Posted by: Expedition Metropolis | March 15, 2013

The Final Gathering

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It only takes 5 more minutes for the final presentation to start. We have all gathered at the Grodzki Theatre in Bielsko-Biala. A moment ago we were all standing in the Office checking final details and sorting out lost luggage issues. How wonderful that we at least managed to not loose the big installation luggage. It’s all set up…drawers of all partners present little moments of the COAST productions, Posters and photographs hang on the side legs, audio from bits and bobs of the process are sounding from one of the drawers. It’s been a crazy last run and it feels somehow weird to see it come to an end.

We had a long talk over brunch about the final presentation. What we have set out to achieve and how we achieved it, what we wanted to exchange and for what reason, what was most important in the process and how it worked out to actually put into practice a challenging European collaboration.  For many of us transnational collaborations are very tempting, but do we really consider carefully why we want to do them or not, before we embark on such a long journey?

For COAST all I can conclude from this final morning talk is that it was worth it and that we have found a connection between each other which we will somehow try to pursue it further in the future. What we have learned again is that such a relationship needs a good preparation beforehand and  one needs to get to know all partners well in advance for any collaboration to be a success in the end.

 

Text & Foto by Teodora S. Vlad

Posted by: Expedition Metropolis | February 25, 2013

Towards the end…playing with memories

Its been almost three years now? Or was it two?

I remember coming to Berlin to work for Expedition Metropolis because I had found a description about the COAST project online. I had just moved away from Scotland at that time and I was thinking to move to Amsterdam. And then I found COAST… what a weird coincidence. A collaboration between a culture I had lived in for over 6 years, a culture I was thinking to move to, one I have been growing up with since I’ve been sent by my parents to a German nursery and one I somehow felt connected to as I lived most of my life in Eastern Europe… and then also the vision of a project that wanted to allow a fusion of Arts on the Stage of Theater.

More than anything it seemed to speak to me from an intimate point of view…I had been ‘migrating’ and crossing all sorts of borders and barriers all my life. Somehow it never seemed a big issue…or maybe I have never really thought about it. I knew there will always be trouble with social rules, or paperwork, or cultural differences or even just language barriers, but those feelings were as present in my hometown as they were in Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Poland or any other country I had been to. So when I heard about COAST and the Berlin production I really wanted to take part of it, to meet other people with totally different stories than my own to see if its really no big deal to travel around all the time… I must say in the last few years I had this urge to perhaps settle down somewhere. But where?

I had graduated Film Directing in Edinburgh where I discovered a strong interest in Live performance with visual techniques. All I wished for was a place where I can take a projector and do some cool handheld projections as part of a Play. I almost found that place in my hometown. I met a vibrant group of people there who opened up an Art Community in an old paintbrush factory, but something constantly told me to keep moving… it was this ‘migration’ Syndrome again. Exactly like ten years ago I just felt I had to leave.

So I thought ExMe could be a perfect place to try things out. I guess, I felt there is a lot of potential in Berlin to explore a variety of techniques. It wasn’t as easy as I expected but in the end some things did work out. It was a long process and most of us were doing more than just one thing… for instance I was doing visual and light design, but also coordination, graphic design, documentation and few other things. It was a crazy feeling to balance out all priorities and to fight with the disappointment of maybe not having focused enough on one thing or the other. But than the first show came and time was ticking… we played in a sport hall covered in long white sheets. I could only use 4 lights on each side of the stage but I didn’t have a dimmer. That’s when I first learned about using Remote Plugs. You can just switch them on and off with a Remote Control… amazing! I also figured out there are small projectors out there that fit in your palm and that you can change color filters on the follow spot according to the rhythm of the music. I had made this DIY improvisation of a flag with 4 different color filters.

And then we went to Bristol for the COAST Festival, and I met Katie. In October she even came to Berlin and we had a great time building objects and making a film…but that’s another story I might tell later.

When I first entered the Theater at ACTA my knees turned to jelly. So many lights, so much equipment, such a great workshop with beautiful organization and a perfect labeling system. And then this great Tech-platform at the back with the programmable Light Controller and a giant Follow Spot with built-in color filters. What a dream! Working with Katie was the best experience I had in the process. It just felt so easy to communicate. It was very clear from the beginning that we both speak and hear the same language… and I don’t think that only refers to English. That’s why I told her  all about my little improvisations back in Berlin and proudly showed her my DIY filter flag. I had brought it with me just in case… but was pretty sure it won’t come into action.

