Elders in Residence Week 3

Split Britches have been hosting a three week residency on Governors Island, New York City, as part of our preparation for our new show, Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) which is premiering at La MaMa theatre in October 2016. 

Week 3

Well, we have reached the final week of our residency, and our last week on Governors Island. Here’s how we spent our third and final week…

On Tuesday 20th we spent the day writing and workshopping the performance. It was a very productive day, we had Split Britches’ videographer Claire with us for the first time and she began work on some graphics for the performance. It was great to have some fresh energy with us for a new week on the island!

On Tuesday evening we had La MaMa Theatre’s 55th Year Celebration party. Lois introduced the evening’s events and Peggy did a monologue to open the evening of performances. It was fantastic to meet so many of the La MaMa family, some of whom we had met previously out on the island! We all wore our Elders in Residence t-shirts and really enjoyed the evening's performances. 


On Thursday we were introduced to Fran and Toby, who were friends of Sarie. Fran and Toby were great people to be with on the porch as they both had fascinating stories to tell and were really intrigued by the project. We held a Situation Room with Sarie, Fran and Toby where Lois experimented with the form of the Situation Room. Quickly we were realising just how different each performance of UXO would be, with each different audience. This is an exciting prospect, but also a little scary! 

It was the next couple of days that really showed us how different the performance would be each night. A busy weekend again - and one that really went out with a bang! On Friday, Lois was able to conduct a Situation Room with a full table and a range of ages and opinions....

Our luck continued on Saturday, when over forty people joined us on the island. This was an absolutely fantastic day which flew by with constant conversations taking place and people joining the team on the porch, in the activity room and in the Situation Room all at once! 

We were very fortunate to have British performance artist, Scottee, join us on Governors Island during his trip to New York. Scottee's current performance project links well with Split Britches' research with Unexploded Ordnances, as it explores the relationship between people from different backgrounds, and people of different ages. Scottee's work often explores these themes and his experience of research in these areas was beneficial to our Situation Room discussion. 

We very nearly ran out of chairs...

Sunday was our final day on the island and we all looked forward to spending it on the porch, with our final Porch Sitting scheduled.  The island was open to the public for the last day of this Summer, we expected it to be a bustling and busy day once again! And it certainly was!

The Porch Sitting was so popular, we had people continually coming up the steps to join us and the conversation. We had to introduce a system where we showed people around the activity room for a while until there were some empty chairs on the porch! 

And then it was time to celebrate the three weeks we'd had together on the island.

Reflecting on the people we had met, the conversations we had, and the times we had enjoyed on Governors Island was a perfect end to our time there. How calming it was to escape the city for a while each day and spend time with one another, to meet so many wonderful people and hear their stories. 

We were in a fantastic position to move forward with the performance and head to La MaMa Theatre feeling ready and refreshed!


Elders in Residence Week 2

Split Britches have been hosting a three week residency on Governors Island, New York City, as part of our preparation for our new show, Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) which is premiering at La MaMa theatre in October 2016. 

Week 2

Tuesday saw us returning to the island where we were joined for the day by project manager Edythe’s grandmother, Patricia. As we were not open to the public that particular day, we were able to really focus on the performance and do some writing with Patricia which was great! Lois and Peggy shared some of their writing with us, and read some of Nichols and May's work, which inspires a scene in Unexploded Ordnances

UXO Video Diary for Week 2 by Shelby Coley! 

Wednesday was a similar working day as the island was very quiet and we spent the day working on the porch which was very productive! We later realised that this peaceful day was literally the calm before the storm.….which was incredibly exciting! As you can see, some of the trees which had been so still just minutes before were almost horizontal!

Thursday was the first day of Week 2 that we were officially open to the public and we had a great crowd turn up! 

One of our themes for discussion was ‘Rules for Conversation’. We attempted to draw together some ideas for our Situation Room - what makes a good conversation? What is needed for people to feel comfortable? We had some fantastic responses from Sarie and Barbara who joined us for the day; including ‘don’t turn your head away from bad breath!’ We each made our own lists and displayed them on the wall for people to add their own throughout the residency. 

Common rules for conversation included making sure everyone had a chance to contribute and allowing for difficult conversations to happen in a calm atmosphere. We became particularly interested in the idea of allowing two opposing views to be shared, and equally heard, at the Situation Room table. We were able to put some of these responses in to action later on in the afternoon as we carried out a Situation Room discussion. We discussed concerns around ageing and intimacy in elders.  Warren shared some particularly moving stories. Warren filmed a monologue inspired by Dr. Strangelove for us, as we were so interested in the stories he shared with us in The Situation Room, we hope this monologue will appear in the show! 

On Saturday 17th, we had over seventy five people visit our residency at various points throughout the day - it was buzzing! We received so many fantastic comments about the project and numerous responses to our activities. It was great to see people really engaging with the activities and asking when they could come to see the performance! 

The arrival of a group of twenty year olds from Brooklyn who came to see us just as we were finishing when energy was flagging, was a real highlight!

They were fascinated by the project and gave us so much material to add to our activities; this furthered our longing to ensure the residency was intergenerational whilst catering to elders. 

