Dan Robert, Emerson College BA Theatre Studies Acting major ’13 and Creative Producer in Training for ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage, sat down for a chat with Aimee Rose Ranger, dynamic Emerson alumna ’07. Aimee Rose is a local fringe actress and storyteller with an emphasis on devised, clown and solo work. She returns to Emerson performing with the Whistler in the Dark ensemble in Ted Hughes’ Tales From Ovid. Check out a slice of their nearly two hour–long conversation on finding a home for devised works and the post-graduation artist’s journey in this interview profile.
Dan Robert: How has Emerson changed since ’07, Aimee Rose?
Aimee Rose Ranger: Well obviously the Paramount is not a space that we were using when I was here. Having Meg [Taintor, Director of Tales from Ovid and Administrative Assistant for the Office of the Arts] working here and feeling her be excited about what Emerson is doing, especially with ArtsEmerson, it makes me proud to call Emerson my alma mater. It’s not a lie that Emerson is innovative, and the works that ArtsEmerson brings in are some of the more exciting things that are happening in town.
DR: Post-Emerson you began working in the Boston fringe theatre. How would you describe that scene?
ARR: It mirrors Boston itself – it feels really small and then all of the sudden it feels really big. There are a lot of theatre companies doing different kinds of work, but then aside from the Fringe community that’s connected to StageSource there’s this whole other world of devised work and that’s weirdly separate from the ‘plays’ theater scene. I’m an artist interested in seeing where those intersect. I used to host a monthly story-telling potluck at my house called Soop: Stories of our People, and I’d like to revive it at some point. I was the curator and I’d pick ten different artists to form a five to seven minute piece, and everyone who came would bring a vegetable, a Stone Soup kind of thing. We’d cook soup while the performances were happening and then at the end we’d all eat it together. It happened for about three years out of my home. It was a great community. But I stopped doing it because like 70 people who I didn’t know were coming into my house. It was only word of mouth – it was never on Facebook, there was never any advertisement. So I think there’s a craving for a community that’s blending different kinds of art. It’s crazy to me that there’s the slam poetry world, the music world, and the theatre world that’s plays, and then the theatre world that’s experimental—Burlesque, gender exploration, devised—and it’s all rather divided.
DR: Do you think that Boston is a good, supportive place to be making independent devised work?
ARR: That’s a great question. I do feel a little bit like I’m floundering as a devised theatre artist. That’s a big reason why I started doing Soop, because I wanted to just have a space where if I wanted to create work I could create work and there would be an audience for it. It’s scary to put work out there and then not have an audience, which is what happens a lot. I’m interested in helping carve out more of a space for that kind of work and I think that can happen. I think a big problem is partly the space thing. And another big problem that happens is that people have one project they want to make so they create their own theatre company and then let it trail off. I think that’s because it’s difficult to find your people. I think every artist wonders: do you stick to one company, do you go company to company? When you find your people, it’s a big thing. I’m going through some personal exploration and changes about the kind of work I want to be doing and where I can find it. And this play is very important to me, Tales From Ovid.
DR: Ovid is an adaptation—as an artist who devises work is there anything you would want to adapt for the stage in the future?
ARR: Oh, that’s a great question! There’s this wonderful book called Sum. It’s forty stories of the afterlife by David Eagleman that are all really fascinating and really different. I’d love to see that adapted. Also Gabriel García Márquez. I love 100 Years of Solitude—I don’t know how that would translate to the stage but there’s one specific scene in that book that I love, the scene, the chapter, whatever, where the village is taken over by a plague of forgetfulness. I feel like it’s really relevant—I frequently think about cell phones in the world causing people not to commit things to memory.
DR: Once you graduate college, how do you think the process begins of making a living professionally devising plays, especially when it’s so hard for a company to trust someone who wants to start a process from a blank page?
ARR: I think when you get out of college there is a level of proving yourself; you’re back to being a freshman to the world. My first year I struggled, but then you develop credibility. When you come into a new space there’s a humbling that happens. One of the big things I’ve thought about in terms of the advantages after graduating going straight to work, though, instead of going to grad school, is that learning how you navigate and select projects as an artist, how you interact with directors and other actors, is huge. Sometimes you don’t realize that you’ve assumed that everyone thinks the way you do until it’s right in your face. You need to learn how to advocate for yourself with the people in the room and how to take agency in your own path. You learn how to prioritize commitments without burning bridges. Figuring out what your process is and how to honor your process is a huge part of what I’ve had to figure out the last couple years. At school you learn the technique, and so you get a tool-belt, but then it’s how you use it.