Theater experiences

Before writing about my experience here in New York, US.

 Before writing something about my experience here, I want to do first an introduction about my theater experience in my country. It’s only my opinion so if any of you guys want to learn more, please write me back. Also feel free to comment. Love.

What is the role of theater in Albanian society today?

According to the theorists who write thesis after thesis about it, the theatre has quite an influential role in our world. But how is its role defined? Is it a social institution, a place of cathartic release, or a provider of simple entertainment? Does it have political and philosophical statements? How could theater preserve his position during the years? How it can be today?

In 1992, after 45 years of dictatorial regime in Albania where theatrical art was directed by government and propaganda tactics, finally came time to say that we can say the truth in many ways, I mean truth in an artistic situation, a specific controversial language, an independent voice, from politics and media influences. Theater today is able to operate with all the forms, with different styles, to have in the essence of his spirit, nonconformist tendencies and the most controversial forms. We can say that now we are free to do what we really want. Now it’s the time to risk, whether this would be the right expression, to choose theater authors and a kind of dramaturgy like never before, a lot of subjects and many other concepts.

But in 25 years I have never seen and I have never heard about any real nonconformist, controversial, contemporary and original work, I don’t understand where is the difficulty of doing this? Any of the peers is very strong related with politics. Most of the theatre projects are made by artists pro government. No more national theatre festival, there are only some small local festivals where mostly the purpose is only to take funds by municipalities or other institutions. Never heard about true competitions, with different themes, different points of view, none is trying, at least why to take risks? Journalists asked me; is the public ready of other tendencies? I said, public is more open mind than us. We have a specific role in the history, we do not provide entertainment if we cannot show truth on stage. Public is smart, they can understand immediately what is going on the stage. It’s a serious thing or a “passatempo”. If we are not serious, how can people believe us? A waste of time performance is losing chances for the truth.

Over the decades National Theater and other theater institutions have been continue to produce the same classic works with realistic and psychological nature. This is a sign that the stereotype of classical theatre work would be a safe success. However facts speak otherwise. These classic works or so-called “safe” failed mostly on all points, and sometimes even in their commercial viewpoint. Sometimes authors work on superficial themes, tempting to create a masterpiece, the dramaturges write in a very heavy language, choosing words and phrases like in the Russian novels of the 19th century, they forget about the reality where live. Directors lose time on literary analysis on rehearsals and for the actors the only way to perform is the speech. None of these performers moves and nobody does anything. Drama exist but in their minds.

However this is my opinion and I think that these problems come because artists continued to follow the same bourgeois aesthetic methods, the chronological structure of the actions, which are some of the official conventions of traditional theater. The author suggests drama’s configuration. Most frequently the set is symbolist or realist. The nature of the dialogues resembles a soap opera and the action most of the time is based on words. The performances are presented in a classical stage and this space allows actors to be presented only in a single plan. The actors discuss the dramatic situations with a predisposition towards a psychological nature of the character.

Reproduction of our day-to-day life I think is uninviting in theater, and its translation in theater doesn’t need to imitate realistic life representation. Realistic and truth are different things. Theater doesn’t need to offer to whoever finds it everywhere, in television, in cinemas, Internet, in magazines, social media and in well-known star-system events. We are spectators of shocking images, dramatic, terrific, romantic, and attractive or superb stories everyday. There is war in some parts of the world now and fashion parades in the other side, touching pictures from all around the globe; there are no few cases when we can read in newspapers unusual dialogues between politicians, sad or tragicomic stories, social problems, nonsense mass murder, spectacular thefts and many other similar events.

Then, can a theater play be of interest to the public?

