Performance in its execution becomes something more than the individuals involved. Siblings, Community, Bread and Puppets, SHEDx, Italian Dinner Theatre and Solarpunk.
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I hope he won’t mind me mentioning. But I had a wonderful call with the artist, composer, and choreographer Colin Self this week. We caught up and chatted about his creative life and journey. Our chat was affirming. Full of great insight and good medicine.
If you haven’t heard Self’s 2018 album Siblings – You definitely should.
It’s an album about critical joy. Making kin, ways of knowing and coming together in this time of ecological crisis. Inspired by the work of Donna Haraway. The album is the final segment in a six-part opera cycle entitled Elation. It’s a remarkable work. I privileged to see the European premiere at Unsound. The album is out on RVNG.
The essence of our conversation was about coming together. To make and create things in community. How performance in its execution becomes something more than the individuals involved. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently with regard to #pretgate here in the UK. It illustrates a perceived near zero public sphere. There is no space not oriented toward buying stuff or making profit for someone else.
Colin mentioned the Bread and Puppet Theatre and as a result I’ve been on an internet binge. A bit of their history from the website:
The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. More complex theater pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger. (..) Many performances were done in the street. During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people.
In 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The 140-year old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets. Our Domestic Resurrection Circus, a two day outdoor festival of puppetry shows, was presented annually through 1998.
The company makes its income from touring new and old productions both on the American continent and abroad, and from sales of Bread and Puppet Press’ posters and publications. The traveling puppet shows range from tightly composed theater pieces presented by members of the company, to extensive outdoor pageants which require the participation of many volunteers.
Bread and Puppet is one of the oldest, nonprofit, self-supporting theatrical companies in the country.
I live in Surbiton and have a v.different, but similar organisation right around the corner.
The Community Brain. They exist to develop community cohesion using the widest range of the arts, education and local history in order to give people and place renewed importance and pride.
They are about utilising people’s natural talents and energies to develop stronger communities and relationships. Strengthening the natural networking and support that can happen in healthy societies creating more resilient communities.
Their concerns (in my mind) are:
- Public Play
- Myths and Legends
- History & Heritage
- The Future
It is real place making, not as gloss for gentrification.
The Community Brain have a project called SHEDx based at an allotment plot in Tolworth called ‘Farm of Futures’. A project engaging the local community of Tolworth, and surrounding areas. Encouraging people to take ownership of their unused and green spaces. The project has re-greened Tolworth broadway. Kickstarted the first Tolworth Christmas market in many years. And they are helping locals define, imagine, improve and enact the capital F future for their town.
SHEDx is an exact replica of the existing crooked shed that lives at the Tolworth site. A flat-pack travelling exhibition space which promotes allotment culture around the UK. It has squatted outside the Victoria and Albert Museum. And some what improbably won a silver medal at Hampton Court Flower Show.
Community brain also made use of puppets. Made to represent new myths and legends created by the local community at parades and events. You might have seen me tweeting about Lefi Ganderson and the State of Seething.
I’ve also recently discovered the Teatro del Sale in Florence Italy.
The result of a vision by Maria Cassi, its artistic director, and her husband Chef Fabio Picchi. Who the godfather of the Italian local food movement. His life’s work has been championing the Tuscan farm to table movement. He’s a larger than life almost Solarpunk character.
Guests stand in line and go up to a window to collect their food. Its first come first serve so with each dish served there is a raucous rush to queue up.
Teatro del Sale opened its doors in 2003 as a dinner theatre venue and members association. Anyone can eat there but they must sign up for a membership first.
From the videos I’ve seen, Fabio shouts and harrangs the patrons in good faith and everyone is smiling. After the meal patrons have to help clear the tables and reset the chairs to face the stage. After each dinner there is a performance from professional musicians, dancers and actors. It could be anything depending on the night.
What a fantastic idea.
I’ve been involved with some citizen sci-fi as part of my association with Solarpunk and I’ve always talked about food first.
Visionary Mode for me right now is a combination of puppets, theatre, community, music, communal food, drama, farming and the future. Not being discussed. But like SHEDx enacted in every town, place and local borough of every city.
Solarpunk LARPing is just doing the future – today.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.