By The Agile Rascals

Reflections on a stellar summer

Gordon protects Junior from a curious bear

It’s been almost a month since our last show on August 11th in Great Falls — the same town we had met and lived in just a few months before. We had come full circle. Faces from the entire trip showed up ­­– people we had met on the road, people who hosted us in their spaces and who we met at our shows. Although our first and last show were performed only blocks apart from one another, we had traversed some real distance in the time between, and our last performance certainly showed it.

And then, just like that, we parted ways and our summer adventure was over.

Lelia and Sam doing Karaoke in Billings

All things considered, it was a really incredible summer. In Lewistown we performed for a packed crowd of families. In Billings we brought down the house at karaoke for Lelia’s birthday.  In Missoula, we danced through the streets with Freeycles. In Eureka, we played theatre games with a school of girls. In small towns along the way, people stopped to talk to us on the road, opened up their homes to us, and shared their thoughts and opinions about our show.

Eileen and David discover love in a time of crisis

As for the show, well, I don’t mean to brag, but people seemed to really love it. They laughed at the right moments and were quiet at the right moments too. A man in Missoula even told Sam that our play had just replaced Pippin as his new favorite show. In a time with so much digital content, where it can feel like you are putting ideas out into the void in the hopes of garnering “likes,” I can’t tell you how good it feels to share something you’ve created with real live people – people who repeat back their favorite lines, hum the tunes of the songs and share their insights.

Kean naps after a long day on the road

After I banged up my knee, it took almost a full month for me to work my way back onto a bicycle. But getting back on the bike after being in the car made me all the more aware of why I love bicycle touring so much – how you notice the rise and fall of the landscape, feel the wind on your arm hair, watch wild grass for shifts in wind direction, how good food tastes – sugars, fats and proteins hitting the body like lighting bolts, how good sleep feels under the stars after a day in the sun.

We made it!

Our tour peaked (quite literally) in Glacier National Park. Waking at 3am, we packed up in darkness, put on our lights and safety vests and rode out to the road. As the darkness lifted we pedaled the sixteen miles and 3,500 feet elevation of “Going to the Sun Road.” Glacier Park is stunning. The greenery is thick and luscious, and as we pedaled, we rose above it all, past crevices and crags and waterfalls, gaining vantage of otherworldly mountains in the distance and the shadowy valley below. We did it in under three and a half hours, and then celebrated at the top before bounding down the other side of the mountain.

The next morning at our check in, things turned bittersweet. Our last big challenge was tackled, and it was time to get on the bikes and head back to Great Falls. The trip was almost over.

On our last night back in Great Falls we stealth camped. Over a bottle of champagne and a box of oreos (they’re vegan!) we talked about what the summer had meant to us, what was harder than we had expected, what was easier, what we had learned about ourselves and how we had changed.

Jackie and John prepare the nightly feast

Many people commented on how it had made them more collective – how they learned better how to care for other people, and to allow other people to take care of them. And nearly everyone reflected on some aspect of themselves that they thought they had understood, but now were forced to take a harder look at.

 

“Let the call to action be the action itself,” is a quote by Taylor Mac that Jackie is fond of referencing. That night Kean said that he had always thought that it would be the content of the show that would provide the revelation, but he realized through this project that it was just as much the context ­— the way something is created, traveled and presented — that can be the catalyst as well.

Jaren leads music rehearsal in Glacier National Park

I think this is what keeps me so interested in Agile Rascal — the way that the land, the body, the bicycle, the interpersonal relationships, the artistic process and the artistic product all ricochet off of one another, creating an increasingly complicated web of connections that continues to inform what we do. And if I ever wondered whether the context could truly be felt by our audiences, after this tour, my doubts have been laid to rest.

On one of our last nights out on the road, we camped out in a field just a ways off the main road. Under the Montana stars we began the conversation about what the next Agile Rascal project might look like. Everyone agreed this summer had been truly special, and that we should keep at this thing that we were building together.

Questions we asked were:

  • How can we keep creating together even though we live far apart?
  • How can we push this idea of bicycle touring theatre even further – in terms of what we can do visually, musically, physically and conceptually?
  • How can we better live, travel and communicate together? What is the framework that holds us accountable to the group but allows for individual space and growth?
  • Can we build this thing not from the top down, not even from the bottom up, but more like, from the inside out?

