Lawson and Diana Wyenn. Laurel Lawson is an engineer and artist with a practice that includes both traditional choreography and novel ways of extending and creating art through technology and design. A member of full radius dance since 2004 in the disabled artists collective Kinetic Light, she choreographs teaches and performs in New York city, Atlanta and around the world. Thank you Laurel.

Laurel Lawson: Thank you Cindy. I am a woman with pale skin and a short, currently slightly unkempt brownish reddish hair with pale eyes. I am wearing a blue shirt with a tone on tone, floral pattern against a white background. I am brightly lit and I am sitting in my wheelchair.

Cindy: Let’s also welcome Diana Wyenn, who is a Los Angeles based theatre and opera director choreographer, and dramaturge, as well as a curator of contemporary performance and community organizer. She's the co founder of Plain Wood Productions and artistic director of arts and culture at Temple Israel of Hollywood. Diana is also a steering committee member for the Directors Lab West, thank you again.

Diana: Thank you, Cindy Marie, hi everybody. I am seated in the center of my screen. I am a fair skinned, woman with a short bob in brown and behind me is a very cluttered background, of my living room with a piano converted into a desk, a bookshelf and a Abstract Painting and a couch behind me, so.

Cindy: I love all the backgrounds for these. So everyone, you can find full bios for all of our speakers at directorslabwest.com. Now Laurel and Diana are going to be in conversation for about 30 minutes, and then I'll return with some crude questions direct from our Facebook chat and the pre registrants until then, I'm going to hand the reins over to you, Diana.

Diana: Thank you. Hi Laurel.

[Laurel waves.]

Diana: I am so thrilled to be talking with you about this topic, and things shifted because I think I didn't even expect to be present for Directors Lab West, when we were planning our in person lab. I was actually meant to be working on tour in Europe and so things have definitely shifted, but I am grateful to be here with you now. And so I want to start by asking, how has the pandemic impacted you and your practice?

Laurel: Wow, that's kind of a big one, Diana.

Diana: It is.

Laurel: For one thing as with many artists, particularly dancers and choreographers, I went from pretty much being booked out for the next two to three years. I mean the schedule was actually starting to get kind of scary years in advance. It was exciting and I've gone from that to being in this state of suspension. It's been really interesting because this is the most time I have spent at home in several years. I don't remember the last time I was literally at home for a month without interruption. My choreographic practice is grounded in ensemble and partnering. So that is really hard to pursue right now, as an artist I thrive on collaboration and on crossover. So I'm exploring some different ways of pursuing that. And I am also a product designer and a software architect. So in addition to my work in community, in crisis care and in organizing, I am doing a lot of projects in front of a keyboard, both artistic and administrative and other technological innovation that supports the arts and that supports our community.

Diana: Thank you, yeah, it's definitely shifted a lot of things to this box. Something that I realized I didn't add to my visual description because it isn't visible, but I do feel like it's very necessary for this conversation is actually, recognizing what is invisible, which is my disability. I have type one diabetes. And so, I'm excited because we're integrating what's visible and what's invisible. And what's been really remarkable was Laurel and I got all the registration questions and we're gonna work through many of the themes and the questions that arose. And since we're on this digital platform, I thought we could start here and cause quite a few questions remarked on how digital platforms are more accessible to disabled patrons and disabled artists. And they asked if there was any chance that the theatre community would use this time to make physical spaces more accessible and disability friendly. Can I lob that to you?

Laurel: All right, so we'll straight into it. I have heard a lot about access and remote platforms at this time. It is absolutely true that remote access, remote presence is a vital component of accessibility for many disabled people. Something that we have really tried to pioneer in Kinetic Light is a digital transparency in live streaming rehearsals in whenever possible, offering performance live streams for people who cannot come see us on tour. However, that is only one component, access is not automatic. It does not happen unless you make it happen. Today we are very happy that Directors Lab West understood that we needed to have an interpreter for this conversation that it needed to be captioned. That these are forms of access that we have to provide just because you're on a digital platform doesn't mean, oh, we're accessible now. Access is about just thinking, what do people need? What do my artists need? What does my audience need? And it's been honestly really heartbreaking that we have seen so much progress in certain kinds of access so quickly remote access to education is a huge example. Disabled people have been asking for that for a long time. And suddenly only now, does it happen. Not because it was so hard to do after all, but because it affected non-disabled people. There are brilliant organizers, artists, activists who have built their careers entirely on remote presence. One example is Alice Wong who founded the disability visibility project among a number of critical initiatives. So, yeah, it can be done, but no, it doesn't just happen magically, I wish it did.

