Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 73: Training and Jamming with New(to)Town Collective — with June Fukumura and Anjela Magpantay

Speakers: Paige Smith, Am Johal, June Fukumura, Anjela Magpantay


Paige Smith  0:06  
Hey listeners, I'm Paige Smith with Below the Radar a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is created by SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement and is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam. Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. This week Am Johal speaks with June Fukumura and Anjela Magpantay, alumni of SFU School of Contemporary Arts and two of the artists behind New(to)Town collective, a theatre group that provides low barrier by donation training to the community. Angela and June share their experiences as emerging artists in Vancouver and how New(to)Town Collective is filling a gap by making space for accessible training and the cross pollination of artistic practices. I hope you enjoy!


Am Johal  0:53  
Welcome to Below the Radar. Really excited to have June and Angela with us. Welcome. 

June Fukumura  0:59  

Anjela Magpantay  0:59  

Am Johal  1:00  
Oh, I know you've both been involved with a super interesting project called New(to)Town and wondering if you can talk a little bit about New(to)Town collective and the work that you've been doing? 

June Fukumura  1:10  
Sure, yeah. So I'm June Fukumura. I'm one of the cofounders of New(to)Town collective and we're a collective of artists and we are partners with the cultural unit. And being supported by the Woodward's building to put on these collective training jams, which are experimental, interdisciplinary, low barrier, accessible training programs and workshops for folks who are in and outside of the arts community. Our intention is to bring more accessible physical training practices to our community, because we feel that there's, there's a gap, I think, in our community for low barrier and interdisciplinary work. So we work primarily in physical theatre, but we also open up the doors to other modes of creation and disciplines. And yeah, we've been doing that for about five years, maybe six years now. 

Anjela Magpantay  2:04  
Six years.

June Fukumura  2:05 
Six years. Okay. Yeah. So there's four of us, myself, Angela, Davey, Calderon and Avyen von Waldenburg. So four of us have been creating these opportunities and experimental labs for quite some time. 

Am Johal  2:18  
Cool. How'd you plug into this Anjela?  

Anjela Magpantay  2:21  
I think it started, well, I'm going to have to start with a late night cafe story, where me, June and Davey and a few colleagues of ours from SFU, were experiencing a lack of space for artists to experiment, collaborate, without any pressure to have a result, or have a showing to a public audience. And we were lamenting about that. And we thought, Hmm, I wonder if there's space for that. And so we went out to this journey. And yeah, we started New(to)Town collective in my kitchen with that huge clipboard, and we were just jotting down our ideas about what we were interested in, and, yeah, now we're here today. 

Am Johal  3:07  
Yeah. Now you've both graduated from SFU and I'm wondering if you can talk about, you know, this is such an expensive city, there's affordability challenges. When you come out as a graduate from an arts program. There's also all these other barriers that people have in terms of accessing arts and culture. What was your experience going through SFU? And then, of course, graduating, walking into, like, what should I do now? So tell me a little bit about yourselves in that experience of walking out as alumni. 

Anjela Magpantay  3:37  
Well, first of all, the privilege of being inside the Woodward's building during our training was an amazing experience in which you felt like the space was limitless. You had all this access to state of the art space with sprung floors, heated floors, and a JJ Bean was right downstairs. And after graduation, we felt like we were experiencing economical barriers. As alumni, we had a lot of student debt. We didn't know where to start. We didn't know anybody from the professional theatre community, we had to make our way. And so having these accessible avenues of space of community and groups, was really helpful in our career development, essentially. And we wanted to give back because we were so lucky to have all these supporters. Shout out to Steven Hill for donating space. 

June Fukumura  4:33
Hi Steven!

Anjela Magpantay  4:33  
Yeah, we love you. And Heidi Taylor, as well, artistic director of Playwrights Theatre Center. She is our number one fan. So we just wanted to give back to the community and discovering that there are other people like us, emerging artists, and also artists who felt like they've been marginalized for various reasons, but they also come to our training jams. 

June Fukumura  4:55  
Mm hmm. Yeah, I'll also say that they're really fun. They're like, we do it because it's fun. We like it. We like training with each other. We found each other through SFU's theatre program. And we've been working together for like, I don't know, maybe like 10 years almost together, or we've known each other for like 10 years. 