Stay tuned for info on future Agile Rascal Projects.

Until then, over and out.

Much love,
Dara and The Agile Rascals

“We Called it Resonance” opens tomorrow night! in Great Falls and on Facebook Live!

Hello!

Tomorrow night is opening night! For the past month we have been hard at work, and tomorrow night all that work finally pays off!

practicing our chords

Since I last wrote, our schedule became amorphous – each day is dictated by what the play needs. But if anything, the days became more demanding.   When not devising, we are singing, when not singing, we are crafting, when not crafting we are writing and biking and costume shopping and memorizing lines.

character sketches

 

Our play, “We Called it Resonance,” tells the story of a small town caught between unsustainable tradition and an unknown future. Naturally it is packed with inventive moments, memorable characters and catchy tunes.

 

 

 

 

staging the play

We will be performing our show in front of an audience for the first time tomorrow night, right here at the Ursuline Center in Great Falls, Montana. Our show will be at 8pm Mountain Time, and we will be live streaming it on Facebook, so head over to the Agile Rascal Bicycle Touring Facebook Page tomorrow night a little bit before 8pm to tune in.

devising in the wild!

 

On Saturday, the very next day, we pack up and hit the road.   Our play will continue to evolve and change as we encounter new people, places and ideas on our six week journey across the state, and we will do our best to find ways to share our progress with everyone at home, so stay tuned.

Much love,

The Agile Rascals

Rascal Roll Call – Jaren Feeley

Name: Jaren Feeley

From: The Bay Area, Ca

Lives: Split between the Bay and London

Go-To Cycling Snack: Peanut butter slathered on an apple

Cyclist Rating:  Crushes watermelons with his cyclist thighs

How did you hear about Agile Rascal and what made you want to do it?

Traveling under the sun, camping under the stars, moving at a human pace from town to town providing people with powerful artistic experiences… this kind of project has long been a dream of mine. I found Agile Rascals online, and was impressed with the clear vision, the organization, and the talented individuals from across the US that were coming together to form a one-of-a-kind ensemble.

What is bicycle touring theatre to you?

A simple and honest way to better understand the spaces between our cities and ourselves.

Please tell us an embarrassing cycling story.

A couple weeks ago, to help out a friend, I tried transporting two bicycles by riding them both simultaneously. I was riding verrry slowly. Alas, as I passed a couple of small children I fell onto the pavement verrry slowly with a thud. I was a little dazed but I seem to recall one of them clapping and shrieking with joy.

Tell us about your best free theatre experience.

Watching the street dancers of Amsterdam is a master-class in engaging audiences: the way we were brought in close, talked at and joked with, invited to join the performance, and made to feel a part of something that was only ever going to happen once–right there as the sun set on a day that was ever going to happen once.

What about Montana intrigues you?

The mountains, the promise of stars, and the cultures that grow in wider spaces.

Why do you choose to do live theatre? Especially in a digital age.

If it was 1917, I’d probably be more interested in making recordings. But in an age of Netflix and Spotify, I think bringing a community of bodies and minds together is much more subversive and interesting!

Hear Jaren’s music at his website:

JarenFeeley.com

Rascal Roll Call – Jackie Rivera

Name: Jackie Rivera

From: Tampa, FL

Lives: Brooklyn, NY

Go-To Cycling Snack: Rx Bars! Coconut Chocolate Chip

Cyclist Rating:  Cycling is my main mode of transportation

How did you hear about Agile Rascal and what made you want to do it?

Leon Ingulsrud of SITI Company came back from teaching a workshop in San Francisco back in 2015, and told us at SITI Conservatory that there was a group in NorCal planning to tour a play on bicycles cross-country. I squealed, drooled, and then forgot about it completely until 1 year later when Megan Hanley at SITI Company sent me Agile Rascal’s application for Montana 2017. And here we are! I have so many people to thank for associating me with unconventional theater projects!

What is bicycle touring theatre to you?

Bicycle touring theatre is an obvious next step in the evolution of art and consciousness.

Please tell us an embarrassing cycling story.

