Naked Response is festival project where a diverse group of authors – artists, theorists and audience members – write about what they have seen and experienced. Their reflection co-creates the events of the festival, offers feedback to the artistic work, develops the theory of improvisation and encourages general development of international improvisational theatre scene.
An introductory seminar of this year’s Naked Stage will be held by Samo Oleami, art critic focusing mostly on contemporary dance, street and improvisational theatre, the author of Trust me, I’m a critic blog, and Thomas Jäkel, the founder and the author of online platform ImproNews, a propulsive practician and theorist of improvisational theatre. The two of them will share their approach to writing about improvisation with writers of this year’s Naked Response.
Guided by programme coordinator Tanja Matijašević, the Naked responders will regularly publish their thoughts about performances during the festival. The writings about their experiences are especially precious because improvisation is the most distinctly transient art form – as soon as the work is created it is already gone.
I Am an Envelope
1st Day of the festival Wednesday, 21 November 2018 Venue: Stara mestna elektrarna - Elektro Ljubljana Concept and directing: Matthieu Loos Performers: Alenka Marinič, Julie Doyelle, Ladislav Karda, Lee White, Michaela Puchalková, Urša Strehar Benčina, Vanda Gabrielova, Vid Sodnik Music: Goran Završnik, Hannu Risku Lights: Borut Cajnko
I am an envelope was a show full of captivating atmospheres, positive support and uncomfortable confusion. Building on the idea of territorial identity, the format draw a very interesting line by separating the improvisers into opposite-identity groups: I am European & I am Non-European, I am an English native speaker & I am an English non-native speaker, etc. Although the countries of origin were mentioned, the audience was unaware of who exactly was from where, which made the improvisators’ answers to the questions even more personal and maybe less pressured by the stereotypes.
Surprisingly, the improvisers almost never built upon the opposition proposed by the questions, leading to very positive scenes where support among the performers was one of the main pillars. Such a non-confrontational approach to the format gave the improvisers the opportunity to play with their identities as a form on inclusion instead of exclusion. Ironically, the ten improvisers did not balance their appearances along the show: some of them were too present, some of them were not given the space to participate. On the other hand, making the musicians, Goran Završnik and Hannu Risku, adhere to the format rules was a very wise choice, as it made the audience more aware of their presence or absence as they are also part of the improvising group.
The little instructions given by director Matthieu Loos gave all scenes a very interesting starting point that was supported by the division of the space created by the light technician. Most of the time the improvisers managed to create very interesting atmospheres by playing with the contrasts. However, a lot of times the lights failed to support the improvisers’ decision to change places or the ambient of the scene. In addition, a lot of the scenes did lack a clear background story that would have helped the audience understand the relationships, the decisions, the change of emotions, etc., leading to confusing scenes for both the audience and the improvisers. As a consequence, the concept of identity seemed to get lost in many of the scenes, disconnecting them from the overall idea of the show and failing to communicate to the public the connection between the format, the improvisers, the show and the festival in general.
Nevertheless, taking into account the little rehearsal time the ten amazing improvisers from such different backgrounds had, the show was built upon a very interesting tension based on silence, space division and lights’ atmosphere that kept the audience engaged. And even when all ten improvisers were on stage, there was a clear commitment to listen to each other, support each other’s ideas and have fun together as envelopes.
