The Love and Loss Project
Premiered at The Piers-Brandt Theatre, CA. Sponsored by The City of Thousand Oaks, CLU, & L.I.F.E.. Interview-based collaboration between Hospice of the Conejo, Nebunele Theatre, and Sound Impact.
Based on interviews with members of a grief support group, this performance project was as much a celebration of life and love as it was a meditation on grief and loss.
“The stories she heard in the hospice support group led to her writing a play, ‘The Love and Loss Project,’ based on four individuals, three of whom were married for 50 years or more and lost their life partners.“
“…the play will contribute to a broader cultural dialogue about aging, end-of-life issues and the mourning process itself.”
“To say that Claytie wrote a play about love or grief is far too simple. She created a safe space for every audience member to process their own grief—however that is manifest"
-The Love & Loss Project, Facebook Review
“I've never felt this overwhelmed with emotion while watching a performance, movie, or play before."
-The Love & Loss Project, Facebook Review
“I want people to understand the depth and magnitude of power this play had on me... I hope and pray this project lives on for a long time, it is such a gift."
-The Love & Loss Project, Facebook Review
The Big White Door
Premiered at The Riverside Church Theatre, NYC. Interview-based collaboration with The Narrative Medicine Program at Columbia University, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Sound Impact, and families dealing with a terminal illness.
Based on interviews with kids dealing with terminal illness and their families, nurses, child life specialists, pediatric oncologists and palliative care doctors, The Big White Door explores how kids process their own mortality.
This project came out of a curiosity that I had around how we talk about death when we've got to do it on simpler terms. The resulting performance was created for the community of people I interviewed, and a small number of outsiders.
I had the opportunity to bring this play to a large theatre in NYC, but it just didn't feel right. I wanted the audience to have an intimate experience, to feel the vibration of the cello, violin, and viola. It was important to me to create a personal, disarming space.
This piece was performed in the tower of Riverside Church at sunset. We sat in a circle with the instruments close and the music all around us. We laughed, cried, and connected to the great mystery and impossible task of ever fully understanding this part of the human experience.
"Claytie Mason is an artist of incredible empathy and sensitivity... much of her work is simply about letting someone tell their story, and then finding imaginative theatrical ways to reveal what has been overlooked."
-Kelly Stuart, Playwright & Lecturer
"Working with Claytie I learned that kids with terminal illness also have fun."
-Emily Kubovy-Weiss, Actress, The Big White Door
“Claytie is an extraordinary person to work with. She is tireless in her quest for the heart of what she is working on."
-Alissa Mortenson, Theatre Artist & Collaborator
Amsterdam House Stories
Interview-based collaboration between The Amsterdam Nursing Home and Columbia MFA students. Performed at various on-sight locations in NYC.
This project was a long-term collaboration between myself, Columbia MFA Students, and The Amsterdam Nursing Home in NYC.
I worked with the staff at The Amsterdam Nursing Home to pair specific artists at Columbia University with specific residents.
Each artist developed a personal relationship with the resident they were partnered with. After spending time getting to know one another, a performance was designed for each resident. We took into account things like life experience, personality type, emotional needs, dementia, memory loss, movement capacity, and repeated stories.
The art that came from these pairings was incredibly unique, beautiful, and intimate. There was a staged reading of long-forgotten/fragmented plays, an awards ceremony with alumni from Wuhan University, a one-man show and life review set to music, a short documentary on the shared humanity of residents and staff at The Amsterdam House...
There were many reasons I wanted to create this project. Mostly, I saw The Amsterdam House as a place rich in story, history, inspiration, and cross-generational connection. The artists that were a part of this collaboration blew me away, as did the resulting performances.
"I saw Julie this morning and she was still emotional about the program. She was sincerely thankful. Her eyes became teary when she told me about it. You have made her extremely happy, and touched her in such an unimaginable and emotional way that it will stay in her heart forever."
-Jay Virella, Amsterdam House Director
"Claytie is a creative, empathic thinker through art. The project she designed developed organically, involved real engagement, and had a deep impact on the residents who were involved."
