Devised Theatre

“Assembled Identity”: World Premiere

There is a rather iconic scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Miranda (played by Meryl Streep) recounts the lineage of the cerulean sweater that Andi (played by Anne Hathaway) is wearing. Beyond its being a fairly brutal dressing-down, it also outlines how avant-garde fashion influences commercial tastes. Miranda makes it clear that although Andi may feign indifference to, and not understand, avant-garde fashion, its existence is absolute, and her apathy is of no consequence to its absolute impact. Five years from now there will be a sci-fi/ethno-futuristic production that explodes onto the commercial Broadway scene. It will bring...

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The Wooster Group’s “A Pink Chair” – Can You Ever Return?

The Wooster Group’s newest production, A Pink Chair (In Place of a Fake Antique) was commissioned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Tadeusz Kantor centennial as a tribute to the famous Polish director. The show is based on Kantor’s 1988 piece, I Shall Never Return and his 1942 adaptation of Stanisław Wyspiański’s The Return of Odysseus. Although he began his career as a painter and worked as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Tadeusz Kantor (1915-90) is currently considered one of the most important theatre artists of the twentieth century, and some...

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Jacob Storms And “Tennessee Rising”

Jacob Storms is the recipient of the 2017 United Solo Award for Best One-Man Show after he performed his new one-man play Tennessee Rising in The United Solo Festival, the world’s largest solo play festival taking place annually in New York City. Storms is known for his recurring role, Serge, on Steven Soderbergh & Gregory Jacobs’ Amazon Original Series, Red Oaks.  He is also a member of the founding graduating class of actors at the T. Schreiber Studio’s first full-time conservatory.  Some of his performance experience ranges from singing in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall for Cole Porter’s 125th birthday celebration to being...

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Dance As A Language, Exhaustion As A Therapy

… when no one is willing to listen, no one you could tell, no one you could talk it over with to set you free, the only thing left is art as a way of reaching other people and communicating to one, two, or three other individuals. Taigué Ahmed How do we communicate the unspeakable? How can we find a language for traumatic experiences like war and the life-threatening conditions that come with it? Taigué Ahmed, a dancer and choreographer who grew up in Chad, uses dance as a medium to communicate his experiences with an audience. He also initiated...

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“To The Depths,” Together: A Show In Folk Songs With A Story

The Polish production To The Depths or To The Bottom (Do Dna), which appeared at the 2017 Divine Comedy festival in Kraków in December, has a story as rich as the performance itself. Originally, the just under two-hour set of reimagined folk songs was the final performance for a class of actors in the vocal performance track at the AST National Academy of Theatre Arts in Kraków (Dominika Guzek, Agnieszka Kościelniak, Weronika Kowalska, Jan Marczewski, and Łukasz Szczepanowski). Their director and professor, Ewa Kaim, together with dramaturg Włodzimierz Szturc and music director-arranger Dawid Sulej Rudnicki, led the group of students in...

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The House That Geoff Sobelle Built: Questioning The Fundamentals Of Everyday Life In “Home”

In Home, Geoff Sobelle and company, under the skillful direction of Lee Sunday Evans, create a spectacle of growth and multiplication, shift and change that challenge perceived ideas of ownership, community, and hospitality. The show starts small, with a man (played by Sobelle) trying to build a house out of wooden frames, but expands soon enough through the stage illusions of illusion designer Steve Cuiffo. Appearing out of thin air, a bed and a door are the first fragments of an individual’s memory of home and family to the surface, which the company uses for vanishing acts. The escalation...

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“Brodsky/Baryshnikov” – Poetry in Motion

The choreography itself spun through a range of subtle to more bombastic, creating a dramatic arc for the 90-minute piece. Baryshnikov’s commitment to using the whole body is unflinching. Whether it was part of the opening movement, when a chair balanced against his back served as the hint to the centaur referenced in a poem, or the use of his fluttering arms as a butterfly metaphor, his conviction in thought and body is mesmerizing. The illustrative nature of the metaphors manages not to be redundant or heavy-handed.

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Rehearsing Transformation In An American Prison

The weekly meetings of the Phoenix Players Theatre Group (PPTG) always begin and end with an outpouring of goodwill, perhaps remarkable considering the setting. The members of the ensemble are tremendously open, emotionally and intellectually. Shoulder bumps and warm handshakes are exchanged, and gratitude is freely offered. Following the greetings, we all chat informally about news inside and outside the prison walls. On one memorable occasion, we talked about how a cellblock had been locked down for an investigation into an alleged suicide. More often, we talk about our families. We then gather into a circle, with the civilian...

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Puppet BloK: A Series Of Ground-Breaking New Works

Dixon Place is known for their commitment to supporting the creative process as well as hosting new works series, and Puppet BloK is no different. In 2006, curator Leslie Strongwater began Puppet BloK, a works-in-progress series of groundbreaking new works of puppetry and other innovative forms of storytelling. There are several puppetry showcases scattering the greater New York City area, but what sets Puppet BloK apart is that the series is carefully curated by CB Goodman, an artist that specializes in devising theatre that incorporates disparate materials and object manipulation, blurring the lines between truth, lies, and theatricality. CB is one of four...

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Harvesting Theater (Part 2 of 2)

For Part I, click here. For many visual artists working in performance, it is theater’s formality and the conventions of the stage that compel them to work outside of it. Visual artist Julie Bena—on whose Have You Seen Pantopon Rose? I am currently working as choreographer and performer—was a child actress raised in a theatrical household. Bena might employ a script, professional actors, and even a theatrical mise-en-scène in her performances, but says that trying to mount her work in a theater feels completely inhibitive and “heavy,” attributing this in part to the elitism of French theater. While some...

