Monday, August 20, 2007

Week Two at the Fringe

Seven more shows to go! It’s been a great week. RASH was shortlisted for the Amnesty International and the Big Issue Freedom of Expression Award alongside four other companies. The award ceremony is on August 23rd. I got another two great 4 star reviews from Three Weeks and the Fringe Review. I was featured in the Scotsman in Brief Encounters where Leslie Lewis Sword and I chatted about our one woman solo shows set in Rwanda. Ewan Spence interviewed me for the Edinburgh Fringe Show of The Podcast Network so check that out if you want to hear about the show. And I spoke about RASH on a panel at the Edinburgh Synagogue Open Day with Linda Marlowe and Iris Bahr who are both performing one woman shows too,. The best show I saw this week was Nina Conti doing a fantastic ventriloquist and character show – she is funny and talented. And I can’t thank Gordon, Deborah and Jessica enough for helping me flyer this week for the show. It’s hard work but rewarding. We meet some nice people along the way, and some of them do come to see the show as a result. Onto Week 3.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Week One at the Fringe

Well I’m half-way through the Fringe today and on my way to a midnight Pleasance party to celebrate that! It’s been a great week. Wonderful audiences, lots more reviews (a 4 star from the Edinburgh Evening News), lots of waiting for reviews to come out (it can take over a week!) and a great double page spread in the Glasgow Evening Times. I also performed an extract of the show and was interviewed on Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe at the Guilded Balloon. It’s always great to perform alongside others which is a rare occasion. There are quite a few audience members that come from Glasgow from my childhood days. My parents friends have some funny reactions. Sometimes I come on stage and I hear them whisper, “look there’s Jenni”. Who else were they expecting to see? ☺ A lot of people come out of the show and ask me if any of it was true and who the story is about. Some folks seem to walk in and don’t realize it’s my own true story. It’s been so lovely reconnecting with family and friends that I haven’t seen in so long. And this week I started to see lots more shows and meets lots of performers which is definitely one of the most enjoyable things about being part of the Fringe. The best thing I’ve seen so far is Traces, a French Canadian dance troupe who fly through the air and make you stop breathing. Onto Week 2.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Week Zero at the Fringe

Well I’ve just survived Week 0 at the Fringe! I arrived here a day or two before my first preview on 1st August and watched the Fringe being built. Overnight parking lots were turned into courtyards, student unions becoming theatres, and plaza spaces transformed into massive party venues. Last night was the opening party of the Fringe – it had all the elements of a good Scottish party – great energy, lots of performances, alcohol, kilts and rain. I really felt like I had landed. I’ve been quite lucky getting a decent audience during week 0 and it’s great to bump into people who saw the show and tell me how much they loved it. My biggest find has been Kieran McLoughlin who has now become the
Associate Director of RASH. The director of RASH, Jen Nails is pregnant and so unfortunately couldn’t travel with me here. I can’t imagine what I would have done without Kieran who has performed and directed at the Fringe before and is showing me the ropes and making RASH more solid. We’ve spent the last few days in tech rehearsals with our tech crew (Mick and Cara), finding wonderful interns to flyer RASH (Gordon and Rebecca) and contacting the press. I spoke on BBC Radio Scotland live on Sunday morning, got a 4 star review from Broadway Baby and last week RASH was on the entire front cover of Sunday Times Ecosse. And an anonymous person left a donation for us at the Fringe Office – thank you! The hardest thing about Week 0 is waiting for the reviews to come about. RASH has been reviewed by 4 different press and all during previews!!! so it’s nerve wracking waiting for the verdict. Onto Week 1.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Fringe fiasco - opening show lasts 8 minutes!

