__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

ISSN 2515-9879

ISSUE 2 18

BLUE PAGES JOURNAL FOR THE SOCIETY OF BRITISH THEATRE DESIGNERS

1


3 EDITORIAL GREER CRAWLEY 4 PQ PROGRAMMING OVERVIEW BRAD CALEB LEE 8 PQ TO COME BACK TO VÝSTAVIŠTĚ PRAHA ONDŘEJ SVOBODA 12 PQ STUDIO: COMMON DESIGN PROJECT PREVIEW FROM BRITISH SUBMISSIONS 14 WHY IS PQ SO IMPORTANT? MICHAEL SPENCER 16 TRACES OF TISSUES AT PQ SALLY E. DEAN & CHARLOTTE ØSTERGAARD 18 POROUS CITY: VÝSTAVIŠTĚ PRAHA HOLEŠOVICE KATIE ETHERIDGE & SIMON PERSIGHETTI 20 CREATIVITY IN DEFIANCE OF TYRANNY PAMELA HOWARD 24 PERFORMANCE SPACE AS COLLECTIVE BIOGRPAHY ANDREAS SKOURTIS 25 ROUDABOUT AND THE MIX EMMA CHAPMAN & LUCY OSBORNE 27 V&A TO LAUNCH NEW FILM 28 THE CIRCUIT – A MOVEMENT SCENARIO MOI TRAN 30 ADVANCING THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE SHANNON HARVEY 32 OPEN CALL: STAGING PLACES 37 OISTAT UPDATES 38 MAGIC BULLETS AND SOULS FOR SALE DAVID BARBOUR 44 CAN THEATRE CONVEY THE GREAT WAR IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY? MICHAEL SPENCER 46 TOWER LUCY THORNETT 48 TALKING ABOUT DESIGN: REFLECTIONS ON DONMAR ON DESIGN 2018 FRANCESCA PESCHIER 49 CRITICAL COSTUME 2018 IN PICTUES 50 BOOK REVIEW: 3D PRINTING BASICS FOR ENTERTAINMENT DESIGN IAN TEAGUE 52 BOOK REVIEW: SCENOGRAPHY EXPANDED MICHAEL SPENCER 54 BOOK REVIEW: SCENOGRAPHY GRACE VENNING

Front Cover image: Der Freischütz, Vienna State Opera, Set & Costme Design by Gary McCann, Directed By Christian Räth, Lighting Design Thomas Hase, Video Design Nina Dunn. Photos By Michael Pöhn Rear Cover Image: Tower spectators. Conceived & Designed by Lucy Thornett, Photographer: Amy Thornett 2

BLUE PAGES

45 BOOK REVIEW: SCENIC CONSTRUCTION FOR THE STAGE: KEY SKILLS FOR CARPENTERS JAMES HORNE 56 TRIBUTE TO EDWIN ERMINY PAMELA HOWARD 58 RALPH KOLTAI CBE RDI: THE ENIGMA OF STAGE DESIGN PAMELA HOWARD


THE SBTD REGISTERED OFFICE SBTD Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Castle Grounds Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3ER 07809 721047 admin@theatredesign.org.uk Charity No: 800638 Registered in England No: 2325776 PRESIDENT Richard Hudson HONORARY SECRETARY Fiona Watt CHAIR Sean Crowley COMPANY SECRETARY Peter Ruthven Hall COMMITTEE Paul Burgess Kate Burnett Greer Crawley* Sean Crowley* Max Dorey Peter Farley* Sophie Jump Martin Morley Roma Patel Francesca Peschier Peter Ruthven Hall Will Hargreaves Kathrine Sandys Nicky Shaw David Shearing Andreas Skourtis Ian Teague Fiona Watt Elizabeth Wright BLUE PAGES CONTACT admin@theatredesign.co.uk POST Kay Denyer Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama Castle Grounds Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3ER CIRCULATION: 500 SENIOR EDITOR Greer Crawley editor@theatredesign.org.uk A CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Sophie Jump CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Lucy Thornett CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Fiona Watt LAYOUT & INTERNATIONAL EDITOR Brad Caleb Lee The SBTD publishes information in good faith but no responsibility can attach to the Society or any of its members or employees for the accuracy or for any liability arising therefrom. Opinions expressed are not neccessarily those of the Society.

BUILDING BRIDGES, NOT WALLS BY GREER CRAWLEY SENIOR EDITOR From what, in many ways, started as a way to celebrate and promote Czech scenography at the unquestioned height of its glory, the Prague Quadrennial has developed into a profound global phenomenon. It allows theatre makers from different geographical, political and artistic backgrounds to gather in one place every four years and exchange experiences with each other. One need only flip through the 50 Stories platform (http://50.pq.cz) to realize how essential PQ was to building many legendary international collaborations. As we prepare for another PQ, the impending threat of borders in the form of political, social, and (in some cases) physical walls reminds us of how important global conversations continue to be as part of our society. But in preparation for the PQ 2019 perhaps we should also pause and reflect on the walls which we use to divide our colleagues: Academic vs. Practice; Commercial vs. Community; Large vs. Small; Traditional vs. Developing; Local vs. Global; Classic

vs. Contemporary; Performance design vs. Scenography; Emerging vs Established. Theatre has the ability to communicate in unique and accessible ways to build communities from disparate factions. However, is it possible to find common ground with others if we continue to maintain walls between ourselves? In this issue of Blue Pages we are pleased to be able to present the projects of our British-based colleagues that were curated for inclusion in the PQ programme from over 17,000 submissions. This work inherently speaks to the socio-political climate, as many of its creators are immigrants themselves, being born of other lands from Greece to Vietnam to the United States. We also remember the contributions made by Edwin Erminy and Ralph Koltai to the international community which remind us that theatre design plays an unquestionable role in bridging differences. By going to PQ and attending the events organised by SBTD that are taking place around the country, you can honour this legacy by engaging in dialogues that build community not walls.

WELCOME NEW SBTD MEMBERS Robert Bagley, Talia Sanz, Amanda Mascarenhas, Delphine Du Barry, Rosalind Coombes, Elena Teleguta, Yingyue Huang, Abby Clarke, Rachel Merritt, Anouk Giulia Mondini, Pedro Sanchez, Fahrudin Salihbegovic, Jonathan Chan, Tara Usher, Holly Chandler, Elisabeth Rickards, Olga Ntenta, Emily Leonard, Lucy Fowler, Stella Cecil, Constance Villemot, Elin Steele, Abigail Smith, Karen Tennent, Tim Meacock, Emily James, Silvia Coralli, Peter McKintosh, Kristina Kaplin

BLUE PAGES

3


4


IMAGINATION, TRANSFORMATION, MEMORY PQ 2019 PROGRAMMING OVERVIEW BY BRAD CALEB LEE, PQ PROGRAMS COORDINATOR Taking inspiration from the Golden Triga, Artistic Director Marketa Fantova has organized PQ 2019 under the theme Imagination, Transformation, Memory. This theme celebrates both the artistic process of performance design and the life-cycle of designers themselves: ‘Three different forces coming together to pull the chariot driven by Nike, the goddess of victory, stand proudly atop the roof of the National Theatre, reminding all that creating performance is an act of collaboration where all talents combine their strengths to achieve much more than any individual could ever accomplish alone. The three horses pulling the chariot symbolize the three stages of human life: youth’s wild instinct and intuition, the experience of adulthood, and the wisdom of age. We will use the metaphor of the Golden Triga to explore these points of view, three areas connected with the cyclical phases of the creative process…’ At its heart the Prague Quadrennial is a meeting place, a point for artists to connect with other artists on a global level, from strengthening lifelong friendships to discovering new collaborators and building a support network of like-minded theatre makers. The programming structure for PQ 2019 has been conceived in an effort to nurture and promote these exchanges. Over 600 events will take place in 11 days organized under internationally-led projects including The Our Theatre of the World Performance Space Architecture Exhibition, Fragments, Formations, the Site Specific Performance Festival, PQ Talks, PQ Studio, 36Qo, and Emergence. The schedule has been built with the festival attendee in mind. Organized around 4 basic time slots beginning at 10:00, 12:00, 14:30, and 16:30, the schedule encourages meetings by having common lunch and dinner breaks. Highlights of the programming, including Keynote Speeches, the Awards Ceremony, and the Emergence Festival, will all take place in the evening to avoid conflicts with other programs. The first and last days (6 & 16 June)

will be entirely dedicated to the four main exhibitions to allow attendees an unhindered chance to engage with the work of the global selection of leading practitioners that will be on display. The main programming is starting later than usual, at 10:00, to allow social exchanges in the evenings without the worry of an early start. Participants will be able to enjoy their evenings and still get a good night’s sleep and arrive fresh and ready to actively participate in their day. The Prague Exhibition Grounds, which will be the home of PQ 2019, have been laid out on a giant axis. In the centre is the central hall of the Industrial Palace - dubbed the Forum - which will be a hub of informal professional exchanges including: book signings, a display of the Best Performance Design and Scenography Publication Award shortlist; a series of open cafes where emerging artist can discuss their work with established practitioners (Emergence: Practice Exchange), and two days of costume driven events and events organized by Simona Rybáková (Emergence: Costume, LIVE!). The Forum will also host the one-day Emergence Festival, which will include public showings and presentations from the PQ Studio: Results Driven Workshops, as well as the Bookshop and a Cafe. The Our Theatre of the World Performance Space Architecture Exhibition also finds its home in the Forum, taking a prominent place in the discussion of spaces in which artists now make theatre. This exhibition feature over 50 submissions from a global array of projects realized since 2011, ranging from small, temporary spaces to national performing arts centres. In what felt like the most democratic way to display each project equally, all projects are represented by a 5-minute video which introduces the space, speaking to its challenges and triumphs! Three of the projects will also be invited to share more about their work through PQ Talks. At the entrance to the Exhibition Grounds and the starting point of this great axis lies the Plaza, which will host the opening

ceremonies on 5 June and then Formations from 7-13 June. Formations, a festival curated by New York based choreographer D. Chase Angier and Oslo-based scenographer and architect Serge von Arx, explores movement in urban spaces. Through an open-call, 40 international companies have been invited to bring their work and organically interact with each other. These organic disruptions and interactions between selected works is an experimental idea at the core of Formations, and one which should mean there is always something interesting happening on the Plaza during these days. Many performances will also begin at other points in the city, and organically make their way to the Plaza, changing and adapting their pieces in response to the urban landscape of Prague. To maintain the improvisational quality of the experiment, no exact times of performances for these events will be published, but days companies will be involved will be listed. Off the Plaza, PQ Visitors will also find the National Museum Lapidarium (or sculpture collection), which will host Fragments, an exhibition of living-legends of performance design curated by Tokyo-based Klara Zieglerová. This exhibition invited participating countries to submit a single, stand-alone “fragment” or object from the career of one of the greatest contemporary performance designers, which will be displayed alongside the museum’s permanent collection of historically significant Czech statuary. Through the work of 28 designers selected by their home country, we seek to not only celebrate the careers of these celebrated artists, but also provoke a conversation about local practices and global outlooks. This exhibition will also feature short public discussions with many of the artists at 14:30 on 7-15 June. Along the axis on the opposite end of the Forum is the Krizik Pavilions, which will host PQ for Children (a program which engages thousands of Czech school children in the year leading up to and during PQ), PQ Talks, The Emergence Exhibition, and part of the Exhibition of Countries & Regions. The roofs BRAD CALEB LEE

5


of these pavilions, and the central courtyard surrounding the Krizik Fountain, will be a place for social exchanges, featuring cafes, bars, and catering. These spaces will be open throughout the day and into the evening, creating a meeting point with a buzzing atmosphere for exchanges over meals, coffees, or pints. PQ Talks, curated by noted theatre scholars Barbora Příhodová and Pavel Drábek, will fuel many conversations as they give space to over 100 presentations organized into 25 blocks of time from 7-15 June. These presentations will be grouped into thematic sections reflecting contemporary theory and practice of performance design and scenography. The PQ Talks Pavilion will also host keynote speeches (all scheduled in the evening so as not to conflict with other events) and the Awards Ceremony. The Emergence Exhibition, and many of the events taking place in the Forum, are part of a larger project undertaken by PQ and major international partners The Victoria & Albert Museum (United Kingdom), IZOLYATSIA (Ukraine), Institut Teatralny (Poland), Cyprus Theatre Organisation/THOC (Cyprus), Norwegian Theatre Academy/Østfold University College (Norway), New Theatre Institute of Latvia (Latvia), and National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Taiwan) cofunded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. ‘EMERGENCE. From shared experience to new creativity. Living Heritage/Reframing Memory ’explores the perceived histories of national heritage sites through the lens of performance design, connecting emerging designers with experienced practitioners to mine the collective cultural memory of the heritage sites to create powerful audience experiences, showing the heritage in an evolving process of constant re-negotiation of connectivity and relationships in today’s globalized world. The exhibition will introduce these experiments and the sites that will be explored as part of the three year projects (2018-2020). Beyond the Pavilions, the exhibition grounds and adjacent Stromovka Park will be activated by the Site Specific Performance Festival. 27 international companies have been invited by UK-based curator Sophie Jump to engage with the physical and ephemeral landscape of the space to create installations and performances from 7-15 June. While many of the installations will be ongoing, only one performance will be happening at a time, organized at 4 times throughout the day, with two additional evening performances on most days beginning at 21:30. Most performers also will have multiple presentations across several days to make it easier for those attending PQ to plan their schedules. Along the axis running perpendicular through the exhibition grounds, are the Left and Right Wings of the Industrial Palace and the Small Sports Hall, which will host the Student Exhibition, Exhibition of Countries & Regions, and36Qo respectively. The Student Exhibition and Exhibition of Countries and Regions are the signature events at PQ, presenting work curated 6

BRAD CALEB LEE

by each individual country or region participating. For PQ 2019, over 70 countries have registered intent to participate. In an effort to be as fair as possible, each exhibit has been allocated an equal 25² metres. For this exhibition, countries were asked to both showcase the work of performance designers created since 2013 and present it through a “scenographic landscape” with as few solid walls/borders as possible. In addition to exhibits, many countries will also again present small performances and talks within their exhibition spaces. 36Qo, which had a previous iteration in 2017, presents performance design as both an artistic and technical medium concerned with the creation of active, sensorial, and predominantly non-tangible environments. These emotionally charged environments, similar to performers, follow a certain dramatic structure, evolve dynamically over time, and invite visitors to immerse themselves in a new experience. Curated directly by PQ Artistic Director Marketa Fantova and Jan K. Rolnik, who also is a team member of the annual Signal festival in Prague, this project brings attention to the importance of technology-based design mediums through three strands of programming. Blue Hour, under the leadership of designer Romain Tardy in collaboration with 6 international project leaders and over 30 participating artists, will be a large-scale installation which fills the sports hall, creating a unique and immersive environment which will open to the public on 8 June. Light Spot will return under the curation of Henk van der Geest in collaboration with several professional organizations to present a multi-day program of workshops and events centered around lighting design and technologies. Joe Peno also returns to organize Sound Spot, which will include the ever-popular Sound Kitchen in addition to talks and exchanges. All 3 of these projects are made possible with generous support from PQ 2019’s main partner Robe and loans from d&b audiotechnik. The only main venue outside of the Prague Exhibition Grounds will be The Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague or DAMU, which will host PQ Studio. Formally known as Scenofest and SpaceLab, PQ Studio, curated by Canadian performance designer and professor Patrick Du Wors, presents educational and professional development opportunities through the PQ Studio: Festival, PQ Studio: Workshops & Masterclasses, and PQ Studio: Common Design Project. PQ Studio: Festival, in collaboration with the Zlomvaz Festival, will present 30 studentdriven performances from a global selection of students and emerging artists, often in collaboration with major colleges and universities, in both DAMU’s DISK Theatre and studio theatre spaces, as well as some outdoor venues located in Prague’s city centre. PQ Studio: Festival is a particularly close DAMU collaboration, with performances being cocurated by Du Wors, DAMU students, and head of the theatre management course Michal Laznovsky. In a new model for PQ 2019, Workshops &

Masterclasses are now divided into Results Driven Workshop and Exploratory Workshops. The Results Driven Workshops, which take place 7-12 June and are participation by application only, will all present outcomes as part of the Emergence Festival at the Prague Exhibition Grounds on 12 June. Exploratory Workshops, which take place 12-15 June, are available on a first come, first served registration basis. In an effort to encourage as much diversity among participants as possible, PQ is no longer allowing “block” reservations of workshops - each individual participant must register themselves for the workshops in which they would like to participate. There will also be a limited number of slots available on a “rush” basis at the door for each Exploratory Workshop. PQ Studio: Common Design Project, recalls Pamela Howards initiative of the same name at PQ 2003 and PQ 2007. Over 50 courses have asked their students to create production designs for Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi and a curated selection of these projects will be on display at the Industrial Palace from 13-16 June. These selected projects will also be part of group discussions and critique moderated by leading practitioners. In addition to these main projects, there will also be plenty of other events in Prague to keep visitors engaged. PQ+, organized by the Arts & Theatre Institute, will present a curated list of performances, exhibitions, and cultural events happening in Prague during and around PQ. PQ Studio: Chill will also present a series of fringe style events (curated by the students of DAMU) as well as series of morning coffee discussions around provocative topics organized by Patrick Du Wors. While so many programming options may feel overwhelming, we have tried to structure the timing so that each visitor can maximize their PQ experience. This will be made clearer when the full PQ Schedule and accompanying mobile application is launched in Spring 2019. For more information and to stay up-todate check the PQ website, register for the newsletter, and follow PQ on social media! www.pq.cz www.fb.com/praguequadrennial www.twitter.com/PQ_2019 https://www.instagram.com/ praguequadrennial/ Brad Caleb Lee is the International Editor of the Blue Pages and Programs Coordinator for the Prague Quadrennial.

Images: [Previous Page] Golden Triga Wikipedia Commons, Tilman2007; [Opposite Page] PQ 2015 Korean Student Exhibit, Courtesy PQ Archives.


