Andrew J. Burton
Here are some pictures from Street Spirits Theatre Company in performance. We do audience interactive social action theatre (usually Theatre of the Oppressed) and performance art in western Canada. Our website is www.streetspirits.com
Kym Dakin, US
Kym Dakin has been a professional actress for over twenty years. She has appeared on and off-Broadway, in national tours and regionally at such theaters as Syracuse Stage, Denver Center Theatre, and Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. She is known for her solo shows “Spectacles in Solitude” and “HeARTful Meanderings”, performances that placed her on the Maine Artists Touring Roster and the Maine Alliance for Arts in Education. After becoming the proud mother of Skyler (age 4), Kym switched her professional focus to Interactive Theatre. As Director of Short Fuse: Interactive Theatre Tools for Corporate Change, she has been working in a variety of schools and businesses throughout New England, including Pierce-Atwood, Time-Warner Cable, Fairchild Semiconductor and Legal Services for the Elderly. Kym has taught and directed performance arts in a variety of venues including Bowdoin College and the University of New England. She is currently working with Annie O’Brien on a collection of women’s stories entitled AngerPlay!: a Celebration of Women’s Creative Fire, and is enrolled in the Masters program in Adult Education at USM.
Kym is the director of Short Fuse, which uses customized interactive theatre presentations as an experiential training tool in business and education. “Our work has taken us into companies and non-profit organizations all over New England. We address Human Resource issues such as diversity, sexual harassment and violence in the workplace as well as sales training. In addition, Short Fuse has performed comedic celebration fare in numerous venues.”
Chris was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Easton, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, lived in Boston for a bit, and then went on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his MFA. He has since lived in Chicago and Las Vegas, but is now settled down with his wife and two cats in Murphysboro, Illinois, where he teaches at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Chris’ artistic interests include conceptual, performance, and systems art. He works on his own as well as with the collaborative groups Earl and 2funBasTards. (www.chriswildrick.com)
Adina Bar-On, Israel
HOME OF COURSE, 2002 (approx. 40 min.)
In “Home of Course” a full rectangular rich red spread covers the knees of a seated woman dressed in black. The red spread is cut by the woman to the form of a flag than unfolded to the shape of a house. Projected movements of the face and hands in relation to the red shape create imagery associated with The Sacrifice. The use of voice in this performance, as a deaf mute person, takes apart the form of word enunciation. This work is my attempt to question what appers as the inevitability of destruction in the process of construction.
VISION, 2003 (approx. 40 min.)
The vision is initially that of a woman wearing black with her hair concealed under a dark material. She stands, with her eyes shut, then sits clutching a white bowl whose opening is concealed by its tilt. It only appears by the slight nods of her head that she is observing — us, or her-self. Her fingers concealed, inside the bowl, seem to touch substance inquisitively, then her finger seemingly delineates forms in the space in front of her and then color.
There is the depiction substance line and color as visual insinuations; A mental discourse on the painterly, on the aesthetic perhaps. But mostly, this is about insight and foresight and oversight.
ENCHANTED RIVER WETLANDS
copyright Annie Edney 2003
“Enchanted River Wetlands” is a large-scale outdoor theatre community event. It is made by the community, for the community and about the community of Albury Wodonga. Spectacular and breathtaking in its affects, this event is a direct expression of the communities thoughts and feelings about the Murray River, interpreted with the assistance of professional community arts workers in the following artforms: circus skills, writing, poetry, shadow puppetry, giant sculptural images, mask making, fire art, lantern making, dance, music and singing.
In the long term it will provide skills developing opportunities that will be enhanced by the annual nature of the event. A program of master classes, guest lectures, community workshops, educational programs in schools and smaller public events are planned in the region for the creating of “Enchanted River Wetlands”.
This year the pilot event has been in the making. Educational material has been developed with the support of several environmental bodies, and many volunteer hours. Presented on a CDRom, it begins to tell a story about the creatures who live on and in the Murray River. (This story will be continued in the performance.) As each creature is introduced in the story a photograph appears, with information about that creatures habits. So, as the students read the story they are learning about the creatures who are characters therein. There are also teachers notes with directions for drama games and activites … with the “Enchanted River Wetlands” music playing all the while. So students will be able to study the issues covered in the educational material prior to artists coming in to workshop the artistic components of “Enchanted River Wetlands”.
“Enchanted River Wetlands” is a comprehensive community project focussing on a partnership between the arts and the environment. It’s about involving as broad a cross section of the community as possible, and as many people as is practicable.
Connecting the process of making art to something deeply important in the maker’s life means the work is very potent, and the passion most communities have for their local environment is a wonderful theme.
And the process of developing the work provides a very accessible means of becoming involved. It’s available to all, no matter what skill or experience level. Everyone who has an interest can be involved. All ages, genders, races, professions — everyone has a vested interest in his or her environment. Although interestingly, most feel disenfranchised enough from it and at a complete loss as to what to do. So when you say: “here’s a project where we want you to make work that is your creative expression of your environment” all sorts of quite powerful things happen, as people come in to explore their creativity in an encouraging and safe place.
Relationships form between people who would never normally speak to each other. I’ve watched the CEO of the local community health organisation making lanterns next to the mother of a young man considered to be at risk, along with three of that woman’s grand children. And these relationships can develop when the event happens on an annual basis.