Loud and unexpected noises are key features of RASH, a solo play about my experiences working in Rwanda after the genocide. So when fire alarm bells rang loud today throughout the Pleasance Dome Theatre 8 minutes into my opening show, the audience stayed put thinking it was part of the play. The stage manager had to put on all the lights and convince people to leave. Twenty members of my family, and family friends, who had hired a bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh to support my first preview, stood outside for an hour until they were told the show was cancelled. Thank goodness it wasn't raining. They have ensured me that they are sufficiently enticed by the opening act and claim they will return!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

RASH - 100 best things to see in Edinburgh

The List magazine estimates there are "close to 20,000 performers vying for attention in some 30,000 shows in hundreds of venues across Edinburgh". Today the Sunday Times (Culture) named RASH as one of the 100 best things to see in Edinburgh. "When the city morphs into one big, crazy culture-fest, don't get overwhelmed. Just follow our critics' guide to the hottest shows this summer... RASH (Pleasance Dome) is a surprisingly funny portrait of life as a UN worker in Rwanda". In the Fringe Festival alone, there are 2050 shows. On top of that, there's the Art Festival, Book Festival, Film Festival, Jazz Festival and the Edinburgh International Festival. So it's amazing to be recommended amongst the top 100. If you haven't made your mind up yet whether to come to Edinburgh or not, now is the time!!! See you there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The double life of a human rights activist/performer

So whilst I would imagine most folks who are producing and performing a show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are knee deep in preparations, rehearsals, press and marketing ploys, I am spending two weeks in Montreal, Canada helping to run the first ever Video Advocacy Institute run by WITNESS, the organisation I work for. Over 30 human rights defenders from around the world have gathered here to learn how to film, edit and use video and other technologies as a strategic tool to enhance their human rights advocacy campaigns, using the power of visual imagery to bring about change. It's an amazing group of people and the course is going really well. So from morning to night, I am wrapped up in this workshop, and carrying out lots of TV, radio and press interviews about our work. So in some ways, it's probably a good thing that I don't have time to worry about the fact that in a week's time my show opens at the Pleasance Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe. On the other hand, it's hard not to be a wee bit concerned that I am not able to rehearse the play, contact press and sort out all the technical challenges that I'll be facing to make sure I get this show on the road. I am lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of wonderful friends and family who have been helping me out. And it reminds me of course that ultimately I am doing this show because I believe in the human rights work, and not because I am seeking to be the Fringe Queen of Scotland, although wouldn't that be sweet?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

East to Edinburgh - New York’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe Preview

I recently performed the new version of RASH at 59E59 Theaters in New York (July 10-13) as part of their East to Edinburgh festival, featuring NY based performers heading for the Edinburgh Fringe. It was a wonderful experience. It was like a mini trial run for the Fringe which is part of the objective of the festival. It gave me a chance to perform the show as it will be in the Fringe with a revised script, brand new sound, lighting and image cues and a new costume! I got a chance to set up and break down the stage in 30 minutes - which is 15 more minutes than I will get at the Fringe. I was reviewed by the press (at least 5 different press folks showed up) - check out the first review that has come out that I'm very happy about at 59E59 Theaters is run by a fantastic group of folks and the support that I got with regard to production management, press and marketing, box office etc was the best I had ever received. I learned a lot about what it really means to produce a fully fledged show and it was such a pity I couldn't perform more nights as audience attendance was great. My biggest discovery was in my lovely dressing room where for the first time, I had a speaker in there that allowed me to hear what was going on inside the theatre. This was a bit nerve racking, hearing people taking their seats and the pre-show chit chat, but the weirdest thing was running back stage after the show and then realising that if I listened carefully enough I would be able to hear what people were saying about the show. But I closed my ears, honest! I also had to deal with my first major technical hitch. On opening night I spent the first 5 minutes in the dark as the board operator searched desperately for the stage lights. Many people thought it was done on purpose and added to the atmosphere of the play, some others were more suspect! But that's the joy of live theatre!

Monday, June 25, 2007

RASH nominated for Amnesty International & The Big Issue Freedom of Expression Award

RASH has been nominated by Amnesty International and the Big Issue for the Freedom of Expression Award 2007 to be presented at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The award highlights Fringe productions which raise human rights themes.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

RASH and the designer team!