Yikes! Well, one is that my Dad still doesn’t know how to ride a bike. Which is ironic considering, he taught me as a child. And the other is that, until last year, I used to have a little bit of fear mounting a bike and taking off. It was not smooth. Maybe you’d have to see it, but I used to be fine getting on and then in order to gain my balance, I’d violently twist the handlebars back and forth until I pushed off on the pedals. BUT now that I’ve been guiding tours on bike, I’ve moved past the jerky start. No one wants to follow you down Brooklyn city-streets when you launch like that.

Tell us about your best free theatre experience.

When I first moved to New York, a high school friend of mine was involved with this company called Fresh Ground Pepper. They still exist! Anyway, FGP would host these nights of various theatrical and non-theatrical acts, anything from characters, sketches, new music, visual art and all based on a certain theme. The first one I went to was: Food. In a gallery space in brooklyn…free food, free booze (donation), and free performances. The work was high-quality and in a lot of ways groundbreaking – you really felt like you were there to witness the beginning of a community building. I wound up performing a couple of times with them, and it was always a great way to meet new artists. Its funny how making something accessible tends to attract those hungry for a community.

What about Montana intrigues you?

Probably that I’ve never been. Not even close. I love American History, especially pioneer type stuff, and of course the natural landscape of North America. It is SO diverse! Also, just being a United State of America means that some weird, weird stuff has probably gone down…and I can’t wait to find out how weird Montana is.

Why do you choose to do live theatre? Especially in a digital age.

Theatre is the study of life in the immediate through organic filters. It is undeniably authentic, which is also its challenge. Theatre is the most accessible of the arts in that all you need to do it, is a body and a question.

Rascal Roll Call – Kean Haunt

Name: Kean Haunt

From: Billings, MT

Lives: Middlebury, VT

Go-To Cycling Snack: Trail mix with stale marshmallows (mmm nice and chewy)

Cyclist Rating:  Park rides and picnics are my jam

How did you hear about Agile Rascal and what made you want to do it?

I spent last summer at the amazing Double Edge Theatre in Massachusetts, where one of the original Rascals from the 2015 tour had also spent some time before me. The application was posted in their alumni network and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t apply. I have such respect for people making their pipe dreams into reality, and it is such a privilege to be included in a dream like this. Plus, it felt like serendipity that such an inspiring project would return me to my home state.

What is bicycle touring theatre to you?

An exercise in appreciation: of our bodies, of our landscapes, of our stories, and of our art.

Please tell us an embarrassing cycling story.

I used to ride my bike to my middle school, and one warm afternoon I slung my jacket over the handlebars for the trip home. As I stood up into my first pedal, a dangling sleeve found its way between the front tire and the brakes, locking the wheel and catapulting me over my handlebars. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, my coat was so tangled up around the fork that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to tug it free. After a few minutes kneeling on the sidewalk outside my school, blocking traffic, I gave up and resolved to carry my bike home with me. I only made it halfway before I ran out of steam and locked it to a tree. My mom drove me back later to pick it up.

Tell us about your best free theatre experience.

When I was in fifth grade my class went to see an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It was big and bloody and scary and fun and ten year old me was simultaneously terrified and exhilarated. I’d never seen anything quite so feral or thrilling. I spent the next few months checking for Caesar’s ghost behind me in the bathroom mirror every time I brushed my teeth.

What about Montana intrigues you?

I’m about to graduate from college, meaning it’s been four years since I’ve lived in Montana full time. However, it still feels like home, and it’s still the community I feel most responsible to. After some time away, my feelings about home have gone into a kind of mental rigor mortis. I know more or less what I think about Montana. But I’m about to experience home in a radically new context. I’ve never been to Montana as a bike-touring theatre artist. I can’t wait to see how this new lens makes the familiar into the strange.

Why do you choose to do live theatre? Especially in a digital age.

Human beings are innately really great at watching theatre. We can’t help but empathize with other humans in the room, and we project stories onto every detail we observe in another person’s behavior. Stepping into a theatre gives us permission to use this part of our imaginations in a way that sitting alone with a screen does not. The theatrical skills of telling stories and stepping into another person’s shoes are so integrated into our everyday behavior that we sometimes forget how wonderful they are. It takes a live performance to remind us of the value of this basic instinct.

Rascal Roll Call – Sarah Bell

Name: Sarah Bell

From: Long ago, California. When we moved to Big Sky Country I was still a scrappy kid whose ambition in life was to be a horse.