SCHEDULE OVERVIEW* 5 June Opening Ceremony 6-16 June Main PQ Dates Exhibition of Countries & Regions Student Exhibition Our Theatre of the World Performance Space Architecture Exhibition Fragments Emergence Exhibition 6-10 June Emergence: Practice Exchange 7-15 June Site Specific Performance Festival PQ Talks PQ Studio: Festival Fragments Artists Talks 7-12 June PQ Studio: Results Driven Workshops 7-13 June Formations 8 June Late Night (all exhibitions open until 23:00) 8-16 June 36Qo Installation: Blue Hour PQ Keynote Address 9 June Day of Family-Friendly Programming PQ Keynote Address 9-15 June Light Spot Sound Spot, including Sound Kitchen 11 June Awards Ceremony 12 June Emergence Festival 12-15 June PQ Studio: Exploratory Workshops & Masterclasses 13 June PQ Keynote Address 13-14 June Emergence: Costume, LIVE! 13-16 June PQ Studio: Common Design Project 15 June PQ Keynote Address 15-16 June Emergence: Practice Exchange

*Still subject to change

BRAD CALEB LEE

7


PQ to Come Back to Výstaviště Praha (Prague Exhibition ONDŘEJ SVOBODA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THEATRE ARTS & THEATRE INSTITUTE PRAGUE Výstaviště (Prague Exhibition Grounds) has been bound to Prague Quadrennial since the very beginning. While we might never be sure if this particular venue provides the optimal space for such a huge international event, it seems that the quiet location adjacent to a big park and just outside the city centre and Prague Quadrennial are simply meant to stay together. The complex was built in the late 19th century during the boom of big national exhibitions in Europe held to demonstrate technical and economic development of the countries in question. In Prague, the 1891 Jubilee Exhibition was followed by the Ethnographic Exhibition and the Exhibition of Architecture and Engineering in 1895 and 1898, respectively. All these events were organized to show cultural and technical advancement of the Czech nation, then under the AustroHungarian Empire but already with emerging desire for its own independence. A part of the complex, the Industrial Palace built in Art Nouveau style is a glass and steel structure with an elliptical ground plan and a clock tower rising above two wings of exhibition space with a total exhibition area amounting to almost 10,000 square metres. This was true until 2008 when the left wing of Průmyslový palác (Industrial Palace) caught 8

ONDŘEJ SVOBODA

fire; had it not been for the strenuous effort of the firemen, the central hall would have been lost to flames. A bad maintenance of the buildings and lack of safety measures were among the principal causes of the fire. But the condition of Průmyslový palác (Industrial Palace) today, 10 years after the fire, is even more astounding. A makeshift tent with unsuitable climate is still there, replacing the left wing. In the aftermath of the disaster the city of Prague, which owns Výstaviště (Exhibition Grounds), promised a complete reconstruction and rebuilding of the place, but so far nothing has come of it. The reconstruction has been put off time and time again due to the unfavourable lease agreements signed in the early 90s and political shifts in the city leadership. The fact that PQ is coming back to its original venue is also an act of bravery on behalf of the art and production management of the event, of those people who this time also decided to use additional areas and structures, thus dedicating almost all of Výstaviště (Exhibition Grounds) to contemporary art. Returning after two editions of PQ held at alternative venues serves as a manifestation of mental comeback in terms of theatre perception seen – particularly in the last edition of 2015 under the artistically self-confident leadership of Sodja Lotker – mainly from the perspective of its experimental and creative


level that significantly touches upon different art disciplines (visual art and performance in particular) and permeates public space with tailored art interventions. The second reason for the comeback is a bit more practical – Prague lacks exhibition space near the centre of the city able to host such a huge event with an appropriate flair. PQ 2011 was held at Veletržní palác (Trade Fair Palace), a giant functionalist building owned by the National Gallery in Prague. But 6,000 guests who flooded in and basically occupied the space for 11 days in a row proved to be too much for the gallery’s routine operation, and the request to re-lease the palace was thus turned down by its management. PQ 2015 was split into a number of different venues across the city centre, but some visitors felt this led to an excessive fragmentation and virtual dissolution of the event in the midst of tourist traffic in the Old Town, resulting in a lack of focus on the event itself. Additionally, it made the production side of PQ extremely hard to manage. Those who remember the last 6 PQ editions might believe Průmyslový palác (Exhibition Grounds’ Industrial Palace) to be an iconic venue or some kind of a PQ metaphor. In fact, the first PQ was held here only in 1983, the year of its 5th edition. The first 4 editions were based mainly in the EXPO 58 Pavilion – the pavilion of Czechoslovakia built for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. The Czechoslovak

exposition was awarded the gold medal and the pavilion was later dismantled and transferred to Výstaviště Praha (Prague Exhibition Grounds). The overall success of the Czechoslovak participation was also achieved thanks to theatre artists: this was where and when directors Alfréd Radok and Emil Radok together with stage designer Josef Svoboda tried out for the very first time their project of Laterna magica, a multimedia theatre combining pre-recorded film sequences with live action on stage. However, the building had almost no heating insulation; it was a steel structure with aluminium sheathing, which proved inadequate during the 3rd PQ edition held – unusually – in winter of 1975. In terms of its venue, PQ 1991, the first PQ edition after the fall of the Iron Curtain, stands out as truly extraordinary. It took place at Palác kultury (Palace of Culture), a communist megalomaniac structure from the 80s, which made the event unique with the enchanting panoramic views of Prague. Výstaviště (Prague Exhibition Grounds) were then reserved for the 100th anniversary of the Jubilee Exhibition.

Images: [This page] Decoration of the Entrance hall of the Brussels pavilion (PQ 1975); [Next page, left to right] Graphic design of the theatrical project La Campement depicting Industrial Palace as the symbol of PQ (PQ 1999); Industry Palace (PQ 2007). Photo: Luděk Neužil. All Images Courtesy of PQ Archive.

Simultaneously with Výstaviště (Prague Exhibition Grounds), PQ used other exhibition spaces in Prague. Until 1987, when the exhibition of Czech and Slovak stage designers formed an independent part of PQ, it was hosted by Valdštejnská jízdárna (Wallenstein Riding Hall), a sumptuous exhibition space of ONDŘEJ SVOBODA

9


10

ONDŘEJ SVOBODA


the National Gallery just below Prague Castle, and the year 1975 saw the first exhibition of stage design schools – which later became an integral part of PQ – held at ULUV (Centre of Folk Art Production) in the centre of Prague. Výstaviště Praha (Prague Exhibiton Grounds), the place where PQ returns after two editions spent in ‘exile’, have seen many distinctive figures of international theatre; Průmyslový palác (Industrial Palace) and its surroundings were alive with creativity and an artistic way of living, which went far beyond a common exhibition, with the 1999 and 2003 editions being probably the most remarkable. In 1999, a theatre village made of 5 likeminded theatre groups and called La Campement sprang up next to the palace. The three-week exhibition was enriched by theatre workshops and evening productions were followed by informal discussions that continued until small hours. Four years later, the central hall of Průmyslový palác (Industrial Palace) came alive with the project PQ Heart subtitled A Cardiac Arrest to the Conventional. Its main objective was to present theatre design in the context of live contemporary art, to enliven a stationary PQ, to give the audience more intense experience and to let the visitors participate in a live event. It was the very first big international project organized by PQ that was supported by the EU programme Culture, with the participation of over 300 artists from 25 different countries.

A structure with 5 towers was built in the central hall of Průmyslový palác (Industrial Palace), with each tower representing one of the human senses. The space served to host performances, workshops and events somewhere between theatre, dance, visual art, sound and light installations and interactive events. With the benefit of hindsight, the aforementioned event has had a bigger impact than it was believed at the time. PQ found a possible direction to follow, it moved from ‘mere’ presentation of stage design to research, experimenting, boldness and searching for new approaches. The following PQ editions thus had a firm ground to build upon, opening up to external impulses, going beyond the outdated narrow limits of theatre perception, and purposefully tearing down barriers separating theatre from real life. The PQ activities were rooted in theoretical suppositions arising from discussions, presentations and conferences held before and during each PQ edition, among them Intersection: Intimacy and Spectacle from 2011 with 30 boxes connected within a labyrinth charged with inspiration where micro productions and art installations took place on a daily basis, or Shared Space: Music Weather Politics from 2015, a project that took over the centre of Prague with its art interventions during the last PQ edition.

Built on the co-existence of three art generations embodied by the words Imagination, Transformation and Memory, the art concept of PQ 2019 by Markéta Fantová completed with a wide range of events planned for the upcoming edition speaks for itself: PQ 2019 is simply something not to be missed. See you at Výstaviště Praha (Prague Exhibition Grounds).

Ondřej Svoboda is the Deputy Director of the Theatre, Arts & Theatre Institute of the Czech Republic and editor of 50 Years of the Prague Quadrennial.

ONDŘEJ SVOBODA

11


PQ STUDIO: COMMON DESIGN PROJECT PREVIEW OF UK SCHOOLS SUBMITTING

PROJECTS FOR INCLUSION PATRICK DU WORS, CURATOR OF PQ STUDIO This Common Design Project is inspired by a previous PQ project, originally conceived by Pamela Howard, that had a major presence at PQ 2003 (A Lear for Our Time). For 2019, the Common Design Project will serve as the catalyst for a global discussion between students and educators as they explore and create designs for Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry. Design courses (whether undergraduate or postgraduate) have individually set the project within their existing teaching structures, creating local conversations not only about the text and approaches to its staging, but also the nature

Images: [Counter Clockwise from this page] Rose Bruford students review research materials; Model Box in progress at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (2 Images); Detail of sketch by Rose Bruford student. All images courtesy of course leaders. Other UK schools participating in the project include The University of Worcester, The London College of Fashion, and The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.

12

COMMON DESIGN PROJECT

of art, performance design/scenography, and theatre. These conversations will then expand onto an international platform, generating an exciting opportunity to showcase the next generation of performance designers. The selected projects will be invited to engage with other emerging artists, leading practitioners and PQ attendees over 3 days of moderated discussion examining the play and proposed designs. Over 50 international schools have registered participation and we look forward to reviewing the submissions and the exhibit of selected projects during PQ 2019!


DR SIMON DONGER COURSE LEADER MA/MFA SCENOGRAPHY THE ROYAL CENTRAL SCHOOL OF SPEECH AND DRAMA MFA Scenography students Aesol Jeong, Gillian Lambert and Tin Vlainic from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, are collaborating to develop a design of Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi. Their approach and design reflect upon issues of power and division historically embedded in their respective countries of origin: South Korea, Ireland and Croatia. As such, the project has been an opportunity to explore cross-cultural exchanges and dynamics via speculative scenographic situations comprising of costume, set, light and sound. Their design is anchored in the Roundhouse, a circular performance space that used to be a turntable engine shed and thus provides the dramaturgical ground for mobilizing cooperative synergies and differences between cultural markers and political borders.

HANSJÖRG SCHMIDT & NATASHA DODSWORTH PROJECT LEADERS ROSE BRUFORD COLLEGE Here at Rose Bruford we have put a small student team together to generate a design in response to the PQ Studio call for responses to Ubu Roi. The design development is very much led by the students, who are from the college’s Costume Production and Performance Sound BA programmes. We have been working since late October on this project and have come up with some very exciting ideas and concepts, using Grime music and culture as the main stimulus. So far the students have generated some initial concept drawings and have started to develop a sound score. We have particularly focused on environment, thinking about what impact the choice of performance space may have on both the design of the production and the role of the audience. The project connects into ongoing teaching on both programmes, and we are looking towards this project to help us with early ideas on rewriting the curriculum to reflect new directions and initiatives within performance in the UK and beyond. COMMON DESIGN PROJECT

13


WHY IS PQ SO IMPORTANT? MICHAEL SPENCER, COURSE LEADER, MA PERFORMANCE DESIGN & PRACTICE CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS, LONDON I have attended every PQ since 1995. Every four years the metaphorical rug has been pulled out from beneath me. My touchstones in relation to that which we all study and practice have been repeatedly shaken and sometimes permanently dismantled. An example from my first encounter will illustrate this. In 1995, whilst wandering past clusters of scale models and drawings from across the globe - mostly relating to dramatic texts - I was confronted by the Swedish professional exhibit. This consisted of what is best described as a children’s ‘ballpark’, the kind you might see in retail outlets such as IKEA, with thousands of plastic balls contained in a large Perspex tank. In this case the balls were bright yellow and bright blue, the irony of which was not lost on me. We were invited to mount some steps leading up to an opening in one of the Perspex walls, and dive in. “What’s that all about?” I thought at the time. In the following decades, as the move towards an immersive and participatory audience experience has slowly but steadily gathered pace, so as to become (already) almost ubiquitous in certain contexts, the answer is obvious. Shoot forward twenty years to PQ’15 where I encounter the Dutch professional exhibit, a simple statement in bold black capital letters on a white wall: WE’RE HERE TO DISMANTLE REALITY IN ORDER TO CREATE SPACE FOR THE IN-BETWEEN. The only other ‘exhibit’ in the space is a printing press, churning out cheaply manufactured free publications. I discover that these publications are produced daily and almost instantaneously document a series of interventions which the Dutch artists (Rotterdam-based collective ‘Platform Scenography’) have created outside, in the streets of Central Prague. The interventions include one in which a performer lies inert on the pavement of a busy thoroughfare, as 14

MICHAEL SPENCER

if dead, in order to document the reaction of those passing by. “What?” Given the current expansion of the agenda for scenography, including: relating to physical and psychological public space, interrogating the performativity of the everyday and, scrutinizing the validity of performance documentation - this simply feels like an articulation of where we are at. Scenography in itself now has agency. It can even change the world, as Estonian company No99 proved with their remarkable award-winning project at the same PQ. The company created a ‘spoof’ political party, which then became real…or as ‘real’ as contemporary politics gets anyway. I have no doubt that PQ’19 will once again force us to question our closely held belief systems with regard to what constitutes ‘Performance Design and Space’. Opening up the grounds behind the Industrial Palace where each country’s exhibits will be housed for an international site-specific festival is a bold move, and will inevitably question the parameters of site-specificity. In the ‘front garden’ (as it were) of the imposing palace is ‘Formations’, another new initiative which in this case investigates the intersection of architectural and scenographic space. I am lucky enough to have been selected to present a piece of my own work for this project. I’m reviving a piece I created for the large entrance atrium at Central Saint Martins ‘new’ building at Kings Cross a couple of years ago. The space will be manipulated so as to acknowledge the performance of the everyday, and of course my project owes a debt to Platform Scenography, whose ‘Between Realities’ is briefly described above. The ‘manipulation’ involves hundreds of chairs placed within the vast forecourt of the palace in order to signify an auditorium, and an implied performance space. Those approaching the palace are invited to

perform in a space which, even without my intervention, unconsciously encourages a particular demeanor or behavioral pattern, simply as a consequence of its spatial dynamic as an architectural structure. Performers (some students attending PQ’19) will be scheduled to undertake a series of actions which can be perceived either as reality or as choreographed performance. These ‘actions’ will collide with those of other, more clearly discernable performances occurring simultaneously as part of the ‘Formations’ program on that day. The ‘collision’ will also involve those crossing the space, who decide to perform…or not. Do you decide to watch or perform? Is watching, your performance? How does space promote/ discourage/ influence performance? These are some of the questions that the piece attempts to pose. It is meant to be playful, not profound. Questioning, not explaining. In this last intention, I believe it is the spirit of PQ. One more PQ innovation is worth a mention - ‘Fragments’, which identifies and celebrates the work of a single artist from each country by exhibiting their work. In this, PQ attempts to acknowledge our all-too-easily-forgotten heritage. That acknowledgement is in itself important but equally significant will be the perspective gained because the constantly shifting agendas within the discipline will be made transparent. The role of PQ is partly to act as a snap-shot of the global situation for our discipline. In terms of research material alone, ‘Fragments’ will be priceless. So far all the answers to my question, ‘why is PQ so important?’ might have come from any country in the world contributing to the event. There is one more answer that particularly relates to us here in the UK. The roots of PQ are in the practice that was previously known, in the UK at least, as Theatre Design, which became an identified discipline during the revolution of Modernism at the end of the nineteenth century. As with any art form, it has been subsequently shaped by the particular historical context within the various cultures in which it has developed. In the twentieth century, the experience of mainland Europe and the UK have been totally different - not


least due to the two cataclysmic wars which shaped that century. These wars were fought largely in mainland Europe - countries were occupied and in some cases, divided. The physical and psychological damage inflicted on so many people in central Europe (including the former country of Czechoslovakia) forced a questioning of the purpose of art and culture in a way which was not nearly so marked in our unconquered island nation. In addition, the written word became a dangerous tool with which to express opposition to the controlling governments in certain countries. In such circumstances, the image became a more subtle and subversive tool. These circumstances lead to a situation where both playwrights and designers moved away from a representational approach in the making of theatre. What I could call a European theatre sensibility, which was quite different from one in the UK still centered on the tradition of the word as conveyer of meaning, emerged over the second half of the twentieth century. It is no surprise then that the term postdramatic theatre (Lehmann: 1999) emerged from the chaos of post-war Germany. Therefore, for UK designers/ scenographers/ theatre artists, arguably still operating in the shadow of the primacy of the word as represented by Shakespeare to Shaw and on to Ayckbourn and Hare, PQ is even more important. This is not a critique of those great writers, but PQ gives us a wholly different (European) perspective, one which has been influencing

our own approach in the UK even before the arrival of Berliner Ensemble’s Mother Courage to the Palace Theatre London in 1956. Don’t even get me started on Brexit here. As we contemplate PQ’19, all we can really do is to expect the unexpected. For me, PQ has been the single most influential event on my practice and on my teaching - or what I think I should be teaching. It has exposed agendas that I would not otherwise even have considered to be relevant. It has had more impact than any show I have seen or read about, or any talk by any practitioner, or any of the projects I have created or to which I have contributed. PQ is our collective conscience. It troubles us, it nags us, and it nurtures us, all at the same time. PQ forces us to look at ourselves in a new way. Bring it on. For fifteen years Michael was responsible for leading what was the BA Theatre Design course at Central Saint Martins in London into an expanded field embracing the idea of the designer as auteur. He currently runs the MA Performance Design & Practice course. In 1991 he become the first person in the UK to receive an MA in Theatre Design, which became the catalyst for a teaching career alongside continuing professional practice. This practice, like his teaching, reflects the shift in the role of designer. Recent work includes: a site specific ‘Attempts On Her Life’ (Martin Crimp) featuring the simultaneous presentation of the

17 scenes in a disused gas facilities building in Colorado Springs, a devised solo performance triptych, Variation, Verification & Vindication and a performance within his own design for ‘The Anatomy of Integers & Permutations’ (Andrew and Jennifer Granville), a text based on a mathematical theory, performed at Princeton and Berkeley universities and most recently at a Math conference in Montreal, Canada. His practice provokes questions surrounding the definition of performance in works such as p e r f o r m 2 4 1 1 1 5, where people passing through a public space were given the option to perform through the intervention of 500 chairs suggesting a silent audience. In July 2016 he completed his most recent project Transformation Exchange, a residency in Granary Square, London N1 attempting to connect those regularly inhabiting a newly created public space to the rapid changes taking place around them. Michael has presented at USITT conferences, represented the UK at the OISTAT symposiums in Moscow and Riga, written various articles for the Society of British Theatre Designers journal, ‘Blue Pages’ and attended the last five Prague Quadrennials, co-curating the UK schools exhibit on three occasions and creating a unique series of student workshops.

