Monday, July 26, 2010
The infinitely articulate Yanira Castro responded to our inquiry with this generous reflection on her experiences, focusing on the discussion of virtual and physical space in performance:
“The heart/center of the talk at the DIY Panel was, for me, the discussion about the lack of physical contact in "modern" life and its effect on audiences. Much is mediated through the screen. The traditional stage in some ways is not very different from the screen: there is a body in space but it is meant to be seen as a "picture". Distance is built in. From my point of view, the current traditional theater-going experience does not address the desires/needs of current audiences--hence the power in certain DIY situations. I've been thinking about the lack of boundaries of earlier performance situations--Shakespeare's rowdy stage, for instance. Bodies very close and immediately responsive (not just to the performance but to their neighbors). Since the Panel, I have been thinking a lot about something Jorge brought up in his work as one way of answering this spatial conundrum that is very current and relevant: placing virtual and physical space right next to one another. These two spaces, that are often so separate, create a friction when side-by-side. The live web cam and video chat taking place as another event unfolds... participating both in the live "room" and from far away seems like a space that is at the edge of our consciousness. What is not interesting is the mere documenting of a moment that is being broadcast live but if the event(s) really is the confluence of these, sense a of time and space ruptured, has inherent power.”
Thank you, Yanira!
Chanika Svetvilas, a facilitator of the Skill Swap adds this concise wisdom to artists:
“People are craving the exchange of ideas and resources, they just need a forum or excuse to make it happen. Once you initiate an interactive project, it's still a learning process to figure out how to let go and at what point do you allow participants to take action of their own volition. Everyone has a different comfort zone. You have to figure out how much facilitation is necessary to move along the exchange."
These events are an excellent learning opportunity not just for attendees, but for the panelists and facilitators as well. Open forums of information are often a time and place where new obstacles are identified. Once these obstacles are delineated, we can take action and build solutions. Chanika points to artist’s needs that are not being met, and offers her insight:
“Speak up! Share what your needs are and talk to the people around you and listen. Resources are available, but also you have the power within you to make a difference in someone else's life by sharing your experience/knowledge/skills. Everyone has something to offer.”
…what excellent and encouraging words!
Thank you, Chanika!
We agree that any interactive project is always a learning process. What has been your experience with encouraging participation and sharing authority in projects? Do you have advice or strategies to add? Tell us about it!
Keep sharing. Keep learning. Keep moving!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. It sounds so simple. This summer is a time for Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant to test the feel of a new frequency of performance. Not quite a tour and not quite a theater residency. We perform once a week for four weeks running in rep with ART’s The Donkey Show in their club theater space, OBERON in Cambridge. The relationship between ART and OBERON is not unlike the relationship between the Public and Joe’s Pub, with a nonprofit institution having annexed a second stage with a clubby vibe. The lighting instruments are mostly movers. The bar is open and staffed. Our voices must be mic’d to fill the cavernous space.
We have a ticket-split arrangement with OBERON, similar to Joe’s Pub, with beefed up time in the space, production support, and marketing. It is a new situation for both Conni’s and OBERON, a venue that typically books in acts with bar minimums or hosts ART productions. Donkey Show performs on Friday and Saturday nights, meaning that we load in on Sunday morning, do our show, and strike the same night. Two weeks ago we drove the UHAUL up with our iconic set elements: the Conni’s sign, the fridge door, our chandeliers made from hula hoops and plastic glassware, and the steel tables that ERPA made it possible to bring for our onstage kitchen. All of this is stored in the theater space. Our advanced food prep is taking place across an alley in two studio apartments, artist housing for ART that luckily was vacant for the run. Housing was not part of our arrangement so the ensemble is staying in the dorms down the road at Tufts University.
Our company has found the rhythm of making the round trip to New York. The “day job car” leaves right after the curtain comes down to get folks back in time to go to work on Monday morning. In lieu of a fee, I bought myself a used 2002 Ford Windstar minivan, whom we have christened the Schooner Charlotte Doyle. For two weeks in a row, Charlotte done her best (her pickup is a bit slow, poor old girl) to make it to the Copley Square Farmers’ Market in time to meet the pork we got from Stillman’s at the Turkey Farm and our grocery delivery from Russo’s (they source through local farmers).
