Claire Vogel is a third year acting major from Athens, Georgia in the school of music, theatre, and dance, she is also minoring in playwriting and dance. She recently created a very moving work entitled SHE. This work was created in support by the Basement Arts here at Michigan. This organization is a student theater organization that is an outlet here at the University to allow students to create, develop, and produce theatre works. This organization is available to all students here at Michigan. They are producing multiple shows throughout this semester, you should definitely go check them out!
I have the amazing opportunity to work with Claire in class this semester, and have heard about her creation process for SHE a small bit, however, after watching the hour long incredible work I wanted to the opportunity to sit down and ask her questions about the production, concept, and editing processes as well.
What inspired you to create SHE, and what is the story behind it? “In quarantine, I began writing lots of poetry about the contradictions I was feeling in my own femininity. Those poems were the germ of an idea that grew into SHE. Going in to the process for SHE, I knew I wanted the piece to simply be a presentation on ideas of what a woman experiences, rather than any linear storyline.”
What was the creation process like during a time of COVID? How did you navigate rehearsals? “All our rehearsals were via Zoom. We spent a large amount of the rehearsal time on focused free writes, for example, “you have 20 minutes to write about how you experience anger/relationships with food/relationships with other women, etc…” and then the conversations that came out of sharing what everyone had written. I actually think Zoom may have been helpful to our process, because we were so often referencing many documents at once. I also think myself and the cast all felt very close very quickly, and were willing to open up and be vulnerable. I think this may have been aided by the fact that everyone was in the comfort of their own homes, and felt distanced in a way that made sharing difficult or personal experiences easier.”
What was the filming process like? “When I processed SHE to Basement Arts I knew that a short film was the medium that would be best for what I imagined. Because so many ideas were covered in just over an hour, I think a film gave us the opportunity to very quickly set scenes and moods, in a way that may have been difficult in a live performance medium. Many of the sequences were self taped by actors in their homes. For the in-person filming, we split filming between University spaces and peoples own homes, depending on people’s comfort level. All the actors and the crew were tested within 48 hours of filming, and remained masked unless they were actively performing. I couldn’t have accomplished the final product I did without the help of three fabulous film students, Kaley Mooney and Lara Graney who did a good amount of our filming, and Rachel Ienna who helped me complete the final editing of the piece.”
Did you have a clear idea, or as you began to collect footage did the story begin to come together? “I’m a very visual person in terms of creating. All my writing comes from very clear things I see in my head, so many images were set in stone from the very beginning of the process. For example, the image of a woman running towards the beautiful lit up Michigan Theater on State Street, only to be engulfed in a celebration with a group of women dancing in the street was an image I knew I wanted before the first rehearsal, but many of the sequences in the piece were ideas that everyone collaborated on throughout the rehearsal process!”
What was your favorite part of this process? “Oh god, working with these incredible women!! I told the nine of them in our first rehearsal that if all that comes of this project is a couple hours a day for a group of young women to discuss whatever the hell they want, I will be satisfied, and we really did that. It’s incredibly comforting to know that the things that you’re struggling with or wishing you had more of or wondering about are things that people around you are thinking about as well, you just need the space to share them!”
What does the title mean to you and why is your work entitled SHE? “For the title, I wanted something simple that centered the subject matter I hoped to focus on without making it seem romantic or flower-y. Because the piece is about the female experience, SHE seemed to be perfect.”
What was an unexpected obstacle you had to overcome when creating this work? “Because we couldn’t film more than one person unmasked at a time, due to Covid procedures, we had to be creative with creating group sequences that could be filmed individually and be edited to look as if they were together. I think it challenged us to think differently about what together-ness can look like.”
What can we expect to see next from you? “I will be performing in Basement Arts’ production of Slut premiering March 19! I also choreographed a short film titled Emotional Creature, featuring the women of the Senior acting class that will be premiering March 19th!”
Here is the link to watch this work. I recommend you take the time to sit down and really watch it!