Posted by: Adrian D. Cameron | December 3, 2010


–this post is part of a series of that suggests performance concepts.  please see the intro for more info.–

Photo by villageidiot (CC-BY-SA)

there is a custom in italian towns both grande and piccolo called the passeggiata, which is a big and fancy word for getting up and walking around.  it usually happens in the evening, most commonly on sundays, and is a chance for locals to take a leisurely stroll around their neighborhood, exchanging pleasantries with their neighbors.  the unscripted nature of the event is intentional..  the participants know that the simple act of getting up out of their comfortable domiciles and just walking will lead to something happening.  i’d like to investigate this concept as it could apply to performance.

this idea is not without precedent.  during the high middle ages, a popular form of liturgical drama called the mystery play would be performed on specialized mobile carts called pageant wagons, designed specifically to perform a particular pageant (i.e. a story from the bible).  on festival days, the wagons would be circled in a large community area and the audience would be given reign to wander from one to another, viewing all the stories on display as they so desired.  the haunted house, a subject i took up in an earlier post, is another prominent example.

the introduction of choice to the audience member’s situation is the key element here.  rather than consigned to immobile “Ludovico Technique” passivity, the audience is sprung from their constraints and given permission to choose their own adventure.  but to make a choice means to switch from passivity to activity, to become in some part responsible for one’s experience..  to become engaged.  all artists wish for a kind of engagement from their audiences, even if only (and frequently just only) internal/emotional/intellectual.  this is contrasted with trash entertainment disengagement;  a form which prefers its partakers docile and inactive.  in the theatre, we hope for an engagement and work hard to achieve it but the traditional infrastructure tends to restrict it.  however, put a crowd on its feet and you’ve already begun the process of allowing your spectators to become more than that:  co-creators of their experience.

no doubt this can lead to dramaturgical labyrinths.  but isn’t that good?  is anyone really interested in the well-made play anymore?  the exciting possibilities that arise by the fluid space between performer and audience suggest a new world of staging largely unexplored by theatre artists.  all thanks to the simple act of getting up and going for a walk.

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  1. Great post, Age. Nice to see you more on FB.

  2. I didn’t see any of the Lullaby Moon performances that were all site specific shows, though knew about some of them. The first one I remember hearing about took place in the streets of Greenwood with little to no forewarning given to the spectators about what they were experiencing. It sounded like the coolest of the lot and I suspect the ones that happened at places like Gasworks were a notch or two down the magical scale.

    On the other hand, how do you gauge the success or failure of an artistic endeavor if the audience doesn’t know what is happening, or rather, why it is happening? This is not to say art has no value if it is not understood, but rather to say that I believe art is not complete if it only addresses the artist’s desires and agenda. Perhaps in an ideal world words like failure and success would not be used at all when talking about art. If an artist’s work speaks to one person then I suppose that is a success. If the artist’s agenda is to piss off her entire audience, is it a failure if one person enjoys themselves?

    I’m afraid I’m not answering any of the questions I”m posing here, and am no longer sure if I even had a point when I started this comment. More anon, perhaps when I’m more focused.

  3. This is a very engaging post :-) appropriately speaking. I am curious as to the option of the 4th wall as an element of dramatic performance…in contrast to the curious ebb and flow in the engagement of artist and audience.
    As a performer, I find that my pinnacle moments have been the result of a momentary (brief or prolonged) exchange between myself (the performer) and the spectators. When you “break down” the 4th Wall…there is suddenly a vulnerability and awareness among those observing that they are suddenly put in the position as (you say) “co-creators”.
    Is anyone interested in the well-made play anymore? I think the (over)abundance of reality tv, social media outlets, and the resurgence of improv comedy among “legit” actors shows a trend towards this interactive movement type of dramaturgy and comedia…a fusion of craft and…well…non-craft :-), that we as a society are craving. As for the well-made play…the question begs itself.
    Definitely good post.

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