Image: The Dutch National Exhibit at PQ 2015 photographed by Michael Spencer.

MICHAEL SPENCER

15


TRACES OF TISSUES AT PQ: INTERWEAVING COSTUME DESIGN, SOMATIC CHOREOGRAPHY AND SITE

SALLY E. DEAN & CHARLOTTE ØSTERGAARD, ARTISTS How does costume design and site choreograph and how does choreography design costume and site? Introduction: This article introduces the initial artistic research process behind the making of Traces of Tissues, a site-specific costumed piece premiering at the PQ Site Specific Performance Festival in 2019. The piece created by the international interdisciplinary collaborative duo BETWIXT integrates costume design, somatic choreography and site. Traces of Tissues, in its process, aims to challenge the roles as well as the hierarchies

Images: [This page] Performers Poh-Eng San, Kate Pyper, Robert Williams and costume designer Susan Marshall rehearsing at Goldsmith University. Photo by Charlotte.; [Opposite page top] Critical Costume 2018, performing costumographers Sally E Dean and Charlotte Østergaard, photo by Susan Marshall; [Opposite page middle, left to right] Charlotte rehearsing at Prague Exhibition Grounds (Výstavište Praha Holešovice). Photo by Sally; Performers Poh-Eng San and Robert Williams rehearsing at Goldsmith University. Photo by Sally. [Next page] Traces of Tissues sketch by Charlotte.

16

DEAN AND ØSTERGAARD

of the choreographer, costume designer and performer through embodying the places ‘inbetween’. At the same time, Traces of Tissues, is a performative dedication honoring displaced people of past and present who are also in an in-between place - but in this case trapped with no place to go. BETWIXT BETWIXT was founded in 2017 inspired from the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk (‘total work of art’) and costume design practices within the Bauhaus movement. Expanding upon this tradition, our collaborative intention is to transform the hierarchy of today’s


contemporary dance and theatre practices where costumes are typically created in absence of a moving body and movement is created in absence of a costume. We aim to reflect upon and create performances where the costume and choreographic material cocreate both the movement and the costume itself. How does the costume move/shape the body and how does the body move/shape the costume? In September 2018, BETWIXT performed a flash talk at Critical Costume Conference (Surrey, UK), wearing a connective tissue costume, designed by Charlotte, which joins two bodies together. Embodying our research process live, as ‘performing costumographers’ we aimed to challenge the current hierarchical structures in-between an inside perspective (the wearer) and an outside perspective (the viewer) and the assumed roles of performer, costume designer and choreographer. The connective tissue costume literally binds the choreographer and designer to each other - where one movement from Charlotte or Sally, creates a movement in the other. The material of the costume, a lycra web, creates a ‘push’ and ‘pull’ quality, activating interruptions in the other’s movement and a precariousness of balance - enmeshing each other in both the design and choreography. This in-between place, and the title of our collaborative meeting BETWIXT, transforms design into choreography and choreography into design, a liminal place where the material and immaterial may co-exist and work in the unknown territory before form emerges. Traces of Tissues: Traces of Tissues is a site-specific requiem for those living in the liminal space - a place inbetween. Currently there are 68.5 million people who are forcibly displaced worldwide. Interweaving the history of the PQ site, where 45,408 Prague Jews were held before being sent to concentration camps, with the present plight of the refugee - Traces of Tissues asks, how do we remember those who have no choice or place to go? We aim to weave these patterns of history into the patterns of the costume design and choreography- where the borders and boundaries of the costumes stuck to the site, create a trap and a place of no escape. Currently the costumes are developing from the connective tissue costume performed at the Critical Costume conference, but now attaches a body to site. Critical to our process was a visit to the PQ site in Prague in October 2018. Here we explored the contrast of the rough, industrial surroundings with hard sharp tall pillars and the geometry of the site with the small soft fragility of our own bodies. Our intention is for the costumes to be like bodies exposed - unwoven from the inside out - revealing trails of inner tissues. The choreography will be informed and created from the restrictions and connections initiated by the costume design and site. Playing with our roles between, choreographer, designer and performer, our next step was to move from our wearers’ perspective by being inside the costume to the viewers’ perspective by being outside the costume. We recently invited performers

with diverse artistic backgrounds, costume designers and musicians into our rehearsal process at Dance Research Studios and Goldsmiths University in London. Performers were invited into structured improvisations investigating the relationship between the costume, the site and their movement. We implemented choreographic ideas such as what happens when a group is in panic or under attack - do they join together or dissolve in chaos and conflict? This process unfolded interesting potentials which will be a part of our further development of Traces of Tissues. Reflections on our current process Currently we are in the ‘generate’ stage of our material. Some of our initial movement

and costumes sketches have raised important questions. For example, we have discovered that working with site is critical to the development of the work. We have attached the costumes to many different sites - from trees, to light poles, to pipes, to radiators, pillars, and more. The height of the attachment to the site dramatically affects the visual impact of the costume but also the choreographic material it generates. At too high of a location (above the head of the performer) the costume turns into more of a circus apparatus, visually appearing separate from the body. With a more horizontal attachment than vertical, the costume appears more merged with the site itself and the human ‘tissue’-like quality appears. Choreographically a high attachment leaning DEAN AND ØSTERGAARD

17


towards the vertical creates a ‘hanging’ quality to the movement, initiating a circus style balancing act as opposed to a ‘leaning’, ‘stretching’ and ‘restricting’ quality when attached at a more horizontal direction. Participating at PQ We are excited to share our collaboration and premier of Traces of Tissues at PQ along with our workshop called Embodied Costume Design: in-between real and imaginary spaces. PQ invites artists who are working ‘in-between fields’ like ourselves which we deeply value. The opportunity to participate in PQ’s international design platform, offers us the chance to challenge and reflect upon our own practices and processes, being inspired by and offering new perspectives on how theatre is made from around the world. We are looking forward to meeting new artists, colleagues and audiences, opening up the potential of design and design practices for the future. www.betwixtduo.com www.sallyedean.com www.charlotteostergaardcopenhagen.dk

POROUS CITY: VÝSTAVIŠTĚ PRAHA HOLEŠOVICE KATIE ETHERIDGE & SIMON PERSIGHETTI Having travelled on a pleasure boat along the River Vltava, Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti first encountered the Prague Exhibition Grounds on a sunny Sunday during PQ15. It struck them as an extraordinary site; a place of spectacularly varied and contradictory ambiences and architectures; a fading fun palace with signs of former occupations of state, military and commerce. This evidential multi-layering of place seemed to invite some kind creative encounter. Etheridge & Persighetti proposed the project, Porous City, to slip between the gaps of the fairground constructions and explore with others, the complex visible and invisible layers of the place. Tattoos and Portable Landscapes ‘To wander through a diverse terrain is to feel the surroundings pass through one’s body as the body passes through the surroundings…’ (Moore 1986: 57) At tourist hot spots in a city you may encounter an artist sketching in preparation for a painting to be completed in the calm of a studio. Or you might see an artist overtly stationed at easel and canvas generating a painterly record of time and place in order to transform the scale of place into a portable

18

ETHERIDGE AND PERSIGHETTI

landscape. Visit Prague as a tourist and you can return with the celebrated Charles Bridge in your luggage. Whilst first devising Porous City for Compass Festival in Leeds in 2011, we initially envisaged offering ourselves as blank canvases to be painted upon. Simon proposed standing shirtless in the street, whilst Katie painted a cityscape of Leeds on to his back, perhaps a perspectival view to the point of infinity. The fact that the Festival was being held in November, in the North of England contributed to the development of an alternative strategy in which we would keep clothes on and invite the public to be the portable, ambling canvases. In the end it was the use of photography and temporary tattoo that would act as solution and medium for the project. Porous City is an intimate, participative performance designed in the frame of our work that is concerned with the relationships between people and place. Operating as sitespecific tattooists and mis-guides, we will be inviting people to explore Prague Exhibition Grounds through a unique ‘lens’ as we transfer the textures, landmarks and viewpoints of the place on to participants hands in the form of temporary tattoos. Hands become canvases recording and re-presenting captured images of the site. Aligning themselves with these specific views around Výstaviště Praha Holešovice, participants become porous to place in a series of encounters that blur the edges between buildings and skin. As such Porous City is a design-led site-specific encounter that explores how the places we visit and get to know become part of our own mental and physical architecture. Visitors to the PQ19 Site-Specific Performance Festival are invited to become familiar with, and temporarily marked by part of the material fabric of the place they are passing through. As we start to focus in detail on the materiality of place, the texture and patina of the skin on people’s hands becomes as fascinating as that of the site. Weathered stone merges with the surface of palms where lifelines, marks and fingerprints all suggest a personal story.


Re-creative Walking We have a tried and tested methodology for Porous City that involves working intensively on site for a couple of days before the first performance. This includes time for exploration, observation, taking photos and tattoo making, as well as devising narratives and routes. Audiences choose from a selection of temporary tattoos depicting viewpoints and details of the site. For example, images might include the remnants of a modernist sculpture, the ‘Bohemia’ sign above a derelict restaurant, the circular Maroldovo Panorama building, a graffiti fragment, a fairground wheel, a tiny plant growing in the cracks of the tarmac. For PQ19 we are developing the form of the encounter towards a walking performance. After applying a tattoo to each participants’ hand, we will lead the group on a walk through the grounds to find the exact location of each image - the place where they become porous to the site. Re-photographing the tattoos in situ creates an uncanny sense of being able to see through the body to the fabric of time and place. These overlays and moments of porosity, offer places to pause and consider one of many layers of this extraordinarily complex site, to uncover narrative fragments inspired by the history, architecture, material evidence, dark times and every day eccentricities of Výstaviště Praha Holešovice. At its simplest we are interested in finding ways of experiencing the built environment in a creative or more specifically, a re-creative manner. The project is designed to be a poetic provocation and sensitising experience for participants, amplifying the relationship between the surfaces of a physical place and the skin of the human passing through that location. It is this sensory aspect to lived space that also echoes the perceptions of Walter Benjamin when he talks about walking as a means of writing the city. In this aspect of ludic city encounters, Cathy Turner writes: ‘…As we “read” the city, if we somehow attempt to play with, re-organise, repair the “fragments and part object” we encounter, we find ourselves, in a small way, re-making and transforming its material.’ PQ offers a unique arena in which to make these small transformations that can play a large part in discovering how connected we all feel with the places in which we live, work and play. etheridgepersighetti.com Moore, Robin, C. (1986) Childhood’s Domain, New Hampshire, USA: Croome Helm Ltd. Turner, Cathy (2004) “Palimpsest or Potential Space? Finding a Vocabulary for Site-Specific Performance.” New Theatre Quarterly, 4:20, 373-390 Images: From previous Porous City performances, both courtesy of the artist.

SOPHIE JUMP CURATOR OF PQ SITE SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL The Site Specific Performance Festival will showcase design-led, site-specific performances by new and established international artists and companies. Ranging from intimate or participatory experiences to large spectacles, the packed Festival schedule incorporates theatre, dance, performance art, storytelling, costume, sound, installation and new technologies from around the world. The Festival will take place outdoors in the Industrial Palace Exhibition Grounds, the adjoining Stromovka Park, and the city of Prague. Surrounding the Industrial Palace, the Exhibition Grounds consist of jumbled, aesthetically confused places where successive regimes have randomly placed buildings, structures or landscapes on top of one another to represent their view of leisure or culture. In contrast Stromovka Park, a former Royal hunting ground, is a beautifully manicured natural landscape; whilst performances in the city will take audiences from familiar to little-known locations. Each performance will encourage audiences to experience the complex, interlocking layers of the sites, visible and invisible, in thought-provoking, unusual and exciting ways. ETHERIDGE AND PERSIGHETTI

19


CREATIVITY IN DEFIANCE OF TYRANNY PROFESSOR PAMELA HOWARD, OBE Dark Times exist in every century, but things do change, even if they get repeated again and again. As Brecht wrote, ‘In the Dark Times, Will there also be singing?’ Until 1989, Prague was a very different place to the one we see today. Here in the former Federal Assembly Building, it is a place for deep reflection. History is always embedded within the Walls. In 1948 UNESCO established the International Theatre Institute with the aim of rebuilding cultural bridges in Europe. Each participating country had an ITI office, and several ‘Commissions‘ – including Critics, History and Theory, Architecture and Scenography. As Scenographers are by definition fraternal, and somewhat anarchic, the commission grew until it was declared an independent organisation in its own right known as OISTAT (Organisation Internationale des Scenographes, Techniciens,et Architectes Theatrales) often sharing offices with the ITI. OISTAT became the conduit for organising reciprocal meetings in the times when many people did not possess their own passports and had to apply to a Central Office to have them released. These OISTAT contacts became lifelong friendships, and in 1967, supported by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Culture, the first Prague Quadrennial of Stage design took place. In 1977, a British OISTAT delegation led by the late great theatre designer John Bury went to 20

PAMELA HOWARD

Riga, Latvia to celebrate World Theatre Day. There was a great international parade of OISTAT delegates in the street, and we carried aloft flags hastily made from National Theatre plastic carrier bags hoisted on sticks pulled off trees from the street. John at that time was President of OISTAT, a huge burly bear of a man who had worked in the provocative political Theatre Workshop in the East End of London as well as at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and finally as Head of Design at the newly formed National Theatre. I was 38. Midst the amazing melee of International OISTAT delegates, I met the Latvian Fine Art Painter/Scenographer Ilyas Blumberg (19432016). He gave me a signed lithograph and asked me to take it carefully to England and to show it to as many people as possible. It depicts a lake or river with sharp green shards reaching into an ominous dark sky, and a small moon. Falling from left to right is a huge naked bloated red headless figure, seemingly committing suicide, falling into the water. Its head is already floating in the water, and at the bottom of the image is a bright green swathe of what could be a peaceful green meadow. He told me that this was his prediction of the fall of the Soviet Union, and that I was to keep it rolled up and take it through Moscow airport as a personal signed gift, making sure, if asked, that I knew nothing about its provenance. And so I obediently did, and the iron-faced woman customs officer did not question a young British woman carrying

a roll of paper. In 1990 his prediction came true, for like so many paintings from earliest times, the image is a metaphor for the state of the nation. This picture lives with me to this day, framed on my wall. Its visual iconography says more than any words could say, and is the epitome of Art pouring through Iron Borders flying to Freedom. In 1993 I saw an exhibition in the theatre department at the National Museum, Prague of the work of František Zelenka. I knew a little bit about this multi-disciplinary personality, and had seen some of his architectural and graphic projects in Prague. I knew that this talented artist, film maker, member of the Czech DADA movement, and of the Liberated Theatre, had ended his days along with the many musicians, first in the concentration ‘show camp’ in Terezín, and finally in 1944 in the extermination camp in Auschwitz. What I did not know, and saw with a shock, were the recent discoveries of drawings, costumes, props and artefacts hidden in a suitcase and buried in the ground that had been unearthed during the re-building of the old barracks that housed the camp. I knew Zelenka was both the director and designer of the Children’s Opera Brundibár by Hans Krása? which is now performed all over the world. He was determined that as soon as the frightened children arrived at the camp, they would be put into costumes, and transported into another imaginary world. Sadly, as he


remarked, ‘there were many changes of cast.’ Zelenka was instrumental in directing and visually creating many classical plays in the Attic Theatre in Terezín, a rudimentary conversion from the former granary. These productions created under such difficult circumstances became the central focus for the incarcerated audiences. In the exhibition, curated by the Museum’s Theatre Department Director Vlasta Koubská, the costume for King Ahasuerus from the play Esther came to life once more. That deep hole made by modern construction workers, broke the borders of history. This costume improvised from torn sheets, a beautiful metal collar made from compressed food tins, linked together by bits of found wire, rising from the suitcase, is living history. The metaphor of the Story of Esther, the young Jewish woman who defied the tyranny of the King Ahasuerus has been a source of inspiration for many painters over the centuries, capturing the drama like a still from a film. Rembrandt’s depiction of three people round a table, Esther caught in a mysterious light, and Johannes Spilberg the Younger’s frozen theatrical moments still enthral gallery visitors. I was convinced that this exhibition should come to London to mark the opening of the European Scenography Centres, and with the help and support of Vlasta Koubská and the National Museum, money was raised in England in an amazingly short time. In September 1994 for the first SCENOFEST! The Lethaby Galleries in Central London put posters for this exhibition ‘Creativity in Defiance of Tyranny’ in the street. Visitors came into the Gallery and saw all the early work of Zelenka, including the architectural drawings, interior designs and the graphic and film works. The space was divided by a thin black torn gauze curtain that people had to walk through entering a dark underworld. In the dim light a spotlight shone on the suitcase, and the costume on a mannequin. On the walls were the discovered drawings including one of the young queen Esther who had been played by a young actress formerly from the Prague National Theatre. Walking down Southampton Row in Central London was an elderly woman. As she passed the building where the exhibition was, she saw to her shock the name of František Zelenka. Timidly she entered the building and found her way through the double doors to the gallery. She walked through the black curtain, and we heard a loud cry and alarmed – rushed to her aid. Her name was Zdenka Erlich and she was looking at a drawing of herself as the young Queen Esther. We sat her down, and she began to tell us her story. The Musicologist Christopher Cook was in the Gallery, and he immediately decided to organise some public seminars where Zdenka and another actress she told us about, Hannah Pravda, could tell their stories accompanied by the relevant music. Thus began a series of the first BBC broadcasts ‘Music from Terezín’. She recounted that although the camp had a barbed wire fence around it, there was one guard who secretly received playscripts from

an ‘outside’ actor, pulled them through a hole in the barbed wire and passed them to the Attic Theatre, where the imprisoned camp actors learned their parts from this one copy. This is a practical example of an actual hole in a barbed wire border, bringing joy and comfort to people in the worst of circumstances.

subject of serious academic research. Before her deportation to Auschwitz at the age of 26, she wrapped up her paintings in a brown paper parcel and left them in the care of the local doctor. On the outside of the parcel she wrote ‘Take Good Care of This. It is my whole Life. CS 1942 Villefranche-sur-Mer’.

