February 2009

LISTEN TO ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOUR FAT FRIEND

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He makes theatre for people who don’t like theatre:’ Peter Gabriel on Robert Lepage

– Robert Lepage’s The Andersen Project, a three to four year old touring project

Lepage has received much international recognition from his experimental theatrical performances introducing multi-media and other technological devices on stage.

Concerning the use of technology in theater, he said that he doesn’t think the theater is lagging behind cinema and musicals.

Technology is a starting point of theater. When men discovered fire, people sat around the fire and spent a lot of time telling stories. Some were using the shadows and creating monsters. That’s the beginning of theater,’ he said.

– Chung Ah-young, article in The Korea Times, 2007-09-07, here

I was wrong – again – to say that with AK09, Auckland’s festival of the arts, we’ve discovered ‘avant-garde theatre.’ What we’ve in fact discovered is that what avant-garde theatre has in common with the programme for the festival is that both are primarily concerned with theatre for people who don’t like theatre.

The late 19th early 20th century practitioners of the avant-garde neither set out to establish a new tradition nor were their practices only a reaction against what had come before. However, as the earlier post regarding Reza Abdoh’s theatre practice makes clear, avant-garde theatre over the course of the last century came to constitute a corpus and does retrospectively form a tradition.

Where this tradition is most convincingly present in fact is where it is also conspicuously absent in principle: festivals encourage cutting-edge work only so far as it can be argued to sponsors, advertisers and patrons that that work is capable of attracting audiences; the Auckland festival has become a celebration of theatre for people who don’t like theatre for the reason of averting us away from an unappetising image and type of theatre, presumably, that made for people who do like theatre. In turn, the festival has become a celebration of the type of people who don’t like theatre as a distinct taste group.

Avant-garde theatre and theatre-despite-itself (made and imported for the prevailing distaste with which the majority of festival-goers are purported to feel by festival organisers and directors in collusion with advertisers, sponsors and patrons towards theatre) resemble each other at the level of the surface. They may share techniques. But this must be all that they share: as to the question of why they exist they differ entirely.

One is made for people who don’t like theatre before the fact – or surface appearance; one is made for people who don’t like theatre after the fact – or being presented, having been presented, with that surface appearance. One consists and insists as one exists.

You could say that one, in being made (or imported) against theatre is getting made (being imported) for it, the avant-garde; while that theatre which is said to be made (and is imported) for people who don’t like theatre is against theatre only insofar as it is good for business.

The latter is more show business. You might further consider whether this theatre that plays along or this group of people who don’t like theatre deserve to have their distaste celebrated in a civic festival.

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I am currently taking enrolments for ACTING classes – please click on image below or use the contact form at left

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excerpts from interview with Alan Schneider (12 December 1917 to 3 May 1984) & Reza Abdoh (23 February 1963 to 12 May 1995) and the classicism of avant-garde performance, by John Bell

– Beckett left & Schneider right

Alan Schneider: … indicative of my whole position, philosophical or aesthetic, if I have any – is that, to the theatricalist guys, I tend to be a realistic director, a Stanislavski-oriented director; to the Stanislavski guys, I’m a theatricalist director.

I will use any and all methods to achieve whatever I feel necessary; and indeed, if I tried to confine myself, I’d simply fail. I wouldn’t know how to operate. … And increasingly over the years, I know less and less of how I’m going to achieve what I vaguely sense or feel.

The only real problem that I have with realistically trained actors is that, over the years, I’ve come to believe that there is no such thing as an abstract, rigid ‘reality;’ every play, every scene and every moment demands for its presentation a great selection of reality. The selection is partly a result of the director’s inclination, the style of the production, the casting, the theatre you’re in, accident, costuming, and so on. The actor tends to believe that there is somewhere an ideal or arbitrary ‘reality’ which will work in any production. I do not believe that’s so. ‘Reality’ depends on the texture of the play or the production, and that is selected by somebody and must be worked for […] [in interview as printed; bigness added]