Lives: Kalispell, MT

Go-To Cycling Snack: Apples & almond butter

Cyclist Rating: I cycle for the smiles, mostly with friends!

 

How did you hear about Agile Rascal and what made you want to do it?

I was planning my first bikepacking overnight, mapping a route and renting bags at the Whitefish Bike Retreat. A casual conversation with the Retreat’s owner turned to my theatrical education and pursuits. She knew about Agile Rascal’s plan to tour Montana and immediately offered to connect us! Cycling theatre artists?! The two tidy but separate lives I was living suddenly came crashing together with possibility. I had to meet this tribe!

What is bicycle touring theatre to you?

Bicycle touring theatre is storytelling of the people, for the people, pedaled by some people who are willing to travel a mile in their audience’s shoes! It’s fiercely independent and a real conversation starter.

Please tell us an embarrassing cycling story.

I was once asked on a date by a fellow cyclist at a stoplight. I said yes and we had dinner at the very next restaurant we passed! So cute! After dinner we hopped back on our bikes and within seconds a cat ran out in front of me and I –hit the cat–imagine how bad I felt as I flopped off my bike right in front of him! And–yeah, that was embarrassing on so many levels…

Tell us about your best free theatre experience.

This is cheating a little since I was working on the show, but I’m gonna say it was the final dress rehearsal of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. Most of us in the room had seen the show several, if not several dozen times. We were ready to watch for the smallest of the small flaws left to fix. As the lights went up and the music started however, the energy coming from stage was so contagious and on point that it reached past any mindset of fatigue or criticism and drew me in like I had never been here before! I could feel the shift in everyone sitting around me, too. We lifted our faces out of our notepads and gave that energy right back to our friends singing in the spotlight. We hooted, hollered and cheered ourselves hoarse. There may have been sniffles and there was definitely dancing in the aisles!

What about Montana intrigues you?

Montana is the land of cowboys, dinosaurs and landscapes that send the imagination soaring! I’m still a kid at heart.

 

Why do you choose to do live theatre? Especially in a digital age.

The level of human connection in live theatre can be amazing. As a theatre technician I like to think the personal fingerprints of our sometimes old-fashioned artistry can be felt–carpentry, hand-painting and hand-stitched costumes. As a performer, you can feel the slack or the tension in the room moment by moment–nobody is having an experience in a vacuum!

Rascal Roll Call – John Paul

Name: John Paul Olsen

From: Dallas, Texas

Lives: Martinez, California

Go-To Cycling Snack: Peanut Butter

Cyclist Rating: Cycling is my main mode of transportation

How did you hear about Agile Rascal and what made you want to do it?

Three years ago, I was gloomily browsing through the web when I found an email forwarded from Dara Silverman. She was calling out for artists interested in writing a play and touring it by bicycles across the country. I knew instantly that it was sincere, something that would make me happy and I had to say yes right away. Theatre Arts and Bicycling are two of my positively fulfilling passions.

What is bicycle touring theatre to you?

Bicycling touring theatre to me is a nontraditional way of sharing an ancient art.

Please tell us an embarrassing cycling story.

One day as I was approaching the Pick-up/Drop-off area of Oakland International Airport, where I worked at the time, I was riding in the bike lane of the farthest right lane. A taxi driver’s side door swung open in front of me. Although I steered immediately to avoid the door, it still caught the edge of my drive-side pedal grappling my bike from my body in motion. I flipped over my handle bars and landed on my back in front of skycap check-in booths for all of my co-workers to see.

Tell us about your best free theatre experience.

My dear old friend Thalia Pozen had written a musical for Lotta’s Opera in 2006. It was a street theatre experiment, in which the performers were singing, dancing and acting along Market Street of San Francisco. It became more fully interactive than I had anticipated.

What about Montana intrigues you?

It’s very mysterious place to me. I have never been, save one day when my Dad and I drove through from Seattle to Dallas, stopping in Missoula for lunch. The surrounding landscape was all mountains. I’ve been interested in exploring the state ever since. There are two of my longest-running favorite books-turned-to-film dramas that immerses their setting in Montana. A River Runs Through It, and Legends of the Fall.

Why do you choose to do live theatre? Especially in a digital age.

