In 2022, the association I-DEJAS MĀJA in cooperation with the Norwegian theater K:13 SCENEKUNST from Bergen – Jorunn Sofie Lullau, Steinar Thorsen, Charlotte Faaberg-Johansen – realized the project “Art activism: Take Part Take Care”. At the end of, the partners analyzed the experience gained. A video interview has been created, which gives an insight into the method used in the project – for creating an interactive theater.
Steinar Thorsen, Artistic Director of the project:
K:13-has participated in the project with great pleasure and has gained new important experiences and new artistic knowledge, and in addition we made invaluable artistic contacts and friendships, that we hope to develop and explore further in times to come.
We participated in an important artistic work of high modern quality, which result in an important milestone-project for the development of interactive theater in Riga and Latvia, including topics and a theme that is very relevant in young people’s lives of today, putting focus on democracy in development in countries with short democratic traditions, discussing the individual’s responsibility to make conscious sustainable choices for a common future.
K:13’s main task was to develop the interactive parts of the project and spread our knowledge of interactivity in theater on a general basis and adapt this to our particular venue (site specific), as well as be involved in the design of the final scenic product. Based on this work, we were to facilitate the implementation of various interactive methods in the performance itself. It was also a goal that Latvian youth should take an active part in the actual design of the performance, the development and treatment of the theme of the performance, and in the selection of features and methods to be used in the performance itself.
THE STRUCTURE OF K:13´s PARTICIPATION
K:13-Scenekunst took part in a number of planning- and development meetings with the partners in Riga on Zoom, before we were in Riga for 3 periods and worked actively on the design and implementation of the project. K:13-Stageart conducted during the project several (8 or 9) workshop in the Trade Union House in Riga, focusing on immersive and interactive theatre-processes with pedagogic and historical connotations. We conducted several workshops, including all participant in the project, and also some external groups from the stage art environment in Riga, including, directors, actors, dancers, choreographers, dramaturgs, and producers – all connected to the project Art Activism – Take Part – Take Care.
The workshops all followed an similar structure. Each group attending the workshop was between 8 and 20 persons. After some introductory talks about the Immersive theatre and interactive and participating methods, alle workshop attendants took to the floor for a short warm-up. Then the participants were told to play “hide and seek” – focusing on the part of finding good hiding-places, exploring the thoughts and feelings they felt in the different hiding-spaces. What – or who – were they hiding from, and how did it feel to be hiding. Where did they find some peace/tranquility and felt safe – and why did they feel that way. Who are the hiding for, and who did feelings and thoughts relate to their own personal experiences?
After exploring the space of one floor in the building the participants should find their favorite hiding-place. They should explore the space and define what the frames of the hiding-space was, and what kind of creature/animal which lived there, and they should develop some kind of behavioral routine connected to the hiding place – and make it to a safe nest. All these exercises are made to invoke a conciseness about space, and also about oneself in the spaces one is using for theatrical purposes – thus targeting the emotional and practical experiences which a young audience will meet in an immersive performance such as the this project will create.
Further, the group were divided into “actors” and “audiences”, and the actors should lead the group of audience through a short performance which the audience was 100 % participates in. The “actors” took the “audience” into a strange world were the audience had to react to the space they were in and what was happening around them. After a strenuous travel through unknown landscape/space they arrived the tribe’s nest/hiding place – where they were invoked into the tribe by taking part in creating a tribal ritual/ceremony, where each of the audience had to give some initiative to the final product.
The goal was to learn about the experience of how to create an immersive setting for the audience and what the experience for the audience could feel like. After the workshop, there was some talks and reactions on the workshop and how to implement it in a bigger performance-frame, considering different pedagogical goals.
FIRST VISIT TO RIGA – FEBRUARY 2022
This visit was primarily used to define the project’s framework and prepare work plans for the project. We helped develop the synopsis for the project’s script and shared thoughts about the project’s framework. At the same time, it was important to inspect the performance arena and define places in the Workers Union House where we could add scenes to the performance. K:13 lead a workshop with the actors, exploring the different spaces in the Workes Union House. After this we agreed about a synopsis for the performance, including some initial scenes written – agreeing about continuing to communicate over Zoom to further develop the framework for the script.
