Is this a performance, a workshop, a therapy experience, or something else?

Axolotl is a performance pulling from many genres. While it challenges typical boundaries and constructions of theater, audience, and performer, it is still clearly theater.  Some notable antecedents and reference points include the participatory works of The Living Theater, theatrical happenings explored by Jerzy Grotowski, recent works of Felix Ruckert, and a plethora of small scale, undocumented performances and happenings from the bohemian performance art scene.

There is an audience that comes to observe, but observation involves action and interaction.  That which is observed is a product of active choices made and is as much about what the audience members bring with them (in mind and body) as it is about what the performers or other audience members bring.  There are performers, who aim to affect the experience of the audience, but although some of the media are conventional (spoken/heard word, heard music), others are not – performing for touch, performing to an audience member through another audience member by steering interactions.  The whole notion of “performed” dance takes on a radically new meaning as the dance is not for the audience’s eyes on the dancers body, but for the skin and touch of the audience or even for the muscle and bones of the audience via their own kinesthetic experience of movement.  The whole notion of staging takes on new meaning as the means and reasons for observing what is happening or coming from where are radically different.  Moreover, where the location of a theater piece is sometimes thought of being in the physical space of a “stage”, the location of action that we are concerned with as performers in Axolotl is in the mind of the individual audience member.

Although some performers have significant skills and experience in teaching and facilitation and use these skills during the piece, there isn’t an explicit idea of “teaching something”, of it being a workshop, of leading the audience into learning a certain practice or set of skills.  Also, although our rehearsal process uses exercises  and ways of thinking borrowed and bastardized from various somatic psychology practices, the piece is not conceptualized as or confined to some idea of “therapy” per se.  If we hold any goal as performers, it is following our curiosity around processing of the nature of experience, when is it meaningful, and how do we identify, deepen, or provoke such meaning.  We don’t claim to have an answer, but simply to bring our questions.

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Who are the performers?

Each run has been with a different set of performers, coming from varied backgrounds  — primarily dance, experimental theater, and music.  They usually represent a fairly wide spectrum of ages, gender, life history, and relationship to performance.  Rather than taking on a given role, each is encouraged to follow their own curiosity as a performer within the context of the event and in collaboration with the other performers and the audience.

Are the performers also blindfolded?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Can I watch? 

No. For similar reasons, we don’t video the performances, so you can’t watch that either. The performers are watching, of course, so there is not really complete anonymity or privacy, but we do keep a container and don’t allow random observation of what happens.

What about issues of power between blindfolded audience and sighted performers?

Make of them what you will. For some people it becomes important, for others the issue is non-existent.

Who attends the performance?

Anyone who hears about it and wants to attend. There usually tend to be about 3 to 4 audience per performer, representing a fairly diverse group of people.  This makes for a total group of between 30 to 50 people in the space, including performers. Some come from seeing a flier at a theater, café, or studio.  Some see the ad in the calendar section of the local paper.  Most come via word of mouth.  Many who come are performers or professional artists themselves.  Many aren’t.  Occasionally someone comes and doesn’t realize that the event is actively participatory until they get there, but mostly people know that before they come.  Some people just come once, others come repeatedly, as each Axolotl is different.  The only unification is a shared interest in entering the event.

What is expected of me?  What will happen?

Nothing expected, nothing guaranteed. We don’t expect you to do anything in particular. It is hard to address this question of what will happen, because different people attract and create different experiences. We don’t have a set list of things that we are going to do with or to you.   You can be active or passive as you like, and that choice will have repercussions.  Interactions with others (audience or performers) might be very dense or very sparse, and this will be affected by choices that you make.  Whatever you or we choose to do, something goes on in your mind and that is the piece.

 Posted by at 9:57 pm