Everyone remembers the joys of childhood. Sadly, you grew up. Those years of innocence passed you by years ago and now you’re on the cusp of the long road of adulthood and its many struggles. But they’re not necessarily gone. Britomartis, one of Vassar’s non-hierarchical devised theatre groups, will be able to immerse you back into that old, familiar place with their show and remind you of what it means to be a kid again.
This semester, Britomartis’ show “Motherfuckers: A Fairy Tale” is just as boundary-pushing. On April 28 and 29, Britomartis will be on Graduation Hill by Sunset Lake, performing a production thematically centered around childhood. In the event of rain, the alternate space is Blodgett Auditorium. The show’s runtime should be around 30 to 45 minutes.
In an emailed statement, ensemble member Liam Collier ’16 explained what separates “Motherfuckers” from previous Britomartis productions: “It’s a fairy tale. Sometimes it will feel like a typical show. Sometimes it will feel more like a ritual. It should be a lot of fun though. You’re going to see new takes on some familiar characters, but also some characters [of] our own invention. There’s a lot of humor– especially amongst the pirate characters–but there’s also some really genuine conversations about motherhood and childhood and growing up.”
All of the scenes were written by Britomartis members, but the inspiration for these scenes has a wide variety of sources, including lines of movie dialogue and song lyrics. Particularly in this show, there are several scenes that are modeled after characters from members’ childhoods, like Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Princess Mononoke. Some of the characters in “Motherfuckers” are historical too, like Queen Elizabeth.
Britomartis member Tessa Rudnick ’18 elaborated on the group’s redefinition of outside sources and characters within the new world they’ve created for the show. She explained, “This is only my second semester in Brito, but this semester we’ve returned to bringing in a lot of outside sources and it’s been really rewarding to play around with someone else’s words. Also, I’ve never had the pleasure of creating an entire world and mythology with others before and it’s been really exciting to watch this world and these characters come alive.”
Britomartis is a non-hierarchical theatre organization, so there is no specific role each ensemble member takes on. Instead, each person serves as director and designer for the production, and acts in it as well. This allows for every show to truly take on a collaborative result from every member.
Ensemble member Nneoma Njoku ’18 described how this group dynamic has impacted rehearsals: “[It’s been] like playing make believe in the woods with your neighborhood friends on a summer day.”
Communication was key in facilitating this dynamic. Collier said, “For the first few weeks we did a lot of talking. We told stories about our childhood, about our relationships with our parents, about puberty and sex and love and loss. I feel like one of the challenges of making a piece about such pertinent themes is that we just want to go on talking forever. Getting things down on paper and then getting those things on their feet is much harder.”
He continued, “We do a lot of writing individually and then share it with the group. Then we take those pieces and sort of smash them together until we have a show.”
Britomartis creates an original piece of work every semester, just as they collaborated on this show with only a general topic to guide them. Their show in the fall was called “The Beatrice Abrams Memorial Collection: A Very Erotic Experience.” Very unconventional in nature, it consisted of several avant-garde art pieces, which the audience explored before the actual show began.
Britomartis’ shows tend to be eccentric and innovative in their usage of texts and design. Last spring, Britomartis’ show “Nocturne” drew heavily from very abstract concepts and members’ dreams. The lighting of that show was blinding one moment and minimal the next, and the general outline chose nonsense over narrative. Their shows also often feature a dance number, adding to the activity on stage.
Unlike most of the other student theatre troupes on campus, only Britomartis and Idlewild hold auditions for their shows every semester. At the end of the production, new members are interviewed to determine whether or not they will be permanently inducted into this group. Britomartis welcomes students of all backgrounds and theatre experiences. One of the defining features of their troupe is the wide range of different skills each person contributes to the group, like international students bringing stories of growing up in another country.
Expressing how this show can transform the audience into the children they forgot they once were, Collier said, “I think this show lets [sic] you revisit that place of childhood imagination that we all long to return to. It’s like listening to a bedtime story or picking up a good book. That’s the excitement we’re trying to tap into.”
Rudnick added, “It’s a show that’s silly and funny, but at its core we’re talking about stuff that everybody can relate to. We all remember what it was like to be a child and as college students; we’re living in this weird space between childhood and independence.”