I think anything, within the author’s intention, that works – that the audience will accept – is all you’re after. I’m not interested in being a teacher of actors while I’m directing – as a matter of fact, I’m bloody annoyed at it. ‘If you can’t do something right away in rehearsal, please do some homework. You’re a talented actor and I know you can do it.’ I had an actor, Gerry Hiken, whom I admire tremendously, who, when I put him in as Clov in Endgame – he was a replacement […] and I had to put him in in five days – and the first day, he wanted to explore Clov’s behaviour. He didn’t think Clov would go up that ladder, but here’s Beckett, who says Clov ‘gets up on it [the ladder], draws back the curtain…’ and so on … And here’s this very talented actor who’s a friend of mine, who’s been in a company with me for four seasons, … and he wants to ‘explore‘ the behaviour of Clov. So I gave him twenty minutes to explore the behaviour of Clov, then I said, ‘Look, I think what you have to explore is why he goes up the ladder, not why he doesn’t go up‘ […] [bigness added]

Schechner: You’ve been doing Beckett’s plays for eight or nine years; what sort of development do you see in him?

Schneider: I think, again, he works in more and more specific metaphors. He is searching for the ultimate stripping down of his medium – he is trying to reduce the whole theatrical spectrum to a toneless voice in a disembodied head, and I see nothing wrong with that. It’s theatrical as hell. [bigness added]

Schechner: What is Beckett’s theatricalism?

Schneider: … you might say that Beckett is a Mozart; there’s a precise, elegant, graceful, formal, but small-scale pattern of rhythm and tone in his work. […] … and I think Pinter couldn’t have existed as a playwright had he not read Beckett. But then he goes into his own field – a rhythmical, contrapuntal use of language and repetition of words, playing on words so that his plays are colloquial in a funny way and formal in another way …

Uta [Hagen; Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf] came prepared much more than I did; she had a notebook with a floorplan of the part of the room we didn’t see. [ditto]

– “Reality is Not Enough: An interview with Alan Schneider,” Richard Schecher, 1965, pp. 73-83 in Re:direction: A Theoretical and Practical Guide, ed. Rebecca Schneider and Gabrielle Cody, Routledge, London, 2002, pp. 76-81

– Reza Abdoh

Reza Abdoh Bio available here

Reza Abdoh turned away from linear plot development in 1986 … Quotations from a Ruined City was his most successful combination of nonlinearity and effective theatricality. Unlike minimalist theatre, which tends to shun content as well as linearity, Abdoh’s work reveals his obsession with imparting relevant information; he admitted, ‘I usually have something to say.’ However is it possible to say something, to impart information, without telling stories, without engaging in plot? Like 1970s minimalism, avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century often allowed the form of their work to stand as message, an effective strategy at a moment when abstraction and collage – simply by themselves – could produce splendid outrage in audiences unaccustomed to considering such forms as ‘real’ art. Abdoh’s work, at the other end of the century, abides in a very different environment, addressing an audience almost exclusively immersed in montage, collage, and the intense symbolism of advertising, especially through television. Faced with a culture in which abstraction and collage are normative, Abdoh combined nonlinear structure with subversive subject matter in Quotations to address issues of patriarchy, religion , intolerance, will, and desire. In order to deliver fragments of content through nonlinear structure, Abdoh used repetition and variation on many different levels. [bigness added]

Abdoh’s method of creating ‘realities that [are] multilayered’ … was not an extemporized gesture, but a considered strategy drawing not only from MGM musicals by means of Duchamp … but from the structures of Persian poetry and Islamic ritual theatre.

