“Dress for mischief. Hats encouraged.”
With a party invitation like that, the unexpected would be expected and appropriate, considering that the party was for the January 11 launch of Professor Charlotte Meehan’s Boston multimedia theater company, Sleeping Weazel.
Opening night featured postmodern 1920s Paris fashions; selections from a play; cabaret singing; and Professor Stephanie Burlington Daniels, in a Victorian costume, playing Frankenstein author Mary Shelley lecturing to imaginary brides-to-be.
Sleeping Weazel is all about artistic surprises and pushing the boundaries of traditional theater, which is classic Meehan. This year, the company will be showcasing a mix of performance styles and genres that often blur the line between art forms, including a puppet performance piece. (The theater’s name is inherited from a multimedia company that her late filmmaker husband originally started in 1998.)
“In today’s economy, with so many theaters closing, we as artists need to find a way to invent our own possibilities for creating and presenting our work,” said Meehan, who started this Sleeping Weazel with three Wheaton alums. “I wanted to have a company that reflects the widest possible range of what I consider theater, to stretch the confines of the physical stage by presenting visual art in a theatrical context, and to create opportunities for artists to gather, collaborate and engage with new audiences who want to be surprised.”
She has built her career on multimedia and experimental theater productions in Boston, Providence and New York. This time, she’s working closely with three of her former students—Amanda Weir ’04, Adara Meyers ’08 and Jessica Foster ’05. The professor is the artistic director, and Meyers, Foster and Weir, whose play Perpetual Motion was presented at the launch party, are associate artists.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work closely with me on this project. We each have skills and traits that complement those of the others,” said Meehan, Wheaton’s playwright-in-residence. “The fact that my former students are working with me is an extension of my emphasis on building creative community in my classes. I encourage my students to support each other’s endeavors, both while they are studying with me and after they graduate.”
Said Foster: “I’m most excited about the opportunity to work with like-minded artists who are sincere.”
Foster and Weir both have M.F.A.’s in playwriting. Meyers, a freelance copy editor, and Weir have been living in Providence for the past few years, producing theater festivals together and developing their own performance pieces. Weir also works full time supporting an arts-based day program for mentally challenged adults in Rhode Island. Foster teaches English classes as an adjunct professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology and at Pine Manor College.
Two other alums are working with the company as affiliated artists—Mark Baumer ’06 and Riley Waggaman ’10. Wheaton professors Daniels, David Fox, Clinton O’Dell and Jake Mahaffy also are affiliated artists and future collaborators. Meehan currently is writing a new multimedia play, Real Realism, that is scheduled to be Sleeping Weazel’s first long run of a play in spring 2013. Wheaton students will rehearse excerpts of this play in workshop this spring on campus.
All performances take place at Factory Theatre, a rented space at 791 Tremont St., in Boston. See the schedule of events and visit Sleeping Weazel’s cyber art gallery at sleepingweazel.com.
Photos by David S. Marshall