Diana: No, it doesn't even yesterday I was on a call about, a project and I have a low sighted actor writer, and he brought up the fact he can't read the chat. So if we gonna go live, i wanna respond to chat questions, we wanna make those audible for him.

Laurel: As for the question about physical space. I mean the built environment is one of the hard aspects of accessibility and it's something that's very easy for people to focus on. There's a ramp or there are stairs. That's not the sum total of access by any means. It's just one component, but it is a component that is probably the slowest to change. There have been a number of articles, including one in dance magazine this month calling out not just accessibility, but what do artists need in theatres? We can't socially distance in the backstage. How many times have you been in a dressing room with 20 people and no ventilation?

Diana: Many.

Laurel: Right, so I don't know what the answer. Okay, actually I do know what the answer is to that, but people who own buildings don't like it.

Diana: Yes, yeah, that's very true. So when we were prepping for this conversation about disability and equity and how they can be creative forces onstage and off in our practices and for our communities and in our own lives, you and I talked a lot about the importance of language and this importance is actually something that's come up multiple times over the conversations, even in this series. So, okay, as somebody who was diagnosed at 20 while in college, but who didn't really come to recognize my place in our community until maybe four or five years ago, I am still processing. I'm still in the process of unlearning the harmful ablest language that I internalized since childhood and since language isn't static and is always evolving and it can be utilized to empower and to oppress individuals in communities. Can you help us clarify the language around disability and its impact?

Laurel: Honestly, it's pretty easy. #SayTheWord. Disability is not a dirty word. We can get a little more complicated. Most artists at this point prefer identity first language, which is to say, I am a disabled artist. Language shifts over time, 30 years ago when I was being trained as an activist, the dominant style new then, was person first language, which most of you have probably heard say person with a disability. There and some people still prefer that, you go with what the individual prefers, but there is particularly in the arts world an understanding that you cannot separate your identities from your personhood. It's a disservice, even to people who are becoming disabled, but pertinently our context and lived experience matters. That is what we as storytellers use as fuel. So you have effectively create or understand your art in isolation from your disability, or non-disability just as you hopefully would not try to separate it from your gender or your race or your cultural upbringing. It is the context and viewpoint that makes our art rich, powerful and compelling.

Diana: Definitely, that resonates so much because I know I kept my diabetes out of the room for so long and tried to push it out of the way and it wasn't until I kind of like said, well, I'm bringing my whole self to this room that my work got stronger. And I was able to create much healthier, more robust ways. So with that said, what do we do when we make a mistake? When we say something, using the euphemisms or—

Laurel: We correct it and we move on. It's not, it doesn't have to be a big deal, recognize that you made a mistake, recognize what you want to do in the future and move on.

Diana: Yeah, it reminds me of yesterday with the intimacy directors, they talked about, Carly brought up oops, what is it? Oops, ouch, I'm sorry and move forward. As a good way to quickly move past it and not make it about you.

Laurel: Yeah, classic prejudice, because it's not about you.

Diana: So maybe that also brings up some of the other terminology about like special accommodations. Whereas like now it's just what're your comment? What accommodations do you need? Or and it reminds me of like the difference between asking for someone's preferred pronouns and just asking for their pronouns.

Laurel: Yeah, all of these little things, honestly, I know where "special needs” came from, and I, if I could go back and wipe that out, a disabled person's needs are not special. The term is enshrined in education. Educating the child is not a special need. They have the same need for education, for access, for the ability to exist in public space for human connection as anyone. We all have these needs. So saying that they're special is a way of shifting the burden onto the disabled individual and saying, oh, you need more. It's your fault that we're not giving this to you rather than simply creating access, providing whatever accommodation is appropriate. Yeah, I could rant about that for the next—

Diana: Definitely, but maybe it's like a perfect time to talk about why you offered the word equity, for the session title, when we were kicking around accessibility, which is also another very important term in practice.

