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Government of New Brunswick

Solo Chicken Productions

Based in Fredericton, Solo Chicken Productions is a professional performing arts company that aims to foster the creative arts through the creation and development of new works, community collaboration and educational programming. Founded in 2004, Solo Chicken Productions has been a labour of love for Lisa Anne Ross who is the founder and current Artistic Producer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and your role with Solo Chicken.

I am the founder and current Artistic Producer of Solo Chicken Productions. My role at the company is to provide artistic guidance through facilitation, direction, and mentorship and to work collaboratively with our Associative Artistic Director Jean-Michel Cliche to fulfill our mandate to create new works and opportunities for engaging with the arts that are both challenging and delightful.

When was Solo Chicken launched?

I founded the company in 2004 after a stint running a clown (you read that right) cooperative called Clown Hall in Toronto and used it to launch my ‘solo’ career. Thus, the solo in chicken!! In 2010, when I relocated to Fredericton the company incorporated, became a registered charity and changed its focus from solo to company creation.

Describe the organization, its mandate and key activities.

Our official mandate: Solo Chicken Productions aims to foster the creative arts through the creation and development of new works, community collaboration and educational programming. Solo Chicken Productions is committed to creating performances and opportunities for engaging with the arts that are challenging and delightful.

Our key activities are focused in three areas: Creation, Community and Education.

We aim to create new works that focus on physical theatre, to collaborate with other communities to help them share their stories and to provide relevant educational opportunities to the arts community. We feel the three areas support and nurture each other and help us stay connected to our whole community.

The organization has three pillars that includes creation, community and training, is there a particular activity area that you find most rewarding?

On a personal level, I take great joy from our community arts work. Through the exponential learning that happens when you engage with a new community, new people, and new stories, it feeds all other parts of my artistic practice.

What goes into developing production pieces with Solo Chicken? Describe your artistic process.

We are a very artist driven company, and each new work is devised from scratch, with the actors being the central creation engine of each new work. We often begin with little more than an idea.

We might ask artists to do a bit of research and come in with their own found text or in the case of Fruit Machine, we might provide ALL the found text. But once we are in the studio, the creation of the work is really driven by small tasks. We give the actors a small creation task that could be a solo, pairs, trio’s, etc. and then give them time to create something. (Not much time!!). Everyone comes back, shares their creations and then we add that to what we call our ‘paint palate’.

Over the course of rehearsal, we start to build an inventory of different movements and text that we then begin to shape into a piece. Sometimes we may shape the text to give it a stronger narrative and in other cases we lean into the feeling of the work and let it be more of a feeling and less of a story.

In the final stages we refine, refine, refine and, much to the chagrin of our amazing actors, start chucking out almost everything that was created until we have the final piece! Always an adventure.

How has your experience helped you with creating and managing Solo Chicken?

I believe that each experience you have as an artist serves as a stepping stone to the next. Sometimes your choices take you in wildly new directions, but each project informs the next.

Perhaps the most impactful stone on the path to creating Solo Chicken was my partnership with contemporary dance artist Lesandra Dodson who really helped me define it as a space for emerging artists and moved it away from my solo work to a true company.

What has been the most challenging aspect of running Solo Chicken?

I’m a theatre ARTIST at heart, who wants to spend most of their time in the studio or in the theatre, so I do find the daily administrative grind a challenge. But I try to remind myself that I am so lucky to be a working artist and that administration is the bedrock that keeps the other aspects of the company on track. Viva la spreadsheet.

What is your vision for Solo Chicken? What do you hope to achieve?

Our vision for the future of Solo Chicken is really tied to inclusion. I am very excited because our company is embarking on a huge new project called Better Together. After four years of running The Spirit Project, which has developed into a company of artists with and without intellectual disabilities, we decided we wanted to take what we have learned at The Spirit Project and use it to revise our company through the lens of inclusion. How can inclusion make our company creatively and administratively better? How can we champion inclusion in the broader community? We know through our work at The Spirit Project that inclusion is a must and leads to great things, so we want to put that into action throughout our company and community.