In no time we had set up all scenes and lights and made a first technical rehearsal. And then it happened… the scene with the changing colors came on and I had to squeeze behind the Follow Spot to operate the filters. But somehow it was impossible to switch the filter frames fast enough… I couldn’t keep the rhythm. Bummer!! And that’s how we both realized some things just work better sometimes in the most simple and improvised way.

But I could go on like this forever… so many things happened and so many things we have all learned out of it. And now it is almost at an end. Last week I have booked the car we are going to drive with to Poland to our final Gathering. We are working on the Mobile Installation collecting images, clips, sounds, materials, text and much more to put in this big luggage that will travel across borders with all our memories. What a weird thought.

And yet the end is just a new beginning… as it always is.

Collage ExMe/GT

text by Teodora S. Vlad

foto by Christian Schnalzger

Posted by: neilbeddow | October 29, 2012

Berlin Gathering

Thanks to Ulrich, Theodora and the rest of Expedition Metropolis for  their thoughtful hosting of the Berlin Gathering of the COAST cooperation project. It was wonderful to see all our partners together after such a long gap – the Festival in March seems a long time ago. Our catch up meeting was long and fruitful, with reports back on a rich variety of secondments/exchanges between the four companies, and looking forward to the creation of the COAST book and DVD. Although the is current project is still running, we are already looking at new initiatives and ideas which will keep us working together in the future.  A great deal has been learned about community theatre by all of us; both through similarities, and through differences. It was a great idea of Ulrich’s to open out the COAST discussion to local community theatrre practitioners in Berlin, and it was a shame that we had to leave before seeing the fantastic programme of entertainment that Ex-Me had organised to celebrate 125 years of their evocative building.

Posted by: Expedition Metropolis | June 28, 2012

Inbetween Places continues…

Dear COAST colleagues and friends,

being part of the International Community Theatre Festival in Bristol has been a remarkable and inspiring experience for the Expedition Metropolis group. On the wave of that experience the ExMe participants decided to develop the ‘Inbetween Places’ production further.

During the last two months the work focussed on three aspects:

1. researching different ways of telling a story in theatre (slapstick / music&movement / magic artistic / chor (eographic) singing and speaking / storyline of impulses / acting within frames and projections)

2. exploring the bridge between someone else’s story and their own

3. telling a story in other contexts

This research resulted in a ‘cycle of presentation of the production in Berlin this weekend (in a different constellation) and in applications for various festivals (f.e. the Hewler Festival in Irak).

Have a look  also at the trailer made from the first show in Berlin in march 2012

Inbetween Places Trailer March 2012

Posted by: Expedition Metropolis | June 27, 2012

Teatr Grodzki – after Bristol Festival

 

Three months have passed since all COAST partners met in Bristol, but we at Grodzki Theatre are still celebrating the special festival time! An article about our trip to UK has been just published in a monthly magazine for the Occupational Therapy Workshops in Poland (http://wotezet.pl/img/wotezet_31.pdf, page 12, unfortunately only in Polish).

We have been busy performing “Our dream journey” and spreading the message about COAST project around:

26 May at an open-air event for the Bielsko-Biała inhabitants;

29 May during the discussion seminar accompanying the XXVth International Festival of Puppetry Art in Bielsko-Biała;

1 June at the annual review of amateur theatre productions organized in Bielsko-Biała by Grodzki Theatre since 2001  http://www.teatrgrodzki.pl/x-beskidzkie-swieto-malych-i-duzych/;

6 June at an  open-air Integration Meeting of the Disabled in Chorzów.

Since we were asked to perform also outdoors, it was necessary to find a solution for replacing projections of dreams we are using in the show with something else. Finally, we decided to substitute them with the big portable photos, so now we are well prepared to perform in any conditions!

We are looking forward to taking “Our dream journey” abroad again in autumn. We already have invitations to perform at the theatre festivals in Slovakia (Bratislava and Nitra) and in the Czech Republic (Prague).

We are also contacting different theatre festivals all over Europe using a postcard designed by our photographer-magician Krzysztof Tusiewicz as a promotional tool.

And, of course we are thinking about a new puppet show!

 

Posted by: ulrichhardt | May 10, 2012

Festival remarks

Meanwhile the ExMe-crew is back in Berlin reality since some weeks already.

Before my personal memories to the festival are fading, just afew words:

Still there are some pictures and words coming to my mind, which I remember most of the remarkable gathering inBristol.

Very warm I remember the daily walk to the venue of Acta. On the way for the first time in my life I came across a sign directing to ‘god’s garden’ (see picture below) – unfortunately I did not have the time to follow that.

