SAIIER 2019:Contemporary Theatre for All

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SAIIER 2018-19
Contemporary Theater for All
by Compagnie SDF and Unicorn Collective


by Celine


This project strove to bring more artistic happenings into the community of Auroville fostering unending education and growth of spirituality. We engaged with all ages and beyond languages to bring high quality contemporary physical theater in the community. As skits and classical theater prevailed for decades in Auroville, we intended to present new forms of theater to Aurovilians: abstract, visual, connected and poetic. Our theater want to express the shared values of Auroville’s ideal. Our research aims at finding the most achieved form to stage beauty, souls, truth, conscious living and spiritual quest with the necessary amount of lightness and modernity.

Description of project:

a) Drama in schools

The idea was to offer a full process including theater exercises, writing, staging and performance. Very few teachers/schools responded to the offer. I started to work with “Faith group” (ages 13-14) from Deepanam School on the basis of a weekly class for 4 months. During holiday break in December I learned that the kids didn’t want to continue. I felt that we should have talked about the process of doubt a bit more which is very common in artistic experience instead of just allowing the kids to give up at the first difficulty. Although the format of a weekly class is absolutely not fitting to the dynamics of teens, as it means slow progress and too much time to question the process, leading to a decreasing motivation and doubts. With a shorter and more condensed process, I think the group would get caught in the dynamic fully and at the end really enjoy the result as much as the process in full trust.
Based on this experience, for next season I intend to train the teachers directly, to give them a taste of my offer that they can experience for themselves practically on stage.

b) School of Drama

The implementation of the drama school, as a free choice activity out of school timing was not possible this past year mainly because of lack of slots in rehearsal spaces suiting to kids and teens’ timings. With the extension of the CRIPA complex, I have good hope to be able to have more slots and finally offer some classes and intensive workshops for kids and teens.

c) Research in mute theater and Odd-Eye-See performance

The team of the Auroville Art Camp & Festival, which took place in March 2019, asked us to present a performance inspired by Mother’s quote: “A new world is possible, because it has never been before.” We decided to take the opportunity of this event to create a mute performance. It has been a long time since this idea of creating and performing a play beyond words came into my mind as it is particularly relevant in the context of Auroville. Our research focused on a form of theater for which words are not the main component of the play. Instead of words and language as a main form of expression, our performance used bodies, moves, sounds, music and videos to evoke and represents situations understandable by all, telling a story, through scenes both abstract and concrete, fairy and funny, for the delight of all.
We worked with improvisations to find ideas and images, then we wrote a small storyboard and set up each scene. We ended up with a performance called ODD-EYE-SEE performed by 6 actors and actresses (3 Aurovilians, 2 Newcomers and 1 pre-Newcomer) and one kid.
I imagined, created and recorded a soundtrack with music and sounds to go along with the performers on stage. Tom Mo realized for us a short video that was included in the performance.
We performed it at the Visitors' Center and three times at CRIPA – one of these was in the morning for the schools (Kindergarten, Deepanam, Transition and Last School).
The performance was very well appreciated by a wide range of people and feedbacks were very enthusiastic.

d) Within/without

Last summer, Anne Hildebrand submitted a text which she since updated. It is an intimate dialogue between two characters, sharing their thoughts, their challenges and their joys about the inner quest as souls living in bodies, seeking for deepness and significance in their experience on the Earth. We are working on this play now. Through this play we want to express the complexity and in the same time, the simplicity of just being ‘here and now’ in an integral surrender, evoking the intimate everyday work of our soul which leads to just being intensively in the divine world. This will be expressed through the words of Anne Hildebrand and a simple, efficient, connected and inspired way of performing it. It will be a 40 minute theater play in French with English surtitles, a pure product of Auroville, easy to perform anywhere in Auroville and outside (Alliances Françaises for example) to share with a wide range of people the inner work we are aiming at here in Auroville. We intend to present it in August at CRIPA.

e) Puppets

“From seed to love” (working title) is a wordless puppet show from which a children's book and animated movie will be made. This set of art pieces is a poetic evocation of the joy of offering and the cycle of life and love. It is mainly for children but also enjoyable for the inner child in each grownup. I am currently building marionettes (facing technical difficulties), doing and redoing two characters and one prop out of at total of 6. I am also working on sketches for the book.

Outcomes:

  • Weekly class for Deepanam Students: they learned theater exercises and challenged themselves with abstract form of theater.
  • One show closely connected to Auroville’s aspirations performed by 6 adults and 1 kid at the Visitor's Center and CRIPA. One of these performances organized for the schools and attended by five groups of children aged 6-12 as well as the Last School full group. The audience and school students discovered and enjoyed a new form of theater fostering imagination and reflection. The performers discovered themselves and their capacities through a collective and creative work requiring focus, discipline, commitment and humility.
  • One stop-motion video and one soundtrack. Three set pieces: one black wooden stage (90 cm x 200 cm) with 2 acrylic boxes, one big doll/puppet, 3 marionettes (one to be finished).
  • Videos on YouTube and photos and comments on social media, which contribute to give a positive image of Auroville and the activities we develop here. After the show, we were contacted by people who wanted to work with us on coming projects.
  • One software designed to ease the diffusion of surtitles. This will help to develop the use of surtitles, not only for French plays.
  • Refection and maturation of 4 to 5 new coming projects.

Reflections:

Meaningful aspects:

  • Bringing Aurovillians that never performed before to their best shape on the stage (this year it was for Elena and for 6-year-old Kimaya). Each was extremely touched by and grateful to receive so many positive feedbacks on their performance, increasing their level of self-esteem and self-confidence which are undoubtedly very precious for our life in Auroville.
  • Receiving support and enthusiastic feedback from so many people from the audience including kids, skilled artists from Auroville (Paul, Jean, Mahi and others) and old Aurovilians was also very meaningful. Non-French speakers discovered our work for the very first time and old Aurovilians were touched by such a new poetic and connected form of theater.

Challenges :

  • As usual, the time and space are the biggest challenges: finding the appropriate place to perform, finding enough slots at suitable time to set up activities and workshops, finding people with enough time to work on this demanding project were the biggest difficulties. As everyone has its own work to sustain him/herself, his own priorities, commitments, limitations and must-do, the schedule becomes quickly very limited. Indeed a certain level of commitment and proficiency and a big amount of time are required to produce a high quality performance.
  • Another challenge was to accept the difficulty of implementing my activities in schools. I still need to gain trust of the teachers (and kids) to properly run workshops in schools.

Conclusion:

The creation of plays and performances continues to be quite smooth and with a regular rhythm of 2 to 3 per year. This season we were able to present only one due to a lack of performing spaces and slots, but a second one is ready and will be performed soon. We intend to present more performances for the coming year. I also have good hope that the implementation of a new form of theater in schools will slowly happen.