Sunday 18th was an eerily quiet day on Governors Island, perhaps due to the explosion in Chelsea the previous night. The island was deserted and the weather gloomy.

We were very fortunate to be joined by poet Tom Savage for the day, who brought some of his work with him to share with us. This was great as everyone was able to switch off from our writing, thinking and work for a while, and welcomed inspiration from him. 

As we headed towards Manhattan on Sunday evening, we noticed a number of helicopters flying over the island towards Lower Manhattan. It was President Obama! The ferry was held on lockdown and everyone was kept on-board until the President had landed.


After many conversations about the worrying situation America is in at this time, seeing President Obama and the First Lady land was a poignant moment. Everyone on the ferry cheered and applauded, it was our personal send off to the man we wish we didn’t have to say goodbye to. 

A very special moment to end another fantastic week. 

Check out Shelby's Week 2 Video Diary on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/splitbritches/videos/






Elders in Residence Week 1

Split Britches have been hosting a three week residency on Governors Island, New York City, as part of our preparation for our new show, Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) which is premiering at La MaMa theatre in October 2016. 

Week 1

Welcome to our UXO Elders in Residence blog! Here, we will take you through each week of the residency, sharing stories and pictures along the way. 

Day One saw a team meeting where we made our weekly schedule and shared our individual desires for the three weeks ahead. Our desires ranged from wanting to connect with elders on the residency, to seeing how the making of a performance process develops, to a longing to document the three weeks in the best way possible. We were very lucky to have our own documentarian join our team, Shelby, who will be following us around and filming our process! Shelby's Week 1 Video Diary can be seen below... 

We were eager and excited to begin the project that we had been planning for so long and finally arrive on the island and settle in to our new ‘home’!

It felt as though we were walking on to a film set...the house was beautiful. Built in 1902 and used as a single-family home for many years, Building 20B is now used for cultural events, projects or residencies. With its incredibly beautiful wooden floors, the house was in fantastic condition.  However, as they were covered in paint chips, it was a good job that we'd brought cleaning supplies and lots of energy with us from Manhattan. 

Exploring the many floors and various rooms, we allocated different rooms for different purposes.  We particularly loved the porch, where we knew we would be doing many Porch Sittings! All it needed was a few of our rocking chairs….

We knew that three main areas of engagement would be needed; the porch, the Situation Room and the Activity Room. With the porch duly mopped, Edythe and Meg built the rocking chairs, with little need for the instruction manual! Once all the rooms were clean, we set out our Situation Room with four tables in a square and chairs surrounding them. This was a layout that the team had used before at the previous UXO residency at the Barbican in London and felt that it work well again. Sitting around the tables and talking through our plans for the project and the performance, roles and responsibilities for the residency were discussed.

A major theme of Unexploded Ordnances is to explore hidden or buried desires in people, with a special focus on elders. In order to encourage elders to think about these themes, we created different activities designed to prompt these kinds of conversation. Meg drew a map of the world, where visitors could pin point where their ‘buried desires’ were situated. 

Another of our activities asked elders to write down their unexplored desire and bury it in sand....

Unexploded Ordnances is inspired by the 1964, Stanley Kubric film, Dr. Strangelove. The strap-line for Dr. Strangelove is 'How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb', we adopted a similar style and created a space where people could come up with their own strap-line...

With all the activities set up, the house prepared, and the team dressed in our UXO t-shirts - it was time for our first Open House Session!  Our sign was put up,  our ‘Elders in Residence’ t-shirts were hung on our ‘washing line’ - and we were open! 

Topaz, Dora, Marilyn and Colleen joined us on our first day. Topaz is a good friend of Split Britches and helped the team on their first Unexploded Ordnances residency at the Barbican in London, so Meg, Ema and I were pleased to meet her! The lovely weather meant that we spent most of the day out on the porch, whiling away the hours on the rocking chairs, discussing the performance and reading some scenes from Dr. Strangelove. It was so great to see people reacting to our activities and sharing their buried desires. We were able to use their responses to generate conversations that were beneficial to the performance, specifically around creativity and ageing. 

That Saturday, we were joined by Colleen once again, and Warren, whom we met whilst visiting senior centres in New York. His particular interest in the project meant that it was great to see him again. 

Colleen and Warren were incredibly engaging and we carried out our first Situation Room with them. The Situation Room is inspired by Dr. Strangelove's 'War Room'. Lois and Peggy adapted the 'War Room' and created 'The Situation Room', a space where important conversation could be had, and where elders could have the space to be heard.  

On the Sunday, we hosted our first Porch Sitting. We had quite a young group of participants join us on our porch, which added an interesting dynamic and an intergenerational feel to the project which was very enriching. We sat, wandered and discussed issues such as Brexit, climate change and the upcoming US Presidential Election, all of topics are becoming integral themes to the performance.  

As Week 1 drew to an end, we reflected upon our first week on the island and left feeling very content with the conversations we had shared, the progress the performance was already making and how much we were enjoying being on the island. 

As we left the island that evening, we were treated to a stunning sunset on our journey back to Manhattan...