- Rocío Barquilla
Childhood in Flashbacks
2nd Day Of The Festival Thursday, 22rd November at 7pm Venue: Stara mestna elektrarna - Elektro Ljubljana Concept and directing: Michaela Puchalková Performers: Julie Doyelle, Ladislav Karda, Matthieu Loos, Sara Šoukal, Tomaž Lapajne Dekleva, Vanda Gabrielova Music: Goran Završnik Lights: Borut Cajnko
There was a certain boldness in the air on the second night of the Naked Stage. The setting was vast and impressive; two pairs of chairs on each side were engulfed by the broad blackness of the stage and curtains. This offered a lot of room and freedom from the very beginning. What is more, it opened up the question: Where are the boundaries of this playing field and how will they be pushed? Before the lights went down, the director of the show urged the performers to go with their impulses, giving them even more flexibility to explore – and so, this was the time to begin. Filling such a space is no small task. But there really was a certain boldness in the air and thus, the stage was immediately challenged by a solo performance. This very first scene already explored the space behind the curtain, representing only an introduction to what was yet to come. The openness of the format allowed for anything to happen and the ensemble truly made good use of this. The audience was offered a variety of characters, emotions, intense movements and stories that were loosely pieced together. Some were even reinterpreted, offering a different viewpoint to a previous scene. Such references were especially appreciated in those cases, where loose ends of an earlier story were woven together into a whole. Seeing the actors work together to make sense of the storyline was a pleasant sight, despite some of the narration remaining enigmatic. It was apparent that the ensemble was discovering its artistic expression in the moment, which was undoubtedly led by inspirational music. The latter was a key component to the evolution of most scenes, as audience suggestions played no role that night. This might have been one of the reasons for a certain feeling of disconnectedness with the spectators. They were certainly watching an inventive performance, yet they were not invited to take part in it. On the other hand, this could also be seen as a bold move by the director, who only asked the audience members to clap when an impulse calls for it. Sometimes, one must leave the inspiration to the stage itself, so the actors can uncover a more inward approach to their performance. Such acts shed a light on the importance of cooperation, support and timing in the cast and deserve their praise. Unfortunately, in some cases, the puzzle fit so neatly together on stage, but wasn't followed by an equally impressive reaction on the lights, which would have been the cherry on top. However, this goes to show the complexity and risk of the artform and the immense satisfaction one gets when everything aligns. We were privileged to have experienced some of these moments that evening. In the end, the cast rightfully aligned one final time to bow their heads to art, freedom and boldness.
3rd festival day Friday, 23rd November, 9pm Venue: Stara mestna elektrarna - Elektro Ljubljana Concept and performing: Alenka Marinič, Hannu Risku, Julie Doyelle, Matthieu Loos Music: Hannu Risku Lights: Borut Cajnko
When the foundation of a show is to convey feelings, the audience cannot help to give it meaning on their own. For me, Chaka chaka was a show where four playful kids confronted big human passions: jealousy, complicity, lust, rejection, disdain, satisfaction, hope, humiliation, despair, etc. Delightedly, these passions also turned into very strong power dynamics between the characters that forced the audience to get invested. Brilliantly, the beginning and the ending of the show was full of passion and energy: a sick shaking drum session that forced the improvisers to explode by running, jumping, twisting, trembling and freezing in exhaustion. As a consequence, during the show the improvisers interacted with the stage by moving around a lot, getting in/out or even playing from behind the curtains. Moreover, this explosive beginning seemed to set up a structure for the rest of the show based on the change of tempos (like going from running to lying still on the floor) and on the causal interaction among the improvisers (like moving around in complete disconnection until they bump into each other). Julie Doyelle, Matthieu Loos and Alenka Marinič did not lose their playfulness even when the scenes seemed to come to a confusing dead end. Instead, they managed to listen to each other carefully, build tension trough strong physicality, take advantage of the silence and confront each other’s feelings. In several occasions, such complicity materialized into a level of absurdity that made the audience laugh. Because the show was built on impulsive sensations, a lot of scenes did not have a clear idea behind them and the transition between them was somehow confusing. Part of the audience was engaged in this abstraction, but the rest may have gotten lost. However, the improvisers managed to recycle previous movements, punch lines and content, which established some kind of continuity along this collage of scenes. Last but not least, one of the main attractions of Chaka chaka was precisely to place the musician in the center of the stage, allowing him to face the audience from the spotlight -a place rarely handed over to impro musicians-. Despite this daring decision, Hannu Risku was not always given the space to play in the spotlight along the rest of the improvisers. Nevertheless, he managed to surprise the audience by bringing up not only one, but two hidden instruments in the middle of the show: a melodica and a small guitar. A pleasant surprise that chaka chaka things up!