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Harvesting Theater (Part 1 of 2)

In 2014, I performed during the Paris FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain) in a performance that helped seal the Marcel Duchamp prize for visual artist Julien Previeux. It was the first time a nominee booth contained performers, not objects. I’m one of six people including actors, dancers, and a choreographer who began working with Previeux during a residency at Fahrenheit, Los Angeles, and went on to perform the same work (part of Previeux’s series What Shall We Do Next?) at the Pompidou’s pop-up in Malaga, Spain, and the DO DISTURB Festival at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo. As a theater artist,...

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The Italian Village That Plays Itself Onstage

In the Italian region of Siena, perched on top of a hill, sits the sleepy village of Montichiello. The winding roads leading there are lined with Tuscan Cypress trees; the cobbled streets wedged between medieval housing.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, this typically exquisite Tuscan village struck a chord with filmmakers Jeff Malmberg and Christine Shellen, who were enjoying their honeymoon in the picturesque corner of Italy.  “The other towns were very touristy, like something out of Under the Tuscan Sun. This town felt like a real town. There weren’t all the little shops. The only thing that was open was an artist studio.” That...

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Autotheatre in Poland as a Form of Institutional Critique

During the last two seasons we have been observing a distinctive trend of political theatre that stands up for the subjectivity of artists, enquires about their responsibility towards the audience, advances strong theses about precarity of cultural workers, challenges power relations within the structures of art institutions, and suggests alternative solutions. Their artists interrogate efficacy and force of political theatre today, at the same time battling for the autonomy of their own. They investigate the principles that govern the process of art production – oftentimes with reference to the context of late capitalism, by which it is greatly conditioned....

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Discipline and Perform: A Preview of Wig in a Box’s “Docile Bodies”

Adapted from Michel Foucault’s seminal text Discipline and Punish, the collaboratively-written and devised performance Docile Bodies—by performance company Wig in a Box—explores how institutional power shapes the lives and minds of soldiers and, in turn, ourselves. Structured around the monologues of six soldiers— ranging from the twisted diatribes of a drone pilot to the painful recollections of a soldier suffering from PTSD—Docile Bodies explores how the machine of institutional power invades the unconscious psyche and body. While each soldier speaks, the others watch from the peripheries of the stage in homage to Foucault’s panopticon and as a reminder to...

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A Paradox in a War Fable: “The Great Play”

In late 2016, a chaotic period both in and out of Korea, Doosan Art Center and Theatre Company Haddangse co-produced The Great Play (directed by Yoon Si Joong, Dec 3-29, 2016). This devised piece is based on Hungarian writer Agota Kristof’s novel The Notebook (Le Grand Cahier; 1986), the first of her Book of Lies trilogy. Kristof escaped Hungary after the failed Revolution of 1956 and lived in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, working in a watch factory during the day and writing poetry and fiction at night. The Notebook is a documentary-style novel based on her own childhood experiences, although she...

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A Conversation With Anne Bogart: “I’m Absolutely Certain That Certainty Is Bad”

An originator of the Viewpoints system of training for actors and founder of SITI company, American director Anne Bogart has helmed adaptations of classics, operas, new plays, and nonlinear assemblages like her latest work Chess Match No. 5, which is made up of the writings of the great avant-garde composer and philosopher John Cage. On the occasion of the piece’s New York premiere, Bogart and I spoke about what Cage can teach us about control and perception in the twenty-first century, and about resisting certainty with committed uncertainty in Trump’s America. Jessica Rizzo: You’ve described yourself a scavenger and have...

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Open Online Theatre Invites Its Audience to “Walk Into Space”

IJAD Dance Company begins 2017 with two firsts: the launch of its pioneering new digital platform (the Open Online Theatre) and the world premiere of Walk Into Space, an interactive, dance extravaganza exploring gravity and the wonders of the universe. Set against a backdrop of views of space, taken via satellite telescope, Walk Into Space turns the performance space, the dancers, and indeed the audience into stars, planets, and satellites. Featuring three characters (Time, Space and Gravity), it tells the journey of a being from element to star. The event also sees the public launch of IJAD’s creative digital platform,...

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Catch as Catch Can: Holden at the New Ohio Theatre

Reading J. D. Salinger’s 1951 The Catcher in the Rye marks the moment in the lives of countless American teenagers when they first experience the uncanny, but existentially reassuring sensation of deeply identifying with a literary character. Freshly expelled from prep school, Holden Caulfield is staring down encroaching adulthood and doesn’t like what he sees. At seventeen, he is a confirmed cynic. The world is full of “phonies” hiding their true depravity behind masks of smiling midcentury conformity, and he is the only one who can see it. Growing up means accepting at least some of the many distasteful...

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Companies Doing Devised Work – Part 2

NOTE: This post is a follow-up list to the first one I published discussing some of the theatres across the globe doing devised theatre. Have you ever wondered who is doing devised work near you? Or, wanted a one-stop-shop in finding the varying companies across the globe who are working on devised theatre? Well, look no further! This is a list of companies doing devised work organized by country or continent (with links to the website when they exist) and info from their website about their work (unless otherwise listed). This list is ongoing and if you have any suggestions for...

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Companies Doing Devised Theatre Work

Have you ever wondered who is doing devised work near you? Or, wanted a one-stop-shop in finding the varying companies across the globe who are working on devised theatre? Well, look no further! This is a list of companies doing devised work organized by country or continent (with links to the website when they exist) and info from their website about their work (unless otherwise listed). This list is ongoing and if you have any suggestions for additions, please send them to Martine Green-Rogers at the address listed in the bio below! Thailand B-Floor (Bangkok, Thailand) is Thailand’s vanguard physical theatre company....

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