… it is clear that Persian poetry was not only a textual and thematic touchstone for Abdoh, but a structural one as well. […] Influenced by Sufi mysticism, Hafiz’s pantheistic poetry employs an elaborate, conventionalized symbol system that in many ways conflicts with orthodox Islam because of the poems’ hedonistic bent. All of Hafiz’s couplet-based ghazels have at least three levels of signification, working simultaneously as celebrations of love and wine, as Sufi mystic theology, and as sexually symbolic odes to a divine male lover …

The other major Iranian cultural influence on Abdoh’s work was Ta’yizeh, the Shi’i Muslim tradition of processions and martyr plays performed annually during the ten-day Muslim festival of Muharram … Formally, Ta’yizeh features a broad, stylized acting technique, emphasizing histrionic gesture and declamatory speech. … Ta’yizeh, for Abdoh, was

a very powerful form of theatre. It’s not even really theatre, it’s a ritual. It’s mystical and at the same time it’s very theatrical. It’s very simple but very theatrical and complex and it’s as if it’s in a hyperreality – you know it’s all hyper. And I think that’s probably the most important connection between it and my work.

… part of Ta’yizeh’s ‘hyperreality’ consists of its ability to exist simultaneously in three different modes of time and space (‘literal,’ ‘representational’ and ‘non-time’) which ‘totally interpenetrate each other … Ta’yizeh’s depiction of ‘real’ events in heightened circumstances so fraught with emotion that they provoke a true Greek tragedy catharsis was emulated by Abdoh, who wished to bring the same kind of experience to his audiences, although they may not ‘believe’ in the ritual efficacy of theatre the way Shi’i audiences in Iran believe in Ta’yizeh. This made Abdoh’s search for a collective sensitive nerve in his audience that much more intense, and when he found the nerve, he produced shocks.

… Ta’yizeh focuses on the act of death, pauses over its minutiae, ponders its meaning, and, as Abdoh has said, finds redemption and significance in it.

Abdoh transferred Ta’yizeh’s method of making great sense of death from an environment (Iran) and religion (Islam) no longer hospitable to him, to a new context in a society struggling over the meaning of AIDS.

Abdoh’s theatre work, especially his post-HIV+ productions with Dar A Luz, marks a significant break with high-postmodernist theatre as represented by Wilson, Foreman, and the 1980s work of the Wooster Group. Postmodern cultural theory of the 1980s proposed or rationalized a retreat from point-of-view as a logical response to the collapse of aesthetics into politics. … In postmodernist theatre the refusal to fix meaning is concurrent with a steadfast attention to form over content, or, when the question of content becomes inevitable, with the embrace of irony as the only viable point of view.

Beginning with the brilliant political performance actions of ACT-UP, and the AIDS-conscious works of such gay men as Larry Kramer, Marlon Riggs, Robert Mapplethorpe, and David Wojnarowicz, a whole body of late twentieth-century avant-garde performance came into definition, a body of work which, once again, demanded that common individual concerns connect to larger social and political issues. This change of focus is probably the single most important factor in the development of what might inelegantly be termed post-postmodernist performance.

At the close of the twentieth century, … avant-garde performance has indeed established a language, an aesthetic tradition built from a hundred years of piecing together performance fragments and shards of performing techniques into what Abdoh called ‘a kind of vocabulary that everybody sort of shares.’ In ‘Dynamics of the Sign in the Theatre’ Jindrich Honzl refers to the ‘structural stability’ of ‘theatres with a centuries-old tradition;’ a ‘constancy of structure’ which ’causes theatrical signs to develop complex meanings’ (1986:79). While a solidified structure might be thought to inhibit innovation, in Honzl’s opinion ‘the immutability of the structure’s key points does not necessarily impoverish its expressivity because within this traditional structure subtler and finer changes can take place’ (80). What we ought to consider is the fact that ‘avant-garde’ theatre has now created is own century-old tradition. [bigness added]

… Abdoh’s work has opposed conventional culture and the power structures it represents by posing avant-garde style as its ownlanguage,’ a tradition of performance as dependent upon its particular structure as Western opera, wayang kulit, or Yoruba ritual are dependent on their structures. Working confidently within the established theatre language of the twentieth-century avant-garde, Abdoh freed himself to return to political, social and spiritual content in a way normally unavailable to high-postmodernist performance. In this sense, Abdoh’s work has confounded the view of avant-garde performance as gesture. Instead, … Abdoh’s theatre demands to be considered as a particular combination of and variation on existing forms. With Abdoh’s Dar A Luz productions, avant-garde performance becomesclassic,’ and the creative possibilities of the avant-garde artist play in a very different space than they did at the previous turn of the century. [Cf. Deleuze on minor languages in Un manifeste de moins, and variationism, and the nature of original repetition grounded on ontological memory. & as usual, bigness added]