Matthieu Loos: Beyond Skin (workshop)
Location: Kreatorij DIC, Dijaški dom Ivana Cankarja - building A, Poljanska street 26, Ljubljana Time: Thursday, November 22, and Friday, November 23, from 2pm till 5pm (6 hour workshop) Participants: improvisers with at least 3 years of impro experience who regularly rehearse and/or perform, maximum 12 participants
Be brave facing freedom
We start in the body. That is where we need to go to get out of our heads. We feel our own body, we feel the other's body, and we feel the space between the two bodies. We play with closeness and contact and dive into the tension created by the presence of the other. This is just an introduction, a warm up, a door into the exploration. During the workshop with Matthieu we don't talk much. We move. We sweat. We feel. We are. We do. We act. We don't spend much time in our minds, because that's not what he's interested in. He's interested in emergence, not in invention. He's interested in our feelings, not our ideas. He's interested in the silence, not the words. He's interested in moments, not in plot lines. There is an ease in this approach, but it also a weight. An ease in not having to do anything and the weight of staying true to what is already there. It's about letting things happen, not about making things happen, and even though that sound simple, it might not be easy. Not because it's hard per se – but because we so rarely give ourselves the time and space to let ourselves feel. Often, we'd much rather think our way through tough moments, talk the pain away and know right away who we are, where we are and what we are doing. Matthieu gently invites us into the realm of not-knowing – the only place where discovery is possible. He's suspicious of freedom, he says, so we stay within strictly choreographed movement. We are given physical tools of timing, rhythm, speed, and gaze direction – to play within the choreography. Humans are story-making animals. It's impossible not to recognize a story in watching bodies move through space and inter-act, as long as the actors on stage stay present and committed to the (inter-)action. When somebody comes close, looks you in the eye and then turns around and leaves, it feels like a punch in the stomach – regardless what the story is, no matter if it's a lover, a mother, a friend, a boss, whoever walks away without looking back, we feel abandoned; our body feels it even when our brain doesn't yet have the story. It's primal – our bodies react to the situation we might not yet understand. We feel something and we don't yet know why or what. This is where we stop. In most »scenes« we don't get any further from playing with action and presence and just acknowledge the feelings that spontaneously arise from that; specification is the final step of the process, not the beginning, and it is to arise from what is already there, what feels natural. When we go step by step – presence, action, feeling, and only then specification and story, we don't have to make anything up. It's all already there, covered in layers of meaning, we just need to dis-cover it. It's like Michelangelo's statues, like every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it, every action has a story inside it, it is the task of the improviser to discover it. So we play with discoveries – and once we get from the unknown into the known, we stop; we can practice this elsewhere and have been practicing it since we started improvising (or, more accurately, since we were toddlers playing »as if«). But to discover, we need to stay with the uncertainty long enough. And that is not always comfortable. There is a word that has never been spoken during the workshop, but lies underneath everything Matthieu Loos led us through, gently and gradually, to reach beyond skin. That word is vulnerability. Vulnerability does not necessarily mean sharing bits and pieces of our lives with the audience. Also curiosity is vulnerable – because it requires us to stay with the not knowing, with the uncertainty of emergence. We can be certain that something will emerge, but we are yet to discover what that will be. We can't make decisions – we can't control the outcomes. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as »uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure«, and all of this is a part of our experience. The choreography and the boundaries limit our freedom, and that makes our risks manageable, the uncertainty bearable and the emotional exposure safe – but the vulnerability is still there. Presence lies in the willingness to commit to the action, in the flow that springs from the excitement of discovery, in staying open to be affected by what happens. An improviser is like a man walking backwards, said Keith Johnstone. I always thought this means that we remember where we came from but we don't see where we are going. Now I think good improvisation also feels like walking backwards – exciting, uncertain, exposed, risky and vulnerable. It takes courage, and that is why it makes us feel truly alive.
Your 15 Minutes of Fame
Thursday, November 22 at 9pm Venue: Stara mestna elektrarna - Elektro Ljubljana
Concept and performing: Lee White Music: Hannu Risku Lights: Borut Cajnko
Star of the Playground
Picture this: a tropical fish who knows jack shit about improv and who’s been invited to write about it. “Come and give us a fresh perspective”, they said. “It would be useful for us to get some feedback from someone who is a complete outsider”, they said. And I, the newborn baby that I am - said yes.
So, I get into the theatre and sit in the audience at Star Elektrarna for Lee White’s Your 15 minutes of fame with a live score by Hannu Risku.
I have no idea what to expect when Risku and his music magically appear in the left of the stage. White strolls in and addresses the audience directly getting us to sit up and clap. No problem, I think, as I clap vigorously, I can do this. Just as long as I am not asked to walk on stage - I’am golden. And then, naturally, everything spirals out of control.
White, who looks like a very tall feral deer/elf/crow/Goblin King taken out of a Terry Pratchett’s novel, unceremoniously asks all those who have any kind of experience with improv to sit down in what could be described as the fastest game of “Guess who” in the world. When the weeding is over, I find myself still standing with 4 or 5 other comrades among the audience. That’s when White declares in all his Canadianess: “Congratulations, you are the stars of the show.” Dude, what? Fuck no. As I am standing there, singled out for skills and knowledge I do not possess, I feel unease, awkwardness, a little bit of betrayal.
