Artistic Statement (for now)


Hello! Thanks for giving me a read! You'll find that I'm a loquacious, yet earnest individual. TL;DR - Hire me! I'm really great!

I hesitate to give an official artistic statement because I find that my interests and identities tend to change over the course of extended periods of time. This, and numerous other factors and proclivities, tend to make it rather complicated when trying to pinpoint what it is that precisely interests me as a director -- and I use that term loosely, because who knows how long I'll be calling myself that too.

What I can be sure of is that the same things have always fascinated me: magic, adventure, and a love for the vast open mysteriousness of the world. I remember being a voracious reader as a child, particularly obsessed with Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Magic Tree House Series. But when I began to outgrow children's stories, I stumbled upon mythology - and immediately I was smitten. I liked myths because they were still fantastic and magical, but they had a grown-up sensibility about them.

I don't propose to be the it-person when it comes to mythology. In the company of my friends and mentors, I actually have a more myopic view. Of course everyone knows the Greco-Roman mythological canon (and even then, my knowledge gets a bit fuzzy) soI try to branch out into myths that coincide with my own identities: Irish, Celtic, and Chinese. Even then, I am still pretty handicapped in terms of knowledge. However, I find classical text, epics, poetry, and fantasy so stimulating because these elements are descendants of oral tradition. To me, written work is the most accessible, but for something to have oral roots and still be preserved in our history -- that indicates something special. Mythology, in a way, is the product of our remembering. It is how we imagine ourselves in the lens of morality, sociology, and history.

Myth celebrates the universality of the human experience. I don't think it's coincidental that Zeus in Greek, Thor in Norse, and Shango in Yoruban mythologies all bear a striking resemblance. I am not surprised that many stories across cultures deal with the plight of women trying usurp their patriarchal oppression. I listen to stories like The White Snake, a tale from the Ming dynasty, and can recognize tropes that are evident in contemporary American pieces. I am in awe when I hear stories from different places across the world - be it the Walpiri in Australia to the Germans in Europe - uncover the same themes.

Of course, things get lost in translation, and as the story is exchanged across time and space it does evolve. I would also be remiss if I didn't add that similar themes don't necessarily make the subject matter valued the same. Westerners will adapt tales outside of their canon to fit their own sensibilities - and vice versa. Yet, I cannot help but still be amazed by the extent of our communication and how intimate the act of story exchange can be.

As a director, I like theatre because it is very similar to the practice of ancient oral exchange. The voice, the presence, and the body are all important factors that exist in both oral tradition and in contemporary theatre. I have decided to do entire texts based on a beautiful image or a provoking line. For instance, I chose to do Grand Concourse, a piece outside of my own interests, because I was moved by the act of a woman being so kind to a homeless person. I chose The White Snake because of several lines, namely the end: "Don't be afraid, it is impossible to die alone."

Currently, I am working on devising a play concerning Irish mythologies and Syrian migrants, and I chose a set of particular myths because of how gorgeous the images of swans being tossed about over a stormy sea looks. I know that sounds strange out of context, but trust me on this one. It's gonna be gorg.

Recently, I have received a lot of praise (and at times, subliminal criticism) about the visuals and aesthetics of my plays. I admit, I do have an admiration for the beautiful, and a little bit of spectacle never hurts. I do, however, resent the notion that the stage pictures I create with my ensembles are just superficial. Everything I approve of on the stage is in service of the text.

I am aware that I have a highfalutin taste and an affinity for the pretty - but it's not without reason. I think I am so drawn to myths and classical texts is because they are richly saturated in ideas, themes, and metaphor. I love the challenge of staging the impossible - transformations, voyages at sea, great wars, and the physicalization of abstract things like doubt, love, or stars in the sky.

I am constantly in awe of Mary Zimmerman, Peter Brook, Tina Landau, and Anna Shapiro, because they are always actively seeking something, yet seem have a precise knowledge on something I've only yet to uncover. Don't get me wrong - I have massive respect for television/film, and I believe video games are the ultimate combination of theatre and film, but to me, the theatre is that rare space of open play. It's the affirmation that magic does exist, and you only need to work for it. It's proof that you can find reality in the imagination. It's the sacred refuge where anything is possible. But most of all, it is where you can combat loneliness. "I like being a director because it makes me feel like I am a part of the world," says Anna Shapiro. "Because to do theatre, is to ask to be received."

It's terrifying to ask to be received, but simultaneously exciting, rewarding, and most importantly, humbling. So, thank you for receiving me today, and if you managed to make it all the way down here and want me to direct for you, shoot me an email: gstrass@umich.edu

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gk.strasser@gmail.comUSA: +1 248 535 0316 | THA: +66 92-847-1942

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