Anjela Magpantay  5:14

June Fukumura  5:16  
So it's just a continuation of our, like friendship and our collaboration together, which I think is why we've been able to keep it up for so long. But yeah, SFU's theatre program has really taught us like interdisciplinary collaboration and experimentation as a basis for creation. So we've really taken that on in our practice, I think. 

Anjela Magpantay  5:35  

June Fukumura  5:35  

Anjela Magpantay  5:36  
An example of that is that both June and Davey have come out with solo shows for the Fringe festival. Davey's is called Big Queer Filipino Karaoke Night. June's is called Sumikko. My name is Sumikko. Yes. And wonderful exorcism? 

June Fukumura  5:54  
A delightful exorcism. 

Anjela Magpantay  5:56  
Oh, yes, of course, it's delightful. And it's because of these training jams that individuals such as Davey and June, were able to experiment and play and, and kind of be ridiculous and kind of let go of that. I'm an artist, I'm gonna make art mask, and just have fun. 

Am Johal  6:13  
As emerging artists coming out doing work in the community, what kind of barriers do you come across, you know, from the point of graduation to, you know, seeing a kind of professional theatre world out there in a particular way, you're coming out of school at a particular age, and you're walking into something? And what are the kinds of things that you experience, from your vantage point, when you see the kind of ecology of theatre in this city?

June Fukumura  6:37  
I think one of the things that we talked about earlier on is that, you know, dancers have dance classes that they go to on a regular basis to keep warm. So it's not necessarily about, you know, producing a show, but it's for their body and their minds and their spirits to be inside of the practice. But for actors, it can be kind of challenging, you can go to acting classes, you can go to scene study classes, you know, but those can be quite expensive, and sort of short term, and kind of prescriptive to some degree. You know, there's not a lot of room for experimentation. I think that's where our training gems really kind of opened up that field. And we tried to make this also a peer to peer experience. So we're not coming from a top down approach of like, we have all this information, and you must pay us. So that we can tell you, it's a you know, we make it by donation. Always, that's like a huge mandate of ours, because, again, like, it's an expensive city to live in as an emerging artist, you don't have the means to continuously train in these expensive programs. And it seems counterintuitive to ask emerging artists to continuously pay to train to keep warm, it feels like it should be part of our support network to have these opportunities. So I think in some ways, we fill that gap.

Anjela Magpantay  7:56  
And another gap that we fill in the theatre community in Vancouver, the professional theatre community is that not many programs like this exist, you have programs for emerging artists, for example, writing workshops, for writers or actors or performers who are interested in writing, you have development programs for directors, emerging directors, but not necessarily a place to get messy, a place to get messy with your whole body and mind incorporated, and not having to categorize this is dance, this is theatre. You don't really know what it is when you're in a training jam. 

June Fukumura  8:34  
Yeah, yeah, we've had some really cool jams, where you know, there's like a filmmaker, and a dancer, and a theatre artist and a clown, and all jamming together in the same room in the same space, and being able to experience something together. And maybe none of them have experienced this at all, this sort of physical training or other opportunities, like we've also tried to make it a point to have guest facilitators come in. So we want, you know, folks who already have experience in other disciplines that we don't, we can't teach, we can't share, to come and teach what they want to. And so it's a really cool opportunity for everyone to knowledge share, and cross pollinate ideas and practices. I think that's the cool part about what we do. 

Am Johal  9:15  
Yeah, the City of Vancouver recently just came out with a new arts and cultural plan called Culture Shift: Blanketing Our City in Arts and Culture. And I was involved a little bit on an external advisory committee and there was a big portion of that around equity, diversity, inclusion, because I think there was a general sentiment out in the community that the funding of arts wasn't reflecting the diversity of the city. And I'm wondering from that vantage point, as emerging artists coming in, are there barriers from an equity, diversity, inclusion point of view and also in your own sort of training jams and workshops, you know, there's people with disabilities, other types of barriers that get in the way, how do you approach these questions yourself? 

Anjela Magpantay  9:54  
I can speak from experience. We've worked before with deaf artists in the beginning of a program called progressive performance in which we invite artists who are interested in developing a type of work. And we've had an artist who was deaf, and were hard of hearing and it took a lot of communication. The method was not to blanket, this is the solution to communicate, and also have the whole class involved. It took a lot of consulting a lot of communication back and forth via email, in how they were feeling comfortable inside of a class that was all hearing and everyone could talk. So we had to figure out solutions in collaboration with them, how to best approach this, and we knew that there was no real, like, "Yes, this is the solution." And we're just experimenting, and we're ready to make mistakes. And but we provide that space to reflect and how to be better. 