But I am intrigued beyond my better judgement, so I don’t leave. Instead, I sit down and start to take notice of the pressure I feel. Ok, so how long’s the show? How many people were standing exactly? 4 or 5? Maybe I can just weather this thing out? White takes a sip of wine and waits for the first tribute. Several minutes go by before the first volunteer stands up an comes on stage. It’s a woman. White greets her, asks for some suggestions from the audience, gives a couple of words of reassurance and the lights go out. When they come back on, we are looking at a couple. A man realizes what sacrifices his partner has done for him. She is shy in a way that can be mistaken for harshness. He is an easily irritated fluffy bunny. They’re at a fish market, and there is a not-so-fresh salmon involved. People are entertained and laugh. Lights go out. Applause. Then, an another stretch of uncomfortable waiting slowly picks up. At some point, another woman says: ”Fuck it”, and comes on stage. White performs the same procedure: greeting, reassurance, suggestion from the volunteer and the audience. Lights go out. Back on. We are looking at a couple again; they are about to make a big step in their relationship. Also, there are snow-globes and pregnancy jokes. It’s fun. Lights go out. It works again. Applause.
At this point I am wondering why the scene turned out to be a romantic relationship again, and at which point it took form and whose decision was it to establish it as such. I am entertained, but I also want to find out how White and Risku create their magic.
This is what I am thinking as I am watching another volunteer take the stage. It’s a girl this time. It’s not a romantic relationship, they are both trees. As White and the girl swing gently in the breeze, the girl-tree makes a chilling prophecy: “It’s Black Friday”, she says. And it could have become a hilarious story about witches and Black Sabbaths and dancing devils, but - unfortunately - capitalism has invaded even the most sacred of spaces, so the scene unspools as a tragic echo of rampant consumerism. The trees are only slightly bothered, though - so that’s cool. The lights go out. There’s an applause, then another stretch of waiting for volunteers.
Naturally, that’s when I reach my ‘fuck it!’ moment and march onto the stage, hating everything and everyone. I am anxious as White tells me the audience already loves me - and I want to smack him and run away. People clap. We take suggestions from the audience - I pick a food: watermelon. Lights out. When they come back on, White is confrontational: “Did you bring this watermelon?”, he asks. My mind goes straight to a Dirty Dancing montage (I can’t believe I am writing this), and then goes - for lack of a better word - blank. My self-perception shifts. I don’t really know what and how I am, you know? So I say: “I cannot really answer that question”. And White goes with it. The scene - for me - becomes an exercise in avoiding giving him the information he wants, by employing a very clumsy “confuse and run away” tactic. I cannot keep a straight face. Half-way through he foils my attempt to reach for some safety in the back of the stage. Step by step, however, he becomes more exasperated and I start to have more fun. The audience laughs. I am having the time of my life (kill me with the Dirty Dancing references). When the lights go out I don’t know exactly what White does to hold the space while shouldering all the responsibility, not only for the outcome of the show, but also for the well-being of the people he’s on stage with. But it works. And it has to do with safety, attention, and generosity. And fun. It feels like play. It feels like play because even at those times when White gets pushed into a tight space and needs to take tight control over the narrative, Hannu sweeps in with his music to give him a boost when needed, and a melodious smack on the head when he’s being a nob. I love Hannu. He’s great.
Naked Response 2016
All The Things We Can Do Just By Looking At Each Other
The International Festival Of Improvisational Theatre Naked Stage opened its 13th edition with a collection of duos, aptly titled Tandem, that presented us with different pairs of improvisers who inaugurated their scenes just by looking at each other and seeing where it takes them. While that may seem like a recipe for disaster, it was quite far from it. At the end of the presentation one was incredibly suprised at how a similar introduction, i.e. two people gazing at each other, could produce such a variety of outcomes and also how much of it subtly covered the contemporary global conundrum.
However, it didn't start with theatre improvisation, the music had the privilege of setting all that followed. Hannu Risku and Evren Gülseven did a sonic journey that went through different homages to the early 70's progressive rock and which anticipated the modus operandi for the entire evening with its arc – all of the performances evolved gradually, the participants slowly built them until they reached the peak. One is correct when one claims that is why things felt timid at first, even though once they got going, they transformed into snapshots of different vibes and tales.
