Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mass Live Arts launches performance program for college grads

Mass Live Arts (MLA) is a festival of experimental theater and performance at the Daniel Arts Center [Bard College at Simon's Rock] in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
MLA is proud to introduce our new educational initiative: The Mass Live Arts Institute. 

Class with Phil Soltanoff
at Live Mass Arts
(photo: Seth Roseman)

It is a program designed for recent college graduates looking to advance their career as performing artists. Throughout July, Institute fellows will participate in daily workshops and master classes, working hand in hand with festival artists. They will also create and perform their own work under the guidance of internationally renowned director and educator Phil Soltanoff, who will direct the institute show presented as part of the MLA/15 summer offerings.

MLA Institute participants in tech
for Andrew Schneider’s YOUARENOWHERE
(photo: Seth Roseman)

Our goal is for the Institute’s fellows to become intimately familiar with the rigors of making cutting-edge contemporary performance, establish personal relationships with a network of award-winning artists – and, above all, gain real-life experience producing large-scale contemporary works. Over the past two years, MLA has been successfully connecting freshly minted young artists with renowned performers and companies, giving them a chance to participate in hands-on, face-to-face training that has translated into real, professional opportunities. Many of our participants garnered work performing, designing, and some found entry level positions at our partner organizations in NYC.

Soltanoff envisions this production as a form built from fragments — pieces of choreography, text, lights, sound, etc. The emphasis is placed on the theatrical vitality of each fragment and what they do, not what they mean. “Meaning is created through juxtaposition, and meaning isn’t known until something happens next to something else.” – says Soltanoff. In creating this show institute fellows will immerse themselves in the process of using juxtaposition as an essential tool for building work.

Three questions 
for Phil Soltanoff

EYA: Phil, what do you have planned for this summer's eight participants?

PS: We’re aiming for a performance on July 26. Five to six days a week we (the Institute fellows and myself) rehearse with a particular notion in mind—what does something do as opposed to what it means. For instance, we might introduce a simple choreographic gesture (like walking or sitting) then double it, speed it up, do it in unison, etc. to see what that produces in the space.

We care only if the gesture produces something interesting right now--free of preconceived associations and ideas. And then we make more gestures, not exclusively choreographic--also gestures of text, sound, lighting, voice, etc. We keep doing this until we have a whole encyclopedia of what I call theatrical “fragments.”

In the last day or two, I organize a sequence of these fragments into a performance. I should add we’re working very lo-fi, with minimal resources. We’re creating big, cheap art. I love that!

EYA: What's the most valuable thing about the program for these young artists ?

PS: I want these young theater makers to grasp two big ideas. First, I want to help them understand what I call the creation of a still pond in space. If you toss a pebble in a still pond, you can really see the ripples it makes. This still pond becomes a starting place, something we (and the audience) can agree upon. I want each participant in the Institute to recognize what a theatrical still pond is, where it lives, in both themselves and in the space.

Secondly, I want them to grapple with the art of juxtaposition. How meaning can be created when different fragments happen next to each other. This is a tough notion for them to understand. They’re so used to absorbing and blending every gesture together into a narrative--before they’ve even explored what the gestures do. For me, this method of juxtaposition is like a multitrack audio recorder--choreography, sound, light, voice, text--they’re all running on separate tracks that converge and diverge during the course of the performance. Rehearsing with juxtaposition in mind--demands constant mentoring. It’s great to be able to offer such close guidance to the fellows here at the institute.

EYA: What's the most fun thing--for you--about this program?

PS: I’ve been working on these ideas for years (juxtaposition and the “still pond” concept) mostly in Europe with CIE111 of France. It’s rare that I get a chance to work with young American artists who are steeped in theater, but who want to do something different with their training.

It might sound corny, but opening new vistas, awakening possibilities--is really thrilling for me. I’m a hybrid artist drawing from theater, dance, visual art, technology and sometimes circus. All the artists at MLA are searching for their next steps--can we do this? Can we do that? What’s under that rock? I really enjoy that process of doing what I don’t know and being in an environment that supports that idea.

For more information about Mass Live Arts, click here.


Kamila Slawinski said...

The festival would not happen without dedication and hard work of these amazing young people, who not only create their own work here but also help backstage and at the front of the house at every performance. You all should know their names:
James Barber
Breena Beck
Billy Berger-Bailey
Matt Dicken
Shea Leavis
Seth Roseman
Caitlin Teeley

Thank you Eva for putting spotlight on this unique program, and thank you #MLA15 fellows for your stellar work <3

Eva Yaa Asantewaa said...

Greetings to all of you! That's a tremendous and enviable opportunity. Have a great summer!

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