The public is bombarded 24 hours from all that said and can the public claim for something different? Can a theatre play respond to this? Is there any chance that theater play is very original on the texts, on images, in context, in form and substance; can one play for example “Amadeus” of Peter Shaffer staged in National Theater time ago bring to the public what it meant to be exclusive, original? I’m not mentioning Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”, where the actors did pretend like they were having tea. Or I don’t want to talk about Shakespeare’s “Henry VIII” where one of the main characters in the performance looks alike “Rambo” (review from an English critic.) Before these I saw also an Arthur Miller play, “The Crucible”. Everyone could say that the play is an allegory of McCarthyism and I could say this too but I never understood the relationship with the actual political situation in Albania. National Theatre supported the project. The director of the play has affirmed his political statement, which is pro government. So he is a completely conformist artist and during the performance I didn’t see one act of rebellion against the government power, which i think it is dangerous for the Albanian society. Even the title of the play was more allegoric than the whole Albanian adaption for the stage.

There is a tendency to offer plays of classic American or European authors of the 60s, where most of the plays speak about family problems, couple troubles or any other nature, which they are very well covered by television or also cinema. There is a desire to find a play that is easy, a little funny, with smart dialogues so actors will love it. Why? We have a lot of subjects around, everything around offer important materials to put up a theater performance. I meet an actress in Skopje. Her dream was to be Blanche in the famous Tennessee Williams play. Why this way? She live in a very masculine region in Skopje, surrounded by Albanian/Macedonian traditional fanatic males, patriarchal families, most of the women have problems with their relatives and she want to be Blanche. I don’t understand. She can speak about her life with her stories and not to choose to pretend to be some other girl in a different era.

Like everywhere, everyone wants to live with his/her profession and so do actors in Tirana. But is hard to make a living when you work in theater 3 or 4 times per year (the bravest guy), thus most of the plays the actors choose, are works where they are paid for it and most of the time I’ve seen them performing on a play without pleasure. The directors also choose an ensemble of actors who have reputation and they can also sell tickets and that means success. The payments are totally miserable and mostly the actors (even directors) do other jobs to support their living.

No important grants from cultural institutions, mostly no private theatre companies, no empty spaces to build a small theatre, none of the young actors or other artists is doing what they really want, none of the directors is choosing plays that they really like, a total absence of criticism, no theater magazines, a few nonprofit art organizations, small collaborations inside/outside of the country, everyone who graduates in the acting class or theater directing plans to work only in the National Theater. The law for scenic arts is problematic; it doesn’t offer independence to the artists. The urban composition of the city is a mess and nobody could afford to rent a space for performing arts since they are very expensive.

There is a total indifference by the government about cultural programs. If you mention something like this they immediately got a headache. The government treats the artists like they want. They just give money and support to work where they see no risks. The others just struggle. But we are not servants we are artists.

There is a Beckett play; “What Where” a short round of political allegoric tortures goes on and on. I think that’s the best example for an independent artist relationship with the cultural institutions in Albania. This for me is so-called censorship, control, and no freedom at all. None is using the power of theatre, theatre makers are afraid and everything is alike totalitarian times before 1992. The role of theatre in Albania is powerless since government controls everything.

So how theatre could stand an artistic and politic statement? How it could be important? Theatre today in Albania is useless and his function is hopeless and I feel very sorry for all the people who really want to do appropriate and wonderful things.

P.s

When I say today I mean not only the 2017.

Enton.

 

 

 

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Audience development for contemporary art in the city of total celebration

 

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Yesterday, one of my new acquaintance who is, by the way, engaged in environmental activism, told me something like “Welcome to the city of total celebration”. Watching from the balcony an endless crowd of slightly drunk people in the most unimaginable Halloween costumes, you realize that “yes”, only the harvest festival could serve as the reason for this total celebration. Good harvest. The harvest which is enough for a whole six months waiting for the next spring.

According to statistics, which is spoken here in the CAC, 70% of the population of the NOLA is African-American. At the same time, 70% of visitors to the Center are white. The gender ratio is the same – 70/30 women/men. Last year, the Center received a grant from the Wallace Foundation to develop the audience. The size of the grant is 1.4 million dollars, it is designed for five years and is aimed at attracting the audience 25-40 years old, more often African-American.