The skills also develop. People who make a simple pyramid lantern in the first year can come back and develop more sculptural skills. The enriching experience of working alongside a team of experienced community arts workers leaves a profound memory. Introducing this project to the community of Albury Wodonga has been a very rewarding experience.
There seems to be a hunger in this community for something that engages people in this way, and the partnerships “Enchanted River” has formed are deeply rooted in the life of community, enabling sustainability in that annual manner. It seems local government, the education sector and the environment sector all have an acute interest in this work These partnerships are seedlings this year, as the organisations concerned observe the work and the affect it has in the community.
This pilot event is focussing on the wetlands of the Murray River, reflecting the vital role wetlands play in a river system. If the wetlands are healthy, the river system has a much better chance of being healthy too. Wetlands are to rivers what kidneys are to human bodies. So it’s an appropriate focus for the inaugural event. In future years we will focus on different aspects of the river.
“Enchanted River Wetlands” will begin on Gateway Island, close to the river and therefore the border between Victoria and New South Wales. School children and all those who have been involved in workshops will gather, lanterns will be lit, musicians and singers will be warming up instruments and voices, stilt walkers will hop up on their stilts, giant puppets will come out and have their lights lit, dancers will be stretching and people will be putting on makeup. Musicians, dancers and artists will be gathering. The audience will also be assembling and a sense of excited anticipation will be building.
The whole lot will then move in a magical procession along the path beside the Murray River, musicians, lanterns, Flying Fruit Fly Circus stilt walkers, school children and their families, passing vignette performances and sculptural installations along the way.
For example a group of dancers may become a movement theatre piece which emerges from among the trees as people pass, moving in slow motion, freeze framing and generally building the sense that something very special is happening in the audience’s own familiar environment.
The procession will move from Gateway Village in Victoria to Norieul Park in NSW, where the theatre spectacle will be presented. This will involve stilt dancing, giant sculptural lanterns and puppets, shadow puppetry, fire imagery, the band and choir, more dance and movement and will be the culmination of six weeks work in the community.
Revegation Program. As a way to gauge how well the community has taken this process on, and whether it makes a different to the way they think about their environment, we will invite participants to gather at The Wetlands of the Murray River and celebrate the place, the event, and the involvement generated within the community. We’ll do some planting and have a BBQ.
This project has been in my consciousness for a long time. Over the years bits of it have emerged and become work in various communities. The first project of this kind I worked on was “Oceans of Delight” directed by Kate Clere in 1994, and staged at Phillip Island. And I was hooked! Clearly people needed this type of community celebration that addressed their concerns, and they became involved very enthusiastically.
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
The work involves a number of stages, each of which is an absorbing and fascinating project unto itself. The first is the funding and partnership development stage. A serious intention for me with “Enchanted River” is that it lives so strongly within the community of Albury Wodonga that it becomes a key feature in the annual calendar. To ensure that, I needed to have local government/councils interested, and to find other bodies who exist in a sustainable manner and would support “Enchanted River”. It was a great boost when both Albury and Wodonga City Councils announced they would put money into it. The local Regional Arts Development Officer, Chris Pidd, recognised the vital potential of “Enchanted River”, and so Murray Arts came on board, helping with arts funding and administration.
And happy serendipity played a hand … as she often does. The environmental sector got hold of my project description, and all of a sudden I began to get phone calls and emails from environmentalists all over the place. The happy upshot of that was that “Enchanted River” now has supportive partners in the Murray Darling Association, Murray Darling Basin Commission and the North East Catchment Management Authority. And now my self esteem began to fly!
Community consultation and creative development are next, and I love this part! This is where the project really sparks into life, it’s where the work goes out from my study, my computer and phone, into the community and begins to gather energy. We talk to a number of carefully selected people about their history in this region, and how their present relationship with the Murray River was established, what their concerns are, and their hopes for the future of the river. These are ordinary people, not experts, people who live their lives on or near the river, and who engage with it in a very physical manner. And what stories! What amazing people.
From here we take these stories and spend some time doing creative development. And for this project creative development is two pronged. We need to develop the Education Kit, and the story for the performance. So we tease out the common threads in people’s stories and develop a story that with encompass everyone’s concerns … as much as possible. And a very real focus is not to be confrontational or judgmental, not to alienate anyone at all. So we use theatrical tricks! Invent characters and relationships to carry the story, tell it like it is. This story begins in the Education Kit, which is designed for Primary School students, and carries on into the performance, in chapter form I suppose. So when the families of the students come out to celebrate their kids work they will feel a connection via that story, and their childrens experience of “Enchanted River Wetlands”.
And of course the next stage is the community and schools workshop programs. Part of the planning stages involves contacting schools and letting them know that “Enchanted River Wetlands” is happening. And planning a schedule that works for the schools and for the artists. We are offering schools a number of options in the way they engage with “Enchanted River Wetlands”. And a centrally located community workshop space will be established, local artists invited to come and participate and learn a new skill.
THE EVENT ITSELF
The procession and the performance are the event, and it’s community cultural development work, it’s the process not the product that’s important. When the process is working properly though, the product is amazing. The collective energy of hundreds of participants, fed by thousands of their families and friends as audience, makes for a memorable evening. And of course it’s all for one night. These shows are one-off, and the work very ephemeral, which creates a wonderful fresh dynamic. We are in the business of making memories.
If you’re interested check out www.murrayarts.org.au and go to projects.