– John Bell, “AIDS and Avant-Garde Classicism: Reza Abdoh’s Quotations from a Ruined City,” 1995, pp. 175-192 in Re:direction, op.cit., pp. 182-188

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the structure of rehearsals with book – mementi vitae (or three & four paradoxes of time): contemporaneity, coexistence, preexistence & conservation or coexistence of the past in and with itself

Regardless of whether we wish to think difference as essence, structure, assemblage, machine, system, or whatever other term we might fetishize to the detriment of actual inquiry, all of these notions become incomprehensible in the absence of an ontological dimension like Memory or the virtual. The reason for this is that they all rely on the notion of a structural, essential, machinic, systematic, or assemblage-based causality which is static with respect to events they render possible, rather than dynamic like the causality belonging to actual entities, which moves from actuality to actuality.

the world of causes and effects, of actual entities does not recognise the continuity of relations, their ontological efficacy, but only the ever-shifting movements of real beings transferring force to one another. We here encounter one of the fundamental reasons explaining why we tend to think of the world in terms of subjects or individuals and atomic objects, rather than the systems of relations organising them. … We fail to recognise a specifically structural causality. In this respect, it can honestly be said that Deleuze attempts to provide the ontology proper to structuralism. … structuralism dreams of a transcendental philosophy carrying itself all the way to the individual.

The First Paradox of Memory: Contemporaneity

we must be able to to determine the properties or dimensions which belong to Memory in its very being. … If such a thing as paradox is possible, this is always from the perspective of empiricism and recognition, and not the transcendental itself.

The first paradox of memory is expressed as follows:

No present would ever pass were it not past “at the same time” as it is present; no past would ever be constituted unless it were first constituted “at the same time” as the present. This is the first paradox: the contemporaneity of the past with the present that it was. It gives us the reason for the passing of the present. Every present passes, in favour of a new present, because the past is contemporaneous with itself as present. (D[ifference and ]R[epetition, p. ]81)[all citations from Deleuze are in the Levy Bryant text]

If the past were not contemporaneous with the present, then the present would be unable to pass. As such, time would deteriorate into a collection of disconnected instants forming nothing but an eternal present. … the past is both the past as such yet present with the present as well. … the past is not past in the sense of being consigned to oblivion … but is actually there with the present in the moment of the present’s passing. … the past and the present constitute themselves at the same time. … For Deleuze, time does not move in a linear fashion from instant to instant, but progresses by perpetually dividing itself between past and present like a river dividing its flow at a fork between two streams.

[My gloss in italics:]
3 mediations: 1) to determine the present we must needs first determine the past (or, Brecht: “it is difficult to transform something that isn’t there to be transformed”); 2) insofar as the present determines itself, it does so by the determination of its difference from the past; 3) Deleuze:

The passive synthesis of habit constituted time as a contraction of instants with respect to a present, but the active synthesis of memory constitutes itself as the embedding of presents themselves. (DR81)

The first passive synthesis … sets up a system of temporal relations between differences which function as signs of retention and expectation within experience. … [these relations – called a sign-signal system by Deleuze – work outside of necessity] … In this respect, habitus [or passive synthesis] serves as a condition for active synthesis [memory] insofar as it delimits the representational possibilities or relations between present presents and former presents. It is necessary for there to be a system of sign relations preceding any act of active representation on the part of consciousness.

Far from being derived from the present or from representation, the past is presupposed by every representation. (DR80)

memory may be founded on habit (the active on the passive synthesis) but it is in turn grounded by a transcendental condition which Deleuze calls “peculiar to memory itself.”