Most of this money goes to preliminary and regular research throughout the grant period. Reports, in accordance with the conditions, are submitted every month. The most interesting in the conditions of this grant is that the main instrument of ATTRACTING THE NEW AUDIENCE OF THE CENTER OF CONTEMPORARY ART is PERFORMING ARTS.

It means dance, theatre, performance, music.

Within the first phase of the project, the centre consistently invites three African-American artists to present their work to the audience. These artists are Kaneza Schaal (http://www.kanezaschaal.com/goforth-please-bury-me/), Urban Bush Woman (https://www.urbanbushwomen.org/) and Christian Scott (http: // www. christianscott.tv/). The first one is a very experimental artist from New York, who mainly deals with the performance art, focusing the most on the interdisciplinary approach. She herself says so “My work is grounded in traditions of radical borrowing.” The show will be held on November 9-10-11 and this is what I will see.

Urban Bush Woman is a company that, apart from the dance itself, is very active in educational activities aimed at gender and racial equality, the development of the community, the preservation of African cultural heritage.

Christian Scott is a jazz musician whose music has been playing in my player for a week now.

And, of course, it’s not just concerts of interesting artists. Each of them comes to New Orleans for a week and during this time takes part in daily activities, which just help to attract the local community. I`m going to tell you more of that later. The visit of the first star is already very soon and it is very interesting for me to look at the audience.

Brodway Show, House of Blues, Motown and Bowling Green

Hello readers,
I had a very busy week with my art residence in Oberlin. My days are full with new experience and I am very happy about it.

On October 17 I got a chance to see a Broadway Show “The Waitress” in Cleveland. I have watched musical for the first time in my life. The quality of production was amazing, but I have mixed feelings about scenario of this show.

It was a big surprise for me to meet another CEC ArtsLink resident Adriana Totikova on this show! We spend a nice time discussing the show and American theatre.

On the next day, my professor Ian MacMillan together with a sound engineer Math from Oberlin brought me to an iconic place: House of Blues, a popular venue for rock concerts, which was created by Dan Aykroyd, famous actor and author of the “Blues Brothers” movie. Math showed me all backstage places, equipment and explained how House of Blues operating it. This was a very exciting chance to see a professional music venue.

On Thursday I was invited to the University of Bowling Green, Ohio to meet professor Megan Rancier and her class of ethnomusicology. Her students were well prepared for my visit. They have watched our documentary about the history of Uzbek rock. We had a nice deep talk about contemporary rock and its challenges.

On Friday I had a chance to visit legendary music studio Motown in Detroit, which gave birth to the soul genre and many famous stars: Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gay and others. I’ve met back vocal group “The Attendees” which were singing almost on all records of Motown in 60-70s. Now I have their autographs!

A new week we started with a concert of a guest musician from Japan Oki. Oberlin Sound Production Team allowed me to take part in sound setup and showed the way they work with a sound. A new technology for me: a mixer which could be controlled by IPad. Awesome! What a nice thing to have in our Ilkhom theater.

Introduction week.