When in 1942 the young Charlotte Salomon in exile in the South of France completed 1200 gouache paintings in 2 years of her former life as a child in Berlin, she had no idea that one day these paintings would be shown in major Art Galleries all over the world, and her art works that she compiled in the form of a ‘singspiel’ with text to accompany the drawings, would be published as a book, using her title Life or Theatre? – a Tri-Coloured Play with Music now available on the world-wide web. It was war time and she only had three colours, Red, Yellow and Blue. From these she made a myriad of colours. Charlotte was a playwright without a stage, a graphic novelist before such a thing existed, a young woman struggling to claim her voice and affirm her existence. Through painting, text and music she chronicled the inner life of a young woman coming of age during the rise of Nazism and under the shadow of family tragedies.

Miraculously her biographical masterpiece survived, and in 1947 was returned to her father and stepmother. This year is 100 years since the birth of Charlotte Salomon, and her work is now known all over the world. It crosses every borderline, needs no passport, and forcibly demonstrates the everlasting power of Art.

Life or Theatre? with its themes of art, love, feminism, identity and history powerfully resonates today. It has been adapted for stage and screen, transformed into opera, ballet, artwork, puppetry, animation and become the

In 1987, my much missed friend, the painter and scenographer, Jaroslav Malina and I walked slowly across the Charles Bridge. He had not yet been fully ‘rehabilitated’, but we ruminated on the state of Art and the importance of our meetings. I was the Course Director of Theatre Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and my aim was to create a lively cohort of diverse students from all over the world. Ultimately I hoped we might create a community of scenographers who would make work together ‘Make Art not War’ as the activist painter Bob and Roberta Smith declaim. Malina and I started to dream of one day creating a totally new educational scenographic programme. We began to realize that this was an imperative yet

PAMELA HOWARD

21


daunting mission. ‘Impossible ? ’ we thought, ‘but let’s try.’ Over the next seven years, the idea was discussed, developed, nearly abandoned but in 1994, after many hours of high-level negotiating with Ministries of Culture asking for support for its students, the European Scenography Centre’s 1-year (48-week) Masters Course opened its doors in London with the first SCENOFEST! London, Utrecht, Prague, Helsinki, and Barcelona came together with a formal agreement to have one joint curriculum, and a recognition of a Masters Degree in Scenography equally validated in each country, a first in any discipline. Each member would have its specialization: Prague for Music, Barcelona for Street Theatre, Utrecht for Contemporary Dance, Helsinki for Film, London for Shakespeare, and later Zurich for Space and Architecture. Students could choose a 3 months’ stay in any of the centres and then return to their start ‘home centre’. The international Faculty also rotated from Centre to Centre. Today, many of these former students are now leading the way in Opera Houses, Academic Institutions, National and Experimental theatres all over the world, opening doors for themselves and 22

PAMELA HOWARD

others, as International Art Warriors who know no borders when making Art. Crossing Borders is not just a one-off activity. There is always another hole waiting to be burst open. It is an attitude of mind. The Catalan/ Venezuelan performance artist Mariaelena Roque is expert at this. She regards her Art activity as social confrontation, whether it is through her music, performances or extreme costumes that cross all the borderlines. She describes herself as ‘a lonely warrior – a nomad’ and she is always joyful and excited at meeting up with fellow warriors and nomads. Many who attended her participation in Top Ten Talks at SCENOFEST! will remember the amazing sight and sound of the Venezuelan baritone Ivan Garcia singing an entire baroque opera alone on a stage wearing what appeared to be a glorious velvet devore period dress, but in fact was a skirt constructed from loudspeakers containing recordings of the chorus. Mariaelena says, ‘we will all go on until we end our wished for or fateful time, but it is a love story…’, and by this she means that it is a journey that anyone who is prepared to risk can take. But she is prepared, multiskilled and well equipped for the unknown. She shows that the journey through the

borderlines is more important than the end result. To just pass through a hole in a border is her mission in life. The Composer, Director, Sound and Visual Artist, Music theatre creator, and Educator Heiner Goebbels was another frequent guest at our SCENOFESTS! and at PQ and exemplified all the aspirations of the European Scenography Centres. His sound creations defy classification often beyond anything that could be imagined, and yet thrilling and approachable. He is a prime example of not allowing himself to be ‘put in a box’ and by clearly being in charge of his own creativity is free. Nothing is more restrictive than the tyrannous labels that either we put on ourselves, or more likely others put on us. Goebbels demonstrates the practice of a true interdisciplinary artist, yet one that is totally collaborative. Over the years he has presented his works in more than 50 countries – the validation of the power of music to travel and be appreciated and understood without barriers. Goebbels’s works are often a response to spaces not normally used for performances and sometimes uses architecture as part of


his performative installations. This connects with the late architect Zaha Hadid’s dry comment ‘There are 360 Degrees, so why stick to one?’ Her sculptural curving, swirling buildings defy convention, and bring to life her fluid drawings and sketches. Her works have often been controversial, some never realised, but that never stopped her defying, trying, charming and demonstrating through her drawings how the unknown can become the known. As I speak here, the world artist/sculptor, thinker, and political activist Ai Weiwei is showing his sculptural statement Law of the Journey in the large hall at the National Gallery in Prague, a building with its own dark history. Working on the power of multiples, his 70-meter long inflatable boat is filled with identical faceless oversized refugee figures, that echo the amazing ancient formations of the Chinese Terracotta Soldiers. Ai Weiwei speaks out because he uses his art as a platform to do so. His films and sculptures are so powerful they need no words. His statement ‘Nationality and Borders are barriers to our intelligence and imagination’ is not the traditional narrative title of an art work, but stays in the memory as a personal manifesto. Through the centuries we may wonder why people are so afraid of Art? In the 17th century in Britain, following the earlier antiCatholic declaration of 1558 during the reign of Elizabeth 1 , Oliver Cromwell ordered all remaining Roman Catholic images to be whitewashed out in pursuit of Purity… or the new race of ‘Puritans’. In 1952 in a period of unrest in America, Senator Joe McCarthy ordered the Trade Union frescoes painted by Diego Rivera, and commissioned in 1932 for Ford Motors inn Detroit, to be whitewashed out. Many years later, the Taliban whitewashed Ustad Mashall’s painting of 500 years of Afghanistan. Well known as a Persian style miniaturist, he decided to paint a large mural on the inner wall in the bazaar in Herat, but he included two images of historic Afghan women and was forced to flee for his life to New York. As history makes clear, Art can say more than words. There is one unique voice about whom there is much more to be said. The only scenographer from the Middle East ( Algeria ) ever to this day to penetrate the walls of a National Institution was the artist, thinker, teacher and poet, Abdl’Elkader Farrah who broke the bastions of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the 1970’s and transformed how the British thought Shakespeare should be presented. He died in December 2005 , but his memory lives on in all those who knew and worked with him, and especially our students whose visions were enhanced by his free thinking. The borders that are not seen are those that are imposed by one group onto another. And this is the Tyranny that Creativity has to fight. Abdel was a pioneer and a fighter, using charm and courtesy as his weapons of choice.

And what happened to that little girl in the photograph? She thought that pencils were flying darts, and when you threw them at a wall, they made a mark. It was war time and she only had three colours, red, yellow and blue, but she discovered how many colours can be made from so few. An only child surrounded by elderly argumentative adults, she learned very quickly to create an imaginary world through drawing. And she did a lot of dreaming… One day, she got some chalks and drew on an outside wall a huge picture of a circus she had heard about, but never seen. All the clowns were jumping out of the circus ring into the audience. Big Trouble followed, but despite the cold and windy weather of Northern England, that picture remained for many years. She is still throwing pencils at walls, hoping to make holes. ( This to be spoken as if a Military commander in charge of a Death Camp ) And my final word… because cooking and theatre making are partners. How to make a good fresh tomato soup: Buy a quantity of large fresh tomatoes… they should be good and solid looking and firm to the touch. In a large metal bowl, pour boiling water over them until their skins break. Leave for several hours. The skins will fall away, then with a very sharp knife cut them in half and cut their centres out leaving only the shell. Put the centres in a small pan and boil until unrecognisable. Take a large porous metal sieve and with a pestle push the centres through the holes, thus creating the base for the soup… …and that’s only the beginning!

Transcript of Keynote Address given by Pamela Howard at the Prageue Quadrennial 50th Anniversary Symposium Porous Borders: Prague October 12th 2017 Pamela Howard’s design work for Charlotte: A Tri-Colored Play and a copy of What Is Scenography? will represent the UK in Fragments at PQ, along with the work of Paul Brown, who will represent Wales.

Image: Original artwork by Pamela Howard used at her keynote speech.

KLÁRA ZIEGLEROVÁ CURATOR OF FRAGMENTS After the performance is over there are only fragments of design work left - models, drawings, costumes and objects – which become capsules filled with the essence of their time, are part of important memories, and help us understand the complex currents of here and now. Fragments recognizes and celebrates the achievements of “living legends” of design for performance, presenting one object showing the most iconic or breakthrough set, costume, lighting, projection or sound design by one of the most celebrated designers from each participating country or region whose work keeps inspiring new generations of artists and audiences. These designs are the essence of their environment and reflect the socio-political era, created by artists who are masters of their craft and have become a beacon of the profession for his/her life achievements. By placing these objects among the statuary of the National Museum Lapidary, PQ gives these visionary artist’s work recognition as treasured artifacts significant to the history and development of modern world culture. PAMELA HOWARD

23


OUR THEATRE OF THE WORLD TWO ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON PERFORMANCE SPACE

ANDREAS SKOURTIS “PERFORMANCE SPACE AS COLLECTIVE BIOGRAPHY”

In Chiliomodi, a small town close to Corinth in Greece. My place of birth. Theatriki Skini is a theatre group made by local people, none of whom are theatre professionals except myself and the director Christos Tsirtsis. It was formed at the very beginning of a long and hard financial crisis, by the need of people to make their dreams happen, to make theatre, no matter what. I have been the scenographer and the architect of the group from the very start. The Performance Architecture of Theatriki Skini includes two spaces, or, two buildings that are one ‘Performance Space’. An old warehouse is transformed to a temporary/ephemeral outdoors performance space, for one summer production each year. It lives every summer.

In addition to this, in 2015 a space in the centre of the town was re-designed to a smaller indoors theatre. It is now the ‘permanent home’ of the group and hosts smaller theatre productions in the winter. It lives throughout the year. The two performance spaces define, in many ways, the existence of the group. Without these spaces, the group would not be sustainable, or even exist. Performance space is an inseparable part of the group’s collective biography. The cultural landscape of the town has been transformed by the existence of the group, and by the transformation of the two buildings to performance spaces. In this video, I revisit both ‘theatres’ in February 2018, and invite members of Theatriki Skini for a gathering and reflective talk inside the small indoors theatre. How did they manage to make these spaces? What motivated them? How performance architecture and my involvement contributed in making their dream happen? How do they feel about their ‘performance space’? What architecture is ‘important’ – and what ‘architecture’ is ‘non-important’? See you in Prague in June 2019!

www.performingarchitectures.com

24

ANDREAS SKOURTIS


EMMA CHAPMAN AND LUCY OSBORNE “ROUNDABOUT” & “THE MIX” Roundabout is the world’s first flat-pack touring theatre and has been out on the road for five years, popping up all over the country from Edinburgh to Margate, Lincoln to Eccles. Roundabout was conceived by theatre company Paines Plough as a way of taking their work into new contexts and areas of the country without an established theatre infrastructure. It is a flexible tool with which to produce and perform powerful theatre across the country, but more than that Roundabout has become an opportunity for the communities it visits to participate and feed back into the work of the company in a truly profound way. Relationships with these partners have now been built up over several years, creating a deep sense of legacy as audiences grow and grow. As theatre practitioners we approached designing Roundabout in a way which felt familiar to us; researching and learning new methodologies, thinking in creative ways to come up with inventive solutions to the brief, and above all collaborating with craftspeople, engineers and experts, some of whom have become lifelong friends. We designed

Roundabout in association with Howard Eaton Lighting Ltd, Charcoalblue and Factory Settings; all invaluable collaborators who gave their time and immense knowledge with endless generosity and enthusiasm.

founded studio three sixty° to design and build more pop-up structures using the ideas, technology and working relationships that had created Roundabout – we didn’t want the adventure to stop!

If the financial modelling was to work out, Roundabout needed to be erected by as few people as possible in a short amount of time. It seats 168 people in the round and can be erected in less than two days by just six people, only one of whom needs to know how the space fits together. It does not require any specialist tools or skills in order to be assembled, apart from a single Allen key. It seemed a conventional rig which needed to be rigged and focused in each different location would rob us of valuable time. Instead we developed a ‘plug and play’ system, with lighting panels installed in the ceiling containing 627 LED fixtures which are pre-focused, eliminating the need for any rigging or focusing onsite. Roundabout won The Stage Awards “Theatre Building of the Year” for its technical innovation.

Our next project was The Mix, a flexible festival performance venue which is twice the size of Roundabout at 22 metres in diameter, and also incorporates front of house and backstage areas. The Mix launched at the Wilderness Festival in 2016 and has gone onto appear at festivals and corporate events across the country.

Following the launch of Roundabout, we

At the heart of The Mix is an intimate and versatile performance and event space which can support a range of activities. We looked to combine beauty, form and a sense of place, putting the relationship between audience and artist at the heart of the room. We had many conversations with practitioners and producers to build up a picture of what they might want from The Mix, and what would excite them in a temporary venue. We were surprised by the number of requests for an end-on format, so although the footprint CHAPMAN & OSBORNE

25


We are delighted to be able to share our work as part of the Prague Quaddrennial in 2019. www.studiothreesixty.uk

ABOUT THE OUR THEATRE OF THE WORLD PERFORMANCE SPACE ARCHITECTURE EXHIBITION space and articulate the edges when it is an empty stage. We are often reminded of Tom Piper speaking about the Soho Theatre and their choice when they were developing the main theatre space to leave the square columns in order to give artists something to push against!

of the venue is circular we have extra scenic depth at one end of the room which gives more possibilities for creating shows in a traditional format. But we also wanted to create a room which is truly flexible and would work well in traverse, thrust, round and any other more unconventional formats a production might choose.  We wanted this to be a space open to all possibilities and the circular geometry gives us a purity which places the emphasis of the room in the centre.   Like Roundabout we wanted The Mix to be a great space with or without any scenery, and we chose to leave some supporting columns in the stage area because we felt it might be useful to have some structure to frame the 26

CHAPMAN & OSBORNE

Throughout the process of designing Roundabout and The Mix, we have been very conscious of the precedents set by other companies who have set out in the past to build a successful mobile auditorium. Particular reference points were the Royal Exchange module which toured during the 1990s and the RSC touring auditorium. We also looked at the Century Theatre which embarked on its first tour in 1952 and was featured in a fascinating Sightline article in 2017. What all these touring structures have in common is the excitement and impact they generate when they arrive in town. How many people had their first experience of theatre because of this kind of far-reaching work? In the last year studio three sixty° has worked with Complicite to create a touring library and Root Experience to build an interactive exhibition around the theme of “Hidden Stories”. We are currently under commission from Wise Children to design “ the perfect” mobile rehearsal room – a TUK TUK or Temporary Utopia Kit.

The architecture of spaces created specifically for the performing arts is no longer the effort of a single architect or a single country, with the most interesting work often being created by International teams collaborating across borders. The Our Theatre of the World Performance Space Architecture Exhibition showcases a wide variety of work, including spaces created even in hard to reach areas, temporary structures, and major national projects. Buildings and spaces that are brought to life by performance are complex organisms fusing together the very heartbeat of our humanity, theatre traditions and newest trends in architecture and technology. To keep a beating healthy heart inside these new spaces, the dialogue between performance art professionals, performance designers and architects is essential. To be both as democratic as possible and embrace the collaborative nature of the work, each submission takes the form of a 5-minute video and include a dialogue between the space creators (architect) and the performance designer/s or performers using the space.

