So, for the uninitiated, who are you and what are you doing for Transformations?
My name is Megan Reilly, and I’m the creator / director behind Transformations.
And what do you do in Real Life (i.e. that world outside of Transformations)?
There’s a world outside Transformations?
I’m a freelance lighting designer. I recently finished my MFA at UT Austin and while I was there I was really inspired to start working more generatively as a theatre artist while at the same time working as a traditional lighting designer. My work has started to take me into installation, video, and performance art thanks to a lot of my experiences in grad school.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
It really depends on the day. Part of me wants to keep freelancing professionally and see how far I can take myself as a designer, see if I could get into the opera world. And another part of me wants to continue down this incredible creative path I’ve started with both my own visual art and theatrical design work. And another part of me thinks teaching would be nice, although I think if I started teaching I’d become my mentor from undergrad, meaning I’d just spend every non-teaching hour traveling around the world. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
Which visual artists are we missing the boat on?
I think that there are lots of really fascinating things that installation artists are doing which are also very theatrical and relevant to stage design. Installation art is, to me, about the experience of a physical space. It’s not an art form that you can really look at in pictures or hear about, it’s a visceral real life experience, and that’s exactly what theatre is. When I started reading about Ann Hamilton I never even really considered her a visual artist at first, she was creating performance, even if there were no actual human performers present in some of her pieces.
What would you consider your Transforming moment as a person?
I don’t think that anyone has just one. In relation to this particular work, I would say that I have had two major Transforming moments. The first was my freshman year at UNH, when I was assigned to live in an all-women’s dorm. That particular dorm was where many liberal, activist, feminist, and gay or gay-friendly women chose to live, so right away I was surrounded by a particular culture and it taught me an incredible amount. The friends I had back then were instrumental in my becoming a feminist.
I think the other moment was when I read Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissident Daughter, from which we use a quote in the show. She talks about how women are taught to be asleep, to be numb to our actual place in society and how we are oppressed or discriminated against in ways that we’re taught to not even notice. She talks about how many women go through a period of waking up to reality, a period that for me at least was painful and angry and rough. One day I looked outside and realized that I was looking at a world created by men, that no institution I was involved with – our economy, educational system, any architecture I encountered on a dally basis, mathematics, medicine, government, art – was all started by men. Which is why it’s so important for women to have each other and to have strong, positive visible role models, because we’re not looking at things created in our image when we walk through the world. And it may be that the world would not be any different if men’s and women’s roles had been reversed. I think the whole "waking up" process really speaks to the idea that most oppression can’t be seen by the oppressors, that it takes someone who is a woman or a member of any minority group to really see that lack of self in the world around her.
What was your experience with Anne Sexton prior to this project?
My only experience with Anne Sexton prior to working with Kim Gritzer on Rapunzel in 2005 was Peter Gabriel’s song "Mercy Street," which I saw him perform live in 2002 and it was so visually stunning that I had to know the words to the song and its meaning and so forth. Then I was intrigued because she was from Boston, and my family is all in New England, and many relatives lived in Cambridge, so there was a connection there too.
Is there a passage or a line (from the show) at this point in the process that speaks most to you about what this project is?
We chose the tagline "Long ago there was a strange deception" to use on the posters because I think it speaks to the idea that women are sort of tricked into following certain paths or living certain roles as prescribed by our culture. I think that many women (and people in general) believe they want a certain life or a certain path and don’t question why they want it until they have the marriage, job, house and kid all in place. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with that path, but there is something wrong with a world that assumes that’s the path you’re going to take, and prefers it even.
What would you hope an audience member walks away from Transformations with?
I hope that with all the abstraction we’re creating that she will see something that resonates with herself, I hope that she finds her own meaning in these pieces and doesn’t question that meaning or whether that was our original intention. I hope that nobody asks me what my original intention was, because really that’s beside the point. It’s an experience and whatever is taken from it is right.
Do you have a favorite poem or poet to share with us? Or line or phrase?
Put your pale arms around my neck
Let me hold your heart like a flower
lest it bloom and collapse.
Give me your skin
as sheer as a cobweb
let me open it up
and listen in and scoop out the dark
Give me your nether lips
all puffy with their art
and I will give you angel fire in return
We are two clouds
glistening in the bottle glass
We are two birds
washing in the same mirror
We were fair game
but we have kept out of the cesspools
We are strong
We are the good ones
Do not discover us
for we lie together all in green
like pond weeds.
I think this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever, ever heard, especially when Kacey Samiee read it for the original Rapunzel video.