“The Safety Show” Director Feature: Melissa Foulger

‪Virtual reality, improvisation, and safety? It takes someone fearless to create a show from the ground up with these things, and that’s our artistic director, Melissa. We interviewed her about the show and congratulate her on opening night!

Q: What does the “safety” referenced in the title refer to?

A: That’s a big question.  It refers to one of our basic needs as defined by Maslow’s pyramid, safety.  However, safety icovers a lot of ground. For the show, we limited it to 6 different areas from the 12 original ones defined by the “I Feel Safe When” project: self, escape, political, ethical, people, and community.  Within those, there is a lot to be explored as well and as you will see, each person has their own story or definition that fits into that. For me, the safety refers to the space where you can feel the most like yourself, live in your truth, and not be concerned about the pressures that society put on us to be something that we are not – something that takes years to learn, if at all.

Q: What was the basis of this project and why is it a good fit for DramaTech?

A: This project is based on the “I Feel Safe When” project that the Office of the Arts has have running.  Much like the Post Secret book and show, anyone can anonymously write the thing that makes them feel the safest.  The Office of the Arts approached us about trying to use the cards and this show is the culmination of that work. It fits for DramaTech because we think of ourselves as a theatrical laboratory. This show is a place to explore a different type of theatre – devised theatre – and to work with personal narrative rather than a traditional theatrical script.  It also allows us to play with technology in performance through the use of augmented reality, which is a focus of my research.

Q: You have a cast full of improvisors! How do those strengths lend themselves to the development of the show?

A: Improvisors are great because they are willing to dive in headfirst without fear.  They also know how to use their bodies in storytelling. In essence, all of their skills lent themselves to the show because they were able to use their strong character building skills to add color to their stories and they didn’t feel like that had to have a script in order to create the work.  They were willing to play. It also helps that I was planning for there to be a section of improv in the show, so I had ringers in place!

Q: Is there something you’ve learned as a person or as a director from the rehearsal process?

A: From a personal standpoint, I’ve learned that the definition of safe is different for everyone.  And something that I consider to be unsafe is someone else’s place of utmost safety. I had to step back and not judge other stories because I had a different point of view.  From a directorial standpoint, this means that I need to focus on the story being told in the most essential way for the performer even though I might not feel connected to the content.  I also learned that devised theatre is terrifying because you don’t have a script. This is the most unsafe I’ve felt in a rehearsal process because there wasn’t a framework to support me through the process.  It all fell to me to create that with the actors.

Q: Finally, summarize your show in four objects without giving ANY context.

A: Beehive, tricycle, parachute, blanket.

Don’t miss this innovative and personal night of theatre. Audiences are limited, so be sure to get your tickets at dramatech.org/events!