Week 1: Excuse me, I have a suggestion…
This is the first week of MOTUS in residence, working with three actors and seven students who are in the masters of directing program. One challenge of this project has always been how to manage the vision of almost a dozen directors: how to accomodate different ideas of staging, use of text, bodies on stage, lighting, sound. The initial solution we arrived at was to use two rooms: one is the “stage” with the “official” scenography created by MOTUS and myself, the other room is empty. The students are free to move between the rooms and use either, and we’re installing a large range of lights and projectors in order to create a playground of possibility. In practice, the “official” scenography is both minimalist and quite flexible, intended to be reconfigured as development continues.
MOTUS has long used the mechanisms of production as part of their production, something that is obvious even in a quick survey of their work and something I wrote about extensively in my dissertation which included their LEVIATHAN project. For this project, Enrico and Daniella are pushing it even further: the lab is not going to be on the stage, rather the stage is the lab.
For the initial rehearsal sessions on stage, we set up a basic scenography which consists of a thread-screen (called tripolina), lights and projectors. The projectors will be introduced later. The tripolina provides truly interesting possibilities with regards to permeable “structure” on stage. The arrangement of the screens on stage creates a series of rooms with a central corridor, which provide amble possibilities for the narrative to work across space. This is particularly important as Pylade is almost entirely dialog. At the same time, the curtain is composed of strings which are easily pushed aside: the actors can move freely through the walls, crossing boundaries of time and space. The emphasis here is on memory, so I suspect we’ll use even more of this as the project goes on.
One of the more interesting things that happened on the first day was the method used for devising. Beginning with one of the blocks of text, each director took a turn configuring the stage during a live reading. At various moments, when the spirit moved them, one of the other directors would interrupt the proceedings with “excuse me, may I make a suggestion?” They would then reconfigure the stage and the show would continue.
For the duration of the project, the script has been broken into 9 sections, each under the purview of one individual. The final segment belongs to Enrico and Daniella and the prologue belongs to me. We will each, in turn, focus on our segments, weaving them together to create a democratic narrative with different parallel and intersecting agendas.
I was curious if this method was something that came from the school or from MOTUS. In fact it’s from MOTUS and is the core of their vision for this project. As Daniella told me, the stage is not a fixed system, but a site of possibility. Interruptions are part of the production and the stage should be a place for collisions, reconfiguration, retelling.
There is an honesty to this approach which reflects Pasolini’s own cinéma vérité style. The elements of theatre and performance can be guided, but need to retain bits of the chaos of life. At one point I suggested filling a gap in the screen with a standard black theatre curtain and Daniella’s reaction was quick: absolutely not. The fewer theatrical elements on stage the better. We don’t obscure the gaps, we reveal and play with them. This is theatre as event, practiced and scripted, but alive and negotiated. This is a story of the co-existence of various agendas, the negotiation of power, as in Europe after WWII, as in Pasolini’s script, as with Pylade itself, as with the world today.