Images: [Previous Page] Theatriki Skini Chiliomodiou, All photos by Michalis Andrianos – © Performing Architectures, Andreas Skourtis [Left and Above] Interior and Exterior View of The Mix, Photos by Simon Kennedy; [Beneath] Interior View of Roundabout, Photo by Paul Zanre


VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM TO LAUNCH NEW FILM As part of the Creative Europe funded project ‘Emergence: From Shared Experience to New Creativity. Living Heritage/Reframing Memory’, the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance are making a scenographic film that explores and celebrates the porous borders that exist within and between artistic communities. Using the Edinburgh International Festival as its launching pad, the film examines the continued desire and determination for cross pollination within the arts against a pre-Brexit backdrop. It will go on display as part of the Emergence Exhibition at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (06-16 June 2019).

Images: [Top and Bottom] Crew capture multiple perspectives on a single space/ location – from ground level to roof top. [Central] A a still of Summerhall utilising the multiple perspectives technique. It shows onside the courtyard as well as its view of Arthur’s seat - a real location within its setting and context but an impossibility from a single vantage point. Courtesy of the V&A

V&A

27


THE CIRCUIT – A MOVEMENT SCENARIO MOI TRAN, ARTIST

A refugee of the Vietnam War, my work examines the effects of Dis/placement, in an ever-evolving negotiation I call the ‘Eternal detour of identity’, exploring identities as transient and yielding to the imprint of experience. Through research, live performance, text, object making, installation and video my work addresses experiences of hostile environments in the ‘everyday’ situation as conduit for personal, social and political events. I explore how these events can directly affect daily experience on the role of identifying and how this knowledge making can inform alternative solidarities outside of the status quo. I am interested in confronting the deeper psychological and social issues that such environments create e.g negative appropriation, identity anxiety, displaced social relationships within community structures and lack of sites of appearance for the South East Asian diaspora in their settled land and homelands. Diasporas are continuously reckoning what Vijay Agnew in his book Diaspora, Memory, Identity : A search for a Home argues as a double relationship, a duality of belonging in geography of mind and identity, of present connections and space and continuing attachment to origin, of being here and there simultaneously. I connect the use of referencing of a double or dual place to Trinh Thi Minh Ha’s theory of a double bind in the disapora, a double consciousness that acknowledges current existence and earlier existence elsewhere through inherited cultural memories, the feudal, social and familial structures that permeate the psyche of old to new generations. I believe positive visibility equals empowerment and I consciously create work that uses the collective experience to philosophically reflect on these contemporary matters. Over the past few years my work has explored social collective experience in the form of Live Art performances as a means of soft protest against hostile stereotypes and environments with a focus on creating a space and visibility for women of the disapora. Sophie Nield in her essay “On the Border of Theatrical Space: Appearance, Dis-location and the production of the Refugee” invites us to assess our attempts to understand the world we live in and our encounters with the people who appear and disappear in it. Nield describes the event as performative and political, so fundamental that she suggests we use the theatrical to construct spaces to enable the appearance of ‘the people’. In The Human Condition Hannah Arendt explains the power and potential in spaces

28

MOI TRAN


of appearance predating and preceding all constitutions of the public realm and various forms of government familiar to the public landscape we know today. ‘ The ordinary is a circuit, that is always tuned into some little something somewhere. A mode of attending to the possible and the threatening, it amasses the resonance in things. It flows through clichés of the self, agency, home, life. It pops up in a dream. Or shows up in the middle of a derailment. Or in a simple pleasure. It can take off it flights of fancy or go limp, tired, done for now. It can pool up in little worlds of identity and desire. It can draw up danger. Or it can dissipate, leaving you standing’ I conceptualised The Circuit- A Movement Scenario as an improvised, durational movement piece, presented by six dancers and a live score. Coloured floor tape is used to demarcate a six-lane track varying in size and in response to location. The circuitous track speaks to commonplace, everyday rituals and behaviours that tend to be overlooked. All the dancers are female and East- Asian ethnicity. As they step onto the track in unison, they commit to the act of journey and movement within their chosen lane for the duration of the piece. It is a significant gesture that The CircuitA Movement Scenario will be presented at the PQ2019, in Prague and in a public space. I believe it will comment directly on the situation of marginalised diasporic groups throughout the ex Eastern Bloc and the political reasons this has become their destination, particularly of Vietnamese migrants who are arriving in the city. The motif of the track and walking is a direct comment on the journey of migration. While the walking movement of The Circuit is minimal, the piece is decidedly cerebral. There are times when the world is able to become very small and at others when it expands to a dimension that is unfathomable, challenging the idea of locality no longer exclusively of geographical locality but locality of the self. As an ideological practice ‘walking’ is a state in which the mind, body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts. The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm for thinking, and the passage through landscapes echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between the internal and the external passage, one that suggest that the mind is

also a landscape of sorts and walking is one way to traverse it. The Circuit explores a form of ‘soft activism’, using improvisation and duration as tools to investigate alternative ideas of protest that celebrate the accumulative power of protest as the women venture forth using their mere presence to contemplate issues of origin, gender, intimacy, visibility and common-ism and resistance. Crucially, this is not a performance, transaction or surrender to the modern demands of spectacle. It is an exercise exploring how the seemingly mundane can transform a functional action into creative expression through repetition and purpose. The arc of movement develops over time and glitches surface amidst the routines, gaining momentum; these glitches fragment the pedestrian act of walking - imbuing the atmosphere with charged energies that wax and wane as the women traverse the Circuit. Open and intimate, The Circuit manifests a viewing experience of physical and psychological intensity. It encourages the dissolution of borders and an immersive union of artists and viewers - from which the latter can engage, or disengage and re-engage, at any point.

Agnew Vijay (2005) Diaspora, Memory and Identity: A Search for Home. Pp70 University of Toronto Press. Canada.

1

2 Trinh Thi Minh Ha (2009) First published 1989. ‘Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism’ .pp 34 .Indiana University Press. USA

Nield Sophie (2006) ‘ On the Border of Theatrical Space: Appearance, Dis-location and the production of the Refugee: In Contemporary Theatres in Europe: A Critical Companion’ pp6172. Edited by Joe Kelleher and Nicholas Ridout,. Routledge New York London

3

Arendt ,Hannah (1958) The Human Condition . pp199 University Press Chicago Press. Chicago. 4

Stewart Kathleen (2007) Ordinary Effects pp56 Duke University Press.

5

6 Gros Ferderic (2014) The Philosophy of Walking pp87 Verso Books.

Image: Photo of a previous performance, Courtesy of the Artist.

Central to the piece is the question: what defines an East Asian woman in a contemporary context, noting the Asian diaspora has caused a melding of cultures in places across the globe? The piece also stems from a desire to situate oneself within the contemporary, while addressing historical undertones of war, colonisation, immigration, stereotyping and tensions. The artist and dancers hail from diverse backgrounds and cultures within East Asia, yet are geographically considered to be from the same continent. Where, then, does the notion of locality begin and end? With globalisation and assimilation, historical strata and layers of cultural confluence already embedded in these female identities? The definition of ‘local’ can thus move from demarcating geography, to describing the self by reclaiming ‘local’ as an establishment of common identity.

D. CHASE ANGIER AND SERGE VAN ARX, CURATORS OF FORMATIONS A project for choreographers, movement directors, and designers who work with them, Formations is an architecture movement experiment investigating the impact of movement, structures, and patterns in performance and everyday life through timebased performative actions that will ripple and interact with each other across an urban landscape.

As such, The Circuit offers the proposition of reclaiming identity and operating within a space of alternative solidarities, acknowledging different positions as a potential solution to friction and conflict that arises in scenarios of un-decided affiliation to multiple cultures.

MOI TRAN

29


ADVANCING THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE SHANNON HARVEY HEAD OF RESEARCH, PRODUCTION PARK SENIOR LECTURER, BACKSTAGE ACADEMY Advances in creative practice are in a new era of renaissance as technology and art collide creating illusion and dynamic landscape. New technologies are transporting an audience intoa deeper engagement with the story and expectation for the production. Our observation is the challenge new technology has on shaping the creative workflow process. There is creative workflow revolution in live events appearing where the technology is becoming more transparent and reactive, like a transition from symphonic to jazz. This poses a unique challenge in educating everyone involved to understand the impact of technology on the creative process, incorporating new design thinking and workflow development into their practice.

Image: Blue Hour Concpet Render by Romain Tardy. Courtesy of PQ

30

SHANNON HARVEY

Production Park is a destination. A creative cluster of companies in Yorkshire. A place where live events, concert tours and experiences can thrive; where a thriving iconic and influential British industry can call on for services, facilities, and support. The heart of the park lies in three key areas. Creating (Brilliant), Supporting (LS Live) and Educating (Backstage Academy). Brilliant has a pedigree of creating some of the most iconic productions of the last three decades from Beyonce, U2, Robbie Williams and Take That. Built from a merging of Brilliant Stages, Perry Scenic and Lightstructures the company has evolved into the largest fabrication facility for custom scenic and touring structures in Europe. Its team of engineers, designers, and fabricators are world leading in automation,

tourability, structural design and integration. LS Live is synonymous with supplying staging rental and spaces including one of the largest studios in Europe - Studio 1 with its 1600 m 2 footprint, 130 ton roof capacity and 11KVA power substation. Backstage Academy runs a three-year BA(Hons) degree courses validated by University of Bolton. The courses, Live Events Production, Live Visual Design & Production and Stage Management focus on practical training and employability for the future generation of Live Events professionals. Recently, Production Park has begun a journey to formalize our research and development with the establishment of a Research Department looking into new areas of development and the digital revolution in Live Events technologies and processes. As part of this development, we are at the forefront of immersive technology, simulation, robotics and automation, manufacturing processes and management and IOT and machine learning applications into the industry. As these technologies arise we see an importance, working in parallel with technical advances, to share knowledge and understanding on processes and advance production efficiencies and workflows to increase spectacle while mitigating risk and providing greater efficiency. For the Prague Quadrennial we are bringing the expertise into practice on two productions and involved with a panel discussion where


we aim to discuss the educational shifts which are involved as production become increasingly technically advanced. First, as a collaboration between Backstage Academy and the University of Iowa, we will be presenting Media Clown. A PQ Festival performance which will explore the classic cinema clown in an immersive production exploring the relationship between the clown, audience and technology. We are also involved as the systems integration curators for 36Qo where we will be exploring immersive technology integration in theatrical performance working with range of technical and creative collaborations. Our aims for the Quadrennial are the engage the community of scenography in a dialogue on the future of our medium and the evolution of technology and creative practice.

ROMAIN TARDY, PROJECT LEADER 36Qo BLUE HOUR INSTALLATION PROJECT LEADER An experimental, interactive environment that fills the entire space of the Industrial Palace Sports Arena will welcome visitors on 8 June and remain open until the end of PQ 2019. The project, based on intensive team work that brings together experienced artists with emerging designers to collaboratively create, will be led by renowned French visual new media artist Romain Tardy. The curatorial team seeks to experiment with the shifting boundaries between the “non-material” or “virtual” and the “real” world, to explore the capacity of performance design to enlist technology in cultural production. “As a visual artist working mostly on sitespecific projects — often on a large scale, involving architecture — light has become my medium of choice. Whether it comes from a moving head or through the lens of a video projector, I realised light could create a dialogue between the tangible and the immaterial, between the permanent and the ephemeral, between past and present, or even between humans and other forms of life. Light has this capacity to reveal what is hidden, to modify our perception of reality,

to create new worlds: light seems to be made of time and space. From another angle, if light is one of the conditions for life to exist on our planet, it’s also our main connection to the world through vision, and before any other sense: light is a universal connector. For Blue Hour, I tried to reverse the approach of applying light to some existing object or support: what if, for once, light could be used as a construction material? This immersive environment is conceived as an experimental playground for light: all the elements which compose the installation are actively used for lighting purposes: as a source or as a receiver. The audience is invited to become immersed in this multi-layered global light and sound installation— which works almost like a living organism, with its many different cycles and sub-cycles. Blue Hour is a show with no stage, where the visitors are also the actors: by exploring this environment, they contribute to one of those many cycles: the beauty of an ephemeral passage through light beams, changing the space just for a few seconds, following a path which couldn’t be predicted.

SHANNON HARVEY

31


32

STAGING PLACES


STAGING PLACES

33


34


Deadline Extended to 17 February 2019

35


36


OISTAT UPDATES NEW OISTAT CHAIRS After the election held on November 29 at the commission annual meeting in Vienna, Austria, Gabriele Högg(Germany) was elected as the new Chair of Technology Commission, Loren Schreiber (USA) and Laura van Haperen (the Netherlands) the Vice Chairs. After the election held on August 30 at the commission annual meeting in Cardiff, Hubert Eckart(Germany) was elected as the new Chair of Publication & Communication Commission, Cyril Lamy(France) the Vice Chair. There is now an open call for candidates for the chair of the Performance Design Comission, Costume Design Sub-Comission, and the Lighting Design Sub-Comission. More information can be found on the OISTAT website www.oistat.org

2019 Events 10 JUNE, PRAGUE (CZ): Soud Design Sub-Commission Meeting 13 JUNE, PRAGUE (CZ): OISTAT Business Meeting & Member Forum 14- 15 JUNE, PRAGUE (CZ): Performanc Design Commission Meeting & Election Costume Design Sub-Comission Meeting & Election

OISTAT@50 OISTAT celebrated its 50th anniversary on 28 August – 2 September 2018 at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff, Wales, UK. Over 150 theatre-makers from over 25 countries around the world gathered at the campus of RWCMD to celebrate fifty years of international knowledge and cultural exchange over the performance landscape.

Lighting Design Sub-Commission Meeting & Election Space Design Sub-Commission Meeting 17-20 JUNE, BERLING (DE) Education Comission Meeting Publication & Communication Comission Meeting

Image: Members toast OISTAT’s 50th anniversary at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. Photo by Flor Dias

OISTAT

37


MAGIC BULLETS AND SOULS FOR SALE AN ENGLISH-SPEAKING DESIGN TEAM BOLDLY REIMAGINES A GERMAN OPERA FAVORITE IN VIENNA.

DAVID BARBOUR EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LIGHTING&SOUND AMERICA Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz is not well-known in the US, even among opera fans, thanks to a paucity of productions here; it is, however, a favorite in Germany, making all the more intriguing Christian Räth’s highconcept production, which opened at the Vienna State Opera in June. It proved to be controversial with reviewers—in a sure sign of its innovative quality, there were audience protests on opening night—but it offers a visually alluring take on a piece that, staged straightforwardly, runs the risk of seeming quaintly folkloric. Working with an Englishspeaking design team, Räth reinvented a beloved work—making the central character’s dilemma more relevant for today’s audiences and delivering a production filled with visual provocations. The title of Der Freischütz translates, roughly, as ‘The Marksman’ and its action, which contains echoes of Goethe’s Faust, focuses on the timeless conventions of village life. Johann Friedrich Kind’s libretto, based on a German folk legend, focuses on Max, a young forester in Bohemia at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. Max loves Agathe and hopes to replace her father, Cuno, in the head forester job. To earn both these prizes, he must win a marksmen’s competition—which is bad news, as Max has suddenly lost the ability to hit his targets. Caspar, a tragic local figure who is about to lose his soul to the devil, thanks to a deal made many years earlier, schemes to win more time on earth by persuading Max to cast a set of magic bullets that will guarantee his success—an arrangement that would 38

DAVID BARBOUR

also doom his soul. Meeting with Caspar meet in the nearby Wolf’s Glen—a wild and strange forest location—for the casting of the bullets, Max demurs until Samiel, aka The Black Huntsman—a Satanic figure—appears, quelling Max’s fears by conjuring up a vision of Agathe killing herself if he loses the shooting match. Max nevertheless demands to use his own bullets, but Caspar switches them, leaving Max open to being claimed by Samiel when he shoots on the morrow. In Räth’s production, this sequence of events was transformed, and a new interpretation was layered onto the action of the libretto. “Establishing the visual world of the performance was a challenge,” says production designer Gary McCann. “There’s no obvious depth to the simple folk tale that the narrative hinges on.” Instead, the director and designer reenvisioned the story in terms of a struggling, blocked artist. “Christian and I came up with a theatrical dreamscape—in which we reveal to the audience the workings of a man’s imagination,” McCann says. In their version, “Max is a musician and composer, a troubled young man who is excluded from society and prone to seduction by malevolent characters. This initial idea evolved into the thought that Max is Weber himself, whom we see during the performance as actively involved in the construction of the opera we are watching. In effect, we have two layers of narrative unfolding simultaneously.”


