Augusto Boal Feedback

Augusto Boal is amazing. He has produced brilliant techniques for a community to deal with immediate political and social problems/events through reconsidering the role of the spectator. He writes, “the poetics of Aristotle is the poetics of oppression: the world is known, perfect or about to be perfected, and all its values are imposed on the spectators, who passively delegate power to the characters to act and think in their place” . . . “Brecht’s poetics is that of the enlightened vanguard: the world is revealed as subject to change, and the change starts in the theatre itself, for the spectator does not delegate power to the characters to think in his place, although he continues to delegate power to them to act in his place” (p 96-97). In this chapter Boal presents seven exercises for performance, which range from mask work to staging a scene when no one knows it is actually a piece of theatre. Boal aims to engage the spectator as an active participant and thinker in the performance space. He works to reveal class and communal problems not through linear, patriarchal story-telling, but through the use of current events, news articles, familiar class situations, and myths. He developed the “Theatre of the Oppressed,” and constructs the People’s Theatre.

One of his exercises is for a participant to recall a moment of repression in his life and have it acted out by actors. He explains, “It also gives the protagonist the opportunity of trying once more and carrying out, in fiction, what he had not been able to do in reality” (p 92). This reminds me very much of my work with Elizabeth Kemp in New York. We relived and ritualized past experiences in order to live them out differently and find a side of light to the darkness of the experience. This is my kind of theatre. I am not quite sure yet how to apply this to my project, because I feel its purpose lies more in dealing with immediate issues, though perhaps the repression of Aboriginals and Aboriginal myth are two parallels I can draw to my project. As Boal says, “It is necessary to pass from the particular to the general, not vice versa, and to deal with something that has happened to someone in particular, but which at the same time is typical of what happens to others” (p 92). Grappling with specific stories of oppression from Australian Aboriginal cultures may then lead me to the general, expanding the experience of oppression into related experiences in American culture.

Something I am considering using for my project is the first exercise he describes, which is “Newspaper Theatre,” which is different ways of reading a news article aloud. You can use it out of context, use parallel action, rhythmical reading, etc all in order to reveal other perspectives and the POV and truth beneath the words. I feel using real historical stories and articles and messing with the structure of them may be a fun experiment to use for my project. This also makes me think the project may be more of an ensemble piece or written short play rather than a solo performance.

Thanks for staying updated! I have a show opening next week so you may not hear from me for a few weeks, but after that I plan to be posting regularly!

(Quotes on this and previous posts are excerpted from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader, edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts.)

Best,

Ariana

Richard Schechner and Progress in Performance Concept

The chapter by Richard Schechner has proven to be extremely useful for my project.
He quotes Boal, Ataud, and Barba, which gave me more perspective and insight into those theorists. Barba and Artaud were theoretical in the articles I read, but Schechner’s input helped me to see how this work can actually help shape my piece.
Schechner writes about his six categories of the Avant Garde. In his sixth category, intercultural avant-garde, he explains, “It is about belonging to more than one culture, subscribing to contradictory values, conflicting aesthetic canons” (p 320). This immediately made me think of the Aboriginals existing in both their ancestral culture and modernized western culture. It made me remember my fascination with colonization. I began thinking… what is it like to know one god as a child and have to pray to another god all of a sudden? Clothing, social norms, spiritual practice, food, everything is shifted from one cultural existence to another.
Schechner comments on Peter Brook’s (another well known theatre theorist) Mahabarata, which I watched in a Hinduism class my freshman year. Schechner comments, “Brook assumes — as the English who own Shakespeare do — that certain works operate at the ‘human’ rather than cultural level” (p 320). I began to think of colonization in a global context and reading across cultures — to my own culture. Is that very Brooks of me?
Schechner also helped me to shape my piece more — how do I want to use my audience? I began to envision myself encircled by audience members. I don’t want there to be a divide. I began to think this up when Schechner discusses Barba’s concept of the “theatre of roots.” Theatre of roots is “rejection of the proscenium stage, closer contact between spectators and performers, integration of music, mime, gesture, and literary text” (p 318).
I began to think how I can use imagery and gesture to communicate my story. I thought back to the performance at Bangarra dance… I could use rainbow color and be stripped of it somehow. The visual transformation from one culture into another and back into your blood culture is a striking and powerful series of transitions — I am still in the process of discovering HOW to construct an image for that journey.

Something else I really loved is when Schechner said, “What is avant-garde is when the performance does not try to heal over rifts or fractures but further opens these for exploration” (p 320). Also, when he writes, “But the question is not, ‘Can anything new happen?’, but ‘Who cares?’ Does it matter?” (p 321).