We have had two performances and have two more to go. Houses are not quite full yet but they are warm. While we were blasted to the club’s listserv, the buzz in Boston didn’t really get going until after we opened. The Herald came to our first performance and gave us a good, thorough, review and the Pheonix listed us as a pick of the week. We had the Globe last week. OBERON staff has been great, and it is strange and wonderful to have servers and technicians come out of the woodwork to strike our tables and set. I imagine our show is not a lucrative venture compared to their usual fare, so their energy, enthusiasm, and good will floors me. We were not curated by ART, but we have had board members in the house as well as cast members from Donkey Show and their upcoming production of Cabaret, helping spread the word among theater-going as well as club-going audiences.
We have a renewed and enlarged company for this trip, with the strengthened presence of 3 cast members who joined us last summer when we jumped from serving 60 to 80 people at the Ohio theater. We brought in a guest director, Cindy Croot, to oversee the re-staging of the piece with little time in a very different space. Her impact has been immense. When I first applied to the ERPA program, we were solely a group of writer-actors. Now we have a full production team: production manager, set designer, lighting designer, and director who are on board again for our next show, running December 2-18 at the Cleveland Public Theater.
I feel like I am writing this from the middle of a learning intensive. Setting up the production was for me an obstacle course riddled by fears of the unknown. Now it is exhilarating, as we hit our stride, and I found myself shocked to discover that we were ready last week. I look forward to reflecting on all of it in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, please allow me to plug! Cucumber-basil-lime soup. Watermelon-mint-feta salad. Pulled pork and broccoli slaw. Cambridge cream pie. And a production made from scratch with love. Please send your friends! This Sunday July 25 and next Sunday August 1. www.cluboberon.com.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Last Tuesday, The Field and Taller Boricua co-hosted THE POWER OF D.I.Y. - Alternative Exhibitions & Performances. I was inspired and titillated by the three artists who discussed their D.I.Y.ness (the ever-glamorous Yanira Castro, the perspicacious Jorge Rojas, and the thoughtful Cassie Thornton) and by the charming and bad-ass facilitator, Charles Rice-Gonzalez of BAAD! (
Cassie Thornton’s debt rocks.
Yanira: Her move into D.I.Y. alternative spaces (public bathrooms!) was a functional choice (not a political or strategic one). She was frustrated by the relationship between the show and the audience. INTIMACY. She wanted to get closer to the audience and to create real surprise. Her latest movement towards more intimacy is Wilderness which will premiere at The Invisible Dog, presented by DTW, Oct 27-Nov 7. As I understand it, Wilderness will have a miked floor and you the audience will provide the real-time sound score for the piece.
Jorge: D.I.Y. is a luxury and a curse. Jorge’s day job of teaching mural painting gradually seeped into his consciousness and shifted his artwork from “self” to community. His My space project brought this vividly to life. He also noticed that the shift in the music business towards mp3s and their efficiency-model put the production in the artist’s hands. Could visual art do the same thing? Check out his TRYST which put audience members in motel rooms with clandestine lovers.
Cassie Thornton: School of the Future! Everything a public school can’t be! Teach and learn this summer! Cassie also creates one-on-one interactions as a “street worker”. She also makes “debt rocks” jewelry out of your old receipts! (see photo above!) The rocks provoke conversations about debt, finance, and our personal issues with money (issues? I don’t have issues with money!)
My biggest takeaway: BE ORGANIC!! Don’t just make up projects to please a funder or a presenter or anyone else. Do what intrigues you. Do it boldly and brashly. Be strategic and don’t put your head in the sand. Look at the big picture. Where are you in it? Where do you want to be in it?
GO MAKE GOOD STUFF AND CROW ABOUT IT!
Xox The Field