By India Ali
Durham is not the capitol of North Carolina, but it is definitely capturing a lot of attention. Durham is like the new, old cool. It is the city where elders retire, professionals are groomed, musicians aspire to inspire, volunteers volunteer, teenagers skateboard, vegetarians dine, northerners relocate and artists thrive. Durham is often overlooked compared to its adjacent cities and towns by “outsiders”, but those on the “inside” applaud the city for its seasoned, antique like energy; its revolutionary, yet soft and subtle vibes; its ability to intertwine and engage across the Carolinian demographics. Durham is to Harlem, what the Blues is to Jazz.
A recent addition to the Durham theatre scene is Haymaker. I recently caught up with Haymaker to explore their story.
Who/what exactly is Haymaker?
Haymaker is a performance team made up of three artists in their early 30s who produce “devised” performances of various scales. Devising means that instead of producing an existing script, we build our plays together from scratch. Though we come from different backgrounds and training – Akiva Fox began as a dramaturg, Emily Hill started her career in production management and Dan VanHoozer came to theater at age 21 – we share a single aim: to create performances that consider the audience first.
Our diverse backgrounds defined our process of building theatrical experiences, as we have the advantage of years spent developing our skills in a range of artistic disciplines. We work in no fixed hierarchy; as co-producing artistic directors of Haymaker, we share equally in the building of stories and other production assignments. Because each of us has experience with directing, writing, and performance, responsibilities shift and overlap from project to project. One person may take the lead on a particular production as director, but each of us contributes ideas or text more or less equally along the way. Additionally, we divide artistic responsibilities for a given project based on our individual skills and interests.
Why Durham? The decision to base Haymaker in the Triangle began a couple of years ago in a bar in DC. It wasn’t a quick or random decision: we chose Durham for a reason. There’s a full blog post about it here.
How can the arts community get involved with Haymaker?
Haymaker is eager to engage with the thriving artistic community in the Triangle. Our first play here – Living with the Tiger – featured the three of us as creators and performers because we wanted to introduce ourselves to the area. However, we don’t plan to do that again. The three of us will each be a part of every production, as creators or actors or directors or designers, but we will be inviting many others to join us. We were just involved in Manbites Dog’s open auditions, and will continue to seek out local artists as we devise future performances.
What do you want the community to know/learn from your work? What story do you want to tell? What makes Haymaker different?
Simply put, our goal is to create performances that consider the audience first. We’re geeks who make plays. (Well, “make” might not cover it; we kind of tear and rip and punch and paste and tape and glue and gum them together from bits of our lives, memories, dreams, that short story from back in junior high, a Stones’ song, or the way Kermit moved his arms.) We wrote up a blog post about how we “devise” our performances here.
Are there any new works in the making?
Haymaker currently has two performances in development. ‘What’s That Cost: The Federal Budget and You’, which was performed first at the Burning Coal’s “Politheatrics 2012” festival in June. You can learn more about that one here.
The second is an adaptation of Elektra. The exciting news there is that we have been awarded an artist’s residency at the Elkins Estate in Pennsylvania through White Pines Productions to work on devising it. We’ll spend seven days creating, destroying, and rebuilding with our core collaborators which include our incredible composer Jenavieve Varga, violinist for the NC band Lost in the Trees. You can expect to hear more about Elektra this fall.
To find out more about Haymaker, visit their website.
India Ali is an Atlanta native and a Durham advocate volunteering at Triangle ArtWorks. Life is her muse; she lives by “desiderata”. She is currently working on her JD/MBA joint degree at North Carolina Central University, whilst tapping into her chi via painting and poetry. You can reach her by email.