I remember the bridge with the two trumpets in town, where a spontaneous constellation of festival participants sitting on the cold floor in the middle of the night found a common game.

I still hear the sound of the word ‘awareness’, which has been a key-word in the public talk after the performance of theManchestergroupCAN.

An awareness, which did not mean physical access only, but an awareness for being heard and seen, for being empathically touched and moved.

And I still hear the sound of the word ‘dignity’.

Giving back dignity to that, what is being neglected.

Community art obviously has a strong relation with that, what is being neglected. The power of community theatre is, to make us aware about the human right of every person to be heard and seen.

During the Bristol festival I could experience a lot of moments, where awareness has been stimulated and challenged. The variety and diversity, in which way moments of neglection have been ‘told’ and awareness could arise, did touch and tell me a lot: the humour of the Somalian Bristol women, the sharp insight in the corruptive on-goings in Kamerun, the precise telling of the pressure of family business, the poetical simplicity of puppets or the beauty of a baking form used as an instrument.

Only a few impressions and moments, which are telling the same message: there is not only one narrative, there is not only one way of getting aware to the surrounding. Because of the human need and ability of Mimesis there are many narratives, there are many ways of evoking awareness. This could be the human and political message of community theatre, which has been told and communicated inBristolfestival on different levels in diverse details and little moments.

Thanks to all people who contributed to make these moments possible.

I am very thankful, that I could experience and share those moments,

Special thanks to all activists of the Acta team.

Posted by: cristinarotariu | April 24, 2012

Our Dream Journey by Teatr Grodzki

 

Grodzki Theatre from Bielsko-Biała, Polandpresented on the second evening of the COAST Festival the production Our Dream Journey. It is a visual story about travelling, migrating, search for better life and, most of all, about home sickness. It is a syncretic performance with actors, puppets, music and animations.

For coming toBristol, the company joined two groups in order to make this performance: a group of young people and a group of deaf people. Bringing these two groups together offered them a unique experience to learn from each other and understand each other. In the beginning, they experienced some minor difficulties in communication but they discovered together that the deaf people were great in animating the puppets, communicating a lot more than without the puppets. This made the group unify faster creating strong relationships between them.

Maria Schejbal, the director of the performance, wanted to make with this merged group something very simple. She took as a starting point the main theme of the COAST project, migration. The situation inPolandis different than in the rest of the countries involved in the project. Polish people go abroad to work, so the point of view of approaching this theme is related to home sickness. The idea of the performance is a very simple one: hard working people have dreams to go abroad to work, they travel to the countries they dreamed of and, in the end, they find themselves feeling home sick. This simple but powerful story was represented with four human sized puppets.

The ingenious idea of this production is to use puppets instead of performers as main characters. For them visual theatre is the most powerful kind of theatre, because lets your imagination wonder freely in the theatrical space. Maria believes that using puppets is very good for a group. Everybody within the group is busy and all feel important. The puppets are also personal creations. They attended therapy workshops where they discovered many ways and materials to create puppets. Together they designed, sewed and worked with the puppets in order to create, in the end, a character. Everybody admits how strong their relationship with their puppets is. Asked if they would prefer to be on stage with the puppets or without them, their answer was unanimous that they prefer to work with the puppets so they are not themselves exposed on stage and, moreover, have the privilege to induce life into something and make it alive.

A really touching moment in the play was at the end when, the group of deaf people created a powerful and emotional moment translating the lyrics of the song “Our Motherland” into the sign system having white gloves on their hands. As simple as it was this performance, the greatest power it had upon the audience. Once again it is proved to us that less is more and images can say more than thousands of words.

Posted by: cristinarotariu | April 24, 2012

Workshop by Grodzki Theatre

After watching their beautiful performance which moved us all deeply, we attended the workshop held by Maria Schejbal together with her group of performers. The aim of this workshop was to enable the participants to discover the joy of making their own puppets using different materials like old news papers, cloth, scissors, tape, string and sticks.

The participants could choose to work alone or in small groups of two or three people. They had the freedom to pick whatever material they liked and create their puppets however they wanted. It was a creation highway where our imagination started to run freely.

In only 20 minutes, all groups created amazing puppets with original stories. Each group presented their accomplishments: birds, dogs, a fish, dolls and also props together with their love / life stories.

It was truly amazing how many ideas and shapes came out of those common materials. A joyful atmosphere filled the room. Every single one of us got attached to their puppet. We all experienced the joy of giving life to our own creations. Expressing feelings and ideas through the puppet gives you a lot of satisfaction. Moreover, this joy of working with puppets brings up again beautiful memories from our childhood.

