Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory
Produced by Gemini CollisionWorks
Nominated for: Outstanding Original Short Script, Ayun Halliday
Photo by Schecter Lee
About the Production
“An agrarian, post-digital settlement of middle-aged women and teenage boys fixate on the fruits of their garden and unexpected encounters with wildlife as catastrophes both natural and manmade lay waste to the surrounding communities. The script is entirely composed of social media posts and comments re-contextualized into a meditation on calamity and grief, as poetic as it is funny and weird.
Farming. Fawns. Food. Doom. Like. Like. Heart emoticon. Like.”
Playwright Ayun Halliday and Gemini CollisionWorks Artistic Director, Ian W. Hill talk about this intriguing work that provides a new perspective to our usage of social media.
What attracted you this idea?
Ayun: Some friends and I - including Fawnbook cast members Nick Balaban and Marjorie Duffield - were getting together weekly to fool around with improv. One day, we agreed to bring interesting social media posts to our next rehearsal, just to see where they would lead. One guy brought in something about a woman finding a newborn fawn in her suburban backyard. The outpouring of over-the-top love and support she received in response was really quite astonishing, especially when tempered with the occasional sour comment on order of “Good work, now that you’ve touched it, the mother will reject it.” When we put it on its feet, we started gravitating to this weird, agrarian settlement in which everyone was constantly working, hoeing and washing clothes by hand in a river - a Little House on the Prairie type of situation that predated social media. I was smitten. Eventually, I gained their permission to develop it into a script, prowling around Facebook for the dialogue, and transferring the time period to a dystopian near future.
Ian: I have had a long-time admiration for Ayun Halliday and her work. I really wanted to produce -- for the first time -- something through Gemini CollisionWorks that was not actually created by the company itself. I also thought the piece would bring teenage actors and audience to The Brick.
Photo by Schecter Lee
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Ayun: Hearing the platitudes and self-aggrandizement of social media spoken aloud with ritual seriousness by members of our strange little post-digital, pre-apocalyptic community. It was also very gratifying to hear the audience's horrified response to certain highly recognizable tropes... like when the community dismissed an earthquake survivor whose entire world has just been destroyed with a cheerful, "Hugs!"
Ian: Having a group of newcomers work with our company and with The Brick, especially a group including teenagers -- who brought plenty of their friends in to see the show.
What was the biggest challenge of working on this production?
Ayun: Schlepping rakes, buckets, a record player and a giant cart of shredded brown fabric dirt back and forth to our various donated and low cost rehearsal spaces...on the subway. The lion's share of our prop budget went toward the purchase of cucumbers and carrots ... which I, author, performer, publicist and prop mistress was always forgetting to replenish, though I did become quite friendly with the guy who operated the vegetable cart outside my local Trader Joe's.
Ian: Balancing it in repertory with the in-house CollisionWorks play, which was something we're not used to, as we usually take over The Brick ourselves entirely for the weeks of our season every year.
What was the oddest part of the production for you?
Ayun: There were a number of things that really made this experience unique. We hosted a Fawnbook sketch night, where audience members were invited to live-draw the performance. One of those sketches has a place of honor in my living room.
The role of the little fawngirl who appears for 45 seconds at the end of the play was shared by five young actresses - just like Matilda! (There were at least three who would've happily performed every single night, but we mixed it up to make things a little easier on their parent chaperones.
My father died right before we opened - the flurry of emotional support on my Facebook wall softened my opinion of social media condolences somewhat.
Many audience members reported that Fawnbook changed the way they communicate on social media...a couple of them went so far as to pull the plug on their Facebook accounts for good!
Ian: The huge amount of people it brought to The Brick who had never been there before, for a great deal of a near sell-out run.
Photo by Schecter Lee
What was it like working with this company?
Ayun: The mix of generations - three middle-aged women and three teenage boys working as equals was very inspiring. Each group inspired the other to a high degree of accountability. There was no slagging, no moping around at rehearsals.
We also had the world's most energetic and cheerful stage manager in Thomas Pflanz. He'd greet you with a hug and then dash out in the rain to pick up whatever vegetable prop we'd forgotten to replenish for that evening's performance.
What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Fawnbook?
Ian: A sense of beauty and fragility and community. With some bittersweet laughs.
What was it like working with Ayun Halliday?
Ian: Ayun Halliday is an amazing writer/performer who has been away from the stage for too long as she's focused on her zine, book, and online writing (and raising her kids). She was an outstanding and founding member of the Neo-Futurists (originally in Chicago, then NYC)
You can follow these artists on Twitter
Gemini CollisionWorks - @Geminicollision
Ayun Hallidy - @AyunHalliday