Amanda Huotari | Maine Arts Fellowship - Buckfield, Maine

  • November 01, 2021

Amanda Huotari | Maine Arts Fellowship - Buckfield, Maine

Artist Statement 2021

I approach the stage with a joyful spirit for ferocious play. I seek to make bold choices that are as empowering as they are exciting. In playing with the “right here, right now” reality of the moment, I look for connection and liberation—for both myself as the performer and for the audience.

My fascination with the performer-audience connection began while working with Avner Eisenberg, Broadway’s “Avner the Eccentric” and director of my one-woman show The Soiree. With Avner, I started to explore how to build relationships with the audience—and involve specific individuals who become characters in the performance. For example, in A Woman Alone, a 10-minute melodrama about the comedy and tragedy of traditional gender roles, one audience member becomes the villain while another plays the hero who “rescues” me from the train tracks. Building rapport and establishing trust with the audience are essential to this piece.

Then, in working with Jeff Wirth, founding director of New York City’s Interactive PlayLab, I moved further into interactive techniques to create space for audience members to become co-creators of a fictional narrative. In The Last Hurrah at Camp Maine, I partner with an audience member to improvise a story together about our imagined favorite memory of summer camp.

My exploration of performer-audience connection took another leap while working on Pretty Face: An American Dream, directed by Aitor Basauri, Founding Artistic Director of Spymonkey, the UK’s premiere physical comedy ensemble. In this provocative show that grapples with political controversy and personal responsibility, the audience interaction is vocal and visceral. They spontaneously become a cheering mob in one moment and then fall silent in self-reflection in the next.

Engaging the audience in this way raises the stakes. That’s the point. Theater must be a place for risk-taking. It is through acts of courage that we can feel connected, wake up to new possibilities, and experience feeling wildly alive. Theater is as life-affirming as the choices are strong.

As an only child, I longed for people to play with as a kid. My first shows were for a stairway packed with stuffed animals. While this dedicated audience never took their eyes off of me (the performances were that riveting!), it was a very solitary act. I think it was this early desire to play creatively with others that makes me love playing with a live audience so much. During the moments that we share, we are playmates. We are a community. And we are sharing an intimate experience that will only happen once.

Audiences and performers are all risk-takers. They step into the unknown space of the theater, just to see what comes next. Theater is an act of trust and daring for all involved. As a performer, meeting this sentiment with a generous, kind, and collaborative spirit means that anything is possible.

Just as I embrace strong choices on stage, I have recently taken a big step in my professional work off stage as well. For the past 15 years, I’ve served as Executive Artistic Director for Celebration Barn Theater. In this role, I have worked to create the time, space, and support for a global community of 200+ artists annually to come to Maine to train and make new work. And now, I must tend to the burning desire inside of myself. I am stepping down from my position at Celebration Barn in order to create the time and space to develop a new one-woman show with the working title “Full of Life.”

The seeds for this show have been planted with the support of a community of women artists called F-Bomb: Funny, Fearless Females. The group was started in February 2021 when I connected with Shannan Calcutt, master teacher, clown, and act designer for Cirque du Soleil. We began wondering what it would be like to create material with just women. There was only one way to find out, and so, through Celebration Barn, we gathered a community of women comedians for 10 weeks of virtual training led by Shannan, and the results were a revelation.

How is creating with women different? For one thing, there is zero competition. It’s both the bravest and most supportive group I’ve ever worked with. In this company, I have found myself making new kinds of choices—playing male and female characters, taking the time to create moments of beauty, exploring taboos, finding pure joy, and discovering new impulses that strike me as deeply true and profoundly funny.

My commitment now is to honor these impulses and build an ambitious new solo show that explores the anxiety of raising a daughter and questing for personal freedom from societal expectations, all while engaging the audience in delightful new ways. I am looking forward to doing more extended touring—building on my experiences with my previous solo shows—and deepening relationships I have built with artists in creative communities across Canada, Europe and South America.

Applying for this Fellowship is an important next step in my artistic journey. Thank you for taking the time to read this official declaration of my passion and intent to create new work on a larger scale.

Now, who wants to play?

Visit Amanda Huotari's website.

Work Samples:

Video Work Sample #1: A Woman Alone

Running time- 6:34

Video Work Sample #2: The Last Hurrah at Camp Maine

Running time- 1:33

Video Work Sample #3: Pretty Face: An American Dream

Running time- 3:31


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Christine Adams

193 State Street
SHS 25
Augusta  ME  04333