Whereas the passive synthesis of habit constitutes the living present in time and makes the past and the future two asymmetrical elements of that present, the passive synthesis of memory constitutes the pure past in time, and makes the former and the present present (thus the present in reproduction and the future in reflection) two asymmetrical elements of this past as such. (DR80)

Both the active synthesis of memory and the passive synthesis of habit refer to the pure past as the ground of the possibility of their own respective syntheses. It is in this respect that we must say the past is contemporaneous with the present. … The past is the third term functioning as the medium of communication in which events unfold. It is the … past as such, which enables the active synthesis to reproduce the former present in the present present, and which allows the first passive synthesis to contract differences int he formation of a living present or duration.

The Second Paradox of Memory: Coexistence

If each past is contemporaneous with the present that it was, then all of the past coexists with the new present in relation to that which it is now past. The past is no more “in” this second present than it is “after” the first – whence the Bergsonian idea that each present present is only the entire past in its most contracted state. … the past, far from being a dimension of time, is the synthesis of all time of which the present and the future are only dimensions. We cannot say that it was. It no longer exists, it does not exist, but it insists, it consists, it is.(DR81-82)

If the past is the condition under which the present passes, then it cannot be constituted after the present passes, for in this case time would be powerless to begin.

However, while we can certainly grant this thesis from the perspective of the requirements of articulating a transcendental condition, it is still not immediately clear why this entails that the entirety of the past coexists with the present,that all the past is in some sense already there. Does this not effectively undermine the claim that the present passes and that pillar of Deleuze’s thought: that being is creative? If the entirety of the past is always already there, then how is it possible for anything new to be created at all?

while we can indeed say that the past is “different” for each present present from the perspective of active synthesis, this is not because the past passes, but because different dimensions of the past are actualized with the emergence of a present. As Deleuze puts it, time does not move from present to past, but from past to present. [The past is; the present was.]… It is also for this reason that Deleuze often claims that we place ourselves directly in the past, that we leap into the past itself, in the act of recollection. [Note that such recollection is (was) involuntary.]

The past becomes an ontological dimension, not a dimension of the present or the future. These are dimensions of it.

we think of memory as a representation of the present rather than granting it the ontological autonomy which belongs to it. … we then take Deleuze to be claiming that a leap into the past involves some sort of time travel which returns us to the present which has been lost. … What must forever be kept firmly in mind is that the past is a past that has never been present. … the past is not said to exist, but to insist and consist. … It is the past which renders existence as ex-stasis or standing-forth possible insofar as it is the condition under which active synthesis and the first passive synthesis become possible. [This is the meaning of the past being the ground.]

And contrary to (empirical) expectation and retention:

Because the entirety of the past coexists with the present, it follows that each present must be absolutely new. [Bigness added.] … for each present there is no going back, … we have lived it once and for all. It is for this reason that Deleuze says that repetition is never a repetition of the same, but rather it is always a repetition of the different, of the unique, of the new.

Bryant here digresses in an extremely worthwhile passage about Badiou’s reading of Deleuze’s notion of memory as grounding truth. Badiou, Bryant shows, misreads Deleuze at the moment where the new is made possible by the paradox of the coexistence of all of the past with every present. Deleuze does not say that memory is true and experience a fiction. He argues that the ground of experience is not found within it but in the past which coexists with it. Memory does not have a special all areas pass. But is able to plunge experience into a confrontation with a past, and represent this past through the signal-sign system of ‘memory,’ the active synthesis. (The word Deleuze uses for this doubling of memory and memory and past and past is ‘asymmetrical.’ The flow, as it were, is from the virtual to the actual: pure past to a past, the memorandum to our memory. Our workaday assumptions remain intact because they are dimensions of this transcendental dimension of time: virtuality.

Bryant then asks Badiou to account for his own concept of the event as a spatial multiplicity without having a ground in time as an ontological order. Badiou, I infer from what Bryant is saying, gives a structural account of the event without accounting for the ontology proper to that structuralism.

