storytelling

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

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

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