Gathering in place: Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in the Australian landscape
What do we leave behind, what do we hold onto and how do we imagine a future? These questions are at the heart of Chekhov’s plays. In Uncle Vanya, they turn toward people’s relationship with land, trees and deforestation. Chekhov was passionate about forests and aware of their ecological importance. In this paper, I will discuss the Uncle Vanya project; a site-specific, time-specific theatre project, which transplants Chekhov’s early environmentalist play into the Australian landscape, adapting it to place and local issues. This contemporary version of the play has been performed in five regional locations in Australia: in Victoria, NSW and SA, adapted anew in response to each place through an intricate process. Each performance of the play takes two days, as each act is performed at the time of day indicated in Chekhov’s stage directions. Audiences are invited into the play and place in an intimate, immersive way. Between acts, they interact with performers, are invited on walks in the surrounding landscape and to talks about ecological and farming issues of the region. Over six years, this project has been a series of deep encounters with places, landscapes and people, as the ensemble gathers each time to live, work and play in response to each house and landscape, welcomed by the host of each property. The project dissolves boundaries between performance and reality, between audience and performers. The register is one of intimacy and porousness, in an embodied experience of the landscape over time. This durational element has ethical implications, as it brings participants together in the present moment and invokes questions of the fragile present moment, hope and responsibility to the future. In my discussion, I will refer to the ideas of Mike Pearson on site in the creation meaning, and Gernot Bohme on ethics and embodiment.
Dr Bagryana Popov is an award-winning theatre artist. She has collaborated with professional artists, students and communities, working as director, actor and performance maker. Her research interests include performance practice, embodiment, place and the experience of political repression. She is deeply interested in Chekhov’s plays and has directed Three Sisters, The Seagull and a reimagined dance-theatre version of The Cherry Orchard, titled Progress and Melancholy. Her site-specific, durational project Uncle Vanya transposed to the Australian landscape, co-produced with La Mama, was presented at the Adelaide Festival 2019. Dr Popov is a theatre lecturer and researcher at La Trobe University.
The Bati as movement of sacred gathering in Salubong
This presentation inquires how the narratives of devotion to the Virgin Mary heavily influence the choreographies and compositions of the bati (greeting) dance in salubong (encuentro) in Marinduque and Angono, Philippines. The salubong is a re-enactment of the first meeting of Jesus Christ and his sorrowful mother popularly known as Mater Dolorosa after his death on the cross. As the devotees gather, the dancers greet and wave flags for the Virgin Mary to signify the transformation of her sorrow to joy as the angels sing alleluia. The presentation explores how dancerly attitude in salubong could be an act of gathering for the devotees, and also a source of grounded movement analysis, focusing on the intertwined attitudes – the bodily attitudes, affective, spatial, and the physical dimensions of dance and dancing. The bati as dance movement, conditioned and presupposed by the religious Marian devotion and conceived as contradictory in the everyday flow, is experienced by the dancers themselves as unnatural or dancerly.
Key words: dancerly attitude, salubong, Marian devotion, sacred gathering
Bryan Levina Viray is assistant professor of theatre and dance studies at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts (DSCTA), College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines Diliman. A recipient of the 2019-2021 One UP Faculty Grant Award in Theatre (Performance Studies) for Outstanding Teaching and Creative Work, his essays on ritual, dance and performance appeared in and published by Routledge, Springer, 2018 CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Journal of English Studies and Comparative Literature, Philippine Humanities Review and Journal of Ugnayang Pang-Agham Tao.
Format of Presentation: The presentation can be an essay reading with showing of video performances, or performative where I can sing the Ave Maria (Regina Coeli) song and demonstrate some of the movement motifs or dance patterns.
Le Théâtre et la Peste: Artaud’s The Theatre and its Double as an act of gathering
In March 2020, Wolfgang Pannek – founder and co-director of Brazil’s multi-award-winning dance theatre company, Taanteatro Companhia – proposed an idea to gather artists from around the world. Using the chapter “Le Théâtre et la Peste” (“The Theatre and the Plague”) as it appears in Artaud’s work The Theatre and its Double, to function as a stimulus for evoking contemporary responses to our contemporary plague: COVID-19. This act of digitally enabled gathering brings acclaimed performance artists from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Mozambique, Thailand and Tunisia together, each contributing a creative response to the source text as it is read from government-mandated isolation. From the confines of quarantine, the artists collaborate across time and binary code, each infusing their contributions with the lived cultural, political, environmental and economic experiences fate has landed them in.
Following the traditions of the French-surrealist’s method of collective compositional arrangement, “Exquisite Corpse,” each contributor builds on the offerings of the previous to create a thematically linked montage of audio and visual recordings captured in and expressing viral isolation. In a kind of unintentional homage to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2000 film Mysterious Object at Noon, the result is an orchestrated presentation of short film-like accounts covering a breadth of isolation experiences, each welcoming the other to generate a truly global reaction to the crisis.
This presentation will briefly discuss the philosophical and theoretical connections between the contemporary experience and Artaud’s words, before detailing some of the creative process and the collaborative journeys of the artists involved. It will include showing sections of the final creative composition.
Dr Shane Pike is a published playwright, award-winning director and lecturer in drama at the Queensland University of Technology. A significant amount of his work is dedicated to exploring (and expressing) Australian identity/ies. Directing credits include Appalling Behaviour, Ma Ma Ma Mad and Nineteen (Brisbane Powerhouse and Arts Queensland) and Yesterday’s Hero (Taanteatro, Sao Pualo, Brazil). His plays Nineteen (Playlab) and The Boys of St Crispian (Playlab) are the creative outcomes of several years of ethnodramatic research into notions of identity amongst young Australians and are available to purchase online from Australian Plays and Playlab.