MICHAEL SPENCER

39


(McCann, who is new to these pages, was born in Northern Ireland and is now based in Sussex, England and Berlin. His recent credits include La Clemenza di Tito at Opéra de Lausanne, a UK/international tour of the musical Saturday Night Fever, Ariadne auf Naxos and The Flying Dutchman with the Nederlandse Reisopera, The Golden Cockerel at Santa Fe Opera, and Folly!, a pair of installations, commissioned by the UK’s National Trust, at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. He is currently preparing designs for Anna Bolena, which will travel from Switzerland to Belgium and then on to Oman and Spain.) “To me, the metanarrative we developed really makes a lot of sense in the context of the time the opera was originally presented,” McCann continues. “If you look at the core ideology behind German Romanticism, time and again you come across the idea of an artist delving into the depths of his unconscious in order to explore the darkest aspects of his soul. The exciting aspect of this concept is how it unlocked our own sense of creativity and freedom in building the Freischütz world.” Indeed, the production provides many bizarre and captivating images suggestive of psychological dislocation and spiritual torment. With the notion of Max as Weber in place, McCann came up with a scenic concept that merges the opera’s sylvan settings with the concept of a opera-within-an-

opera, complete with an onstage audience of decayed Viennese gentry. The basic set design is represented by a cage-like series of leaded windows that seem to extend into infinity as they move upstage. “It’s almost like a holodeck,” the designer says, referring to the virtual reality environment seen on Star Trek. “It’s a void-like black tunnel into which characters and scenic elements, including rows of old theatre seats and dense clusters of pine trees arrive magically, sliding or rising into view.” From the beginning, notes McCann, who also designed the costumes, the metatheatrical elements are in place: “We see Weber as Max, at the piano, composing the overture; he wrestles with various musical motifs, laying pages of musical scores on the floor or tearing them up.” The piano becomes a visual leitmotif that appears in different contexts as the performance unfolds. “We have a rotting red front cloth, made of 50m-wide velvet and painted to look like it was covered in moss. At the end of the overture, a gunshot is heard, and the chorus is revealed behind it. This scene, notionally set in the village, features choral music which has a mocking, satirical element. Rather than being a critical village society watching a gun competition, the cast are presented as a theatre audience clothed in decrepit suits and evening gowns, in a style which fuses contemporary and 19th century elements. Their dress is deliberately animalistic, with fur, leather, and feathers. Another important part of our cast are extras wearing realistic bird masks, like the seven crows which haunt Max, representing the darkest manifestations of his psyche. His muse is a white dove, who is killed and subsequently revealed covered in blood.” Overall, McCann says, “The set operates as a giant display cabinet, in which one would house a trophy. It’s a space in which the characters feel suffocated by strict social conventions. Agathe’s cottage is defined by another glass wall that flies in; beyond this, you see a vista of theatre seats and pine trees. Max also has glass boxes, containing a stuffed crow and dove, on top of his piano.” McCann notes that the set is built of Perspex with timber framing. “We spent much time getting the paint finish right; it had to be sprayed in a particular way for the lighting [by Thomas Hase] to get through. The portals, which frame the fronts of the sidewalls, are opaque; the timber is painted with a silvery metallic finish. “The greatest challenge in presenting Der Freischütz is the famous Wolf’s Glen scene— the moment Max and Caspar commune with the Devil and create seven magical bullets which will unfailingly hit their target. The libretto goes into great detail about the many strange visions revealed to Max during the ritual—a giant owl with glowing eyes, a flaming chariot in the sky, and so on. Christian and I had little interest in presenting

40

DAVID BARBOUR


what was proposed here. Instead, we start off the sequence in an infinite black corridor; it’s the first time the space is empty and it is extended by Nina [Dunn, the projection designer; more about this in a minute]. Our concept is that, going into the Wolf’s Glen, we are really going into the most tormented depths of our composer’s imagination. Rather than throwing a huge forest set at the stage, we strip it bare, making it oppressively empty. Then we introduce all sorts of things—pieces of the floor move mysteriously and whole sections of the set have offstage twins which slide on and off, carrying people, trees, and theatre seats. It climaxes with the piano coming onstage and bursting into flames; it is the crucible for the magic bullets, and the characters throw pieces of the score into the fire. Samiel is lowered, upside down, from the ceiling; this ends the first act.” Nina Dunn, the production’s projection designer, worked with McCann to extend and expand upon his stage imagery. “I am very interested in forced perspective,” McCann says. “You can see numerous examples of it in my designs. This, however, was one of the more extreme examples. The set is 16m deep, with an extreme rake. It was an interesting challenge to explore the use of front and rear projection to such a strong degree. The upstage screen became a blank canvas for lighting and projections.” “All my work comes from what the design is,” she says. “Gary created this magic box, and the idea was that, throughout the opera, we would be blurring the boundaries between reality and unreality. It could open up to become a forest, a tunnel, or, perhaps, just tricks of one’s mind.” (Dunn, who also makes her debut in these pages, is also UK-based, with credits that include Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, at Chichester Festival Theatre; the musical Miss Littlewood, at Royal Shakespeare Company; another musical, The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, at Theatr Clwyd in Flintshire, Wales; and a live artwork, Dynamic Shift, at the Barbican in London.) Arguably, the most show-stopping of Dunn’s images are those that seemingly extend McCann’s design to astonishing depths. So seamless is the match-up between scenery and imagery that, at the time, the result fooled everyone. “At one point,” Dunn says, “Thomas [Hase] was scratching his head, and he’s normally very calm. I said, ‘Are you all right?’” He said, ‘I can’t light those trees upstage’—and it was because he was trying to light my projections. At one point, I didn’t even recognize where the set ended, and the projection began.” The task was harder than it looks: “I had to bring in versions in different colors and intensities” to match the set under a variety of lighting looks, and to ensure a perfect blend of design elements. Also, she says, “There’s a series of lateral set moves, and my images have to move as well.”

One major challenge, Dunn notes, involved “moments where I needed to replicate an effect that I was producing onstage on the virtual set on the BP. The most obvious of these were a whirlpool effect, a lighting strobe, and, of course, the fire.” The latter effect covers the stage during the burningpiano sequence in the Wolf’s Glen sequence. “For this, I had to have a fair idea of how it would read, and it was a good test of my storyboarding and previz methods. I choose previz methods according to the project; for this, I opted for my basic version of mocking everything up in After Effects, using virtual lights, 3D planes, and transfer modes. For the effects described above, I would create the effect for the stage, then place it on my virtual set in After Effects, adjust the virtual lighting, set the transfer modes, then render two versions—one with the set in the picture and one without. Then the timing offset and scaling would happen in programming, to ensure the effect looked like it was going from downstage to far—virtual—upstage.” Fortunately, Dunn adds, “Gary is very collaborative; he knew instinctively what materials would and wouldn’t take my projections. We were also quite lucky because Vienna State Opera has upgraded its projection equipment. We have two 30K Christie projectors, and, because of the set’s forced perspective, the upstage screen is quite small. We only had the two units to do the whole thing.” Delivering the images is a DAVID BARBOUR

41


42

DAVID BARBOUR


QLab media server. “Last time I worked there, they had a proprietary media server they had created themselves,” Dunn says, adding, with amusement, “They heard me moaning about it, and allowed me to use QLab. It’s a simple server but it let me have a direct access to my palette. Color is very important to me, and I refine it until the cows come home. My dad is color-blind, and they say that if you have a color-blind parent, there’s the chance that you are hyper-color-sensitive.” Here, here attention to color made for a remarkably unified look. Dunn says she worked closely with Hase to coordinate their effects: “I spent most of my time responding in a very detailed way to his lighting. Sometimes if the tea break was called at the wrong time or the working light came on while I was balancing a series of cues, I was forced to go back to the start of the scene to allow my eyes to adjust to what I was doing again and restart the process.” Lighting Hase’s lighting works a variety of looks from icy white washes to deeply saturated reds, that carve the singers out of the darkness, aided by starkly dimensional sidelight. He notes that he worked to make the house lighting rig work with the complicated combination of scenery and projections. Gear chosen for this production includes eight 4K HMI ARRI Fresnels fitted with dimmers and scrollers, two GAM Inno Four followspots fitted out with ETC Source Fours, two floormounted Claypaky Alpha Spot 800s, 12 Chroma-Q Color One 100 LED PARs, eight LDDE NanoPix Slim FR1440 striplights, and two PAR 64s. The house lighting bridges include, for this production, five Philips Vari-Lite 1000AS units, four Alpha Spot 800s, four High End Systems SolaFrame 2000s, twelve 5kW Fresnels with color changers on motor yokes, and twentyfour 575W HMI moving wash lights. The latter units, Hase says, are in-house gear that he describes as “versatile, with the ability to do spots, floods, and change colors.” As mentioned, sidelight is a key element: “We have 4K HMIs in each window, placed fairly far back because they move back and forth, and each has an entrance and exit bay. We also fly in the repertory lighting bridges, which don’t really line up with the slits in the set, to get backlighting and specials. The sidelight hanging positions including 10 VL3500s, 14 SolaFrame 200s, five Alpha Spot 800s, and five Martin by Harman MAC III Performances. The opera house has a patented bar system, with four or five bars that can raise and lower. You can move them up and downstage and they can go to any height. With this arrangement, I have seven SolaFrames and five VL3500s on each of the bars, so I was able to put a SolaFrame and VL3500 in each window and a SolaFrame in each entrance bay. This allow me to get both entrance sidelight and window

sidelight; this is in addition to the sidelight rig with the HMIs on stands.” Additional frontof-house gear includes two Niethammer HPZ followspots; two Inno Four units; 20 Niethammer Enizoom Zoom Profile Spots, 12 with color scrollers; and ten Alpha Spots. For the startling moment when Samiel appears hanging from the ceiling, Hase says, “I have two followspots that track onstage and off. They look like specials. I use the frontof-house followspots for low accent light or to pull people out from backgrounds. Because of the opera’s ‘theatrical’ presentation, there are two instances when we go with bright, hardedged spot effects. One is the announcement of the contest and the other comes near the end, when Max is supposed to take his shot.” Echoing McCann, the lighting designer says, “The scenic concept is like a holodeck, a place that can be constantly transformed. We go from theatre seats to trees that come in and out; the seats are very worn, and the trees grow up through them. The costuming suggests the faded citizens of Vienna society. We went through the show, doing transformations for each scene, with Nina adding her projection magic. She is an amazing collaborator. For example, in the Wolf’s Glen scene, when we went into the fire effects, I took the LDDE strips, which served as downstage footlights, to a very low level and let the real fire and the projections take over.” Hase adds that one of the biggest challenges was the production process at Vienna State Opera. “We arrived at the theatre on Monday morning at eight, watching the changeover with a planned focus at noon; the whole team was there, waiting to start cueing. After a fast, two-hour focus, we set up the moving lights. Cueing started first at 4pm and went to 10pm. The next day, I started at eight and cued until five—and then they had a performance [of another opera] that evening. And that was my lighting time. After that, they do onstage rehearsals without lighting. I asked for a dispensation because we weren’t done, so we got three rehearsals, during which we could run lighting, but without cueing, and two 4-hour blocks of correction time. Then there was the piano dress, orchestra dress, and final dress for additional cueing and corrections, and that’s all we got, on a set as complicated as this, that was also being done for television.” McCann concurs, noting, “The problem we, or anybody has, is there is no stage time. Vienna State Opera is like a machine, with performances 361 days a year and a different show every night. There are three teams of crews, working 24 hours a day. It’s a neverending round of production. Building an ambitious new production in this context is hard, and you’re competing with other productions. It was rare that we had a full day onstage.”

great collaborator in creative terms; the whole team shared this dynamic. We had more time offstage to discuss than onstage, being a rep rehearsal schedule and we made sure we used this well, doing paper tech sessions and looking at previz videos. The team at WSO commented that they had never seen a team so in synch before and such a united stage picture, unless it had been a single production designer; they respected our process— even granting us more time to light across orchestral rehearsals, for example—as they could see the results it produced.”

David Barbour is the Editor-In-Chief of Lighting&Sound America magazine. This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue.

Images: Der Freischütz, Vienna State Opera, Set & Costme Design by Gary McCann, Directed By Christian Räth, Lighting Design Thomas Hase, Video Design Nina Dunn. Photos By Michael Pöhn Model Box Photos by Gary McCann

However, Dunn adds, “I found Thomas to be a DAVID BARBOUR

43


CAN THEATRE CONVEY THE GREAT WAR IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY? (…AND SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NATURE OF CRITIQUE)

MICHAEL SPENCER, COURSE LEADER, MA PERFORMANCE DESIGN & PRACTICE CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS, LONDON In the year marking the centenary of the end of World War I, the arts in this country have been charged with presenting work which represents this pivotal chapter in European history. Large scale installations such as various manifestations of ‘the poppies’ and this year’s candlelit tribute at the Tower of London have captured the public imagination. So what about theatre? It was by a curious coincidence that I found myself attending two performances responding to the centenary, on the same day: the public dress rehearsal of an adaptation of Britten’s War Requiem by English National Opera at the Coliseum Theatre, and The Trench devised by Les Enfants Terribles at Southwark Playhouse. Could theatre even begin to say anything meaningful about the 14-18 conflict? ENO was attempting a new form. Britten’s acknowledged masterpiece is usually sung in a concert hall and with the exception of Derek Jarman’s film of the piece, there is normally little or no attempt to stage it in any way. The libretto consists of selected poems by Wilfred Owen interspersed with sections of a Latin requiem Mass. There is no narrative, no plot, no scenario and no characters to develop. Climbing the sunlit stairs to the Coliseum balcony at 10.15am, it felt inappropriate to be about to contemplate the atrocities of a hundred years previous. However, inside the vast Coliseum auditorium, there is no day or night. From the first earthy notes of Britten’s score, I am transfixed, and the one hour and fortyfive minutes flies by. The music has a visceral effect, even when seated in the distant balcony. The low bass registers resonate in my chest, the trumpets terrify, the strings unsettle. We are never left to feel at ease. The requiem Mass has repeated sections and on each occasion the last discordant note of the ‘Amen’ slices through me. The chorus, 44

MICHAEL SPENCER

(the star of the show), at times number over a hundred, filling the cavernous, almost empty Coliseum stage in various ever-changing configurations, including those depicting surging crowds, heaped corpses, slouching troops, desperate mothers, mourners and happily playing children. Within their number are the fat and the thin, the old and the young, the white, the black and the brown. It is clear that they represent us, the community - humanity. Plenty has been said of the power of Wilfred Owen’s words, but the combination of lines such as ‘was it for this the clay grew tall?’ with Britten’s uncompromising music, is a pretty powerful theatre cocktail. Designer Wolfgang Tillmans’ design was added to the mix. Tillmans is a German Turner Prize-winning fine artist best known for work which investigates the photographic image. Tillmans’ design is a series of still and moving images, projected on flat surfaces sometimes on a downstage screen which acts as a front cloth to delineate the three sections of the production, and sometimes on stage as a counterpoint to the live action. The images vary from polemical parallels, i.e. a brutal street fight in a contemporary city illustrating our propensity for violence, to images of damaged or corrupted nature: a beach scarred by polluted suds, the vulnerability of raw wood exposed in broken, uprooted trees. To signify the return of Peace at the end of the work, he presents us with an image which made me feel I’d never seen the colour green before. Tillmans is always objective, never sentimental and (again) uncompromising in terms of never simply adopting a conventional approach. When I had descended from the balcony, blinking in a sunny Saint Martin’s Lane, the world looked different. From the sublime… Seven hours later, as I enter the ‘Large Space’ at Southwark Theatre, an usher warns me, ‘It’s sixty-five minutes no interval and there’s strobe lighting’. (well, who has intervals now, it’s so late twentieth century). The auditorium is packed, mainly with young people in their twenties, so that’s good. I’m in Row C so the front of the raised stage is about two metres away; a bit different from the Coliseum balcony. There being no front curtain (nobody now has those either) I can peer through the murk of smoky haze (which conversely is everywhere now) and view the pre-set. There is a false proscenium completed along the front edge of the stage, clad in offcuts of wood with tattered rags between the framework, all heavily distressed in scenic camouflage. The aesthetic is not unlike that of a Shoreditch coffee bar. Upstage centre is a kind of structure in the same style indicating a location. It’s a traditional English pantomime configuration. Maybe not so good. Five young male actors perform the piece, all in standard trench gear with faces madeup to look filthy…slightly overdone for Row C as I can see they will all scrub up nicely in


the bar two hours later. The acting style is classic ‘poor theatre’, incorporating simple scenic elements such as a plank of wood, to quickly shift scenarios from recruiting office to doctor’s surgery to underground tunnel. Parts of the show look like an exercise they completed in class at drama school. They use every trick in the theatre book, from the smoky haze (makes the lighting look ‘cool’) to the strobe with the use of slow-motion for fighting and explosions, to an upper level adding spatial dynamic, and so on. All the boys, and it is very much ‘boys stuff’, multi-task. They go through their precisely choreographed group work to depict crawling and climbing. They operate a series of puppets, (de rigeur for WWI drama post-War Horse) which signify an embodiment of the war: a Gollum-like half human, a swooping white skulled phantom, several hand-held redeyed pointy helmets (Gerry?). The actors also provide musical moments. There happens to be a guitarist in this trench, with an amp and a mike, who sings sensitive songs, a bit sub-Guy Garvey. A member of the cast occasionally joins in with a conveniently placed violin, clarinet or gleaming tenor sax. There is also a cello which, presumably because it’s big, is given the distressed rag ‘Shoreditch’ look. The performers are very skilled. However, with all that skill on show: the clever acting, the clever puppets, the clever musicians, the clever scenario-morphing set etc., I keep losing my understanding of what it’s about. One of the characters is distressed because his wife has had a miscarriage while he is at the Front. For some reason he then has to go through a series of trials (encountering the puppets) to achieve some kind of redemption - a bit like in The Magic Flute. At the end he walks into lots of smoke backlit by a very bright light which I presume is ‘death’. I’m still not sure I could tell you what it was about. You may think I’ve been unfair to Les Enfants Terribles - after all The Trench is very wellcrafted theatre. It’s also quite dated in its approach but then again, every generation needs to rediscover ‘poor theatre’ so for most of that audience what I saw as a trope, they viewed as an original idea. The thing which I find so difficult is that this work chooses to deal with a subject so emotive and important to convey - the horror of this particular war through a form which feels so formulaic. For me, it lacks integrity. Not that theatre always has to have integrity. But maybe for this subject matter, it does. After both performances that day there was a rapturous response from the audience. Many stood and clapped. The average age of the Coliseum audience was generally much older than that of the Southwark Playhouse audience.

would have been within an established genre even then. So it’s not really experimental. The ENO production was at least trying something new, both in terms of form (the staging of what is normally a concert piece) and in the approach to that staging (the design by a fine artist photographer, the idea of the chorus as the setting, etc.). OK, War Requiem had the words of a brilliant poet and the music of an acknowledged twentieth century genius as its text while The Trench had some quasi-poetic rhyming couplets and some pop music second-hand, appropriated material. Despite that however, you could argue that the latter will have more impact in terms of ‘conveying the Great War in a meaningful way’ because it clearly spoke to a group of young people who, until they attended the performance, may have only been aware of the war through mandatory school history classes. Such a production will surely stay in their minds longer than any lesson conveying what are now facts and accounts so far removed from our everyday experience. Seeing the two productions on the same day was a sobering exercise for me in terms of what is ‘new’ and what is ‘traditional’ theatre. Don’t judge a book by its cover. However it also highlights the importance of context and the perspective of different audience groups. With hindsight and experience, I can personally prefer the ENO production in terms of ‘saying something meaningful’, but maybe that isn’t the point. As ever with theatre, and as with any art form, it depends on where you are coming from. We all have hidden, often unconscious agendas. Or…to quote Michel Foucault: ‘A critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest’1.

