The Problems of theory vs practice?
Oskar Schlemmer discussed this in Bauhaus days in the1900s.
In his theory of Performance he mentions the essential investigation of space, multidimensional in Performance, two dimensional in Painting.
In these early days many forms of the arts; dance, music, poetry, painting, sculpture and storytelling were often fused together.
I tend to make a multifaceted approach to Performance using my life and body as raw material, much of which remains private but some leaks out as bits of remained experience or storytelling.
This is a road report of sorts….
Last May I was tempted again to get involved in what seemed a very interesting opportunity/workshop/project.
The Black Swans Project with the Abbey Theatre as part of the Bealtaine Festival in Dublin were looking for people of a certain age category, (for once I fulfilled the age category).
A book by Nassim Taleb called The Black Swan inspired this Project. A metaphor for something people thought did not exist but actually did.
“An Impossibility come to pass” The Black Swan Moment maybe where something we thought impossible or that might never happen to us, comes to pass.
During a period of 14 days, sixteen of us elder individuals joined director Darragh Mc Keon and other (experts) in music, acting, fitness, choreography and a puppeteer all of whom gave us daily work outs, explorations of movement, voice, sound and character.
We all got to know each other well and moved from slowly, shyly telling our different stories to building on our varied strengths and weaknesses. We soon found that our weaknesses were sometimes our strengths too.
We explored our own pasts using theatre and performance techniques.
We were introduced to many Performance methodologies which many of us were not very experienced in but were encouraged to use. Our own true selves to tell our own true stories.
Of necessity we had to learn to edit them, shorten or emphasise bits, learn to project ideas physically as well as verbally.
The stories were many and varied, some anecdotally, humorous, some harrowing, shocking, some sad and some uniquely clever and entertaining.
It seemed we were slowly moving in the right direction with Darragh (half our age) the daddy who lead, protected, encouraged and praised but firmly demanded the risk taking of facing out and telling it genuinely.
It all seemed to fly by, on the last day when we produced a show for a small public gathered. Yet I felt the real magic was within the workshops when certain moments were really astonishingly wonderful when people suddenly “took” off and hilarious parodies emerged or quiet, sad reflections had us tearful.
The end product was only a show reel of past magic we created.
The experience had me reflect on many things, How I handled things in my life, opening up old wounds for others to survey, The need to learn to really listen. The belief that we all have a story, how it’s told and how it is received becomes very important and interesting,
I found myself looking at ordinary people at the Luas stop, at the Spike, exchanging drugs or conversation, fags and problems on the quays.
At lunch times I took photos of people around the city at random without them knowing and being a sort of undercover storywriter in my head.
Working with 16 strangers that become friends and then the show is over and it’s like Big Brother. You had your moments good and bad but on the whole it was a unique separate part of your life.
My “story” was to begin pretty gruesome I recounted an episode where I suffered a burst septic appendices and went to the edge; I condensed it down to the following short poem
PAIN is white; Pain IS white, Pain is WHITE.
I lay on the edge of a black abyss,
My body turns putrid.
Surgeons gently lift my bowel.
Night follows wracking night,
Days followed days,
An oozing cracked eggshell that’s me?
Walking down a moonlit corridor
Hope creeps silently beside me,
I feel a shoulder beside mine,
“A burst Appendics” You poor thing”
I got to reach my home,
She never did.
This was the result of the first week reducing the story down and down but funnily in the second week my story was completely different,
I re-enacted The Ladies Choice – when I met my future husband. Acted more by movement and interaction with another. It had a different tone and maybe I perform better when moving literally, tracing back with my body the actions of yester year?
The whole experience was fulfilling, At times I was a little suspicious that we were theatre fodder for some directed production but at all times we were treated with great respect as equal actors.
The end result was a beautiful blend of stories produced with a variety of methods, Simple shadow puppets, few props and just basic good storytelling. Each had a different quality together made a lovely woven bedspread of humanity.
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