Non Kuramoto, a CAMD student studying Theatre, describes her web series, Non Kuramoto (Former) Master Electrician (NK(FME)), as a “meta-theatrical misery comedy” – and as something she began writing in response to the lack of representation in theatre for Asian women, and women in general. She had experienced first-hand her ideas and contributions to clubs and groups being forgotten or even worse, ignored altogether. Non had always been a writer and comedian, with jokes that highlights the disparity of Asian actors in the field, so creating a web series that linked all of her experiences was a natural next step.
Non also pulled inspiration for NK(FME) from her time working as a Master Electrician on two shows hosted by the Department of Theatre, After Miss Julie and Nora. The Master Electrician for a theatre production has a crucial role, responsible for implementing lighting design that is previously drawn up by the lighting designer. The job involves overseeing the preparation, hanging, connection and focusing of stage lighting fixtures. Despite the importance of the job, however, Non found herself being undermined in authority.
This turned into a running joke where Non would, with a wink, bolster her opinions with an internet-born phenomena coined as “mansplaining,” beginning her statements, “Well, as a (Former) Master Electrician…”
Another inspiration and large story arc of NK(FME) is Non’s reluctance to be singularly identified as a designer, paired with her exploration of her many roles and talents in the Theatre industry.
“I am a Performance Concentration Theatre major and I have been in all of these plays, but people kept referring to me as a designer,” she said.
This web series was a way to explore the impact of one’s power being limited while also being a celebration of Non’s acting talent.
“I created this opportunity for myself to perform in something of this capacity,” she remarked, and she found great support on campus for her project.
The funding to create this piece came from The Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors Awards, which provides students with the opportunity to conduct independent undergraduate research and creative activities under the supervision of a faculty mentor. When Non originally proposed NK(FME) she described the project as a “web series that investigates diversity issues in theatre through a humorous exploration of regional theatre programming that applies traditional theatrical techniques to new media.”
The idea has stayed true to its roots, and the project describes itself as follows: “Is this theatre or TV? Comedy or Tragedy? Is Non a former master electrician, designer, or actor? Can theatre do better?”
The questions posed by the series echo Non’s own experiences and questions about her identity and place in the performing arts and needed time to explore.
Thus, the project ended up as a six-episode web series, filmed over the course of 4 months. There was no time to spare in the creation process, and Non knew it.
“We told people how long we had to film it, and these people were professionals in film, and they basically told us we were crazy. But we are doing it!” Non said – and they are on track to wrap this month.
The quick production time wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless efforts of the crew, which includes several CAMD students. In total, over 50 students have cumulatively worked on NKFME since its inception. Of course, coordinating that amount of people has been a challenge that was handled with great skill by Theatre major Emma Hunt.
Emma works as the Production Manager for NK(FME), and her daily tasks include everything from handling all of the scheduling, locations, and call times, to coordinating with all the crew members on tasks to be accomplished during filming. She notes that the role is basically what theatre people would call a stage manager- one of the most important and difficult roles in a theatre. Her work doesn’t end when filming is done – it continues, as she prepares the actors and crew for every day of filming.
Non also carries a large weight of roles as the producer, director, writer, and main character of the piece. She works hard to make sure the project has a consistent story and style and coordinates between all the creative teams to make it happen. Despite having creative control of the piece she noted that micro-aggressions on her authority still occur.
“It’s crazy to see that it happens, even in this inclusive space that we have worked hard to create, but it’s also creating great learning experiences,” Non said.
The project has helped everyone recognize their own accidental biases in the arts and foster a supportive environment for the people involved. Non emphasized that she wanted the women to feel heard and validated on the project and had to think a lot about the roles of men in her production.
“I have a lot of white, male characters and I have them say these really awful things on camera, and even though they are real things that have been said to me, I have had to stop and think to myself: Am I part of the problem by repeating these words?” she wondered.
She concluded that these micro-aggressions needed to be seen, but continues to monitor her work for diversity and whether or not it passes the Bechdel test, which asks that at least two women talk to each other about something other than a man.
The project has been a very involved piece and its success partly comes from the combined talents from many different majors.
“I think we have every major imaginable involved,” said Non.
Emma remarked that working with Media and Screen studies students has been especially interesting because of their perspectives and relationships to theatre.
“We have all been super stressed because us theatre kids are used to being on such a strict organized schedule, so this filming felt like complete chaos. Then we talked to the film kids and they said this was the most organized project they have ever been in. It has been such an interesting learning experience,” she said while laughing.
The project is on track to wrap and have its first episode released around April 20, 2018. You can view the trailer here. Check out their awesome Instagram and Facebook, both full of funky and feminist power.