RASH is now surrounded by a team of really talented designers. Patrick Boyer, is a graphic designer based in Montreal and the creative talent behind the new RASH image which you can see in the previous post. I met him through my friend Laura Hildebrandt who actually took the photograph that Pat used to develop the image. Check out Pat's website at Bart Fasbender is the sound designer for RASH and he certainly kicked the play up a notch or two by designing some really spot-on sound cues which brings the piece even more alive. Paul Hudson is the lighting designer for RASH and we meet this week for the first time so he can work his magic. Derek Moreno is the costume designer and he is coming up with some wonderful ideas for costume. So all in all, really exciting to be working with such a talented and supportive group of people.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Performing RASH at Joe's Pub

On May 6th I will be performing at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater, one of my all-time favourite venues in New York city, so that's a treat! I'm performing an extract of RASH as part of an evening of 7 performers on for 7 minutes at 7pm. The event is called Heeb Storytelling, organised by Heeb Magazine and hosted by comic Laurie Kilmartin. So if you catch this in time, and want to come along, here are the details:
Joe's Pub, The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St, $15
For tickets, call 212-967-7555 ;
More info at

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Political Theatre

There seems to be no shortage of political theatre in New York for which I am grateful. During the last few months I have some really interesting and important work. Tonight I just saw "Miracle In Rwanda". I'm not the only one doing a solo show about Rwanda! I have seen "In Sudan", a play about Darfur, "Goodness" about genocide, "My Name is Rachel Corrie" and "Dai", two plays about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "Stuff Happens" about the war in Iraq, "Speak Truth to Power" about human rights activists and so it goes on. I am grateful that there are many folks out there who are interested in seeing this kind of theatre. There could be many more. I think that some people relate to political theatre the same way they relate to documentaries. They really want to see the documentaries, but then it's a Sunday night and they decide to chose something lighter to just chill out and switch off. But people are often surprised when they do choose to see a documentary or political play as they can often be just as (if not more) gripping, entertaining (for want of a better word), and most likely more inspiring. If it's a good play or film, you are always so glad that you went. I have just finalised a 40-word description of my show and chosen an image. These are probably the most important marketing tools I have right now, and it was so hard to choose words and a picture that would entice people, but not make me feel like I'm compromising my integrity in how I sell the show. It took a while and a lot of input from a real mix of people. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sharing the stage

This Thursday April 26th at 8pm I will be performing an extract of RASH alongside 6 other performers at the new Rapture cafe in the East Village. I am excited to finally share the stage with others. There will be poets, musicians and actors, and I think it's going to be a really great evening. I also recently learnt that I will be performing in a festival in July for New York-based performers on their way to this year's Edinburgh Fringe. I will be performing for 4 nights in a row in a format similar to the Fringe, where I'll get a chance to practice what it's like to have 15 minutes to set up my stage and do my thing. It's also in a great venue called 59E59 Theatre. They produce the annual Brits Off Broadway series. And I'm all set for this year's Edinburgh Fringe. I will be performing 26 shows from 1-27 August at the wonderful Pleasance Theatre. It will be great to perform in my home country. I have already begun briefing my parents! RASH is an honest portrayal of my life and of course my parents feature in that. They will surely like some bits and perhaps cringe at others. All in the name of art!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

RASH outbreak

Well it's going to be a busy week of performances for RASH and I'm really looking forward to trying out the new script for the first time. On Tuesday 3rd April I'm performing along side another amazing 25 women as part of the Emerging Artists Theatre solo show festival "One Woman Standing". There will be a talk back after the performance and folks will be able to share their thoughts on the play. On Wednesday 4th April I will be flying to Durham, North Carolina to perform at Duke University. I will also be speaking to their Arts and Human Rights class during the day. And last but definitely not least, on Sunday 8th April, I will be performing two shows on the same day as part of Tartan Week NY at American Theater of Actors. It's really exciting to be part of a festival promoting all good things Scottish in New York. So do come check out a show. And if you saw one of these shows, I would love to know what you think. RASH is going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August, and your thoughts and ideas will only make the play stronger.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A RASH rewrite