Laurel: Access is absolutely important. If access does not exist, if you or your organization is starting from a place where there is no access, then obviously you must begin there. That is the first place, but we talk about equity and I feel this conversation has just caught on in a lot of ways. I do not care for inclusion, because when you're talking about inclusion, that's implicitly hierarchical. Who is doing the including and who is being included and what kind of relationship does that set up? There is an expectation that, oh, I'm doing this charitable thing that makes me feel so good. No, we talk about equity. Equity requires honesty. It requires an investment in sharing power. It requires sharing leadership and resources, equity involves the ownership of stories. Who gets to tell what stories?

Diana: Now I think that's so important, especially with, the conversation around power who holds the power. I don't know when I started this, but as a director, like when one day, I always start the top of my process and I repeat it whenever I feel necessary, but I tell my actors and my creative teams as well, and my crew that I have one rule in my rooms and everything else is fair game. And I say, you just have to follow that one rule and that is protect yourself and others. And then I explained that I mean the spiritually, physically and emotionally, and it's really amazing to watch the room shift as everyone recognizes their own agency to take care of themselves and one another. And I now look back and I realized that I think my original motives for this, bringing this into my room, was actually coming out of a need to really care for myself. And now that I had more power in the room, I was no longer an actor. I was directing much, much more. I could offer this because if my blood sugar is going down or going up, I gotta handle it. So this one rule lets me protect myself, but also, let everyone else do the same. I mean, can you, are there practices that you and your collaborators have adopted to create rehearsal rooms and process that can handle everyone's unique needs? Have you encountered any unexpected artistic discoveries along the way because of those?

Laurel: So this is where a Kinetic Light as an ensemble disabled artists under disability leadership really grounds our practice. It is about really trust and professionalism. What I hear when you say that, is that you trust your actors to be professionals, to do what they need to do and we do the same. Trust the artists. We take care, we show care for each other by doing that, in our case, if we need to create access, then we do so. And that may look a little bit different for everybody that even can look different for me on a day to day basis. I don't know if I would say there are any huge surprises in that, what I have learned over and over, both working in ensemble and working as a choreographer, is that when you trust the artist, sometimes they come up with something better than what I had planned for them.

Diana: That yes, I find out all the time in my work. I often think about like my role as a director sometimes to like, in addition to bringing some big vision and being able to hold the space and the hall, but as to like, get rid of hindrances for the individuals that they can do their best work.

Laurel: Yeah, we just make the space and get out of the way sometimes.

Diana: Yeah, amazing, yes. So, oh, I wanted to share the national performance network conference. Back in December I took this great workshop by disabled actress, Diana Elizabeth Jordan. She might be out there. So hi, Diana, if you're out there. And her workshop, like not only helped me kind of identify my privilege as an invisibly disabled director, but also introduced me to a lot of the activists who have been doing this work for decades. So what advice do you have for non-disabled artists who have joined us and are asking themselves, how can I build that culture of care, responsibility and trust into my own practice and how can I create a safe and welcoming space for my artists as well as my audience?

Laurel: Wow, this is, yeah, that's something that takes a lot of practice in learning to make that space learning to build community. I would say, one thing is to consider what is actually necessary. What constraints do you really need? For example, common in dance studios is that you're not allowed to have anything but water in a studio.

Diana: Yep, common to stages as well.

Laurel: So yeah, that's not going to work for everybody. Trust your artists to be professional, to not spill or have something that has crumbs. If everyone understands what the goal is, maybe that prohibition isn't actually 100% necessary. Considering your language, if you are inflicting microaggressions on people, that is a stress on your artist. Why would you invite someone in… You wouldn't bring someone into the process and then deliberately inflict more work or more pain on them. So that's something to think of ahead of time. Being honest, that's a really big one. If you're not prepared to do this work, don't. If you're not at a place where you can, for example, offer interpretation, you wouldn't go out and actively advertise for Deaf artists to come into your process. In your audition announcements, just be honest, if your audition space is not wheelchair accessible, please say so, that's a lot better than having people show up and be like, up, those share our stairs. Or even doing the work to be like, okay, well, come out and I'll read for you in the parking lot. I've done that. And understanding who is doing the work there, I hope no one here would do this, but I have certainly been in situations where I've been asked to be a part of something, been cast and then had it made clear that it was also my unpaid job to figure out all my own accommodations. Not cool, there is so much here and we actively invite people in to community to learn these things.