‘Practicing criticism, or, is it really important to think?’, interview by Didier Eribon, May 30-31, 1981, in Politics, Philosophy, Culture, ed. L. Kriztman (1988), p. 155

1

‘So, are you just an old f**t favouring the establishment over new experimental work?... …I hear you ask. Well, I think The Trench could have been presented thirty plus years ago and MICHAEL SPENCER

45


TOWER LUCY THORNETT, SCENOGRAPHER Tower was presented in Elephant & Castle in London in 2017. A small group of people gathered at a busy intersection across from a tower block on coloured plastic chairs. Armed with binoculars and headphones, they watched two women go about their daily lives in the windows of the tower, and were projected aurally into the intimate space of the women’s rooms through the binaural soundscape that played in the headphones. Half-finished buildings and cranes surrounded them in a site undergoing rapid change. Tower intervened into the space of the city by using performance design to highlight the spatial performativity of the site and its architecture. It did this by bringing to life the building through the flickering of the windows and the invitation to look closer. The audience occupied a liminal space, a strange patch of grass not usually used for habitation. Seated in the centre of a flow of cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians, they invited attention and became a spectacle through their strange occupation of the space. Passersbys stopped to look and take photos, with some asking the audience what they were looking at. I understand performance design as a way to arrange materials and bodies in space to create performative encounters. In Tower, the audience were invited to transgress the usual behavior of the city site and gaze for longer than usual into private spaces, with the aim of setting in motion an encounter that intervened into the site’s geometry; its performance of daily life; its politics; and its changing architecture. 46

LUCY THORNETT

Spatial Experience Performance design is a practice of exploiting the potential of space. Of creating an experience in a space, of creating an atmosphere – capturing the essence of one space and recreating it in another. At PQ 2019, I will run an exploratory workshop titled Spatial Experience. It will investigate sensory experiences of spaces and how we define, capture and create atmospheres. The workshop will explore techniques and media for documenting spatial experiences in the city of Prague: for capturing city sites and spaces in abstract ways. The second stage will involve translation of these spaces into new experiences and media – creating three-dimensional propositions from abstract source material and curating experiences for an audience. Spatial Experience will explore how performance designers work with space in different ways, how becoming attuned to the experience of space in daily life can furnish a rich array of source material for design, and how we can think about producing affective atmospheres and spatial experiences for audiences.

Lucy Thornett is a scenographer and a Lecturer at the University of the Arts, London. She makes site-specific and immersive performances and installations for theatres, galleries and other spaces. She has also designed sets and costumes for numerous performances.


Images [From Top]: Tower. Photographer: Amy Thornett; Tower spectators. Photographer: Amy Thornett; Tower video still. Videographer: Justin Batchelor

LUCY THORNETT

47


TALKING ABOUT DESIGN: REFLECTIONS ON THE DESIGN AND CRITICISM EVENTS AT DONMAR ON DESIGN 2018

FRANCESCA PESCHIER, LECTURER AND ACTIVIST At the end of October my twitter ranting finally got me a gig. I was invited to host a panel discussion with high profile critics and designers as part of Donmar on design week, exploring the often-acrimonious relationship between design and criticism. Along with far more famous voices including Tom Scutt (the curator of Donmar on Design) and Tom Piper, I have been vocal online in calling out the lack of accreditation played to designers in theatre reviews and marketing. We seem to have fallen into what I have come to think of as the ‘one-line design review’ - you know the one… ‘… the set was simple and striking, evocatively designed by [insert name here]. ‘ First of all, you can’t use ‘evocative’ or ‘atmospheric’ without an accompanying noun. What was the design evocative of? Was the atmosphere cold, threatening, invigorating, reminiscent of Versailles or of the local tip? After all, as Scutt remarked, a fart can be said to have atmosphere. It was important to me in chairing this panel to avoid it descending into a rant, or into a polarised critics versus designers grudge match. There were two reason for this – firstly, as much as I love a bit of online mudslinging and believe that getting angry is an important factor in achieving change, it is rarely truly productive when it comes to discussion. This heavily influenced my, Tom and Alice Spalding at the Donmar choice of panellists: critics Susannah Clapp and Minamore, and designers Joanna Scotcher and Max Dorey. We sought out those whom we thought would be as strong listeners as they were talkers. It was a productive session which allowed space for frustrations to be aired whilst also suggesting hope for a way forward. Secondly, I trained as a designer, failed as a designer and now work as a critic amongst my other theatrical hats. The disciplines share similar outsider misconceptions, namely that each exists to somehow ‘serve’ the other elements of production and that practitioners should stay in their lanes. Critics are not expected to be theatre makers in the name of some impossible separatist objectivity and designers are envisaged to kow-tow in deference to the director’s vision 48

FRANCESCA PESCHIER

or that of some (often long dead) author. Of course, there are notable and important mould breakers, embedded critics informing dramaturgy such as Maddy Costa and rising star Ava Wong Davies, and Scutt turning director for the forthcoming Berberian Sound System (Donmar Warehouse 8 February 2019 – 30 March). Yet, there are no artistic directors who have come from design careers and a divide is still perceivable. The position of a critic is still commonly deemed to be an outsider: one who judges makers, often working under crushingly difficult conditions, from a comfy seat with a glass of wine. The same night of The Donmar panel, veteran critic and master of the one-line design commentary (this was the man who only, by his own admission, found out exactly what lighting designers do and discovered the name Appia less than a decade ago) Michael Billington was giving the annual Jocelyn Herbert lecture at the National Theatre. I know - you wait a decade for a design and criticism event and then two come along at once. Whilst Billington thanks to his vast theatre going CV made many interesting observations as to the changing face of theatre design practice in the UK today, he closed with this (heavily paraphrased) observation. Billington commented that we are living in era where theatre appears to be becoming more visually led than reliant on what is present in the text, and despite noting how that can appear exciting, he ultimately advised young designers in the room that night to get back to the script. His concluding statement, whilst well intended, summarises the nub of the chasm between theatre design and its treatment in criticism: critics rarely understand fully what design and designers do. On the Saturday after the discussion I held a workshop on writing about design with a group of critics ranging from current students to regular contributors to Exeunt and The Stage, I led discussion and exercises designed to lead reviewers to think visually about what design contributes to a performance. For many it was their first time thinking about scenography as something active, a relational practice that adds meaning and is communicative, as opposed to purely decorative.

Writing about design has many hurdles; the instability of memory, fitting detail into an often very limited word count and, in my opinion most challenging, the lack of an agreed vocabulary. The recent coverage of the haunting Tower Remembers exhibition, designed by Tom Piper is an example of this. Whilst few reviews and features credited Piper, even fewer made reference to Mira Calix the artist behind the installation’s sweeping sound sculpture. Her composition was integrated into the carpet of flaming torches not only through speakers but mic-d up bodies, their faces masked with scarves to hide the source of the resounding melodies, walking in concentric patterns at points across the audience’s path. It was innovative, echoing, not a little frightening – and barely mentioned by the Tower’s extensive media coverage. If writers find it hard to talk about the meaning conveyed by what they see, it seems to be even more of a difficulty to convey what they hear beyond the words spoken. Scenography allows for a reconfiguration and re-presentation of space, including the theatre building beyond the defined stage. It has the ability to change our conception of being in that space, at that time. If it continues to be under reviewed and underwritten it is not only designers today, who rely as much as any other theatre maker on the potential profile-raising currencyof good reviews and critical conversation. If no one is writing about what they do, future designer’s will not have any way of accessing their history. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it and if we don’t talk about design’s importance, it will continue to be misunderstood and undervalued.

Francesca Peschier is a postdoctoral fellow at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, serving as their literary resource. Additionally, she works as a freelance lecturer (including University of the Arts London and Arts University Bournemouth) and as a reviewer for The Stage, Exeunt and Fest Mag amongst others. Her PhD research examined the relationship between scenography and identity in Liverpool. She is also the founding editor of JAWS, the Journal of Arts Writing by Students published by Intellect.


CRITICAL COSTUME 2018 IN PICTURES

Critical Costume is an international platform to promote research and practice on the interdisciplinary study of costume. The principal activity of Critical Costume is a biennial conference and exhibition, with the provision for smaller events where appropriate. The purpose of the organization is to support practitioners and researchers to debate the status of costume within contemporary and historical cultures. Critical Costume 2018 was held 12-14 September at the Guildford School of Acting, University of Surrey. Recordings of many of the talks can be found through the Critical Costume Facebook page (https://www. facebook.com/criticalcostume/) or through the GSA Youtube channel.

Images [From Top, Left to Right): ‘Ballet of Nations: A First World War pacifist text’ by Pam Tait ; Liisa Pesonen and Kirsi Manninen; ‘The PleatFarm’ by Charlotte Østergaard; Jitka Pospíšilová; Button detail from ‘Weaving an ethical costume scheme’ by Julie Lynch; ‘Creating for the Afterlife’ by Liisa Pesonen; ‘Interstellar Medium. An Architecture of Fashion’ by Raphaé Memon; Images courtesy of Critical Costume CRITICAL COSTUME

49


BOOK REVIEW: 3D PRINTING BASICS FOR ENTERTAINMENT DESIGN BY ANNE E. MCMILLS BY IAN TEAGUE Last year I was at a degree show and comparing the models I was stuck how some students had lovingly made figures from wire and modelling clay while others had bought figures from the model shop. I mentioned this to one of the tutors and he said – yes but in a couple of years they’ll all just print figures with a 3D printer. This got me thinking about 3D printing and about how affordable it was becoming. I thought this was a very exciting prospect and so I started to investigate. It seemed that you could get a usable printer to go on your desktop for a few hundred pounds – cheaper if you were willing to build it yourself from a kit. This looked very promising but as I looked further it started to get confusing. There are several different types of printer using different methods of printing and a range of materials to print with. Then there are the different programmes you could use to create your objects, or you could download readymade computer models. It was a bit more complicated than I had at first thought. There are loads of videos tutorials on line but sorting out the relevant ones was another complication. What I needed was a book that guided me through the different types of printer, different materials and software. 50

IAN TEAGUE

A book that looked at the pros and cons of each and ideally was written by someone who understood how this technology could be applied to the world of theatre designers. Just as I was thinking this the nice people at Routledge were publishing one. 3D Basics for Entertainment Design is exactly the book I had been hoping for. This clear well written book with copious illustrations takes you through all you need to know to get started with 3d printing and acts as a handy reference for when you want to get into more advanced techniques. The book is divided into three sections; The Basics, Workflow and The Entertainment Industry. The Basics covers methods of printing, looks at the different types of printers available and the different materials you can use to print with. Workflow deals with issues such as how to acquire models, how to make your own models, looks at the various software you can use, how to print and has a trouble shooting section. The Entertainment Industry looks at applications. I had become interested because I saw the potential for model making but the book also looks at how 3d printing can be used in a range of applications including prop making, costume,


character design, puppetry special effects, and prosthetics. There is some discussion within the text about the possible impact that widespread adoption of 3D printing will have in terms of jobs. On one hand, 3D printing could mean less work for assistants. If you need 20 chairs for a model it will be quicker and cheaper to print them than to employ an assistant to make them. On the other hand, assistants with skills in modelling software such as Blender could find themselves in demand. This has obvious implications for Design Courses. One drawback I found is that the book constantly refers to feet and inches. If you are as old as me this is reassuringly nostalgic but younger readers might be irritated, baffled or just amused. The reason of course is that the book is American. It does however include contributions from SBTD Life Member Colin Winslow, now resident across the pond. Many of you will know his books on design techniques and some will be aware that he created the first SBTD website so he has a history of being an early adopter of new technology.

means that this book will inevitably have a limited shelf life but If you are thinking of moving into the world of 3D printing and are worried that you don’t know the difference between your FDA (Fused Deposition Modeling) and your SLA (Stereolithography) this is a good place to start.

Ian Teague trained in Theatre Design at what was then called Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University) graduating in 1982. He has designed over 150 productions for a range of companies. His designs for small cast productions of Shakespeare formed part of the British Golden Triga winning entry at PQ2003. Ian has been an SBTD committee member since 2004 and represents the SBTD on the board of SkillScene. He currently teaches set design at The BRIT School in Croydon.

Images: [From Top] Item 3D printed from a photogrammetry ‘catch’ of a real-world item; Item 3D printed from a 3D scan of a real-world item.

The speed at which technology progresses IAN TEAGUE

51


BOOK REVIEW: SCENOGRAPHY EXPANDED EDITED BY JOSLIN MCKINNEY AND SCOTT PALMER

MICHAEL SPENCER, COURSE LEADER, MA PERFORMANCE DESIGN & PRACTICE CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS, LONDON This is an important book for two reasons. It’s not the first book analysing the phenomenal expansion of what was theatre/performance design since it became independent of a written text. Lehmann’s prophetic identification of a postdramatic era in 2006 is quoted in the first sentence, and the editors go on to confirm that such practice is now not uncommon, and by implication not simply ghettoised in the category of avant guard/ experimental practice. The predecessors for this book were quite different in tone. Perhaps understandably they tended to be more revelatory, the aim of those publications being to dispel the established notion of the practice as being representational depictions of scenarios created by writers. The tone was implicitly defensive, sometimes quite angry and often dismissive of those commonly held assumptions associated with the discipline. Going right back to the roots of the practice, we see this clearly in the writing of Edward Gordon Craig which is almost evangelical in its rhetoric. The visual in theatre, particularly in the UK with its literary heritage, has always felt the need to insist on its independent efficacy. This tendency is apparent even in recent publications. Scenography Expanded however, simply acknowledges that we have moved on, and speaks from a confidence that 52

MICHAEL SPENCER

such an ‘expansion’ is now part of the global creative landscape. The second reason this book is so important is that it attempts to categorise the various types of practice within the expansion, particularly in the excellent introduction by the editors McKinney and Palmer. They begin by identifying three inter-related concepts of how the practice is manifest from the perspective of the spectator. These they term Relationality, Affectivity and Materiality, all of which resonate across the organising sections of the book: Technological space, Architectural space, Agency, Audiences and Materials. These organising sections allow for the various chapters to be clustered whilst the overarching theories of how audiences engage with such work permeate the whole book. Such categorisation can attract accusations of reductionism. Certainly there are overlaps and inter-connections within these ‘distinct’ sections but McKinney and Palmer acknowledge that and given the rapidity of what has been a revolution within scenographic practice it feels, to me at least, fully justified and helpful in navigating the huge range of ideas and work that is contained in the following eleven chapters.


These chapters are by academics/ practitioners from across the globe. Some, like Chris Baugh’s opening chapter: ‘Devices of Wonder’: Globalizing Technologies in the Process of Scenography’ are theoretical constructs in themselves, in this case centred around the scenographic opportunities afforded by digital technology in new and unexpected ways. Others, such as Marcela Oteiza’s chapter: ‘City as Site: Street Performance and Site Permeability during the Festival Internacional Teatro to a Mil, Chile, 2012 – 2015’, as the title suggests, focuses on particular practice in specific contexts, in this case to analyse the significance of site and historic context on a performance representing both a memorial and a protest. It is fair to say that not all the chapters are going to inspire every single reader but as is the nature of such collections of thinking, there is something for everyone here. Some remarkable practice is featured such as Kris Verdonck’s piece End, which Maaike Bleaker analysis in her chapter ‘Thinking That Matters: Towards a PostAnthropocentric Approach to Performance Design’. Here a new function for scenography is proposed as revealing the way in which the human and the material are drawing closer together in our (post?) digital age. On a different note, although not apparently analysing the key issues within contemporary performance design, Thea Brejzek’s chapter on scenographic architecture/ architectural scenography sheds a new light on the distinctive skill set required to create performance through what Lehmann calls ‘visual dramaturgy’. It is not untypical of the breadth of thinking within these chapters regarding new approaches to the practice. Two features of contemporary performance design seem to run throughout the book. One is the increasingly politicised nature of the practice. This is featured in the collection of essays in the Agency section. In almost every example of work discussed there is a political agenda, sometimes with a capital “P”, which is the driver for that work. As a radical manifestation of this tendency, an idea frequently proposed is that the actual doing of scenography equates to activism of some sort. Previous generations of practitioners in this field may wonder what happened to the idea of the aesthetically pleasing stage design. Where is the rigorous critical writing analysing the design of plays in theatres? Perhaps it has never been there. Contemporary scenographic practice is now reflecting the increasing politicised nature of our society, made manifest by the media in all

its forms, and is global rather than local, thanks to the digital communication revolution. In this respect it is simply operating as other art forms and offering a mirror to society. The second common thread in the book is the application of scenographic processes and techniques to contexts outside of the theatre building. Not many of the examples of practice analysed are sited in theatres. Many are situated in public spaces, questioning the role of public space and clearly aimed to connect with an audience beyond that which is normally associated with ‘the theatre-going public’. In this respect, again the practice is implicitly political. In several examples in widely different contexts we see how the act of scenography and its material outcomes directly connect with site and community in ways far removed from the representational narrative function with which it is normally associated. Here scenography itself is the catalyst, the message, the activator, the artwork. The book’s subtitle: ‘an introduction to contemporary performance design’ is perhaps misleading in that the text is full of complex ideas relating to the practice, and ‘introduction’ is by no means an indication that it is for a reader entirely new to ideas such as intertextuality, transmedial, post-human etc. A feature of these emerging practices is that they are echoed by an expansion in the terminology employed to describe them. That said, the aim is always to convey the practice succinctly, and in relation to that of others. As we read it becomes apparent how McKinney and Palmer’s identification of the three ways in which contemporary practice is made manifest, map onto the various examples discussed. This is what makes this book so useful. It enables the reader to begin to make their own connections across the complex hybridised landscape of contemporary scenographic practice. As I have suggested, this is an important book in the field which is surely a must read for anyone engaged in visual performance making, just as Pamela Howard’s What is Scenography was nearly twenty years ago. With a reference to that book I will end with a quote from Katherine Irwin’s provocative chapter, ‘Scenographic Agency: A Showing-Doing and a Responsibility for Showing-Doing’. In some way, the quote sums up the books confidence and bold new thinking about the discipline, ‘We must now ask, not What is Scenography?, but What Does Scenography?’