I think Schechner is brilliant and I can’t wait to discuss him with Gretchen this week.

One more chapter from The Twentieth C Performance Reader, and then onto symbolist drama!

Ariana

Antonin Artaud and Overcoming “Intellectual Stupor”

2 posts in one night! Here we go..

I just finished a chapter from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader by Antonin Artaud. It is becoming apparent to me that a big handful of theatre artists reject psychological theatre and seek a higher, truer form of expression for the stage. Artaud expresses that we are stuck in an “intellectual stupor” in theatre and wanted theatre “through its immediacy, to embrace the non-verbal elements of consciousness, and to arouse powerful therapeutic emotions in the audience” (p 28). He sought revolution and discomfort in his audiences. He wishes to access the psyche in a larger-than-life and dream-like way and to affect the masses. I love and admire this. Artaud felt this in the first half of the twentieth century, I still feel it today. It also makes me think of the Barba reading. Barba wrote, “After working together many hours a day for many years, it is not my words but perhaps only my presence that can say anything” (p 42).

This is actually something I intuitively sought during a solo performance class I took my junior year of college. My goal of creating that ten-minute piece was to communicate through imagery rather than through explanation. I achieved this by zipping myself up in a suitcase, tying knots around my abdomen, and lighting candles around the stage. Each of these actions was my way of externalizing my emotional, psychological, inward experiences and stories. I felt talking about my story was not enough, it wouldn’t capture it quite right or nearly fully. So, I sought “fiery, magnetic imagery” and “unforgettable soul therapy” as an alternative and actually more effective mode of expression (p 25). Again, I am excited to find my intuitive desires in the works of other artists. These thoughts and ambitions exist in many minds! What a joy to find like-minded people.

Artaud says, “Our sensibility has reached the point where we surely need theatre that wakes us up heart and nerves” (p 25). I definitely agree and need to remember this for my project. I do not want to stand on stage and talk about my experience. Why would anyone care? I know I have a lot to say, but I am still sort of figuring out exactly what those things are and how I want to share them. I am really drawn to the idea of people/land relationship, ancestors, and how knowledge lives in places as well as people. Perhaps I could use the mode of Aboriginal story telling in order to tell my story.

Now, to keep reading and dreaming… Please feel free to email me if you have any input or response!

Ariana

Back to the Project / Reading Eugenio Barba

I am back to blogging! I have taken a few steps back for the past couple of months, but now I am back on the project. The traveling is over, reflecting has been practiced, and now it is time to start researching styles of theatre for me to present my piece. I am brainstorming how my time traveling lends itself to the ultimate goal: the performance.

Today I began reading excepts from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader, edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts, which my mentor, Gretchen, assigned me. I began with a chapter on Eugenio Barba, an Italian/Norwegian theatre theorist and director. He founded the International School of Theatre Anthropology, which really excites me because I had no idea this field already existed! Something he wrote actually reminded me a lot of my motivations for this performance project. He wrote, “Like a melting pot in which the most disparate metals fuse, so inside me at the outset I tried to blend together the most diverse influences, the impressions which for me had been the most fertile” (p 39). Though he is speaking of different influences than those that apply to my project, I too feel as though I am drawn to diverse areas of study for reasons I am not necessarily conscious of, but for an inner need that I must seek to fulfill.

What I am currently working on is research for HOW to present my piece. I have decided to narrow my “performance project” into the category of “solo performance.” Right now Gretchen has me researching different methods and approaches to theatre, which will guide me in the creation of the piece. I have a lot of content, but now is the time to find the structure for communicating it.

Something that I think of often from my trip is when a man told me a story of his friends’ father. He said, “Black fella, white fella, yellow fella, pink fella. You cut-a the skin, we all the same.” I think I want this to be one of the major pinpoints of my piece. I will most likely use characters loosely based off of those people I met on my trip. One of the challenges I am facing is how to make my research in Australia relevant to an American audience. I think I can illuminate that bridge by bringing my attention back to the reason I myself was drawn to this project in the first place: I am drawn to the Indigenous knowledge and spirituality. I think in America too there is landscape, history, indigenous knowledge, and spiritual life that has direct parallels to the Aboriginals in Australia.

Now to continuing reading . . . I will be posting my responses over this weekend. :)

Thank you for reading along!