Diana: Definitely, you mentioned kinetically at a few moments ago and that work is, has intersectional disability at, as an aesthetic and as a culture and as an essential part of the artistry and the access is also central to that process. So can you tell us more about your work and about how you're not only investigating and investing in what's happening on stage during the performances, but you're also in looking at the reception of that live performance. And we had a question come in, asked about how the work you're doing for audiences and at what point you bring them into your creative process. And I feel like it's a good moment to mention that US sense data actually reveals that one in five Americans has a disability and that we are the largest minority group and make up a significant amount of current audiences and have the potential if we aren't left out to make up even more of their audiences. So can you share a bit more about your work at Kinetic Light?

Laurel: And here we get to the part where we actually offer about four days worth of workshops on exactly this. So as I mentioned, Kinetic Light as an ensemble of disabled artists under disability leadership. We are not strictly speaking a dance company. We are on stage dancing. However, it's also a multichannel production. I don't think our practices around bringing in audiences are terribly different from other evening length touring productions. In that, we do trials, we test out, we do showings. This is all kind of very standard practice. We do try for a transparency of process and we do of course explicitly invite our disabled community and other disabled artists into our process and to give comment. One seeing that is easy for me to point out if you're not familiar with the state of performance access for people who are blind or low vision, that practice is called audio description. And what that looks like is that you have an additional person, a trained describer, usually sitting in the booth, who is watching the performance, and they are speaking into a microphone that transmits to these audience members, their description of what is happening on stage. So if you imagine the difference between watching and listening to a performance, the amount of data you're taking in visually, and then compressing that down to audio description, that also has to be woven in if there are audible components to the performance. That is bare minimum. That is not an artistic experience. That is big grudge and after the fact, what we created spurred by our blind friends who came to our showings and said, everyone else gaffes, but from the description, I didn't understand why? understood that we were failing. So in partnership with our audience, with fellow artists, I designed automats. If you imagine that you're in a huge room, maybe a museum gallery, and there are 30 speakers scattered around the space and they can be anywhere floor, floating in midair ceiling. Every speaker is playing something different, but it's all part of the same show. And you can navigate yourself through the space. You can make choices about what you want to listen to, everything at once. You can go cuddle up to one speaker and listen to just one thing from beginning to end, that is a rich artistic experience. And that is what we create with automats, where we are creating that content and that material alongside the choreography, alongside the projections, video, the lighting design, and it is just as much a part of the word building as the dance you're watching on stage.

Diana: Definitely, I got to listen to some of them and I definitely encourage people out there to head to their website and check out, the recording that's on SoundCloud on there. 'Cause it did, it gave me those moments of huh, like I, my mind was dancing as I encountered it, I loved it. Ah, Cindy Marie.

Cindy: That seems like a good time to start to transition to our questions. We have more to talk about with automats, which sounds amazing. We got so many questions from the registrants and it was hard to narrow it down, but we have a few to jump off. One was people asked if there's any insight you can give into off working with invisible disabilities or creatives that prefer not to share about their disability for fear that it could impact their work experiences. Then I know you talked a little of your experience there but…

Diana: Yeah definitely. As somebody who got diagnosed at 20, right as they were about to head into the profession, I actually spent the first at least eight years completely hiding it. And so, and what that created was, usually in a cast, I was acting a lot more at that point. So in a cast I would tell one person, so if something needed to happen, one person knew, but that's not really useful. And I will say that thing of protect yourself and others and asking people if their accommodation needs are being met at the top of your practice. And enabling them to answer that question in real time, or to pull you aside later, has been really important because there are times where all of a sudden to the whole room, they're like, oh yeah, I have really bad asthma. So that really rigorous amazing viewpoints exercise is like, if you see me sit down, that's why, it gives them more agency, but then it also enables them to pull me aside. I also think like, kind of like disability is seen as a bad word, as we talked about earlier, like diabetes is one of those terms and the origins of this disease are systemic. And we have to burst through that. And it's one of the reasons why, like, I even built an entire show after not acting anymore to really talk about that, but that's a whole other conversation, but I feel like there's also, there's a lot of us out there in positions of power who are invisibly disabled or chronically ill, that get it. And I feel like you don't, it's up to you, whether you're gonna disclose, but to help the rest of the community and recognize that you can be part of, kind of dismantling the shame and the fear, because invisible disabilities doesn't mean that you can't do the work and be great at it, so…

