Artists of Sunlight on the Brink

Coast to Coast Tour – Summer 2015

Dara Silverman – Artistic Director

Dara Silverman is an artist currently living in the Bay Area. Her play, “Purple Beastly” was a finalist for the 2016 Jewish Plays Project and her films have won awards at The Crossroads Film Festival and The deadCenter Film Festival. She is currently a ‘Water Rights’ artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in film from NYU, and a Master’s Degree from San Francisco State in playwriting. Dara thinks of her projects as experiments, each born from a collision of questions, and resulting in its own unique universe, complete with rules of science and magic, patterns of behavior and specific aesthetics. As part of her process, she allows her current pre-occupations to embed themselves inside these unfamiliar landscapes, revealing connections and complexity.

Lelia Johnson- Managing Director

With Lelia, the routine is far from mundane. She has to climb a tree on her way home, and dance while cooking. She is an outdoor and sports enthusiast doing everything from windsurfing to rock climbing to underwater hockey. Since a young age Lelia volunteered at the local opera house and did set-production in high school. Always backstage, like a phantom of the opera, she closely admired acting prowess. After a decade of collecting courage, she jumped into the spotlight to play the lead role in a grassroot production, Forever Ginling. This ludic stage amateur also happens to have a bicycle centric lifestyle, making her a perfect addition to this group of thespians on two wheels.

Allison Fenner – Ensemble Director

Allison Fenner is California native and a UC Berkeley Alumni with a degree in Theater and Performance Studies, currently a part of the performance core with Ragged Wing Ensemble of Oakland and a frequent performer with Naked Empire Bouffon in San Fransisco. She travels by bicycle all over the Bay Area, and loves passing buses. Her talents include playing a variety of instruments, self producing and directing absurdist theatre, and making the perfect cappuccino.

John Paul Olsen

John Paul Olsen has been involved in theatre since his high school years in Mesquite, Texas, where his talents ranged from acting, singing and dancing, to set building, stage managing and directing. Since moving to the Bay Area, he has become involved in local theatre, including the Marin Players, Lucid Dream Lounge, and most recently performed as Dick Deadeye in The West Marin Players’ HMS Pinafore. He worked at the Roll Up Bike Shop for more than two years and has taken independent camping bike tours throughout Central California. He currently works as a Care Attendant at Bay Area Support Services, and as a gardener and landscape artist.

Jenny Hipscher

Jenny Hipscher was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. and graduated from Wesleyan University, where she was a Varsity athlete. In 2004, she moved out to Albuquerque, N.M. to study massage therapy and see what it would feel like to live in the desert. There she performed with Zsolt Palcza’s Readymade Dance Theater Company for four years. In 2012, Jenny studied clown and improvisation at Bont’s Independent Republic of Failure in Ibiza, Spain and she just recently completed the Fall Artistic Immersion with Double Edge Theater in Massachusetts. A licensed massage therapist with a background in dance, athletics, yoga, and physical theatre, she is interested in how we respond to the world through our bodies, and how we can shift and transform ourselves and our environment through the emotional and physical choices we make.

AlexishsAlexis Camille

Hailing from Washington DC, Alexis found her love for theatre in Oakland, CA! She is excited to commemorate her new life in theatre by journeying and riding deep with Agile Rascals back to the east coast! She studied acting at Laney College with Fusion Theatre, and performed in her first play, The 510s: Five Ten Minute Tales about Oakland, written by The Laney students. Most recently, Alexis completed her first professional acting performance with The Free Theater Co. in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Omni Commons in Oakland. While studying theatre she has had the honor of emceeing Oakland’s Queer Open Mic with Spectrum Queer Media, and working as troupe member of Sunday Brunch at Oakland’s Pan Improv Theatre. Alexis is infinitely grateful for the time and privilege to take on this community based theatre project and is readying herself for a transformative LOVE FEST across the country with dope-ass creative folks! Peace! <><>

Ren Dodge

Ren is a professional photographer and videographer. He has loved riding and tinkering with bikes since he was a kid. One of his first movies was a documentary about an art bike. In 2001 he moved from his hometown of St. Paul, MN to Oakland California, in search of better weather, creative opportunities and bikeable streets. A love of art led him to attend San Francisco State University where he earned a BA in Photography. He works commercially as an architectural photographer, while pursuing personal work in photography, film and other media.

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2015 U.S. Tour Artists was originally published on Agile Rascal Bicycle Touring Theatre

How did we get here? Where do we go from here?

In these days of late 2016, with the tumultuous election, the events at Standing Rock, the massacres in Aleppo and the fire that devastated the arts community in Oakland, it seems that our world is bracing for another seismic shift – politically, culturally and even spiritually. As we wonder what this will mean for our lives in general, Agile Rascal has also been considering how it will affect our upcoming 2017 Summer tour.

Admittedly, we picked the state of Montana as the location for the first of our regional tours somewhat arbitrarily. It was an unfamiliar landscape, home to Adventure Cycling Association, and we had a standing invitation to perform at The Whitefish Bicycle retreat. Additionally, we wanted to perform for more rural communities than we had on our last tour and Montana seemed an ideal place to prioritize this.

However as we planned our tour, we also watched the news unfold. We began to consider the implications of a Bay Area-based theatre troupe, with artists from primarily coastal, liberal cities, with plans to travel through and performing for, a more rural, conservative state.

We also reflected on what it will mean to bicycle through a part of the country that is central in our country’s dependence on fossil fuels. Montana contains more than one-fourth of the nation’s estimated recoverable coal reserves. At the same time, The Standing Rock Souix Tribe and their allies are currently peacefully resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline just across the state line in North Dakota. Many people in this part of the country depend on the fossil fuel industry for their income. At the same time, everyone is dependent on unpolluted water and uncontaminated land for their lives.