The Third Paradox of Memory: The Preexistence of the Past

I will add bigness:

each past is contemporaneous with the present it was, the whole past coexists with the present in relation to which it is past, but the pure element of the past in general preexists the passing present. There is thus a substantial temporal element (the Past which was never present) playing the role of ground. This is not itself represented. It is always the former or present present which is represented. The transcendental passive synthesis bears upon this pure past from the triple point of view of contemporaneity, coexistence and pre-existence. By contrast, the active synthesis [memory] is the representation of the present under the dual aspect of the reproduction of the former and the reflection of the new. The latter synthesis is founded upon the former, and if the new present is always endowed with a supplementary dimension, this is because it is reflected in the element of the pure past in general, whereas it is only through this element that we focus upon the former present as a particular. (DR82)

With respect to the third paradox [the past is pure passing but in preexisting any particular present it is what enables the present to pass], we are also reminded of the Bergsonian thesis that duration is substance. To claim that duration is substance is not to claim that it is existence. Rather, to claim that memory is substance (recalling here the other Bergsonian claim that duration is memory) is to claim that the past, Memory, is that which stands beneath, that which supports, that which enables; that it is hupokeimenon. Far from claiming that Memory is existence, which can only properly be attributed to the present of that which is not, the claim that Memory is substance is nothing other than the claim that Memory is the transcendental condition under which the present is able to pass.

The Fourth Paradox of Memory: The Coexistence of the Past with Itself

this whole past coexists with itself, in varying degrees of relaxation … and of contraction. The present can be the most contracted degree of the past which coexists with it only if the past first coexists with itself in an infinity of diverse degrees of relaxation and contraction at an infinity of levels (this is the meaning of the famous Bergsonian metaphor of the cone, the fourth paradox in relation to the past). Consider what we call repetition within a life – more precisely, within a spiritual life. Presents succeed, encroaching upon one another. Nevertheless, however strong the incoherence or possible opposition between successive presents, we have the impression that each of the them plays out “the same life” at different levels. This is what we call destiny. (DR82-83)

How would a new present come about if the old present did not pass at the same time that it is present? How would any present whatsoever pass, if it were not past at the same time as present? The past would never be constituted if it had not been constituted first of all, at the same time that it was present … [In other words, we strike the same block with a past to get to the past as we did with a present to get to the present.] If the past had to wait in order to be no longer, if it was not immediately and now that it had passed, “past in general,” it could never become what it is, it would never be that past. (B[ergsonism, pp. ]58-9)

half of the passing present is always already submerged in the past. There is no generality here, but rather the singularity of the event. Consequently, to speak of a past in general is not to say that there is a quality of pastness as such which then comes to be filled by particular presents which pass, but is rather to say that the ontological dimension of the past is fully at work in all of our experience. In fact, here we come before one of the most important aspects of memory: unlike kinds, memories are always singular and unique. … memories always have the character of events. What is general in memory is not memory as such, but the motor diagrammes or schemes that come to be formed between memory and habit, between the first synthesis of time and the second synthesis of time. For it is in the dimension of the future as it is found in habitus [passive synthesis] that generality, serving as the foundation of the active synthesis of recognition, comes to characterise our experience. [Bigness added to point to a tangent worth examining later in detail.]

all of our experience is accompanied by an essential unconscious halo of obscurity flickering about its field of clarity, such that each present expresses the totality of the past in a contracted state. … Proust, as is well known, was deeply inspired by Bergson. [An excellent tangent.]

The point at which memory converges with the present constitutes the most contracted degree of Memory, while the Whole of Memory constitutes the most relaxed moment of Memory. Each specific level or plane of Memory expresses all of the others, contains all of the others, or coexists with all of the others but in a more or less contracted way.