For instance, Tomaž Lapajne Dekleva and Urša Strehar Benčina did a lyrical interlude about a couple in crisis, even though their introductory silence suggested a different approach. Nonetheless, the change was justified within the piece. Surprises were also in store for Sara Šoukal and Zeynep Özyurt Tarhan's expression of the disgust over the system. Speaking of the latter, Jacob Banigan and Rok Bohinc's two ragged soldiers mocked the power of hierarchy in a way of those old war movies about boot training did. Furthermore, Gregor Moder and Katarina Veselko's did a Chaplinesque romantic comedy, filtered through the slapstick of Tex Avery. They also dealt, obliquely, with the question of barriers and closeness. The grand finale was Vid Sodnik and Koray Bülent Tarhan's meeting of two identical people that had a tinge of Samuel Beckett, if he were more of an optimist. It also ended the production on the note about understanding one another and the similarities that unite us.
While all the episodes may appear to be random, they were consistent with the theme of this year's festival. Its motto is crossing over which could manifest itself in a multitude of ways. The most obvious instance of that is crossing over a border, although it could also refer to crossing over distinct art forms in order to combine them together. However, we could also say that the slogan of the current edition of Naked Stage asks us to go beyond our comfort zone. Each of the performances touched on that, the characters within them struggled with that and there is also a sense that the phrase of the festival has a huge resonance to the modernity. The thing is that the current situation across the globe, the issues are too numerous to mention, is a product of people not willing to go outside their bubbles. We live in a world, where going outside your usual parameters is considered to be something close to a treason, even though it is the way to better humanity. This year's festival and its opening gambit therefore began from a position that wasn't seen as socially critical a few years ago, yet it became like that recently. It is an important statement to make, especially in this period where the storm is already here and we must cross over to find the shelter. Tandem showed us we cannot do this alone, we must do it together, but we have to start by looking into each other's eyes. - Mitja Lovše
Theater im Bahnhof: Serial Junkies
I fell in love with this show upon it's beginning, when Jacob and Beatrix came on stage. For me the first impression is very important, because you get to know the people who are going to engage you for the next two hours. And Jacob and Beatrix came to the stage relaxed, but focused. Ready, but not to hyped. Peaceful, but not boring. Overall they were very nice to look at and they treated us with love and respect. After explaining a little about the show, we are about to experience together, they started by letting us pick the pictures that will inspire the show.
First we, the audience, picked a photo of SPAR, the market. My first thought was: “How capitalistic of us” then I thought: "I am not sure capitalistic is the right word for what I meant” and then my thought process went from: "Don't we all have enough of markets trying to get our attention outside?” , ”Why stain the theatre with it?" to the eureka moment of: "Of course - the recognition.” We all love moments, when we recognise something. We used to get to know the world like that when we were children. We got awarded every time we recognised something then. And when this happens in theatre, we experience that same warm and fuzzy feeling all over again and we all love it. We don't love SPAR, we just recognised it. What a relief. After we picked the pictures, the show began with Jacob and Beatrix watching each other and telling a story. This was also the second time I fell in love with the show.
I am a huge geek for storytelling. I am also a huge geek for TV series. So they combined my two favourite elements in one show. How can you not fall in love? The show was structured in two parts. We saw the PILOT episode in the first part, and the LAST episode in the second part, after the break. The piece also included audience by giving some audience members balls (I will not mention all the jokes that came out while giving the balls) that they could throw on stage anytime they wanted to suggest something about the story.
At the beginning we established three characters: a sadistic historian Margaretha who is working in a market, a nitter young waiter Johann who is working in a caffe and a confident refugee Shalab Dah who happens to be in a church at the beginning. Then the magic began. Jacob and Beatrix conducted the story by telling us what is happening and not acting everything out. The style reminded me of the Improv game Didaskalije (He said, She Said) combined with scene painting and some wonderful character work. They told the story in a way that every audience member could visualise characters in their own way. How often does a theatre play let every audience member create their own world, while watching one story? It was very magical and even though it was a little to long in my opinion and it got a little too complicated in the second part, I enjoyed watching the show very much.
I don't think Austrian television will buy the PILOT we created, but Jacob and Beatrix established a safe and positive environment for every audience member and created a lovely piece we all enjoyed and that is worth even more.
I will end with thanking the Naked Stage crew for letting improvisers take as much space and as much time as they need to make their stories come to life. Patience and respect are qualities our society lacks on so many levels. And it brings me great joy to see this qualities on stage.