These considerations have put our project into much sharper focus. They also clarify the topic of the play that we will perform across the region’s varied physical and cultural landscape. While it’s impossible to predict the shape of a play before we’ve created it (we won’t create the play until our residency in Montana,) we can decide on a “point of entry” to inform our creative process.

For our 2017 tour of the greater Montana region, we have decided that the focus of our play will be the following questions: “How did we get here? Where do we go from here?” with an eye on the specific region, including its history, culture and people.

On the road, these same questions will inform the conversations we have with the diverse communities we encounter. We will listen more than we talk, and we will document our experience through blog entries, photographs and video.

This past election has reinforced the illusion of uniform beliefs, represented as colors on a map. This idea also gets perpetuated by the mainstream media.

But in truth, this depiction of clear-cut divisions is a massive distortion. People are are varied and complicated, and their needs and beliefs are equally varied and complicated.

Agile Rascal intends to challenge the illusion of this division and begin a dialogue across state and party lines that encompasses a multitude of diverse communities, ideas and beliefs. Through bicycle touring theatre, we will explore the stories we tell about ourselves and each other, the personal and political histories that we emerge from, and the shared future that we envision and work toward.

September 20th – Addendum – Dara

2015-08-27 12.19.34
Biking through New York

Sunday, September 20th,

The last few days of our trip were hectic and stressful, while we prepared for our shows, then sweet and mellow, as we tied up loose ends, divvied up the stuff and then scattered.  Though both shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn were riddled with technical weirdness (a spaceship of a stage and the throbbing reggaeton from a nearby block party) our audiences were both enthusiastic and engaged, which was really lovely.

While we didn’t get to work on the play as much as I would have hope over the course of the trip, there’s no question that it nevertheless got better as the summer went on.  The dialogue became clearer, the choices we made on stage were sharper, and our focus became more present.  It was interesting to take note of what the effects of only doing the show once a week had on the play itself.

Keep reading!

August 26th – Lelia

August 26th

The Last and Final Leg: After our show in Boston we had a last lazy day at Dara’s parents, taking care of computer tasks, writing postcards and signing posters with our bike tires. Perhaps it wasn’t lazy, it just wasn’t physically demanding. That evening we packed up our barely dry shoes from the rains on Friday and headed West for the first time all trip. It was disorienting. There were many times when I instinctually wanted to turn the wrong direction, back to the ocean. It would take us a predicted four days to arrive in Brooklyn. It was a long four days, each moment constantly weighted and lightened by the thought of the end. It’s that tough place when you know you can do it, but the end just doesn’t come quick enough. And you find yourself living far too Keep reading!

August 24th – The Home Stretch – Dara

Monday, August 24th, – Westboro, MA

 It has been awhile since I have been able to sit down and write a blog entry, and although I have tinkered with the text in spare moments, there really hasn’t been a single chunk of solid free time long enough to get out a post. Because of this, the words pile up, become outdated, there is too much story to tell.  But I’ll do my best….

From Kansas City we set out through the Midwest. In Columbia, Missouri we entered a vortex where, for our entire time there, it was as if time had slowed down and we were able to get done all the things we had set out to do with ease and relaxation, and somehow managed to take a dip in a quarry, take a yoga class, and rehearse for a few hours to re-choreograph the final scene of the play.

Keep reading!

August 16th – August 23rd – Lelia 16th

Finger Lake Play Time: The bit of hitchhiking in Canada brought us about half a day ahead, which meant we could stroll a bit if we kept up a hustle. Allison and I caught up with the crew in Middleport, where we were all invited by a Ken-doll police officer to stay the night in his safe town that provided public showers, aka, Pleasantville. After that we had one long day of riding to get to Macedon. There we found an appropriate camp spot, an outdoor stage. When we arrived a fife and drum band was just wrapping up practice. They proceeded to give us a private show! So impressive. Keep reading!

August 8th – August 13th – Lelia

August 8th

Motor City! It took us just 3.5 days to bike from Chicago to Detroit – 88 miles, 72 miles, 84 miles, 38 miles- daily rate. We even had time to jump in the lake along the way and enjoy the beaches, albeit briefly. We were warmly welcomed by Emily and Patrick who hosted us in Detroit (friends of John). I’ve never seen neighborhoods with so many abandoned houses boarded up or burned out. Every other house on a block was like this. The beautiful part is some of the blight was turned into art pieces or the empty lots into community gardens.Detroit is creatively resilient. Keep reading!

July 25th – July 30th – Lelia

July 25th

7.25.7Crossing the Confluence. A few days ago we rolled out of Columbia, MO and jumped back on the Katy or MKT trail (old Missouri, Kansas, Texas railway). The Katy trail is one of many old railways converted to a bike and running trail. It is 240 miles of community love and pride from Sedalia to St. Charles, Missouri. We met Grace, 8 and Danny, 11 a brother and sister, walking their dogs in McKittrick. They told us their dad was from California, “Los Angeles, not the regular California.” They were going to Six Flags with their grandma to celebrate Danny’s birthday, and we could probably ask Downtown Joe to fill our water, he owns an inn in town. We bought them chocolate milk and they were on their way.

Keep reading!

July 28th – Two Poems – Allison


Arriving at Sunlight on the BrinkAgile Rascal - Eastern Colorado - Kansas-10

Interspersed with snare and
Moments of chaos,
Wild drumming electronic.
Like the live- wanna hear it clash with the
New primordial
Silence is breath stopping
Stop breathing
Brink of breath
Shimmer Breath
Perpetual loop
Round Keep reading!