June Fukumura  10:57  
Yeah, it was actually really cool when that person approached us and said, "Oh, well, you promote accessibility. So how accessible are you really?" And we were like, "Oh, good question", you know it made us realize our shortcomings. Because we're a grassroots and we don't have a ton of resources with us, you know, it's important for us to continue to like check in with what we can and can't do, but also stretch towards more inclusion, more equity, more diversity. And so yeah, we have plans for the coming years to have more ASL interpretation for training jams. And that really opens up, you know, collaboration between neurodiverse folks from all walks of life. And I think that makes for a richer and more kind of expansive community because it's not just one person or one community, it really encompasses lots of voices.

Am Johal  11:45  
It's interesting, yeah, there's an organization out in Burnaby, called Possibilities that's been doing a lot of work around this. And in Montreal, Mexico, has been doing a lot of breaking work around, you know, arts in everyday life for everybody. And, and really sort of pushing the dial on this in a super interesting way. I'm really curious as to you know, where do you see your own artistic practice going in the next few years? I'd be interested to hear from both of you.

Anjela Magpantay  12:10  
Good question, who wants to go first?

June Fukumura  12:14  
Ah, yeah, I don't know. I'm, you know, I was just thinking about this the other day, I feel like kind of like a hummingbird. Because I keep dabbling in all these different disciplines, or practices or projects. I'm never satisfied with like one singular thing. I'm really, really wanting to get back into acting right now. Because I've been sort of away from it. But I've been doing lots of things like around it like dramaturgy and producing, writing, producing my own show, creating clown shows. So I feel like my...

Am Johal  12:44  
You want to be a clown. 

June Fukumura  12:45  
I want to be a clown. 

Anjela Magpantay  12:46
That's ultimate goal. 


June Fukumura  12:48
That's true. It is. It should be yours, too. Am.

Am Johal  12:52  
I'm still in the second box phase of my training. 


Anjela Magpantay  12:57  
Yeah, Am's doing a really terrific job of doing mime.


June Fukumura  13:02  
Yeah, I feel I don't know, I'm really interested to see where opportunities take me and I'm really open. I've been recently inspired by these giants that I sit upon, as in a lot of artistic directors have given me the opportunity to be involved in the professional theatre community. And I also want to give back to emerging artists because I've had the privilege to have all these opportunities. So at the moment, I'm working for Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre, and they are a force to be reckoned with in terms of diversity and being better at what they do. And so I'm with them for a little bit and I have plans with them in the future. I think I'm just going to continue what I do, which is who I work for VACT, perform every now and then and eat a lot of cheese. 

Am Johal  13:56  
Nice, nice. So I'm just wondering about who some of your influences are in terms of the way you approach theatre? 

Anjela Magpantay  14:03 
From SFU, we'd like to give a shout out to the Kugs, DD Kugler, 

June Fukumura  14:08  
Yo Kugler!

Anjela Magpantay  14:09  
He is our theatre daddy, as in so supportive, always encouraging us to be the best we can, work harder, and be as rigorous as you can be in the work because we are so lucky to be here. 

June Fukumura  14:26  
Yeah. Stephen Hill, Penelope Stella. Shout out to our teachers from the past 

Anjela Magpantay  14:31  
--and Heidi Taylor from Playwright's Theatre Center. Yes. 

Am Johal  14:34  
Wow, you guys are almost ready to be on an alumni brochure. 

June Fukumura  14:38  

Anjela Magpantay  14:39  
Put me on the list! 

June Fukumura  14:40  
Put me on the list too. 

June Fukumura  14:41  
Oh, and also Reina Vaughn Waldenburg who has taught us a lot about all these exercises. 

Anjela Magpantay  14:46  
She's our theatre mother. 

June Fukumura  14:47  
She's a theatre mother. 

Anjela Magpantay  14:48  
She's the mother. 

June Fukumura  14:49  
Now I realized this is a podcast so it's only functioning in the auditory form and we're in a little 100 square foot space, but I'm wondering if we can just do a little exercise right now. You guys could just propose something a little spontaneously, a little movement or something? 