Cindy: That’s great, and one question that came in, just came in on the Facebook live is how do you connect with other disabled artists? Michaela says that, you know, would she approach folks in coffee shops, doctor's offices shops and asked, are you interested in writing and performing?

Laurel: That is a good question. And I think there is a really important distinction between people already in the field and working at a professional level and people working in other fields who might be interested in getting involved, Kinetic Light is actively engaged in lifting up and offering further training and opportunities to disabled artists who are already at least emerging in their fields. And the way we do it is largely through networks, we ask and we ask and we ask and we are always looking. In fact, we have some major information and organizing projects that we'll hopefully be able to announce very soon in that regard. However, not everyone wants to disclose, not everyone identifies, it is not always straightforward and there are a lot of ways, but if you're looking for people, go to where people are. That's usually a good place to start meet them where they are.

Cindy: That reminds me really quick about arts marketing, where people would say, well, we have an ASL interpreter for this one production, and I'd have to remind them that, that doesn't discount all the work you need to do leading up to it, to really, to get people interested. Another question we had, I think from preregistration is that how do you see creative practices in dance and education intersecting in regards to disability and how to disrupt the tropes that keeps surrounding the work of disabled artists?

Laurel: So I think those are really two big and separate questions and I want to go for the second one first. Disability tropes are pretty terrible in theatre, in film. How often do you know someone is the villain because they're disabled. It's another common trope is inspiration porn "Me Before You" was a great example of that. We are not objects of petty. My life does not suck. I have no desire to die and my life is not inherently less valuable because of my disability. That really comes down to how I talked about who owns the story, who gets to tell the story, representation matters, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera in design, in technical work, in the writer's room, directors and producers, if you are a non-disabled director or writer who really has a burning need to tell a disability story, I mean, first I would really sit with that and understand what your motivations are around that. And then you need to find someone to work with you, hire a consultant. There are plenty of disabled writers, script doctors, fantastic actors and directors out there who may be happy to work with you. But yeah, representation is absolutely critical. And so is authenticity. As Diana said, 20% of the population and in all honesty, post pandemic, the number is going to be much, much higher. The disability community is bracing for a huge number of people who will have lifelong disability caused by this illness. So yeah, we are not the other, we are you?

Diana: It also reminds me of like, there's the, I just found out about it, a whole host of dramaturges, disabled dramaturges that are doing incredible work. So, playwrights and directors grab them and use them and pay them. And it also reminds me of how satisfying it was. I'm working on a show called "The Lesson in Swimming" with a three time stroke survivor, who is low sighted. And it's been remarkable. We laugh about the fact that, two invisibly disabled artists walk into a theatre, and it's really fun to see, to hear about his experiences and talk about how they relate to my experiences 'cause we have such unique stories that got us to this place together, but there are things that he talks about that I'm like, I can totally relate to that. And I feel like if he was in the hands of a non-disabled director, the conversation is very different. But like I instantaneously knew I needed loud shoes because he can't really see very well. So my loud shoes tell him where I am approaching from, and that kind of stuff is exciting to me.

Cindy: We have a pretty dense question that we tried to condense down a little bit. Can you describe a little about what it's like, to create specifically for disabled audiences versus non-disabled versus deliberately mixed disabled and non-disabled, create specifically with only disabled collaborators versus with only non-disabled versus an intentionally integrated group. And how is the experience different when collaborating with disabled people who have different kinds of disabilities than you do?

Laurel: Whew.

Cindy: Let me do a little card for this one.

Laurel: That could be a seminar in and of itself. Cindy Marie, how long do I have?