I'm spending the month of March rewriting parts of RASH. I have now done 7 performances of RASH and received really great feedback from folks from all over. In fact, I can't thank enough friends, theatre folk and audience members who have been sharing their thoughts and ideas on the play. You are helping to make this play even stronger. I am realising the difficulties of performing a play to multiple audiences. The people coming to see my show are a mix of folks - from those who are just curious to see the play, to high school and university students, to human rights and humanitarian workers. And so the types of feedback I receive are often quite specific to the needs of the audience. The general public want to see more photos of Rwanda, aid workers prefer to see less images, students want more details about what the life of a human rights observer is like. And feedback varies according to cultural sensibilities. Americans want the gaps filled in, more clarity, a clear beginning, middle and end. Non-Americans like to fill in their own gaps, and are more comfortable with some things being left up in the air. So now, me the writer, I have to distill all of that, listen to the feedback and then ultimately decide what I want to say and how I want to say it. So that's what I'm doing now. It feels good to be writing again but I'm also looking forward to seeing the changes in action. If there are any other writers out there reading this, I am curious to know how you absorb the feedback you get on your material. Look out for the RASH outbreak in April, there are four performances scheduled.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The RASH is spreading

RASH began as a vignette of short monologues based on my personal experience of living in countries in crises. As I began to read these stories to writers, colleagues, friends, family and strangers, I realised there is a thirst to know what it's like to live in conflict zones, to witness human rights abuses, to take risks. And for those who lead similar lives, they see a picture so rarely reflected back at them. So in writing RASH, my first solo play, I have tried not to create a mystique or a halo around this world, but to provide a small glimpse into the life of a human rights/humanitarian worker. RASH is the story of how I ended up in Rwanda after the genocide and how that experience changed my life. I would love to hear from all you folks who have seen it - what did you think? Even if you haven't seen it, do share any thoughts you might have. My eyes and ears are wide open ...

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Associate Director

Kieran McLoughlin is a director, writer, performer and movement specialist. As co- founder and co-director of Edinburgh’s performance collective Highway Diner he has made over 7 shows since 2003. Highway Diner was awarded a Fringe First in the Edinburgh 2004 Fringe for the site specific promenade performance ‘Works of Temporary Solace’. Kieran studied at Dartington College of Arts and at the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam (1999-2002). Studying in Amsterdam he developed a methodology for looking at real-time composition using dancers and musicians, and taught this in universities and colleges in the UK. Alongside this he teaches for several organisations including Scottish Youth Theatre.


My mum is a really talented sculptor. She welded this sculpture out of a tin of beans, inspired by pictures I had taken of the mass return of refugees to Rwanda in 1996.

About Me

Jenni Wolfson is a human rights activist, writer and performer. Since 2006 she has been the Managing Director of WITNESS, an international human rights organization founded by Peter Gabriel which uses the power of video to expose human rights abuses. Jenni worked for 12 years with the UN and UNICEF in over 25 countries, including three years in Rwanda and two years in Haiti. Her field work involved investigating human rights violations and training the military, police, judiciary and NGOs in human rights standards. Slightly different from Glasgow where Jenni grew up. She has an MA in Human Rights and an Honorary Doctorate, speaks six languages, and studied acting at the Deena Levy Theatre Studio. RASH marks her writing and acting debut.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

About the director

Jen Nails has directed dozens of solo plays, improvisation ensembles and sketch comedy groups in New York and across the States.  As a writer, she’s worked for Nickelodeon, the Oxygen Network and she often writes book reviews for Time Out New York Kids.  She teaches at New York Film Academy, the People’s Improv Theater, and Eastern International College in New Jersey.  Jen’s first novel, Next to Mexico, was published in 2008.