Common Threads - April 22 - May 02, 2021

Holy Names Academy


Lisa Hilbert is the Creative Team Advisor, and led the Production Design cohort of student leaders for Common Threads.  She enjoys costuming, hair and makeup design, researching historical details, and mentoring students through their creative processes.  If something needs to be made or there is a problem to solve she is excited to design an artistic solution. Lily, Ahmed, Sarah, and Jesse thank you for being such wonderful teachers and partners, it was a delight to learn from and work with you!  Claire, Nia, you are incredible student directors and artists (script writing, lyrics, story boarding, costume design) thank you for driving the execution of the shadow theatre production and your willingness to help with a positive attitude. Camille, Nora Lee, Ruby, Sofia, thank you especially for your above and beyond work with costuming (20+ looks in 2 weeks with fittings over Zoom and in person) and bedazzling and glittering people outdoors in the hail and rain.  Nora Lee thank you for your graphic design skills for making the Below flag. Thank you to Ava, Kathleen, Augusta, Riley, Mary Ellen, Grace, Sofia, and Matt Wesson for your talents in music, film, lighting, and craft which allowed us to create an original and beautiful shadow theatre work. Thank you to all the actors and their families for helping source costumes at home, pick up items from HNA, and be resourceful in doing hair/makeup with PPE and inclement weather in mind!


Pandemic Art

In the 14th century youth came together to create meaningful artistic work in the face of hardship when the Black Death loomed over the world. Escaping the plague, or so the tale goes, a group of ten young Italians hid in a villa outside of Florence and told stories to pass the time. Their stories would become Giovanni Boccaccio’s pre-renaissance masterwork, Decameron.   In 2020, inspired by The Decameron, The New York Times collaborated with famous writers to write new stories because  “when reality is surreal only fiction can make sense of it.” 

HNA Theatre students share in this pandemic storytelling tradition in the collaborative conceptualization, writing, and composition of the original musical Common Threads.  

One of the HNA theatre students asked at our first meeting “What happened (artistically) during the last pandemic in 1918?” This question opened my eyes to the many parallels of the two pandemics. During and after the 1918 Spanish Flu people used art for the first time as way to protest, to highlight humanity’s increased polarization, and criticize the increased reliance on machine technology. 

Creating art during times of hardship has fueled innovation, the Spanish Flu era produced the Dada art movement (1914-1920) which is the foundation of modern art as we know it today. During the time of the Spanish Flu pandemic Lotte Reiniger, a German filmmaker, adapted the ancient art form of shadow puppetry (originating in China, Southeast Asia) to made her first silhouette film animations and invented the multiplane camera (Disney later overshadowed her truly pioneering contributions to animation). 

Dadaists’ artistic anarchy was born out of disgust for the social, political and cultural values of the time. The mass death and destruction caused by machine technology during World War I greatly impacted non-elites who were soldiers now adopting new prosthetic limbs as an extension of their bodies. The machine has become more than a mere adjunct of life. It is really a part of human life...perhaps the very soul and Dadaists criticized hypocritical societal norms and the status quo.  In 2021 we continue to question our relationship with and reliance on technology.

Could theatre be made without rehearsing in person or sitting around a table together? We used Zoom, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams throughout the entire process of making Common Threads in order to meet remotely, audition, rehearse, film scenes, and communicate collaboratively.   It also opened our minds to what could be considered “theatre”.

Inspired by Lotte Reinger we created a shadow puppetry sequence for the musical.  Local artist Aran Galligan taught me how to make and move shadow puppets. I was able to salvage most parts we used for the puppet theatre from what remained at Hardwick’s hardware store on the last day before the Seattle landmark closed its doors during the pandemic. I truly admire how the students have been able to find meaning, work together with technology, use music and fiction to communicate real ideas and concerns, and craft a way through this pandemic.   



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