Buddies blogger Johnnie Walker chats with Quiver creator/performer Anna Chatterton about the piece’s character and relationships, and the role that technology plays in bringing them to life.
Your play is about a love interest coming between a mother and daughter, which could be tawdry or tragic. Which angle to do you lean toward? Or is there room for both?
I actually lean towards the comedic/tragic in general. There are some sexy bits but they are veiled by the tragedy/comedy of the situation and the characters.
What drew you to telling a story about a mother-daughter relationship? What about this dynamic intrigues you?
The relationship between mothers and daughters can be very intense, particularly in single-parent homes. I wanted to explore the effects of divorce and a non-conventional family and look at different power dynamics. What happens when traditional roles are reversed? Who rebels? Who demands rules must be set? What makes a family?
Who are the characters we’ll meet in Quiver? What kind of teenage girls do we have here? What kind of mother?
The story is mainly told through Maddie—an introverted, intense and imaginative fourteen-year-old. Her mother, Sheila, is a single mom: brassy, extraverted, very liberal—Maddie would say too liberal—and likes to have a good time. Her older sister, Bea, is a rebellious, stubborn sixteen-year-old who is fun, popular, and likes to party. They are all desperately trying to figure out how to be happy.
Your use of a microphone and vocal processor to create different characters recalls Marie Brassard’s Jimmy. Was she an influence?
I do love the work of Marie Brassard and her collaborators, and I was particularly inspired by Montreal artist Alexis O’Hara who works with experimental sound and comedy in very exciting ways—she often improvises a monologue using sound gear and makes effects to support her stories on the fly. My partner, electronics artist Jim Ruxton, turned me onto her work and researched to find the vocal processor that I use in the show.
How are you using this technology to create the world of your show?
I am using this vocal processor to morph my voice for each of the three characters, and I do live looping and sound effects while performing. I also control all the sound cues. It becomes like a radio play that you watch, seeing the playwright as the master of ceremonies of her story.
Buddies audiences have just seen you as Alice B. Toklas. Do you see any connections between Quiver and Gertrude & Alice?
I think the connection would be the comedy, the spirit of experimentation and being in the continuous present. Because the audience is watching me perform the characters and making the soundscape of the show, without any hidden magical effects, they are watching a playwright creating in front of them, an artist existing in the present. They are also both plays that were written by the performer(s), and I think when an audience has the knowledge that the play was written by the person(s) performing, it has a deeper impact on the viewing experience.