-Marcia Sells, Chief Diversity Officer, New York Metropolitan Opera
Theatre Poems: Good Morning Star
Performed at Boren Park, Seattle, WA. Produced by Nebunele Theatre.
Theatre Poems was a Nebunele festival of performances designed around individual people and pieces of text that were meaningful in the context of their life.
We spent a few months collecting words from random, willing participants. Directors from all over the city of Seattle created performances based on the text and the story around it. Each performance was designed for one person. The performance venues ranged from theatre spaces to out-of-the-box locations.
The piece I directed was inspired by the Mary Oliver poem 'Wild Geese,' and how it spoke to one woman's struggle with depression. The poem was a salve, something she came back to over and over again throughout the years.
The performance feels a bit private, personal, and holy, but it's on my list of all-time favorites so I'm including it here.
It happened outside, at sunrise. There was live music, geese puppets, some interview-based text, laughter, tears. It was an experience that belonged to everyone there, but especially to the woman who was generous and brave enough to share her story with all of us.
"So now one of your beautiful geese and the moon and two very glittery stars are up on the wall in my little house where they'll remind me anytime I feel like the darkness is swallowing me up, that I have friends in that darkness, and that the sun always, eventually, comes back."
-[the subject and inspiration for Good Morning Star]
The Secret Ruths of Island House
Premiered at The Theatre Off Jackson, Seattle, WA. Toured NYC, SF, and Boulder Fringe Festivals. Interview-based collaboration produced by Nebunele Theatre.
Based on interviews with six women named Ruth who all lived in the Island House retirement home, this mixed media, masked production explored aging and the end of life, memory, dementia, and the surreal nature of life in a nursing home.
“Almost heartbreaking in its sympathetic and curiously affirmative humanity… Ruths is a beautifully concentrated interplay of acting, mask work, movement, taped interviews, and song in a deeply affecting look at women in an assisted-living retirement home.”
* Best New Play, San Francisco Fringe Festival, SF, CA
* Pick of the Fringe, Boulder Fringe Festival, Boulder, CO
Cussing at the Moon
Premiered at The Odd Duck Studio in Seattle, WA. Directed by Joy-Brooke Fairfield. Written and created in collaborative process. Produced by Nebunele Theatre.
This Nebunele collaboration started with a collective interest in the brain/soul activity of humans who are comatose.
A Nebunele collaboration gathers artists together in the rehearsal space with the seed of an idea, then explores that idea in the rehearsal room through movement, improv, music, writing, interviews, workshop performances, and conversation.
Out of this organic, self-examing process, the story of three sisters emerged, one of whom just attempted suicide by jumping off the Aurora Bridge.
Half of the performance takes place in real-time, the other half in the comatose dreams of a woman deciding whether or not to come back to the embodied plane.
“…serious subject matter generously sprinkled with heart and humor.”
The Wind and Rain
Premiered at The EXIT Theatre, San Francisco, CA. Produced by DIVAfest
This collaboration began with an old Irish/Appalachian ballad about two sisters (one dark, one fair) called The Wind and Rain.
Initially, what fascinated me about this ballad was the way the whole sordid tale turns to music in the end. It's a violent story about jealousy, rage, and murder between sisters. The bones of the murdered sister wash up on the riverside and are found by a fiddler, who turns them into a fiddle that only plays one sad and mournful tune, "Oh the dreadful wind and rain."
The way we make music out of the worst moments in life, how creation and becoming can be both painful and profound, the struggle and violence in the creative process that is tied to discovery, growth, beauty--this is what fascinated me about the ballad, the parable, the sad song.
Artistically, some of my most treasured theatrical discoveries came from the making of this play. The collaboration between myself, the musician, the visual artist, and the two performers has informed much of the work I've made since.
“In the hands of writer-director Claytie Mason and her crew, the drama is as concentrated, melodic and hauntingly elusive as the traditional Irish ballad on which it's based.”
“An engrossing exercise in theatrical simplicity… The Wind & Rain has the staying power of an old familiar song.”
"Claytie pushes her artists to play, to search, to develop, to be open to the unknown, to be ok without every detail being explained. This feeling of suspension allows for artistic freedom and exploration."
-Rebecca Jackson, Concert Violinist