Cindy: Well like, we could go a little further than, more than two minutes.

Laurel: Let me see if I can come up with a 90 second version. What I really want to say in response to that. I don't know that I am ever creating only for one kind of audience. I can say that I am considering who I am centering. And if you look at Kinetic Lights descent, if you were a wheelchair user, there are moments in there that are a love letter to you and that no one else will ever see. So I think it's possible to create those kinds of moments and to show that kind of care and love for your audience and for all of your audiences. No, that's not, we're not necessarily building things solely for disabled audiences. We're just including and centering people who are traditionally excluded from theatre, from dance, from live performance, both by the built environment. The fact that, Oh, there's two seats for people in wheelchairs, one on either side. So the width of the auditorium apart, and they're all the way at the back to not having interpretation, not having description, other lacks of access. Working with collaborators and I think this is something that is true for any creator, from a marginalized identity, more so for multiply marginalized, intersectional artists. There is a certain freedom and a certain ease, when everyone understands, when you are not negotiating. Okay, I have these access needs that no one else in the room has, or I have to put on this performance for this very specific kind of professionalism. And disability is incredibly creative. We come up with new ways to work. We come up with new kinds of work, when we're working across disability, even more so it's harder, but it can be incredibly rewarding. I think that's kind of the high points there. Diana, is there anything in that question you want to respond to?

Diana: Well I think you, you tackled so much of it. And the thing that I just want to double down on is like we've had to adapt like under our given circumstances, their adaptations and creative ways that we found to work. I used to in my costumes, like hide sugar in random pockets or in my bra during a performance. But then, there's also the ability to then create technologies like working with costume designers to actually, build a place for those kinds of things into your work. So I feel like there's something incredibly creative, inherently creative and that could really empower a lot of rooms and expand the ways that we are working for the better.

Cindy: That seems like a great place to wrap this up. I think we could probably go on for quite a while. And there are some more questions coming in, if we have time to jump into the Facebook chat after then we'll try to answer everybody's questions. But in closing, we gonna ask that, one question we're asking everyone across the board, would you briefly share something that you've learned or discovered during this quarantine period that you plan to incorporate into your practice as an artist? Diana, do you want to start?

Diana: Sure, whew, I love this one yesterday now I'm receiving it. I think it's really exposed for me our need to control, like our jump to try and control things. Especially as a theatre director, I want the lighting and everything to be, as I've imagined it in my head or created with my team and like where we are now has like blown out apart. And you kind of have to run with it and you have to adapt. And so I guess I'm okay, like what I'm looking forward to taking with me is recognizing that the systems that are broken, like can come apart and we can rebuild something better together and find a new re-imagine the ways that we are working to unveil new ways of working that really offer opportunities for all of us so, take care of ourselves in each other here.

Cindy: Laurel, could you brief—

Laurel: I think possibly the most, the biggest component that I'm taking out of this is, is really exploring all of the capacities. How can I create art without being in physical proximity with people? How can I create it without being on stage without even having a stage? So really exploring what is possible, what is really innovative? Yeah and I know there are a ton of questions that we are not going to get to. And as I said we could keep going on this—

Diana: There is so much more, yes.

Laurel: I will say I am pretty available on Instagram. If people have specific questions that they want to reach out about at wordsoflaurel, my beloved colleague and the artistic lead of Kinetic Light, Alice Shepherd is also on Instagram at wheelchairDancer. And if you are looking for disabled artists, get in touch with us because we are we're collecting binders. If you are a disabled artist or designer or technician or director also get in touch with us, we want you on board.

Diana: Yes, yeah, and I'm more than happy as well to field anything like it's out there. I think this is so important and I can't thank you enough, Laurel for joining us.

Laurel: Thank you Diana.