Ariana

The Outback, Bondi Art, and Bangarra — A Quick Overview

Hello from Sydney!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog — sorry! I’ve been either very busy or crashing. Since my last post I spent five days camping in the outback in Kakadu National Park, went hiking for two days in the Blue Mountains, conducted field work at Smith’s Lake, and am now stationed in Sydney. There is so much to write about I don’t even know where to start.

In Kakadu two beautiful souls guided us around Nourlangie, Mt. Bundy, Guymarr, Anbangbang Billabong, Ubir, East Alligator River, Warradjan, and Mamukala. My time spent in Kakadu was nothing short of phenomenal. There was a palpable sacredness that I sensed everywhere we visited. We slept in tents, so sleeping on the ground I felt so close to my Mother Earth. It shifted something in me. I really felt like Kakadu gave me back to myself, if that makes sense to anyone. There were a lot of things I was lost about before arriving and now I feel like more of a whole person. Although it was a magical trip, there were definitely some challenges for me. First of all, I caught a bad cold in Brisbane, which lasted my entire camping trip. I also fell in Brisbane, so my elbow and ankle were injured during the intense hikes. I embraced the whole experience though and I actually have a lot of gratitude for the challenges, because I realized it was my choice whether or not to enjoy myself during the trip. One of the guides took a liking to me and actually pulled me aside to put Dogwood Eucalypt tree sap on my ankle cut. It is a traditional Aboriginal “second skin” type of natural bandaid. He explained how he was making it and applied it to my foot. The next day he walked me to a tree to show me where he had gotten the sap. Then he looked me in the eyes and said, “you remember what I did? Here. Take this with you.” He handed me a tin Eclipse mint box filled with crushed up Dogwood sap, just like the one he has. It was a simple yet very meaningful moment for me. He had taught me something, passed on his own knowledge to me, and trusted that I was someone who would appreciate it. It meant a lot to me. He was a beautiful man with powerful, disturbing, and enlightening stories. His father was apart of the Stolen Generation, which is a generation of Aboriginal children who were abducted by the European Australians and assimilated by the church. There is a lot more about the Stolen Generation that I could tell you about and it will definitely be an element in my performance project. Anyways, this man told me the story of his father as he was applying the sap. It was a vulnerable interaction that I felt very humbled by and grateful he was willing to share with me.

Something that I found really interesting in our class discussion the other day is that a big way that the west “conserves” nature is through establishment of National Parks. This is effective in some ways, but my professor pointed out this is also a way of separating humans and nature. There is the park, where wild nature is, and then there is the life we humans live, in civilization. I drew a parallel to street art with this same concept two days ago when I was in Bondi Beach. Bondi has street art lined up all over this one street. It’s breathtaking and powerful. I was so excited because it’s art in the street! It’s not just in galleries. It’s not just for people who pay. It’s art for everyone to see and it’s art mostly with messages or with strong images. I realized the significance of street art because it embraces humans and art in the same arena, rather than separating art and humans, much like galleries or theatres may actually do.

Last weekend I saw the Bangarra Dance Theatre do a performance at the Sydney Opera House. Bangarra is an Aboriginal modern dance company and the name literally means “to make fire.” Not only was the show AMAZING, but I had a very interesting experience going because I went with my classmates, who are mostly science majors. It was fascinating to listen to their commentary afterwards. In fact, as soon as the show was over one girl turned to me and said, “I didn’t follow all of it, but it was cool.” Most of the people who I spoke with were more concerned with following the storyline. They kept asking me if I got the whole story. It made me think… There is no objective right or wrong way to experience a piece of art. Some people said they would have liked it more if they knew what was going on or if someone told them the story. I responded to this by saying you can go see a piece of art and have an experience, but not really know what it was about. It’s not about being able to follow a story, it’s about experiencing what the story has to offer you. Personally, I was very affected by the story. It was the telling of first contact with European Australians. I was crying for half the show. There were two very powerful moments that I have to share with you. One of them was when two dancers came on stage, one painted black (almost like blackface) and one painted in white ochre, which Aboriginals use to do sacred paintings on their bodies or to make rock art, etc. Then two other dancers came and washed the paint and ochre off. It was literally like their “blackness” and heritage and sacredness and whatever else you want to associate with the paint was being stripped from them. It was a visual representation of assimilation in a very disturbing way. The other moment I want to share is when a large number of Aboriginal dancers entered the stage with “X”s on their shirts. Someone told me afterwards they didn’t get why that was. I told them I interpreted that as those people being colonized, being assimilated, and literally crossed out. I am a very big fan of this dance company and I hope to see them perform again one day!