I feel grounded when I do live theatre. The digital age is an era that brings tools for easier and more innovative living. I’m mostly interested in using my physical body for my artistic reputation.

Rascal Roll Call – Lelia

Name: Lelia Johnson

From: Woodland, California

Lives: San Francisco, CA

Go-To Cycling Snack: Bar food, it’s easy to eat with one hand.

Cyclist Rating: Cycling is my main mode of transportation

How did you hear about Agile Rascal and what made you want to do it?

I received one line email from a friend in November 2014. It said, “You may be interested in this….agilerascaltheatre.com.” That one email changed the trajectory of my life. I was indeed interested, why? I am an adventure junkie. The timing in my life was right and I was looking for an interesting project to pursue. The project combined two areas of my life that were growing: theatre and cycling. This made it irresistible. After the first adventure, I continue to do it because it makes people excited and I hope it makes more people pursue their dreams.

What is bicycle touring theatre to you?

It’s connecting people, places and stories and reconnecting to people, places, and stories.

Please tell us an embarrassing cycling story.

During our last tour, on one of our city breaks, I went to the thrift store by myself. In an unfamiliar city I quickly doubted my navigation skills so I got out my phone to look at a map. I was going slow and the street was quiet and empty so I was not much concerned about looking up frequently. Suddenly I came to an abrupt halt and fell over. I thought a car had come out of nowhere. Then I realized I had run into a parked car.  I sheepishly put my phone in my pocket…

Tell us about your best free theatre experience.

I have not been to much free theatre. It hardly exists in the Bay Area. I have received free and discounted tickets but not usually free unless I am volunteering. So I’ll speak about one of my favorite shows more generally. It was a 3-person play in a small blackbox theatre. The audience and actors were so close we were exchanging the same molecules of air back and forth. The theme of friends, rape and difficult conversations made that air thick and stifling. The actors gripped us with their emotions, and never broke. Finally at the end they let us all come up for air. It was intense. And that is the power of theatre.

What about Montana intrigues you?

Montana is a place with old roots that show today. It is a place that is grappling between the old ways and new ways. The economy has relied on stripping it of its natural resources. Meanwhile the young folks embrace any economy that restores, sustains and celebrates its natural beauty. It’s an intriguing mystery on how the people and places will adapt and persevere through change. It’s one I hope to explore deeper while living there for the summer.

Why do you choose to do live theatre? Especially in a digital age.

When I’m performing I feel alive. And that transfers to the audience. It makes people remember they are alive and we are humans together. Theatre has a way of making people feel their emotions and bodies, in a way a movie can’t. Seeing a real human in front of you displaying emotions is palpable and visceral. With movies, you can push pause, you can switch the channel, or you can do something else entirely. Theatre has you gripped to your seat until the end. It is happening in the present moment and cannot be rewound. Mistakes can happen. Astonishment can happen. This is why I love it and create it, because it is life. Life can not be rewound, mistakes can happen and sometimes we are astonished by it all. Didn’t Shakespeare say, all of life is a stage? Indeed it is.

A letter to past donors

 Hello!  It’s been almost two years since we hauled our play across the country on the backs of our bikes.  Your generous donations paid for food, campsites, bike repair and made it possible for us to perform for free in communities across the county.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

  Since then, we’ve scattered – settling in new places, starting new jobs, continuing on with life.  But as we reminisced, the idea of another project started to percolate.  We wanted to build on what we had learned about making a play and touring it on bikes.  And after biking 4,600 miles, we finally felt like we knew where to begin.

We said, “Next time, we want it to be more theatre and less pushing ourselves to the brink.”   “Next time we don’t just want to bike through rural places, we want to stop and perform there as well.”   “Next time we want to do theatre and bike workshops with the communities we enter.”

As we imagined our next project, we decided to focus on a single state – to create a play while immersed in the sights, sounds and history of the place, and to share it with the people that live there.But where should we do it?

   Then we remembered a standing invitation to perform at the Whitefish Bike Retreat in Whitefish, Montana.  When we thought about it, Montana seemed the perfect spot!  It’s rural, doesn’t have much we could find in the way of new theatre, is home to Adventure Cycling Association (the bike touring experts) and it’s not too shabby on the eyes, either.