Have fun. - Veronika Hana Grubič
Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time there was a sweet girl called Zeynep. She lived in Istanbul and had a loving husband Koray. They were very happy and did a lot of improvisational theatre together. Until one day they met Evren, the musician, with whom they instantly connected. But life separated them for a while. However, after meeting each other a couple years later, they instantly picked up where they left off. They became a happy impro family called Istanbulimpro. Until one day they were invited to the Improv festival far away called Naked stage.
Interested what adventure will bring them, they arrived to Slovenia and started doing their magic. At first, all of them were part of the initial show Tandem, where Evren's music fell in love with the music of Hannu Risku and for the time of the festival, they became inseparable. And the next day they were all part of the »Chairs«, where they joined their forces with Iglu and climbed the big mountain of great scenes until they came to the peak with the very last one, where Koray and Juš built a wonderful relationship between the characters.
Zey was a part of the dance of the witches with the troupe Improške and after the wonderful dance, the big moment finnaly came. It was their own adventure, on which they took us, together with the help of Alenka, Juš, Peter and Hannu. The show began with the audience's description of main characters, that they had to based on the objects given to some of them by Koray. The first scene started and the big forest slowly started to grow in front of us. There was a house, next to it there were awesome outside book shelves, trees, bonfire and of course there was the statue of the tree, that was made out of wood. There were some animals as well, which we instantly loved – the moose, the bear, the owl and later on even the dolphin, who had a wonderful, intense and passionate last dance with the fisherman. The depiction of the nature throughout the performance was for me one of the strongest points of the show as it really brought the magic of fairy tales to us – the stream that connected the woods with the sea, snowflakes, trees, falling leaves, animals, etc. - they all helped to create the scenery I would gladly visit for real.
There were some intense musical moments as well, especially the tragical sounds of sad Albert who could not find his inspiration until he had found love. But for me, the greatest superpower of the show was definitely playfulness of the players and musicians, which showed us that having fun on stage definitely can have a great effect on the audience as well. And after that they all lived happily ever after and never forgot the great adventure of the Naked stage. - Urša Strehar Benčina
Game of Death
Jacob Banigan is brilliant. His skills as an actor, portraying different characters with precision and clarity, his wits and memory, remembering all of the audiences inputs and weaving them into the story, his enchanting stories, that keep us all on our toes ... I could go on and on – Jacob is a virtuoso on the stage. Accompanied by the insightful and always tuned-in Hannu on the music, they created a perfectly magical evening for the audience in Prešernovo gledališče Kranj.
First, a note on the format. To me it seems like Jacob might get bored »just« playing improv, so he makes it insanely challenging. He starts with three fortune-telling cards, of which two are seen by him and one is left there for a surprising tilt in the story, triggered by a bell rang by an audience member. The main element of surprise, though, is the egg-timer of death. When it goes off, someone needs to die.
We witnessed a touching family story, placed in Iceland. A fisherman lost a son due to heart failure and resented the doctor who failed to save him for years to come. Seeking revenge, he puts the famous Icelandic curse on the doctor Gotmundsson – he shall never know how closely related he is to his loved one, the beautiful chemist/farmer Björka from the eastern village, and thus never experience peace, love and happiness. The weight of the curse is too much for the doctor Renjivin Gotmundsson to bear – he makes a deal with the devil and promises his first-born son to the fisherman.
12 years later, the fisherman has raised a good and happy son, who helps him fish and likes octopus ice cream. Björka is miserable, she has been depressed for the past 11 years, since she had to give up her son. Suddenly, they catch a glimpse of their boy. Seeing how well he is, the mother decides to let him live with the fisherman ... in this touching scene, when a mother first talks to her child with teary eyes, the egg timer of death goes off. »Oh shit,« comments Jacob to the audience. Any death would be tragic! Who will he kill? Somebody needs to die. The mother, crushed by the knowledge her son is lost forever, walks into the sea. Seeing that, the fisherman jumps in and saves her, but the sea takes its toll and swallows him. »He was a good man,« Björka and Renjivin tell the boy. »We will take care of you now.«
Jacob tackles a hard topic in the Game of Death. Sometimes, he must kill a favourite character, sometimes it's a minor one – you can never know when the egg timer of death goes off. Game of Death is a lot like life. It's impossible to know how long we have left or who will have to die first. It is a reminder for us that the »Yes, and,« goes beyond happy moments – in the end, we need to also »yes, and« loss, grief, and death. Death is a part of life. Often unexpected, mostly unwanted, but nonetheless inevitable. And there is nothing we can do with the inevitable, but accept it and move on. There is nothing else we can do but to »yes, and« death.