SECOND VISIT TO RIGA – JUNE 2022
In our second visit to Riga, it was important to further develop the project, especially to define the structure of the performance, as well as communicate with a reference group of Latvian youth about the play’s means, methods, and content. Therefore, we used the time to alternately try out different methods – in the form of workshops, as well as trying out different arenas in the Workers Union House where the performance was to be played – and based on this – to define the project’s final framework. It was also necessary to create a detailed progress plan for the road to the premiere.
K:13, contributed to the development of the synopsis for the script and the drawing of certain scenes, particularly with an emphasis on interactive methods; how should we meet the young people, what activities should the young people participate in and how should the central theme be communicated so that this would hit the audience in a way that enabled them to participate in the performance and make active personal and collective choices along the way.
Based on this, we arranged a workshop with a reference group of Latvian youth. We had conversations about the theme of the performance, about the relevance of this for young people in Latvia today, about how we should convey this to the audience and about how to include the audience in the action itself. After talks and an exercise where interactivity is central, we took the reference group on a kind of promo screening – an example of what the show could look like. The reference group gave feedback on this and their opinions were used as a basis for further work on the design of the performance.
THIRD VISIT TO RIGA – OCTOBER 2022
In a nutshell, this period was about finalizing the performance and implementing the interactive parts of the project and the performance. It was important to us that all parts of the production, all actors, should learn about interactivity and how this can be done on stage.
K:13-Stageart conducted several workshop with professional actors, dancers, as well as the artistic staff of the performance, with youth – reference groups – amateurs and extras in the performance – as well as drama teachers for various schools from large parts of Latvia, focusing on the method of implementing interactiviy in to a stage performance.
K:13 took part in the completion of the performance, including writing and designing scenes with interactive content, directing and advising actors in individual scenes and in the overall design of the play. We also took part in PR-meetings an planning, and was a part of the official press-conference for the project, where we talked about interactive methods.
It has been a difficult task, but still a very positive experience to participate in this project of designing and “divicing” a large performance in another country with a different culture and artistic tradition. We have had to listen a lot to the experiences that Latvian artists have in relation to production technical needs and possibilities, and have learned a lot about new ideas on how to think about creating a divided performance, where the script and design of the performance is set in a special historical framework – where the setting takes place in ongoing communication in the daily work and where one must constantly adapt the artistic design according to a number of scenic and practical conditions.
Our task was to make it possible for the audience to come to a work of art, where they entered an immersive performance with educational elements to highlight the theme, and stimulate the audience to reflect for themselves on the themes and central questions in the performance, and connect this up to their narrow lives in today’s world – is a very demanding and exciting task, especially when it happens with artists from different countries
Producing and designing a large site-specific performance in collaboration with artists from another nation with another culture is an exciting and demanding challenge, where we feel that we are left with important experiences. This project is about democracy and communication, about openness and social interaction and development, and it is particularly exciting for us to be able to work together with someone who has a completely different historical background and understanding of an anti-democratic social system, which has hands- on experience with a dictatorial and totalitarian political system. This gives us a greater understanding of Latvia’s – and Eastern Europe’s – political and social past, and the democratic challenges it faces now.
It has been very instructive to collaborate closely artistically with artists from Latvia. We have shared mindsets, experiences, methods, and practical methods in this work, and for us in K:13, it has been a very developing experience. Through a year of planning and practical work, in collaboration with our Latvian partners, we solved these tasks in a way that realized these goals, and we feel that both the artistic, thematic and educational goals were achieved with good solutions. The collaboration with artists has been demanding, but with an emphasis on communication and respect, we managed to find a way of working that satisfies the project’s goals and requirements, which resulted in a performance of high artistic quality and important communication of important contemporary social and political topics.