(1) memory as such is necessarily forgotten and is thus unspeakable, and (2) … any discussion of memory constitutes a creative actualization of memory which draws it into empirical experience. To say that the Revolutionary War was a war for American independence from England represents a very relaxed degree of the past. This is because it leaves the relations composing the war highly unspecified. A greater contraction of such a memory would consist in claiming that the war was brought about due to a lack of representation with respect to taxes. Finally, the greatest degree of contraction would consist in living through an individual skirmish expressive of the war as an event. In each of these cases the degree or level of the past involved is distinct from the others, yet nonetheless they all express one another in a manner similar to Russian dolls embedded within on another. Each contraction involves a specification of relations moving forward in degrees of ever-greater complexity. It is in this sense that the past coexists with itself. Not only do the various levels of memory coexist with one another, but they express or implicate one another as well.

– Levy Bryant, Difference and Givenness, pp. 112-125

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from the Lives of the Saints series

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make it difficult from the Lives of the Saints series

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a festival means holding tight to something wild for the photo opportunity

‘Samey’ could have been misleading in the last post. I meant same-ily different, heterodox and differentiated; each show / event in the programme possessing a clearly separate, a recognisably different, and in sum a recognisable identity. This identity, however, is about marking difference rather than making difference or different. It is a question of image and self-conscious positioning. In other words it relies on advertising’s clichés to assert that the product thus represented is not clichéed or is above clichés.

Another point: it is one thing to announce the avant-garde, it is another to discover it; however, this is in essence what John Banks is saying. The excitement and energy of Auckland’s cultural life is restricted to a fortnight of civic celebration. So the experimental work of the avant-garde goes on underground until a festival comes around and we get the chance to take a snapshot of it. In which it is changed utterly, samey.

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here is a piece of shit

Reading through the programme for Auckland’s biennial festival of the arts, struck with two thoughts: we have discovered avant-garde theatre; and it’s all so aesthetically pleasing, visually rich, hybridized, sexy, with striking branding… and samey. Makes one want to say: Here is a piece of shit, visually repellent, technically it’s a mess and there are too many words.

Auckland mayor, John Banks unwittingly sums up AK09’s place in our cultural ‘ecology’ (he doesn’t use that word, mind) in his obligatory puff-letter – as Auckland City Council is named as ‘Patron’ [caps, sic]:

Every successful city nurtures and stimulates a vibrant arts scene. The festival generates a fortnight of creative excitement and energy… [bigness and emphasis added]


Check out this photo of Auckland’s ‘young actors’ in an ensemble project called The Ensemble Project. Aren’t they well cosmeticked, diversely ethnicked of a variety of sizes but overall quite pleasingly bland? and aboveall they may appear in an ensemble project but don’t they project individuality and ATTITUDE. If they were in my production of an old sour ‘piece of shit’ I’d have asked them to crumble internally: Be pathetic! I’d have directed. Keep it futile! I’d have screamed, pathetically.

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the text is that you missed your cue –

the mise-en-scène is flexible in order to cope with absent performers.

LeCompte: There are very cued things that I start with, that with this piece, I knew may not happen. More than ever, we may have people coming and going because of the money situation. So I developed from the very beginning the idea that anyone could come and go without disturbing the piece. … ‘I have to make a mise-en-scène where anyone could fill in anytime or someone else could read the lines, and it would not disturb the heart of the piece.’

– Jeff Webster (on video), Peyton Smith and Beatrice Roth, photograph accompanied this interview by Linda Yablonsky with Elizabeth LeCompte

Or, in one scene Jonas has to be sitting in her wheelchair while Vawter delivers his lines. Having missed her cue, Jonas hurried across the stage on her toes to reach the wheelchair. Everyone burst out laughing. LeCompte used Jonas’s tiptoe cross as her entrance. LeCompte (to Jonas): ‘Now do it again recreating the same thing. Your text is that you missed your cue. … Your subtext is that you are pretending you are not acting.

LeCompte: If the play is boring let it be boring.

– Euridice Arratia, and quoting Elizabeth LeCompte, “Island Hopping: Rehearsing the Wooster Group’s Brace Up!” [1992], in Re:direction: A Theoretical and Practical Guide, ed. Rebecca Schneider & Gabrielle Cody, Routledge, London, 2002, pp. 332-346, pp. 338-341

pique-assiettes
textasies
textatics
theatricality

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