- Katarina Veselko
Movie Night, an opportunity for KUD KIKS performers to shine – wittily scripting the plot, creating movie-like scenes, genre-typical storylines and easily recognized trope characters.
We saw two stories. First, a romantic comedy with an indecisive groom, a creative best man, a drunk brother, a greedy mother, a (?) bride and a ghost-lady in love, oh and of course the strippers with great dance moves and no lines. The wedding ceremony is interrupted by the ghost of an old lover of the groom, who wants him to die and join with him in death. He is unwilling to die, so he dives into a theoretical discussion about bringing ghosts back to life with his best man, until they finally find a solution and make a clay soul pot, which brings the ghost back to life. Part-time. The groom marries the ghost. What happens to the bride? Nobody knows, nobody cares.
Second (and last), a western with three prostitutes, a handsome lone rider looking for fun and trouble, a cowboy with a wooden leg and a sexy voice, and a bartender. Scene 1: a prostitute shaving her legs and talking to another prostitute about shaving her legs. Scene 2: a lone rider looking for fun and trouble. Scene 3: the lone rider finding fun in the shape of an unshaved concubine and trouble in the shape of a cowboy with a wooden leg. Scene 4: the lone rider winning the duel and getting not just one, but both of the unshaved prostitutes.
You might have already sensed the underlining direction of my writing. Out of nine female characters we saw this evening, five of them were in the body-selling business. And, I have to admit, that woke up the feminist in me.
The feminist in me likes to entertain herself by subjecting the movies I see to the Bechdel test. To pass the test, the movie (1) has to have at least two women in it (2) who talk to each other; (3) about something besides a man. Let’s see how the Movie Night did!
Romantic comedy – The Ghost lady 1) YES! There are three female characters – the bride, her mother (played by a male improviser), the ghost-lady. None of them have names, but they are there. Oh, and let's not forget the two strippers, who dance to entertain the audience while we wait for the groom with his best man and his brother to decide what to do with the ghost-woman he loves. And the gypsy-lady who brings a solution to the problem that had opened a long creative conversation between the men. 2) YES and NO. In the first scene, the bride exchanges a few words with the mother in parallel with another scene (thus we cannot hear most of the dialogue). The mother is played by a man, so we don't actually see two women talking on stage. 3) NO. The strippers don't talk, the ghost-woman only talks to her lover and the bride disappears after the failed ceremony. The mother tells her daughter how she should get all of her husband’s money, and the daughter obediently nods her head. So – no conversations about something other than men.
Western – The Shaved Concubine The first scene does it all! 1) YES! Three prostitutes. 2) YES! They talk to each other. 3) YES! About shaving.
Unfortunately, the rest of the story mostly ignores the beautiful contrast built between the two women on stage. The two prostitutes take a stand on a (seemingly banal) topic – shaving; and even in that conversation you get the first glimpse of the potential depth of both of the characters, one progressive and one old-fashioned. It’s a lovely scene – unfortunately, we don’t see them talk after that.
Even though it’s true that most movies fail the Bechdel test and use stereotypical storylines and gender tropes, I don’t think an improvised movie night needs to necessarily follow that pattern. The impro stage gives us the opportunity to nail the Bechdel test. It gives us the chance to build strong female characters, who have a life and purpose other than serve men as objects of their desires. Let us all try and take that chance!
- Katarina Veselko
Feel Good Music Workshop - If you're afraid, do it with Hannu
I am, or rather, was, very much afraid of singing in public. I have been told throughout my life by my two (more musically talented) brothers that I sing off tune, that I ruin any song I try to sing and I should just shut up. Slowly I bought into those messages – as we very often do. Public singing for me was always a traumatic experience, ending with me trying to hold in tears until I could run away and cry it out. I don't cry easily, I don't have a problem with being on stage and speaking in public, but singing makes me want to come out of my skin. As I grow and develop as an improviser, this is starting to seriously hinder my progress and I really want to get over it.
I applied for Hannu's workshop with sweaty hands and a lump in my throat. I was expecting two days of torture, stress and anxiety, all the horrible things I thought are just part of the process for me and I need to survive and get it over with. Feel Good Music Workshop? As if!
