Friday, November 27, 2009

Kickoff! -- Stolen Chair Theatre's Community Supported Theatre

Here's the first dispatch from Jo Ann Rosen, nytheatre.com's "embedded journalist" with the Stolen Chair Theatre's Community Supported Theatre program.

*****

November 22, 2009

Even before President Obama urged educators to concentrate their efforts on math and science, Stolen Chair Theatre co-artistic directors Jon Stancato and Kiran Rikhye were reaching for the stars. Last night, they launched the pilot program of their Community Sponsored Theatre (CST) that introduced friends, family and, most importantly, the new CST members to this year’s theatrical theme: Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage.

The evening, divided into two parts, began with a slide presentation by Jon, also the resident director, explaining the CST concept, which he hopes will solidify a long-term relationship between the theater group and its membership. The plan is to update and educate the members monthly on the creative process. Kiran, Stolen Chair’s resident playwright, focused on their mission statement: to create “playfully intellectual, wickedly irreverent and exuberantly athletic original works.” Aviva Meyer, the communications director, explained how they intend to increase awareness through telephone interviews that will become pod casts and through their online social network, The Chaise Lounge, where subsequent CST events and other related activities, will be posted.

But it was the second part of the evening that delivered on the CST concept; that is, they shared the result of their first steps in the dynamic process of creating a play. Seven actors re-enacted exercises developed during a recent creative retreat. To prepare for the retreat, each actor received a 211-page compilation of articles and books on a wide variety of scientific subjects, including theoretical physics and neuroscience. They also received books by Bertolt Brecht, Aristotle, and Richard Schechner, who, in Jon’s words, “approach theater with the same sort of empirical rigor as scientists.” During the retreat, ideas percolated and Jon added requirements and boundaries to the concepts. The actors interpreted and enacted them. The best of the compositions were presented at the kickoff.

Performances represented the personification of five theories: chaos, gravity, memory, evolution, and synethesia (senses crossing from one part of the brain to another, as from brain damage or drugs). The first exercise, made up of all seven actors, reflected an imaginative interpretation of a human collider creating new matter. The group, held tightly together by a hula hoop, moved slowly to center stage. Once the plastic ring dropped, each burst from the whole with great energy. Another performance related the story of The Three Little Pigs to represent three gravity-defining moments; a third showed the daily routine of two people that could easily have doubled for two rats in a maze. All were big scientific ideas applied to every day life. They were made comprehensible and whimsical by this very clever group.

Kiran, who will be giving shape to the final play, knows there will be lots of changes during this year-long collaboration. The final version may include parts of the exercises, maybe only a gesture, or none of it. But, what the charter members saw last night was the first spark of a new play – Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage. The next event is on Sunday, December 13. They will be screening clips from movies that explore scientific themes. Membership is still open.

*****

Learn more about Stolen Chair and CST here.

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