MICHAEL SPENCER

53


BOOK REVIEW: SCENOGRAPHY BY SIMON DONGER

GRACE VENNING, DESIGNER ‘What is scenography?’ Pamela Howard asked us in 2002. I read her landmark text during my first term at drama school, and while I felt fired up with inspiration and enthusiasm, I probably didn’t have a much clearer answer to this question once I’d finished. Simon Donger defines it as ‘a creative framework for the conception of the material and perceptual qualities of temporary events’ in his new book Scenography, part of the Crowood Theatre Companions series published by Crowood Press, and his book certainly goes in deep when it comes to concepts, materials and perceptions. Each chapter in the book explores a step in scenographic processes. These six steps - Drawing, Modelling, Prototyping, Composing, Documenting and Researching - are examined by Donger in terms of their current common use in scenographic practice and their potential to evolve in form and function to push at the edges of art, design and performance. The chapters themselves are divided into subsections. For example, the first chapter on Drawing consists of: an introduction / ‘moment drawing’ / ‘drawing space’ / ‘operative drawing’ / ‘storyboarding’. Most of the visual examples of work throughout are from students on the scenography courses at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, which are fantastic in demonstrating the kind of imagination and bravery that gets brewed up at drama school and provide an inspiring example to those new to this creative framework. Scenography follows the journey an artist might take in creating work, from the initial responses to a stimulus of a sort, to speculative and then operative modes of exploration and communication. When I first looked at the contents, I was surprised to see that the final chapter was Researching, since this is usually a hugely significant springboard for routes to take at the beginning of a project. However, Donger uses the end of the book to present a case study of personal research into light, bodies and space, from which his self-contained immersive installation at the Kinetica ArtFair (2011) Wearable Shadows was 54

GRACE VENNING

created, in collaboration with Daniel Felstead. Again, this demonstrates that Donger is operating outside of the traditional avenues of set and costume design for theatre. For him, research is primarily ‘an active engagement with questioning and discovering new things, such as information, ideas, visual forms and practical processes’, rather than finding that exact period-appropriate door handle or set of cufflinks. Donger’s prose often lays out traditional methods and then immediately questions them, giving examples of technical imitations or suggesting ways in which certain approaches to drawing, modelling or prototyping an idea can be the most fruitful or produce unexpected results. This is a good way to introduce those new to this field to fundamentals such as the best materials to use in model-making, while always considering the artistic possibilities of any given action or choice. The main body of the text can be poetic in its contemplation of all things scenographic, and at times I found myself getting lost in its complexity. But on the whole, Donger maintains an investigative, almost scientific, tone, particularly in his emphasis on the importance of rigorous documentation. Donger provides many detailed suggestions on making and examining drawings, models and prototypes, with clear and thorough exercises highlighted in separate sections. These will be particularly useful to students looking for accessible ways to learn and develop their craft, as it can be easy to get bogged down in theory while reading an academic text and forget that scenography is all about activity. Indeed, Scenography walks an interesting line between highly intellectual thinking and hands-on tips. I believe that this combination is both a joy and challenge found by many in designing for performance, and while the emphasis of this book is more on the conceptual, some of the most immediately valuable advice comes from the ‘professional insights’ which appear in each chapter. The range includes a sound artist, photographer,

architect and dramaturg alongside performance designers. Perhaps my favourite of these sections was from designer and model-maker Yoon Bae, who shares extremely helpful shortcuts and cheats for working in scale that she has gained over the years rather than attempt the impossible task of teaching model-making through writing. Many of these professional practitioners offer their insights in the form of well-considered inquiries, such as designer Michael Pavelka who provides a double page spread of brilliant questions to ask yourself and your company about audiences. Overall, Scenography is a book as widereaching, collaborative and complex as its subject. It provides useful advice and tips, from how to draw a perfect circle without a compass to how to train the savage eye, try the objective eye and feed the tactile eye by assuming a position of ‘not knowing’. Its highly academic nature means that I did struggle to follow the thread at times, and I would not recommend reading it from cover to cover. Taking breaks to carry out the suggested exercises would be a good way to follow this guide, particularly with others as a reminder that the best ideas emerge from conversation and collaboration. Moreover, while Donger writes much on the ‘dialogic principle’ at the core of scenography, there seemed to be less explicit discussion than I expected of the actual dialogues which take place between collaborators, and which so many designers cite as the absolute fundamentals of creating work. Perhaps this is a given, or perhaps Donger was keen to escape the process of ‘traditional’ theatre-making by not writing about costume supervisors, production managers, draughtspeople, carpenters, painters, dressers and all the rest of the company who make performances happen. There is much to take away from this book for a designer only a few years in, such as myself, and I believe for both new students and experienced artists. Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the performance design community about the environmental impact


of our industry and about championing design-led work, and Donger describes engaging with the former as ‘an ethical imperative’ while making a great cause for scenographers as research-leaders and project-instigators, and agitators of the status quo in the best possible way. Grace Venning is a London-based designer for performance who trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, graduating in 2017. She is currently undertaking a full-time residency in the National Theatre’s design studio. Her work concerns collaborative explorations of the relationships between bodies and materials in space and their emotional and political impact, founded upon thorough textual analysis. Her particular interest is in the temporal nature and potential chaos of live performance.

BOOK REVIEW: Scenic Construction for the Stage: Key Skills for Carpenters BY MARK TWEED JAMES HORNE, MAKER From the title this book seems exclusively aimed for students and new practitioners in scenic construction, but that would be a waste of what is an excellent theatrical resource. Scenic Construction for the Stage provides a foundation for students learning scenic construction whilst also acting as an invaluable reference for new and experienced practitioners. The first few chapters neatly breakdown scenic construction and its role within the production, and then further breaks down the skills and tools a carpenter should have in order to do their job; from the language and vocabulary of construction drawings, to equipment and tool lists for basic workshop requirements. The following chapters provide methods, examples, and projects in building a wide range of scenic elements (e.g. flats, treads, doors), which walk the reader through their construction. These projects provide valuable learning experiences for students (or anyone) being introduced in the workshop and can always be turned back to when in need. The section on workshop maths and geometry is a perfect example of working reference as it goes over basic skills perhaps forgotten from the maths classroom! Each page is illustrated with clear photographs and drawings which follow the text, so the reader does not get lost in the technical description, though Tweed’s succinct phrasing and humour makes for much easier reading. His obvious experience comes across in his writing as he describes the different scenic elements and how they may be used on stage, and therefore what a carpenter needs to think about, but therefore what a designer could think about as well.

Having graduated in the last year from Stage Design degree my education was in design, though I read this book with what experience I had gained from the college workshop in scenic art and construction - I wish I had this book as a student! I found that Tweed not only gives a carpenter’s (and a theatre workshop’s) perspective in theatrical productions, but also gives them perspective from a designer’s point of view and how design and construction cross over. Both students and tutors in theatre design and construction would benefit from having access to this book, which is essentially a pool of knowledge and experience from Tweed’s years in the industry – an excellent resource for the foundations of scenic construction.

James is Theatre Design graduate from the RWCMD, 2017, and has spent the last year working freelance in scenic art, construction, and props making. The “Design” course acted as an introduction to theatre craft, and as James took the scenic route he worked on college productions down in the workshops where he practised scenic painting, polycarving and casting, and was later able to focus on construction with skills in carpentry and welding. The last year has seen James constructing and installing large sculptures and scenic elements for Summer festivals such as Boomtown and YNOT?; painting sets and scenic cloths; putting together complex props; and even getting the chance to work on life-size dinosaur sculptures!

MICHAEL SPENCER

55


TRIBUTE TO

EDWIN ERMINY

(1958 - 2018)

PROFESSOR PAMELA HOWARD, OBE

56

PAMELA HOWARD


Edwin came to the European Scenography Centres Masters Course in the first cohort in 1994 , as a ‘ mature ‘ student. He took a year out of his job as Director of artistic production at the Ópera Teresa Carreño and technical director of the International Festival of Theater of Caracas and of the Festival of Afro-American Traditions. Students were admitted to the course by answering a simple question “ If I could take a year out of my normal life I would…. “ and then they had to write their dream . I greatly believe in the importance of Dreams , And Edwin dreamt that one day he would be the total creator of his own work that would explore magic realism and cultural identity. He outlined his fascination with the novel ‘ Concierto Barroco’ by the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier and we knew he would be the ideal participant in this new European partnership. The purpose of this 48 week course was to give artists space and support to develop their dream into a possible actuality through systematic research, meeting people from all the participating countries in the scheme and culminating in a staged ‘workshop’ with an audience, and a completed clear and budgeted proposal called ‘ a passport ‘ that would lead to an eventual full production that could not be said ‘ no’ to. Thus the first outing of Concierto Barroco was staged in the Lethaby Galleries at the Central School of Art and Design London in 1995 and a dream began to become a reality. Edwin returned to Caracas and to his former job. During this time he and I had discovered a synchronicity in our creative objectives – that of the idea of making as Edwin called it and became our signature ‘ a rich theatre out of little means ‘. We never wanted a poor theatre ! We began to talk about creating a Transatlantic Opera company that could create work in UK and in Venezuela, and we formed a Board of Directors in London, headed by the late Isaac Chocron, with the Honorary patronage of Carlos Fuentes. We obtained modest funding from the Arts Council of Great Britain , and support from various philanthropists in Venezuela. Edwin was determined that all obstacles could be overcome, and believed that making theatre is an essential tool for living – a practice he followed throughout his life. In 1999 Opera Transatlantica a multicultural creation headed by Edwin in Venezuela and myself in London was fully formed. We were a magic reality ! I went to Caracas expecting to see the first full production of Concierto Barroco, and discovered things were changing rapidly. Although there were posters of the productions lining the route from the airport, the Teresa Carrena had run out of money and was closed, though they had already sold tickets. On the spot, Edwin decided that he would NOT be deterred, and led us down through the back of the theatre to the paint shop in the basement, which was his Kingdom. “We could stage it here “

he said.. ‘all we have to do is get some funding, clean the place, get some seats in and a piano, re-employ the singers and lead the audience down the back way. ‘ Thus began a hasty and massive effort in Edwin’s typical quiet, definitive and ordered manner. He sent me with my limited Spanish to charm the CEO of Chocolates el Rey , while he went to Seagram and American Express to get money. Edwin went into the store at the theatre and found 12 old doors and a tin of red paint and we laid them on the floor, painted them, and they became a stage and walls for a theatre in the semi round production. A kitchen was created with old saucepans that created percussion and the singers started to rehearse from an impeccable and later award winning script that Edwin had written, for he was a multi-disciplined artist who could write and draw, knew music and how to deal with people. A rare combination. And Food was always an essential element of his creative work. He installed a practical kitchen on stage where Moros y Cristianos symbolizing the two worlds of Latin American culture would be cooked during the performance and then offered to the audience at the end. As I saw this evolving I knew I was witnessing the birth of something truly sincere and original as Edwin himself was. I phoned the then directors of the London International Festival of Theatre and told them what a unique event this was going to be, and on this recommendation alone, Opera Transatlantica was invited to come to London and make 5 performances in an old warehouse in the east of London. It was sold out every performance. Following this success we decided to make a new piece for England, and following the same philosophy Edwin write the award winning scenario that became Rondo Adafina , named after the traditional Sephardi Soup that cooked itself buried in the ground on a Friday and eaten on a Saturday. We staged this with a diverse British cast and myself as Director. We simply told a story of how food and song become part of the culture wherever the people are forced the leave a country and move on through racial or religious persecution. We had another practical kitchen, and invited a famous Television Cook to be our cook. On the floor we had big flat Venezuelan baskets filled with mountains of loose spices, so the smell was part of the experience. The story went from 1300 in Morocco, to 1999 in Coro Venezuela charting the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Brazil, America to Venezuela. Edwin was in this creative element and this stands out as a true example of company creation. Working with him was an unforgettable experience.

able to move to Port of Spain, and begin again using all the natural elements of colour and carnival to make a new scenographic journey, and sharing his experiences with a group of younger people, with a generosity of spirit that quite simply was amazing. In 2017 at World Stage Design Festival in Taipei he sent me ,via another colleague, a beautiful bright pink sequined textile from Trinidad, and a card saying how we would meet in 2019 in Prague for the Prague Quadrennial and plan to make a new work together.. even as I reach my 80th year. Edwin had been following closely the development my current Canadian production of ‘ Charlotte – a Tri-Coloured Play with Music’ always making astute comments .. critical and well judged, and sometimes annoyingly correct. Its themes are just the same as our dreams for Opera Transatlantica . At this sad and tragic moment I think of the brightness of this textile, with sequinned sparks of invention flying through his mind like electric currents. He was unique. So many of our international scenographic community and my own family loved and honour him now. He will never be forgotten.

Image: During rehearsal for National Theatre Arts Company of Trinidad and Tobago Berlin on a Donkey, 2015. Photograph by Maria Nunes

And then Politics began to intervene, and the British Arts Council had no alternative but to cease their fundingto the British side of Opera Transatlantica. Edwin as ever would not be deterred, and kept the Venezuelan part of the company going as much as possible under ever increasing difficulties. Finally , he was PAMELA HOWARD

57


RALPH KOLTAI CBE RDI : THE ENIGMA OF STAGE DESIGN (1924 - 2018)

PROFESSOR PAMELA HOWARD, OBE It is difficult to find words to describe my friend of over 45 years, even though I curated all his exhibitions and contributed to the books and catalogues that accompanied them. Now, on reflection I see he simply defied definition, and that pleased him. Ralph was rather like Picasso .. charming, inventive, industrious, and above all defying categorization. Although he was called ‘ a Theatre Designer ‘, he was much more a serious fine artist who applied his skills to theatre, and the last exhibition we held at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff in 2016 showed how he really wanted to be remembered “ This is what I always wanted ‘ he said to me as we walked round looking at his wall sculptures composed from bits of metal that he found buried in the ground at his home in France. Finding, grinding, sparking was his method from the start of his long career. Many years ago , I went with him to a compound of broken cars and parts in South London, and with delight he pounced upon an old gearbox, opened it up and in it saw an entire factory, which became without much alteration the entire setting for ‘ Metropolis ‘. The gearbox was sprayed gold and placed in the model box of the Piccadilly theatre.. some small cutout figures gave it scale, and lo and behold he had done it !. That model was then reconstructed at full size and with such an enormous weight that whole stage had to be underpinned to support it, and Ralph used all his charm to get it done. When we exhibited this model ( now in the V&A archive ) we revisited the compound collected up oddments of broken car parts and somehow he got them through a machine that compressed rubbish and made into a rectangular pillar to support the Gearbox model. Ralph’s great and consistent interest was with the engineers and technologists who 58

PAMELA HOWARD

could realize the transformation of objects into scenic elements that could become the visual metaphor or the entire production. He created a team of dedicated experts who were prepared to never say no – Mike Barnett, Stephen Pyle, and Charles Woolf were central to his work. Ralph aimed always to expand the stage space, and with Charles at Talbot plastics developed ways of linking mirror sheet and acrylic sheets that could hang together without the joins showing , creating an infinite landscape as in the early ‘ Twelfth Night ‘ .

The use of hanging acrylic tubes and perforated zinc roughly cut sections became Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden in ‘ As You Like It ‘ . Ralph collected many kinds of spheres and balls, iron, wood, metal, old and porous and new, and they featured in his home and studios and became his signature, Stephen Pyle was an expert at interpreting these small objects into the major elements that featured in so many of Koltai’s works.. The famous “ Planets ‘ at Covent Garden being just one example. Materials and structures were his interest and visual language, and he was an explorer of space.


In 1997 we created the first Ralph Koltai Retrospective exhibition in the two Lethaby galleries at Central School of Art. Ralph was consistent in his belief that exhibiting stage models had to be different to using models as a working tool, and each model had to be transformed to become an art exhibit. The exhibition was an installation that visitors walked through experiencing the feel of the productions in which the models were only one element. Ralph conceived a floor made of mirror panels, that reflected the exhibits such as a huge rusty corrugated iron walls with old torn posters of his productions peeling off. This was not just ‘ decorative ‘ but a statement of material contrasts that are seen over and over again in different forms in his productions. In his creation for ‘Simon Boccanegra ‘ he created a rusty broken iron wall , with an opposing acrylic semi transparent wall partly covered in a gold metallic surface suggesting the conflicts at the source of the opera. This exhibition/installation was bought by the British Council and we took it on an Asian tour to Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Japan – places Ralph revisited several times later. In Hong Kong however, the mirror floor caused a great alarm. Our hosts realized that women wearing skirts would be severely compromised by their reflections in the mirrors. The exhibition was nearly closed, but saved by putting up warnings outside the gallery to women to wear trousers, and the radio, and newspapers repeated those

warnings !. Most ladies took heed. Koltai received many awards and honours for his contribution to British Culture, as well as international prizes. His works influenced many of his students, and from those small beginnings he became a world leader in his field. Without doubt his legacy will continue and grow. A celebration of his life is planned in London mid-September 2019, and details will follow. Ralph’s mantra that ‘I give directors what they want before they know they want it’ was only partly true. He was a great - if idiosyncratic collaborator. He was a unique individual with his own views and he lived his long life to the full. This will be fully explained by Ralph in his own voice in the documentary film made by Andrew Snell now in the final process of editing.

Images: [Opposite] Sparking & Grinding, Courtesy of Pamela Howard; [Above] Ralph Koltai addresses students at The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in March 2017, Courtesy of RWCMD

PAMELA HOWARD

59


60

Profile for SBTDBP

Blue Pages 2018 2  

Blue Pages 2018 2  

Profile for sbtdbp
Advertisement