I am only in Sydney for two more days before I leave for the Daintree Rainforest and Cairns, where I will get to see the Great Barrier Reef! So much more to share… I will try to update more frequently from here on out!

 

Here are photos of the Bondi Skatepark street art and Kakadu Rock Art overlayed w/ Nourlangie Rock:

Nourlangie Rock & Rock Art IMG_9651

Love,

Ari

Self-Awakening

I AM HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE HERE!!!

I’m writing to you from Brisbane, Queensland.

Today my professor said, “Conservation is both an art and a science. We have brought together scientists and artists and it has the undercurrent of both.” It’s so crazy because I am REALLY considering going to graduate school for something either in the earth sciences or anthropology now… And I want to go abroad to do it. This is so radical for me because I’ve been studying theatre for so long. No matter what, my roots and people are in the arts. Having my artistic background is actually what is currently propelling me into considering these new paths. The course and experience wouldn’t be resonating with me in the same way.

It’s pretty cool because there is only one other person on this trip who is in school for an art and she and I are quickly becoming very good friends. We both love art — and we are good at what we do. I want to do my art now because I love it, but I also intuit it will lead me to other places. My friend told me statistically people will have aprx 6 different careers in their lifetime… And I’m so young!! There’s so much time to indulge my curiosities!

What is really hitting me lately is that the earth holds both practical and metaphorical knowledge. It holds the law and lore of the people living on it. You can’t study the earth without the people on it — it’s interconnected and they ebb and flow with one another. I am a storyteller… and I am broadening my definition of “story” through this trip.

I am finding it encouraging meeting people from all over the world, many of whom have uprooted their lives to just GO and TRAVEL! And I find they are like-minded to me. There’s so much out there… I have only been here a few days, but it’s already changing my life.

On another note, last night my friend and I went to a bar and were chatting with the bar tender. When I told him about this project he scoffed and went on a rant about Aboriginals. It was fascinating to watch!! I have the perspective of my professors, who care deeply to conserve Aboriginal Cultural Heritage, whereas this man literally said “98% of them are scum living off the government.” Good material for my project… It’s cool because I have people as resources for information, but observing the person is another dynamic element of study for the project.

On another-nother note, I have an accent!!! All of these things are relative. I never thought of myself as having an accent until these Aussie men started impersonating me and asking me about America. An Aussie guy asked me “is LA near NY?” Crazy putting it into perspective..

Tomorrow I leave for a five day camping trip, so you won’t be hearing from me until next week. I can’t wait!! My trip is guided by Aboriginals living in the national park.

Spending all of this time in nature is the most healing and self-aligning thing I’ve ever done.

Hope you’re all well on the other side of the world!

-Ari

Life is Good in Byron Bay

Hello from the other side of the world!

I am currently in Byron Bay, which is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life. It sort of reminds me of Big Sur in California, except I can see even more of the ocean in one view! The water here is beautiful and clear and there’s no litter on the beach! That makes me SO happy. Whenever I visit the beach in Santa Monica I am picking up plastic and garbage left behind. That alone goes to show the cultural difference in perspective on environment.

That actually seems to be a big theme on my trip already — that the environment and the humans living in it tell an interconnected story. Today my professor said, “You can’t look at the landscape without looking at the people living on it for the last 50,000 years.” He was explaining how you can’t just learn about Australian landscape without learning about Aboriginal Australians. What is happening in the environment tells a story about the people living in it and how the people live tells a story about what is happening to the environment.

Speaking of which, today I realized the story of earth’s evolution and the life on it is literally that — a STORY. It’s OUR story. I love looking at earth’s history from this perspective because I am a storyteller myself and I now I feel really inspired and excited to dive fully into science’s story about human and earth’s history.

One of the most impacting things I’ve realized in the two days I’ve been here is that “Aboriginals” does not refer to one group of people, but rather to about 300 nations that existed before England invaded. Each group of people had their own language and way of living (because of difference in environment), but the concept of Dreamtime was similar across the different tribes. (I’ll introduce Dreamtime in a later post, because it deserves detailed attention.)

The day before I left I met with Evan Maurer, previous director of Minneapolis Institute of the Arts and expert in indigenous art from around the world. He shared a lot of useful info with me and even showed me some beautiful Aboriginal objects he has in his home. He also emphasized that the objects are important because they tell a story about the people and the individual who created it. What was going on at the time is reflected in the objects.

