Taous is a Lecoq trained theater artist. She creates, performs, directs, teaches, and produces theater globally. I was excited to learn more about her newest work so I asked her for a behind-the-scenes look for Sunrise at Midnight. Taous was kind enough to share the inspirations and creative processes that went into staging these Kabyle folktales in Saint Paul. She also tells us why this show is recommended for mature audiences.
What sparked the inspiration for Sunrise at Midnight?
Taous: The inspiration for Sunrise at Midnight was a project I did in 2008 called The Kabyle Folktale Project. Kabyles are Berbers, the first peoples of North Africa. My father's family is Kabyle from the Algerian city of Tizi Ouzou.
In 2008 I went to the Algerian city of Bejaia and worked with a group of 7 women all in their early 20s to create a play based on 3 Kabyle folktales. We went up into the mountains and recorded stories told by old women and turned those tales into the show. While I was reading other Kabyle folktales during that project--other stories that had already been written down and recorded in French--I came across folktales that were NOT FOR KIDS! Folktales for grown-ups! Algerian audiences expect theater to be for all ages generally and I knew it needed to be a show that I created in the States if I was going to stage the sexuality and violence that these tales tackle.
Taous: The key to Algerian story telling is that nothing is what it seems. The main point is always wrapped up in a metaphor or symbol of some sort. The stories weave, bend and twist in their narrative structure. We've tried to simplify a few plot points while keeping the heart and main actions of each story. Algerian performance also comes from a tradition of stories told around a fire or in a café or town square. We are working with the bare minimum like in the tradition--no giant set--the actors (Heather Bunch, Theo Langason, Nora Montañez and Mohammed Yabdri) come from a "physical theater" background. They know how to make something from nothing.
Can you tell us a little about how the music and movement were created?
Taous: Composer and music director Aaron Gabriel and I went to Algeria this past May on a Jerome travel/study grant. We met with musicians, music enthusiasts and elders who sang us tradition Kabyle songs that Aaron then recorded. He composed the music for the show based on specific sample we took. He worked with the scales and musical modes out of the region. The movement was choreographed/created by the ensemble with guidance from director Ryan Underbakke. He really wanted to have the movement be as metaphorical as possible rather than literal. You will never see us make a "house" with our bodies if someone mentions a house. It will be representative physically.
Taous: I think it's so important to go to the source whenever possible. There are Kabyle songs that are based on women crying into rocks mourning the departure of their husbands who have gone to work in France. We got to see a rock that is known for this. There are songs based on shepards singing to each other from mountain top to mountain top--Aaron and I got to see those mountains. The Kabyle language and culture are so unknown in the USA. It was a joy to be able to share that part of Algeria with Aaron. And he in turn was able to compose music that stayed close to the raw source material.
Describe this show in three words.
Taous: Lust. Wit. Adventure.
What other projects do you have that connect you with Algeria?
Taous: I am on an Algerian TV show called Sultan Achour 10! I play Sultan Achour's ex-wife Maria. It was a huge hit this year. We shot the show in Tunisia. Here's a link to my "making of" interview (it's in English!).
Tickets for Sunrise at Midnight
Sunrise at Midnight is a rare glimpse into the rich Kabyle Folktale tradition from Algeria that is virtually unknown in the United States. A flute that possesses the power to upend life as we know it; a sexy cautionary tale for young men looking to marry too soon; and a chilling sacrifice a leader must make interweave to create an electrifying play of lust, wit and adventure.
July 20-July 30, 2017 @ 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available on a sliding scale of $10-$20 per ticket.
677 Hamline Avenue North
Saint Paul, MN 55104