  The past few months have reinforced the notion that our country is divided.  But we want to resist this story and actively work to find common ground among people from across the political and cultural spectrum.  Montana would provide just the opportunity.

This year, our team is made up of Rascals – some old and some new.  It wasn’t easy, but we managed to find more needles-in-the haystack – people from all over whose imaginations were captivated by the thought of spending the summer sharing theatre on bicycles. (Not unlike you Kickstarter donor!)    We hope that as we continue making bicycle touring theatre, we’ll build up a vast network of Rascals from all over, and have the opportunity to work with former collaborators in the future.  Once a Rascal, always a Rascal.

Okay, here’s the truth: we really didn’t want to do another crowdfunding campaign.  We had hoped to get our funding elsewhere, but well, the learning curve for arts funding is a slow slog.  And there’s not much funding for projects that don’t have a 3+ year track record and don’t fit easily into any funding categories, like bicycle theatre.

But when faced with canceling the trip or crowdfunding again, the choice was a given. So this year, we’re working with Hatchfund, – a crowdfunding platform specifically for artists. They’ve been incredibly supportive, and it’s been very refreshing to work with an organization so invested in helping artists get funding to do their work. (Much like you, Kickstarter donor!)

  What the Montana project lacks in “OMG! They’ve gotta be nuts!” we are making up for with a rigorous but realistic model for bringing innovative theatre to new audiences, traveling and engaging in a sustainable way.

   Check out our new video, with footage from our coast-to-coast tour,
details about our next project, and music by resident Rascal, Jaren Feeley:

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

  Any donation over $20 will get a copy of our illustrated ‘zines about bike maintenance and theatre games. These sweet ‘zines are being made especially for our trip by 2015 alum, Fenner, to hand out at our performances and workshops.

The arts aren’t a luxury!  And now more than ever, the arts need your support to exist! Agile Rascal needs your help so together we can bring cool theatre to far out places.  We really can’t do it without you!


And of course, tell your friends about us, especially in Montana! Follow us on Facebook, sign up for our mailing list, say hi online, come meet us on the road or invite us to sleep in your backyard!

See you on the road!

Much love,
The Agile Rascals

Rascal Roll Call – Sam

Name: Sam Cordes

From: Kansas City, Missouri

Lives: Kansas City, MO

Go-To Cycling Snack: Banana

Cyclist Rating: Cycling = main transportation

How did you hear about Agile Rascal and what made you want to do it?

I saw a post looking for applicants on my hometown Critical Mass Facebook page. I love theatre and I love bike touring and I’ve always wanted to do something like this, so it was a no-brainer. I also love going to beautiful places I’ve never seen before and working with new people I’ve never met before.  

What is bicycle touring theatre to you?

A new idea with deep roots.

Please tell us an embarrassing cycling story.

November of 2011 I was riding my bike, down in the drops, not looking where I was going. Ran into the back of a car that was stopped at a red light. Went through the back windshield. Broke my bike in half and pulverized three of my front teeth. Had to replace my bike and my teeth and the guy’s windshield.

Tell us about your best free theatre experience.

Growing up I spent my summer evenings in Southmoreland Park, in Kansas City at the Heart of the America Shakespeare Festival. Completely free, the festival attracts a diverse demographic both young and old and after having been around for 25 years now, it has become a summer tradition for many. Outdoors, summertime, in the city, Shakespeare. You can’t beat it. My dad is usually in the show. My mom used to be the Executive Director. I’ve been in the show a few times, I’ve worked in the offices, I’ve volunteered and I spent most summers attending Camp Shakespeare (sponsored by the Festival) from the ages of 12 to 18. Met my first girlfriend there. So many amazing memories of the Shakespeare festival. It has made me the man I am today, for sure.

What about Montana intrigues you?

 

I’ve never been to that corner of the country. I hear it’s beautiful. It’s home to the headquarters of Adventure Cycling Association which I am a member of and have always wanted to visit. Bicycle touring mecca of sorts.

Why do you choose to do live theatre? Especially in a digital age.

There’s nothing else like it. The connection formed between audience and performer during a live performance can not be reproduced through digital means. In a non-live performance the two-lane highway becomes a one-way street and the audience isn’t allowed to participate and inform the performer. Live theatre reminds people they are alive. We will always need it.