Cindy: And thank you again everybody. You're both amazing. It's been, it's always such a pleasure to talk to you in me, I always have so many things to look up afterwards and think about and thank you so much to our pet partners at HowlRound. Eli Streifer who is our ASL interpreter. We adore you. We also very much the Directors Lab West would like to acknowledge our long standing partners at the stage directors and choreographers society, the Pasadena Playhouse and Boston Court Pasadena. We are usually inundating your spaces right now, and we look forward to reuniting from next year. This conversation will be archived and available with closed captions on both howlround.com and directorslabwest.com. And you'll be able to watch it on our Facebook page. We hope you'll join us again tomorrow for what is this? Day five, that will be day five of eight. Our conversation featuring global perspectives from Directors Lab West International Alumni, Daniella Atiencia, Gianna form AKona and Makiko Shibuya. And it's going to be moderated by Thank you both, Laurel thank you so much, Diana—

Diana: Wow, thank you Cindy Marie.

Cinday: We hope that this conversation sparks even more discussion and collaboration. Thank you everyone.

Directors Lab West Logo.

This conversation is presented as part of Directors Lab West Connects, an 8-day series of livestreamed conversations and Q&As crafted for and by theater directors and choreographers that will reflect upon, explore, and inspire paths forward in the transformed and transforming nature of live theater. Curated to reflect a wide range of topics, each session will feature speakers sharing their unique perspectives for 30 minutes, followed by a live moderated 15-minute Q&A.

RSVP for this conversation, read speaker bios, and submit questions ahead of time at directorslabwest.com.

Directors Lab West Connects will be livestreaming on howlround.tv and on the Directors Lab West Facebook page, where viewers can engage with peers and ask additional questions in the chat. Each session will be archived on both HowlRound and Directors Lab West’s website.

The full Directors Lab West Connects schedule of conversations is:

Saturday 23 May 2020
Anne Cattaneo and Sheldon Epps: A Discussion of Institutional Perspectives, Connections, and Support

Sunday 24 May 2020
Anne Bogart and Jessica Hanna: A Conversation about Creative Practice and the Shifting Landscape

Monday 25 May 2020
Ann James and Carly D. Weckstein: Using Intimacy Direction to Create a Culture of Consent Post-COVID

Tuesday 26 May 2020
Laurel Lawson and Diana Wyenn: Disability and Equity as Creative Forces

Wednesday 27 May 2020
Daniela Atiencia, Gianna Formicone, and Makiko Shibuya: Global Perspectives from DLW’s International Alumni

Thursday 28 May 2020
Scarlett Kim and Mattie Barber-Bockelman: Reimagining Liveness and Connection for Virtual Space

Friday 20 May 2020
Luis Alfaro and Laurie Woolery: Reflections on “Remote” Teaching and Community Engagement

Saturday 30 May 2020
Sabra Williams and Laura Karlin: The Power of the Arts — Theater and Dance in Systems-Impacted Communities


Founded in 2000, Directors Lab West brings together dedicated emerging and mid-career theatre directors and choreographers together with master artists for an eight-day long intensive filled with workshops, conversations, panels, and symposia enabling them to inspire each other to dream and create the future of American Theatre. Now entering its third decade, the Lab's alumni network is comprised of over 600 theater artists from all over the world. Directors Lab West is presented with artistic partners in Pasadena and Los Angeles and is supported by the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society. www.directorslabwest.com

Directors Lab West Connects is produced by Che’Rae Adams, Douglas Clayton, Ernest Figueroa, Martin Jago, Cindy Marie Jenkins, Randee Trabitz, and Diana Wyenn, with additional support from Emily Claeys and Reena Dutt.


  • ASL Interpretation will be available on both the HowlRound and Directors Lab West Facebook livestreams.
  • Closed captioning and ASL Interpretation will be provided on the archived video on both the Directors Lab West and HowlRound websites.

See the other archived videos that belong to the Directors Lab West Connects livestream series.

About HowlRound TV

HowlRound TV is a global, commons-based peer produced, open access livestreaming and video archive project stewarded by the nonprofit HowlRound. HowlRound TV is a free and shared resource for live conversations and performances relevant to the world's performing arts and cultural fields. Its mission is to break geographic isolation, promote resource sharing, and to develop our knowledge commons collectively. Participate in a community of peer organizations revolutionizing the flow of information, knowledge, and access in our field by becoming a producer and co-producing with us. Learn more by going to our participate page. For any other queries, email tv@howlround.com, or call Vijay Mathew at +1 917.686.3185 Signal/WhatsApp. View the video archive of past events.

Find all of our upcoming events here.

Upcoming Events


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