After experiencing this workshop, I understood perfectly how the Polish group felt working during the process of creating their puppets and that beautiful piece of theatre. The audience observed and felt during the performance the love and the sentimental attachment the performers had for their puppets, which were very expressive and conducted perfectly.

We have demonstrated once again that small unimportant things can become amazing objects only with a bit of love and imagination. We can create beautiful art out of some random materials. All we need is creativity and desire.

Posted by: cristinarotariu | April 24, 2012

Expedition Metropolis Workshop

The workshop held by the Company Expedition Metropolis from Berlin had as its main goal to introduce their way of working and creating community theatre. Because the COAST Festival is part of the COAST European Project, which has as its central theme the notion of migration, also the ExMe’s workshop and performance revolved around the same topic.

In the beginning of their creative process of the performance they adapted a concrete story of a man called Said Zahra. In 1973 he left his home country, Egypt, in order to follow his dream and desire to live in Europe. Now, after living for 37 years in Berlin sometimes he wonders if he has ever found home. All his experiences during this journey from Cairo to Berlin are gathered in a book that stands as an autobiography. Based on this book, ExMe made a script and divided the story line in five sections which are called stations: the desire, the path, the arrival, the orientation and the in-between.

The company made a public announcement in order to gather people for this project. 18 young people responded to the invitation and got involved in it because of their experiences, interest and attachment to the theme of migration. In this way, the story by Said Zahra is told by the 18 young participants together with their personal input.

After this introduction about the beginning of their project, we discovered how they actually worked and constructed the performance. We focused on one station, the path. Every rehearsal they had started with a warming up session which consisted of some basic yoga exercises. This way of beginning the rehearsals is very productive and helpful for the participants to prepare their bodies and minds for the following exercises and improvisations.

To increase the concentration and the focus, they work next with rhythms and music made by using their bodies. The leader of this exercise will act as a conductor. Firstly he teaches four basic rhythms and then together with the participants creates a melody. This helps the group to connect and to work together as a team, developing their sense for music and the ability to concentrate.

The following stage of the workshop is devoted to their imagination and creativity. Having as a main theme the path, the group will have to come up with words and ideas related to this notion. Everybody sits in a circle and one by one they have to say a word which begins with a letter from the word path. For example: partner, anxiety, train, home. The words they say will show their vision about the topic and offer potential developments of the theme.

The next exercise we did is a very interesting one and consisted of three parts. In the first part we had to draw in five minutes the first thing that came in our minds related to notion of ‘path’. After that, we put the drawings on the floor and sit around them. Each of us had to say a word that describes our drawing and the person in front of us had to pick up the one that he/she thinks matches the description. This was the second part of the exercise. From 12 people only three picked up drawings which matched the description given by its author. We realized once again that words are not as powerful as the images and each of us perceives a picture in a different way. We are different people with diverse perspectives.

In the third part, the participants had to walk within a given structure drawn on the floor. Following those paths, everybody was intersecting and meeting with everybody. Each time this happened, the two who met each other had to talk about the idea they drew. Amazing discussions and stories came out of these talks because of the huge diversity of perspectives, from really concrete ideas like “I saw myself traveling with a boat to a tropical island” to abstract visions of life: “Life is a map with many roads and intersections and you are the one who chooses his/her own path”.

To finish in a happy, joyful way we did a little contest game. The participants were divided into two groups of six people and each group was given four chairs. The idea was to get from a point A to a point B without touching the ground and always be together and have all the chairs with us. The purpose of this game was to work and think together as a team and also have fun doing it. To enjoy the process and the group you work with are the most important things in a creative process and the key to a successful and memorable project.

Posted by: cristinarotariu | April 24, 2012

Crossing Borders by ACTA

In the opening night of the COAST Festival, “acta presented the performance Crossing Borders and organized also an inspiring after talk. During almost an hour of performance we discovered the life story of a group of four Somali women and their daughters. Forced by the Somali Civil War (which started in 1991), they ran away from their country and moved toBristol, hoping for a better life for them and for their children. But peace does not necessarily mean happiness. They faced problems regarding adaptation to the English society, new mentalities and the gap between generations, especially because their children were born and raised inEngland. These mothers have an extra challenge: they have to make sure their daughters grow up to be good Somali women, respecting their traditions and culture and also be successful women within the western society. In this inspiring performance, mothers and daughters explore tensions between generations, cultures, expectations and reality.