Through your work with Solo Chicken, what have you learned about yourself and about the arts community in New Brunswick?

I am SO happy I moved to New Brunswick!! I love this province and feel so proud of the amazing artistic growth that is happening here. One of the things I love about our artistic community is the boundless interest in collaborating across disciplines, forms and even organizations. In a bigger centre or province there is a tendency to stick to your silo, whereas in New Brunswick I find myself collaborating with so many different people.

In your opinion, how has Solo Chicken impacted the community?

Although I’m proud of many things the company has done, I think our support of emerging artists has had the greatest impact. Providing training, mentorship and paid employment to young artists and watching them grow and become incredible artists has been very fulfilling. Take Jean-Michel Cliche our Associate Artistic Director... he started with us in 2015 as the first wave of coop artists and after many years of projects, workshops and training is now leading the company with me. A full circle that fills me with pride!

How has the community inspired or impacted you and Solo Chicken?

I’m constantly in awe of the artists who surround us and love the energy that is overflowing and connecting dance, theatre, music, and art together. Saa Andrew Gbongbor is a favourite artist of mine, and he demonstrates how building community and forging connections is the foundation of great art. I have been so in love with the stand-up, sketch and improv happening in our community including getting Jake Martin back in the province, the rise of Dead Serious and Jean-Michel and his improv army. I’m always impressed with Connection Dance and the community they create in Saint John that reverberates across the province. In terms of visual art, I’m always in awe of Tara Francis and her quill creations and stumbling across a Samaqani Cocahq mural brings me great joy. Most recently I was at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and was really moved by the Judy Blake Seed Vessels exhibit. They are so full of emotion and stories. I really wanted to pick them up, move them around and hold them!

Describe what you are most proud of with this organization?

I am very proud of The Spirit Project and building a dynamic company where artists, with and without intellectual and physical disabilities, can flourish and share their gifts. It has been the highlight of my career to work on this!

How has living in New Brunswick helped you in your artistic/cultural career path with respect to Solo Chicken?

I really believe that living in New Brunswick has given me so many artistic opportunities that I might never have had in other places. I get to collaborate across disciplines, try things I have never done before and develop large scale projects and events. It has opened me up to a world of opportunity.

What advice would you give to people interested in exploring theatre arts or becoming involved with Solo Chicken?

For audience members I encourage people to try new things! Subscribe to Grid City Magazine and check out a new band or an art show at a small venue or a theatre show by a company you’ve never heard of. Take a class, go see something new!

If you are an aspiring artist, do the same thing... get out there, meet people, take classes and then before you feel ready, start making things. Try, fail, repeat... maybe success! The only way to become an artist is to make art!

If you want to get involved with Solo Chicken, we have loads of volunteer opportunities from The Spirit Project to box office and love welcoming new people into our circle.

In your opinion, why is theatre arts important in our community?

Theatre and all the creative arts are a critical part of a healthy, engaged society. When we share our stories through the act of creation it gives society an opportunity to engage in that conversation, to process our shared experiences and perhaps to find ways to make things better. Although I love Netflix as much as the next person, coming together IN PERSON to share our stories, builds love, trust, connection, and the tools we need to build a positive society.

What productions/activities is Solo Chicken currently working on?

We just finished the New Brunswick tour of our groundbreaking physical theatre performance, Fruit Machine, which explores the purge of LGBT members of the Military and RCMP. Created and directed by Alex Rioux, we were so proud to produce and share that work.

We also completed HEART ABOVE US, an epic ode to and by The Spirit Project in June 2023, complete with a tour to the STAGES Theatre Festival in Halifax. It was incredible to hit the road with 24 people in tow.

What’s next for Solo Chicken?

In the Fall, we are launching our Better Together Project which includes new inclusive arts classes, and an integrated employment pilot program. In the same vein The Spirit Project will begin work on our new show, Spirit Project the Musical. OMG!! Disney move over. We are also offering more improv classes led by the incomparable Jean-Michel and beginning creation on a new work. (Teasers to come in the Fall.)

Facebook: @solochickenproductions
Instagram: @solochickenproductions

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