But it turned out it really is a »feel good« workshop. Hannu's gentle approach makes it easy to try and not worry about the end result. He leads the group slowly and with intuitive feeling of what is too much and what is just challenging enough for the participants to feel excited, but not anxious. We didn't even notice how we got from bim-bam-bom to full improvised songs. Each activity is designed in a way that is supportive of the improviser(s) in the spotlight. You are never completely on your own, there are always others who have your back if you feel uncertain – if not your co-players, then there is always the music to fall back on.
By the end of the workshop, everyone was spontaneously singing, humming, or beat-boxing. If somebody started a rhythm, soon another few people joined in creating a harmony of sounds. And as for me, the never-ever-singing-crybaby ... I gained not only the first insights into creating improvised music, but also a new appreciation for music in general as a way of communicating feelings, attitudes and atmosphere. And finally, the proof of success – in the evening show, I started an improvised song that everybody joined and it developed into a beautiful sound-scenery of voices. It was not yet a big solo-song with witty lyrics, catchy melody and perfect rhymes – but it was my first steps into the magical world of improvised music. In short – if singing scares you, Hannu will take you by the hand and gently guide you to where you want to go. No pressure, no stress, at your own pace and according to your comfort level. I strongly recommend this workshop to anyone who wants to enjoy co-creating music and dive into rhythm, melody and song with pleasant feel-good ease.
- Katarina Veselko
Naked Stage 2016 - A Family Affair
The cold is creeping in and I wake up after a generous 7 hours of sleep. Monday starts as any other: computer work, teaching, rehearsals, some sort of a cultural event in the evening. It is followed by Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All days are filled with shows, rehearsals, teachings, running from one end of the town to the other. And I love it, I breathe this life of mine that I didn’t even know for a long time was mine to breathe.
But today, I’d much rather be in Stara mestna elektrarna, where for the last 5 days my family stayed. They came from all over the world to meet for the Festival. Stara elektrarna was our home, where we could play, jam, dance, kiss, hug, perform and eat. Occasionally someone took a power nap on one of the couches in backstage. Impro bless his tired soul.
Grandpa Jacob was there, with his wisdom and knowledge that matches no other, giving me advice on where to put my tattoo. There was big papa bear Hannu, making us feel warm inside and listening to the sounds we made. Uncle Evren was lending me his tobacco and was pouring me that sweet, red, red wine, soundscaping all the time. My big brother Juš was on top of things, as always, never missing a beat (off and on stage). Supermama Maja took us under her wing and let us express ourselves in so many ways, we are going to be thankful to her for years to come. The craziest couple in the bunch were aunt Zey and uncle Koray, with their bigger than life generosity. Sister Alenka, brothers Vid and Peter dropped by from time to time, whenever they could get away from work, amazing us with their skills and making us laugh. All my sisters from other misters: Eva, Katarina, Mistral, Olivija, Teja and Urša, who brought so much joy and support, that all our creative energies started flowing like mad. Pervy uncle Gregor was questioning everything, keeping our intellect entertained and fit. Cousins from the north, Rok, Sašo, Rahela, Dino and Nejc were caught up in work too, so we went for a day trip to say hello and it was awesome. Uncle Goran was at his usual best, making us look at our best while playing his synth. Brother Jan got us questioning, if there really is true love and brother Tomaž would answer: “Absolutely YES!”. Even Trixi came for a day, even though she had to take care of the Lili-es. Cousins Samo and Andreja gave us some insight from their field of work, adding spices to a well-seasoned family dinner. And brothers Jošt and Rok always made sure, we were fed and greeted us with a smile on their face.
We all explored, we all crossed over into that big unknown, meeting our fears under the lights of Borut. We agreed and disagreed, we were inspired by telling stories with the audience, we were moving chairs, but in reality, we moved people. We were searching for eye contacts, surprising ourselves and others with the vulnerability an eye contact brings. We saw a mastermind outplay death and dipped our toes in genre work. So much richness, so much fun!
Drinking my tea, to keep my fingers warm while writing this, I am marvelling at this amazing moment in time, where we could discover new things, where we got naked on stage every single time we stepped on it, and how nakedness never felt so warm and comfortable. The safety and the freedom we generated, sparkled magical moments not only on stage, but off it as well. We even made the audience part of the family. Because this family is impro theatre bro/sis, we leave no wo/man behind! We got your back!
Naked stage 2016, thank you for the family ties we were able to make or refresh. As we are all born naked, honesty and vulnerability is universal to all. Thank you Maja for reminding us they are a source of strength and growth and creativity.