Anjela Magpantay  15:03
A little movement.

June Fukumura  15:04
Yeah, like what you would do at one of your training jams. 

Anjela and June  15:06

June Fukumura  15:09  
Should we do the hard one?

June Fukumura  15:11
Yeah, everyone gets sweaty.

Anjela Magpantay  15:15 
Oh my god.

Am Johal  15:17  
 I'm in your hands here, what do we do? 

Anjela Magpantay  15:19  
June loves this exercise. I'm just gonna prompt you now that maybe when you hear a lot of sound, June's probably the source.

June Fukumura  15:29  
That's probably true. 

Am Johal  15:30  
Do we have to stand, do we...? 

June Fukumura  15:31
Yeah, let's do it. 

Am Johal  15:34  
It's gonna affect the audio, but people will just have to like, imagine. 

Anjela Magpantay  15:38  
We can actually do a modified sound and movement. 

Am Johal  15:40  
Someone can do the play by play. 

Anjela Magpantay  15:42  
Yeah, I think so.

June Fukumura  15:44  
Okay, okay, you could lead it. 

Anjela Magpantay  15:46  
Okay, got it. Okay, so we start by ideally in the studio, we're standing in a circle, but we are sitting around.

June Fukumura  15:53  
Its called sound and movement just to let you know.

Anjela Magpantay  15:54  
Sound and movement. So right now we're sitting around a table, but we're in a circle right now and I'm going to demonstrate with June. So there are no leaders or followers in this exercise. And for you folks who are around the circle, you imitate as best as possible what June and I are doing, as best you can. And all attention is on the center of the circle, which is June and I right now. And June and I will do a repetitive sound and a repetitive movement gesture and we're gonna let that grow. Okay, June? 

June Fukumura  16:33  

Anjela Magpantay  16:34  
Okay, you ready?

June Fukumura  16:34  
Should we keep the volume like, not too crazy, though. 

Anjela Magpantay  16:37 
Yeah, let's not break the mics. 

Am Johal  16:39  
We do have double pane glass. 

June Fukumura  16:41  
Oh fantastic. Let's go crazy.

Anjela Magpantay  16:43  
Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Anjela and June  16:44  
[long audible exhale]

Am Johal  16:44  
[joins in] 

[all exhaling together] 

[all making "ha" sounds together] 

June Fukumura  17:59  
Scene. Scene. Thank you for participating. 

June Fukumura  18:05  
So this crazy thing goes on for like, it can go on for like 45 minutes. 

Anjela Magpantay  18:09  

June Fukumura  18:10
And so the partners would have these duets in the center of the circle, and you're just feeding off of each other. And then one person at some point will leave and this one person will be standing in the middle of the circle. And now they have to take on the responsibility of keeping the sound of movement going through their own body. And then another person from the circle will enter and join this new duet. And then it kind of goes in a round robin situation. And it's a really cool exercise to like, totally get out of your habit body. 

Anjela Magpantay  18:45  
It's also a presence exercise. You're being present with that partner. And if I might say it is like sex, where you are so focused in this person that yes, the world matters. You're still sensitive to it. And yet you're giving your full attention to this person. And every singular minuscule movement is a huge thing. And you adjust to that, and you adjust to them and they adjust to you. And it's it's this relationship that uhh 

Am Johal  19:13  
We used to be a G rated show and we've gone to PG 13. [laughs]

June Fukumura  19:18  
Oh, yeah.

Anjela Magpantay  19:18  
They used to say theatre is sex. Who said that? 

June Fukumura  19:22  
Penelope Stella. 

Anjela Magpantay  19:23
Oh, nice. The founder of SFU's theatre program. Yeah. So if she said that we're allowed to say that. 

June Fukumura  19:29

Am Johal  19:31
June, Anjela, thank you so much for joining us on Below the Radar. 

Anjela and June  19:35  
Thank you.


Paige Smith  19:41  
Thank you for tuning in to hear from our guests June and Anjela. You can learn more about New[to]Town collective and their training jams at the link in the show notes. As always, you can keep up with Below the Radar by following us on Facebook at Below the Radar pod and on Twitter at BTR underscore pod and subscribe to your podcast platform of choice to make sure you never miss an episode. See you next time.


Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
September 15, 2020

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