The Long Tides of Time: Nicole Quenelle on her 2016 Fringe show

How do we measure time? What is contained in a moment? And just what are we waiting for, anyway? This Fringe Festival, Nicole Quenelle introduces us to Joann Merriweather, a call center worker wondering how spends her own time, and how her minutes add up. Aided by outside eye Sarah Sanford (director of 2015 Fringe hit The Underground Railroad) and dramaturg Nell Bang-Jensen of the Wilma Theater, THE LONG TIDES weaves clown, movement, audience participation and narrative in a poignant audit of how we spend our minutes. Nicole gives a little time to Phindie as we count down the days to her Fringe launch. [Asian Arts Initiative Studio A (second floor), 1219 Vine Street] September 15-22, 2016
fringearts.com/the-long-tides.

Nicole Quenelle in The Long Tides. Photo by Hannah van Sciver.

Nicole Quenelle in The Long Tides. Photo by Hannah van Sciver.

Phindie: What inspired THE LONG TIDES?

Nicole Quenelle: A few years ago, after I’d finished a physical theater training program and arrived back in the U.S. and worked on a few small projects, I realized I was really burning out. So I decided to take a full year off, and re-evaluate. I told myself that at the end of the year I would check in to see if I still wanted to make my own work. And at the end of that year I was really ready to make something. I had no idea what, but it definitely felt like time. So I waited a bit for some inspiration. Nothing. But it still felt like time. And this thought of, it’s time, it’s time just kept tugging at me. So after that went on for awhile I decided, OK. I’m making a piece about time.

Phindie: Who knows where the time goes?

Nicole: Yeah, it’s a good question. (And a nice song too.) I don’t know the answer. And this piece isn’t likely to answer this question, either, but hopefully the asking of questions about time provokes thought around how we spend our time and why. I’ve been acting on and off since I was four years old, but making my own work is something I’ve just begun in the last few years, so my own process is something I’m finding as I go. Asking the questions in the way that will get to what really provokes curiosity and exploration is always a source of seeking, and will hopefully evolve over time. For now, this piece asks people to consider time on a personal level, and I hope it does that.

Phindie: Where does the title come from?

Nicole: It comes from a phenomena called long period tides, in which tidal forces last longer (or are absent longer) than usual, usually longer than a day. I came across this early on, and I liked the name as a title—I like the way it sounds—but also to me this phenomenon and its name is evocative—of waiting for something to arrive or retreat, of longing. And also, when I think of time it’s hard to not also think of water. The two are linked poetically for me.

Phindie: How did the piece develop?

Nicole: I worked on this piece in the beginning stages in several workshops completely alone. I needed to work alone for that time, but there came a very clear point at which I needed to get other people in the room with me in order to learn more about my own work. They have all been extraordinary in that way. Their presence and questions and provocations have been helping me find more layers to the character of Joann, more sides to the writing, more ways to explore the major themes of the piece and build the world of the show.

Phindie: What have your collaborators brought to it?

They have all been extraordinary in that way. Their presence and questions and provocations have been helping me find more layers to the character of Joann, more sides to the writing, more ways to explore the major themes of the piece and build the world of the show.

Sarah [Sanford] has an extraordinary ability to help me hone in on character details and ask questions in rehearsal that lead me to explore new material and territory that I wasn’t expecting, which is really critical, I think, in a devising process.And Nell [Bang-Jensen] has been instrumental in helping to focus the questions I’m asking about time, and help me delve deeper into the research for the sources of inspiration for these.

Phindie: Who do you think will enjoy this show?

Nicole: Based on previous excerpts I’ve performed, I think anyone who has worked an office job will enjoy the familiarity of this world (or depending, they might avoid it altogether). But I’ve had a lot of people tell me they immediately recognize this world, and that it’s fun for them to see it explored theatrically. The show also has a good bit of audience participation, so anyone who likes that will hopefully enjoy it (though it’s certainly not required). I also think that time is one of the equalizers among humans—it affects all of us. So anyone who is interested in seeing that explored with other humans in a room with some donuts and a dry erase board and index cards and questions about how we’re spending our time here together… hopefully they’ll be into the experience.

Phindie: Do you have any other picks for this year’s fest?

Nicole: Oh, yes. There are too many to name, and I probably won’t have time to see them all which is a bummer, but yes oh yes. I’m very excited about Almanac’s show, Exile 2588. Really, everyone should see them. They are just so damn talented and such work horses. Every time I see them I’m like a kid with my jaw hanging open. I just can’t say enough about them—they transport the audience—it’s remarkable.

I’m also over the moon excited about Ann Hamilton’s piece, habitus. I have a lot of interest in theatrical installation and I’ve been reading about her work for years, but this is the first time I’ll get to see it. It looks like a dream. I can’t wait.

Phindie: Those are some good picks. Thanks Nicole!

THE LONG TIDES
By Nicole Quenelle
Asian Arts Initiative Studio A (second floor)
1219 Vine Street
$10-$15
September 15 + 16, 8 p.m.
September 17, 3 + 9 p.m.
September 18, 2 + 7 p.m.
September 20 + 21, 7 p.m.
September 22, 8 p.m.
fringearts.com/event/the-long-tides

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.