Community theatre, besides helping people and offering them a pleasant way to spend time, means also sharing and exchanging experience and acknowledgements. This is one of the important aims of the COAST project – being a platform for four European partners exchanging ideas and methodologies, to inspire each others and share the joy of working in this field. The performance Crossing Borders came into life after Neil Beddow saw a performance with a Somali community inRotterdam at the International Community Theater Festival there. He had the brilliant idea to invite this performance toBristol, hoping that in this way he could approach the Somali community from his city. Attending the performance from Rotterdam that came to Bristol, some of the Somali women accepted the invitation and started to collaborate with “ACTA, seeing in this an opportunity to express and share their experiences and problems, so people will get to know and understand better their community and culture.

The process of working for this performance started with many long discussions about the performers’ problems, experiences and wishes. The stories told during those discussions became parts of the story line of the performance. They didn’t need a precise script; one sentence with an idea of what is going to happen in the scene was enough. On stage the women reproduced fragments from their lives and told things coming from their heart, so it was easy for them to express and they didn’t need to think too much or strain themselves to remember lines. Everything came to them quite naturally. Together with Neil they created structure of the play and agreed that they would not act, but merely tell their story. Neil encouraged them to say whatever comes into their mind as long as they would stick more or less to the idea of the scene they had decided on. But sometimes it is not as easy as it seems to talk about your own life, problems and fears and, because of that, Neil suggested that the four Somali women and their daughters would play each other’s roles, so no one would feel vulnerable in front of the audience. All of them wanted to take part in this performance and share their experience, but they decided they shouldn’t play themselves. They should have characters; especially when something has a strong emotional load, somebody else should play it.

The performance had a big impact upon the audience, the maker and the performers due to the truths that it reveals. The Somali community struggles with many issues like, probably, all migrants communities do. First of all, there is a language barrier between them and the rest of the English society and also between them and their own children born and raised in England. This language issue was cleverly presented in the play when one of the mothers was talking to her daughter in Somali and the daughter was answering in English. Also in real life, the kids understand the Somali language but they cannot speak it. The gap between generations is bigger in their case than usual because of the big differences in parents’ and children’s mentalities and background. The parents ran away from a war and faced many tragical experiences, while the children have had always a good life with everything they needed: food, clothes, shelter, friends and family. The Somali parents worry too much about everything and believe and are scared of everything they see on television. They overprotect their children, which is the main reason for their misunderstandings. For this situation nobody is to blame. The only thing to do is to understand and be tolerant with each other. Tolerance is the key for a better life for them and moreover, for all of us.

The performance does not address only the Somali community, but everybody who takes the time to see it. The aim is to break barriers between them and their children and the entire society. In my personal opinion, I truly believe that they managed to accomplish this aim. Responsible for this success is mainly the director, Neil Beddow, who understood from the beginning that the power of this performance is in the truth of the stories told by the Somali women, in their vivid and natural presence on stage. He offered the performers freedom to express themselves and he adapted to whatever they found comfortable to do on stage. Strong theatrical choices never work for community performers; their well-being is the most important thing and the key to success because they have to feel it in order to do it.

Neil gave the characters monologues which they addressed directly the public, like a confession. This choice brought the audience closer to the performers and made it empathize more. One monologue was a personal story of one of the women on stage, about how she fled the war carying her younger sisters on her shoulders, enduring hunger, fear and cold along the way. At the end of the monologue she said “Thank you” to the audience. She never said this before in the rehearsals but now she felt the need to speak and she was thankful to be listened to. During the post-show talk, the Somali women admitted that the topic regarding the war and how they came to England is a very delicate one. They always had to work hard to make their living here, so they never had the time to think about it or discuss it.

Even if the performance talks about serious problems and issues, humor is not lacking. Actually, it is present throughout the entire show. We all know that serious problems told with a smile upon faces have a greater impact upon audiences.  Maybe that is why the performance was such a successful one. When they performed for the first time, they had only Somali spectators who enjoyed the show a lot and showed their support. They recognized themselves and their problems within the play. The surprise was bigger for the performers when they noticed that their show also had a great impact on an international audience. The performers realized that the problems they presented were not specific only to the Somali community, but were valid, general and universal issues. Many people confront themselves with the conflict between generations and the adaptation to a new culture or society.

“I have learned more about the Somali culture and community in this 45 minutes talk than in the 30 years I’ve been living in Bristol” said an English woman from the audience during the after talk. In that moment I realized once again that we have to give up our preconceptions and we have to take the time to listen to others. They have much more to say than we imagine and we can always learn so much from everybody around us. In the end, this means community theatre: listen and learn from each other.

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