It’s interesting… Evan said, “The bush gives up it’s treasures rather slowly.” And my professor said, “It does not yield it’s treasures easily.” Australia is limited in some resources, particularly water in certain areas.

Before I spoke with Evan I looked at Indigenous culture’s commercial tourist attraction as sad, invasive, and offensive. For example, that’s how I felt driving through New Mexico and seeing tipped and rain sticks sold as souvenirs for visitors. After  speaking with Evan I have adopted a different perspective, the perspective that the indigenous artwork is being tailored for for the understanding of outsiders and shared with those who come to visit. It’s a more positive outlook and equally true. I will write more in detail about my wonderful meeting with Evan in a later post and it will include pictures of several objects Evan so graciously shared with me!

This is only the top of the iceberg. I wish I could share EVERYTHING with you! I am still jetlagged, but I want to stay as updates as possible!

I am SO grateful to be here. I am loving hostel life! My skin is already sun kissed and my hair is filled with salt and sand. I can’t help but think, “this is how I am supposed to live.”

1 more day here and then I’m off to Brisbane!

Love,
AriImage

Secrets of Aboriginal Healing

“It doesn’t matter what we call the energy force that delivers the message, the important thing is that we listen to it.” 

In preparation for my studies abroad I read a beautiful book, Secrets of Aboriginal Healing, by Gary Holz, D.Sc., with Robbie Holz. The book is Holz’s retelling of his experience with a remote Aboriginal tribe. The story starts when he is diagnosed with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, during which your nerve cells are disrupted and your body slowly goes numb. Western medicine has not yet found a cure for the illness. He is a successful physicist who is failed by western medicine, so he decides to try another approach. Although he is resistant to the ideas at first, he ends up embracing the Aboriginal healing techniques, recovers from the multiple sclerosis, awakens his own healing abilities, and even returns to the US to teach the techniques to others.

If you know me, you know this is exactly the type of story I love. Although I am beyond excited to start my academic journey, this book makes me want to study exclusively with a remote tribe. Maybe during my next visit down under.

What I appreciate most about this practice so far is that although it acknowledges intellectual pursuits as valuable, it recognizes that the pursuits of the heart far surpass what the intellect can achieve. The path of the Aboriginals is a journey to the heart, a path to go inward. Already, this is a fundamentally and radically different way of life, relative to that of the West. Although I have been drawn to spiritual paths that hold similar core concepts, these specific techniques, used to access those “higher” parts of the Self and achieve wholeness and healing, are both uniquely beautiful and totally common sense, in my opinion.

This book has introduced me to a few core ideas of the traditional Aboriginal spiritual life. The book discusses in detail the six steps to healing, which are all intertwined:

  1. Connectedness
  2. Willingness
  3. Awareness
  4. Acceptance
  5. Empowerment
  6. Focus

One of the more controversial ideas in the book is that we attract and create our own realities. While this could understandably be interpreted as inhumane, at the same time I am somewhat convinced. Though it implies you have created something negative in your life, it also gives you the power to destroy it and create something else for yourself. Holz comes to realize that it is his set of beliefs and mindset that are literally creating the disease within his body. Western medicine treats the diagnosis, whereas these techniques heal the whole person. This tribe believes the root of any physical symptom is the result of a spiritual or subconscious problem. In the book they find the root of Holz’s disease by discovering that he has trained himself to emotionally numb and distance himself from life’s circumstances and relationships, which led to his nerves literally choosing not to feel anything. When I say his nerves “choose,” that is because the book also explains that every cell in the body has it’s own consciousness, another radical and impossible thought for most Western scientists.

Another concept I found helpful for myself is using the power of your words for good. In the book we learn that words and thoughts contain our energy and they are what we send forth as the manifestation of our realities. It’s not as simple as changing the words we use though, it has to be on a subconscious level as well. The book goes into detail about how to access those parts of yourself and utilize them to give yourself positive results.

Although I could write about this book for hours, one of the last things I will bring up is the idea that we not only carry our own emotional baggage from this lifetime, but we have psychic programming, left over from past lives and even our ancestors. I was so excited to read more about this, because I was first introduced to this notion during research for a solo performance piece I wrote and performed last year. According to Aboriginals, so much of healing is linked to releasing ourselves of this programming.

Although I won’t be traveling to study with remote tribes in the outback this summer, I do feel there is a great spiritual and life journey that awaits me at the other side of the world! This book has sparked excitement and inspiration for that adventure. I can’t wait to contextualize this information more by taking my course and doing my own exploring!

 

Thanks for reading my first post! 4 days until I take off…

– Ariana