Break­ing down the fourth wall

Pasatiempo - - Art & Ideas -

Ah, the the­ater. That bas­tion of en­ter­tain­ment we all pro­claim to love, yet so many of us avoid like the plague. It’s stuffy, tra­di­tional, and re­quires nice clothes. Or, at least, that’s the stereo­type. The Rev­o­lu­tions In­ter­na­tional The­atre Fes­ti­val 2010 grabs those con­cep­tions like a wet towel and wrings some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent from the cloth. For al­most three weeks, var­i­ous Al­bu­querque venues play host to a va­ri­ety of home­grown and in­ter­na­tional per­for­mances— with a few par­ties thrown into the mix— that prove the­ater is any­thing but dull.

The fes­ti­val cel­e­brates its 10th year this sea­son. Nine years ago, there were eight per­for­mances, said Sum­mer Ols­son, Rev­o­lu­tions’ artis­tic di­rec­tor; in 2010, the num­ber has swelled to more than 30, with com­pa­nies from two con­ti­nents bring­ing their art to New Mex­ico.

“I can get all the pas­sive en­ter­tain­ment I want for $30 a month; it’s way more ex­cit­ing to see some­one per­form live and to in­ter­act,” says Ni­co­las Di Gae­tano, co-artis­tic di­rec­tor of Mi Casa The­atre of Ottawa and a par­tic­i­pant in this year’s fest. Wait. In­ter­act? This the­ater is about much more than break­ing the fourth wall. In his solo per­for­mance, In­clement Weather, Di Gae­tano’s lonely trav­eler re­lies on the au­di­ence’s par­tic­i­pa­tion to build the bulk of the im­pro­vised story about a man try­ing to break the lan­guage bar­rier while he waits for a train.

“I won’t pre­tend Beck­ett wasn’t an in­flu­ence,” said Di Gae­tano. “The play is about point­less wait­ing. He waits with the au­di­ence for 45 min­utes, and we see what hap­pens when we try to make friends. The whole ex­pe­ri­ence is so won­der­ful. You can sit in a train sta­tion and try for 20 min­utes to talk to some­one, and when you fig­ure out that you both have broth­ers, it’s like you’ve been friends for life.”

Di Gae­tano isn’t the only per­former at Rev­o­lu­tions to play with lan­guage. Mem­bers of Al­bu­querque’s Trick­lock Com­pany (which hosts the fes­ti­val) and Poland’s Teatr Figur Krakow trav­eled back and forth be­tween the U.S. and Poland to co-cre­ate Nasze Mi­asto/Our City, a bilin­gual, mul­ti­me­dia piece that ex­plores what it means to be away from home. By do­ing what each com­pany does best— phys­i­cal the­ater for Trick­lock and shadow the­ater and pup­petry for Teatr Figur— Nasze Mi­asto/Our City works be­yond spo­ken lan­guage to tell its tale. “The na­ture of the­ater is chang­ing so that it has more col­lab­o­ra­tions with peo­ple all over the world. We live glob­ally now, so we cre­ate glob­ally. The­ater, like ev­ery­thing else, is evolv­ing to be more cross-cul­tural,” said Joe Per­ac­chio, found­ing artis­tic di­rec­tor of Trick­lock and of Rev­o­lu­tions.

Pol­lock is the re­sult of the col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts of play­wright David D’Agostino, Moni Yakim, a teacher and found­ing mem­ber of the drama divi­sion at the Juil­liard School, who con­ceived and di­rects the play, and Per­ac­chio as per­former. Or­nette Cole­man con­trib­uted orig­i­nal mu­sic. The play takes a unique look at Jack­son Pol­lock, who gained no­to­ri­ety as much for his volatile life as he did for his paint­ings. “Any­one can pick up a book, watch the movie, or any of the doc­u­men­taries out there to get the story of his life,” said Per­ac­chio. “Moni sought to cre­ate a play that mir­rors the artist’s mind.” The one-man work uses non­lin­ear story lines and ef­fects such as video and sound to sprin­kle bits of ab­strac­tion on its au­di­ence while it asks, What is the role of art in our lives?

That ques­tion goes be­yond Pol­lock to the fes­ti­val as a whole. Ols­son said that she chose many of the per­form­ers and com­pa­nies with the re­ces­sion in mind. “The­ater and live per­for­mance are nec­es­sary to con­nect,” she said. “There’s a cer­tain kind of es­cape when some­one watches tele­vi­sion, but they don’t get that sol­i­dar­ity. In times that are tougher, every­one wants to know that oth­ers are hav­ing those same ex­pe­ri­ences.”

The re­ces­sion has also had a more con­crete ef­fect on the fes­ti­val— re­peat Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies may no­tice a lack of Santa Fe venues. Last year, Rev­o­lu­tions filled the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter with Lonny Gor­don’s Ka*Bu*Ki, but this year, it’s to the Rail Run­ner or I-25 for us state-cap­i­tal dwellers. “Be­cause of the tough times, we thought it was smart to keep things fo­cused on one area,” said Per­ac­chio. “I have ideas for Santa Fe in the fu­ture and want to bring Pol­lock to Santa Fe.”

An­other dif­fer­ence this year is the ab­sence of the Free Speech Com­edy Art Se­ries, stand-up com­edy per­for­mances that were one of the high­lights of Rev­o­lu­tions past. This year, Per­ac­chio says, it just wasn’t in the cards. “I’ve had a lot of peo­ple ask me about the se­ries. It’s not gone for good. I cre­ated it with Paul Provenza, and he’s very busy with a new show on Show­time, so it just wasn’t the right time this year.”

But the spirit guid­ing the fes­ti­val con­tin­ues year af­ter year. There is some­thing to live the­ater that doesn’t ex­ist in any other art form. “A lot of the­ater I see is safe. As an au­di­ence mem­ber I’ve felt like it’s not im­por­tant whether or not I was there, the play would be ex­actly the same, night af­ter night, no mat­ter who is in the au­di­ence,” said Di Gae­tano.

It’s a re­ac­tion to that kind of think­ing that has shaped this event. Heck, there’s even a karaoke night where the­ater fans can get in on the action them­selves. How’s that for dan­ger? ◀

His hour upon the stage: Jack­son Pol­lock

Vla­sics il­lus­trated: Ni­co­las Di Gae­tano in

In­clement Weather

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