ONE THOUSAND WORLDS
About running a workshop at La MaMa Umbria International from Performance Arcade director Sam Trubridge.
The accidental audience exists everywhere. They expect stimulation although they aren’t looking for it. They will stop if you give them chance, they will stay a while, and they will get to know you. The accidental audience is hungry, bored, thirsty, desperate, and horny, even though they do not want anything from you. You might become best friends. You might become enemies. You might become lovers. On the side of an Umbrian mountain last month I ran a workshop with participants in the La MaMa Umbria International summer workshop programme. Language about the programme is careful not to call them students, perhaps because we are all students, and always learning. Instead, language identified these 17 directors as ‘participants’, because they came to La MaMa each with their own exceptional experience in making and presenting theatre across North America and the world. As participants at La MaMa they all contributed to a unique space of dialogue, collaboration, experimentation, and discovery.
As a guest workshop leader I was responsible for providing guidance and provocation for this group through five days of exploration into the visual, material, and experiential worlds of performance making. Over this time we extracted dramaturgies from the worlds of the five senses, from objects, spaces, bodies, and groups of bodies. On the final day we took our findings into the medieval Italian city of Spoleto, where narrow streets descend from a castle and cathedral through tightly packed buildings and piazzas to the river plain below. In these streets, and in the ancient roman theatre the participants engaged with the architecture of this beautiful city, performing simple routines that misused familiar objects, spaces, and relationships to produce powerful insights into other worlds… A lady inflating plastic bottles with her breath that she would then crush against her chest in a cycle of inhalation and exhalation. A bandanna waved upon the wind. A watch lowered by string into a shopping bag. A golden frame and a faceless figure. A man caressing his lover’s shadow. A golden shoe on a string. A giant crimson cloth. A king on a leash. A tambourine. A cheerleader of tears. The clatter of stone on a railing. Drawing on paper the body holds up. Another body wrapped in tissue. A man dancing with a broken shoe. Passers-by stopped to watch, sometimes to engage, As we travelled through the city new performers entered our ensemble: buskers, diners, walkers, shoppers, dogs waiting outside bakeries, tides of goggling tourists, kids with icecreams, a supermodel in a rainbow romper… down through the city and back up again. The accidental audience fills every city with their desires, with their curiosity, with their tears and their laughter, with their stories and their journeys – there are a thousand worlds in the eyes of the street.