Action at a Distance at Theater Grottesco, Santa Fe
September 24th-October 10, 2018
In the preface to Theatre and Culture, the famously depressive actor and theatrical scholar Antonin Artaud writes, “The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of everything—gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness—rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations. . . . To break through language in order to touch life is to create or recreate the theater.” Artaud certainly felt that the majority of bourgeois mainstream theater of his day (early 1900s Paris) did not live up to this ideal. He might feel differently, however, about the work of Santa Fe’s own Theater Grottesco.
Co-founder and artistic director John Flax explains Theater Grottesco’s mission as a drive to “explore theatrical form in order to make the art fresh again. In order to move, challenge, and entertain our audiences.” The company originally emerged in France in 1983 when Flax and a colleague, Didier Maucort, graduated from Ecole Jacques Lecoq, a prestigious physical theater training program. The two entered a play festival, dubious about their chances, and went on to win the festival, after which “one thing led to another,” according to Flax. They moved the company to the U.S. in 1985. They toured heavily until 1999, when they finally put down roots in Santa Fe. Since then, the company has been bringing innovative experimental theater to northern New Mexico and beyond.
Flax and company are excited about collaborating with the Lisa Fay and Jeff Glassman Duo on Action at a Distance (Working Title). Fay and Glassman have been working on Action at a Distance since 2004, although they have been collaborating since the ’80s. Their intention is to experiment with theatrical laws and frames. According to Glassman, as soon as he began working with Fay, “we started to invent ways of moving, gesturing, speaking, behaving on stage that were not to be found in our experience of theater anywhere.”
Using theatrical laws and boundaries as a grand experiment is not entirely new, but Fay and Glassman approach this work with the innovative notion of frames. Glassman describes this as a way of “thinking about that imaginary frame that surrounds a performance on stage—that frame that says what takes place on stage is to be considered an imaginary time and place, full of imaginary people, and not the time and place of the ‘real’ world of the audience.” Fay and Glassman instead attempt to engage the audience with the frames that extend beyond the stage and within the action.
Fay and Glassman ask us to interrogate what we are accustomed to experiencing as an audience.
To achieve this, said Glassman, “we would invent techniques for doing things on stage that would convince the audience that there is also a frame that can be thought of as in the stage action and not only around the stage action.” In other words, while frames carefully regulate what kinds of action can occur on stage and how that action can occur, Fay and Glassman ask us to interrogate what we are accustomed to experiencing as an audience.
Audiences attending Action at a Distance should expect to see a well-rehearsed performance that is also an experiment in action. It may feel a bit like being invited into a rehearsal, according to Glassman, where the audience is welcome to “play the game with us of thinking about where the experiment can go next.” Additionally, Glassman explains that attending a performance of Action at a Distance is a bit like listening to a skilled string quartet play music. In Action at a Distance, Fay and Glassman aspire to an overwhelming complexity of experience rooted in the senses. Through this performance they plan to break through language in order to touch life.
Action at a Distance will be performed at q-Staff Theatre in Albuquerque September 24-26, 7 pm nightly, and in Santa Fe at the Santa Fe Playhouse October 1-3 and 8-10, 7 pm nightly.
Three Performances to Catch in October
Adobe Rose Theatre Presents The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson. This bitingly satirical play tells the semi-true story of the meeting of four irreverent women during the French Revolution, Olympe de Gouges, Charlotte Corday, Marie Antoinette, and Marianne Angelle. With equal doses of fun and serious historical discourse, this play promises to be astutely topical to our current political moment, when women’s rights are in jeopardy. Performances will be Thursdays through Sundays, October 18-November 4.
For tickets: adoberosetheatre.org.
Uncle Vanya, the venerable play by Anton Chekhov about the malaise of the waning aristocracy in late nineteenth-century Russia, will be performed by Oasis Theatre Company at Teatro Paraguas. One of the Russian playwright’s best works, the play ponders the meaning of life and the trouble we can get into when we feel purposeless and unmoored. This story also has a lot to say about our current moment, when a shrinking middle class and growing aristocracy create a cultural climate similar to the one in the play. Performances will be Thursdays through Sundays, October 11-28.
For tickets: theoasistheatre.com.
Cock Tales: Shame on Me!, a one-woman show by Debra Ehrhardt will be performed one night only, Thursday, October 11, at Cowgirl BBQ and Grill and includes a BBQ dinner (vegan options will be available). The performance covers Ehrhardt’s romantic encounters and promises to be just as saucy as the BBQ.
For tickets: brownpapertickets.com.