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It seems that I`m ready to write a short report about what I’m doing here, except that I study the local cultural and artistic environment, including local cuisine (oh, God, do I really admit it?).
So it was just a week of my life in NOLA. My place of temporary work is the Center for Contemporary Art of New Orleans and my curator is a subtle, witty and very diplomatic person – Laurie Uprichard, who is the head of “performing arts department” of CACNO. It seems that she herself could be an infinite source of knowledge and information for me until the end of Residency.  Unfortunately, she is usually busy but gave me a long list of people from the local artistic community and staff of the Center, with whom I should definitely meet.
On Tuesday I attended a staff meeting and was introduced as a person who can pester everyone with endless questions until the middle of November. I said I would try not to be very annoying. After coming back to my small personal office, I wrote letters to everyone I’d be interested in meeting. Little by little, my calendar for this and the next week begins to be tightened by meetings with people who are engaged in media, marketing, development, education programs, visual art, exhibition and other activities in the Center and outside it.
So my intensive course “How to understand the nuances of the work of the American non-profit cultural institution in two weeks” will begin tomorrow. Then I’ll take a week to think of my observation, and then I`ll try to meet the same people again and torment them with my conclusions and comments.
INTERESTING:
A few months ago, the NOLA Arts Center received a grant from the Wallace Foundation, specifically aimed at increasing the audience and especially attracting a marginal part of the local population (African-Americans are 32% of the population here). I have to say I  saw just a few people of color as visitors during last week. Preparation and implementation of the media strategy for solving issues of engaging the audience within the framework of the project were outsourced. I was invited to the presentation of the strategy to the office of the company, which is engaged in this. Honestly, this was my first such event in my life. Well, do you know a lot of cultural institutions in Ukraine that have a “SMM marketing strategy” developed according to all the laws of the genre and with all the preliminary research? Perhaps it is because of the lack of a systematic approach to SMM that many discoveries have occurred in my head over this two-hour meeting. Now I will monitor how the strategy is implemented and, especially interesting, will it bring the expected results.
These are the last news.
keep moving on…

Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame

Long live Rock’n’roll!

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Last Thursday I have arrived at my residence in Oberlin, Ohio, This is a small city with a very strong and interesting Liberal Arts college. Most of the students are on fall break now and I have few days left to visit important nearby locations.

Yesterday, on Monday, I have visited a very mystical place. This place is a hidden desire of every rock musician in the world. Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Even if you are top of the top, you still dream to be listed here. While the official award ceremony is held in NYC, the biggest collection of rock artefacts in the world situated here, in Cleveland.

With help of CEC Artslink, my Oberlin professor Ian MacMillen and Hall of Fame’s sound engineer Patrick Lavelle, I’ve got a unique opportunity to sneak into Hall of Fame’s backstage. I was really excited when Patrick was demonstrating all their technologies to me. I wish we could have the same in the Ilkhom theatre!

IMG_20171016_134307The visit to the Hall of Fame was a very important experience in my life. I touched a history of people which influenced me in a very radical way: Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Tom Morello – everybody is here. I think I need a couple of days to sort all the impressions which I’ve got and to think about the experience.

This was a very strong start for my residence. Stay in touch, more events to come!

Self-identification issues.

Since the official opening of my residence in the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, the question of self-identification has become the first and main issue for me. Of course, this issue with varying degrees of intensity occurs to me during the last 10 years of my professional activity, but never has it occurred so often for three days.

Who am I? Choreographer? Director of Black O!Range dance company? Art manager? Director of the Zelyonka festival?

Several times a day, meeting with different people, I have to introduce myself and tell about my activities and the purpose of my visit to the USA. And every time I ask myself “where do I start from?” What to designate as the most important objective of my residence. And, in the end, how to properly prioritize my work within the residence?

So far, I can not definitely answer myself to all these questions. There was a period in my life when I practically abandoned the staging activity and completely went into solving the organizational issues of the festival. Then I realized that I was dwindling. Lacking the opportunity to realize my creative impulses, fettered me and forced me to spill my creative energy in other ways. I had to remember that my colleagues and I started the festival just to be able to show our works to the audience. Then came other ideas: the development of a professional dance community, engaging the audience, the search for funding opportunities. And can we, in that case, abandon the desire to create our own projects?

I returned to active staging. I’m a choreographer. I am the director of the festival, which so far has no support from Ukrainian cultural foundations and institutions. I want to learn what I can not study in Ukraine. I want to understand how to make the festival more interesting and effective. I want to expand my network of professional contacts and make new friends in the USA. I want to be able to create my work and be clear and understandable in my intentions. And I do not know yet what is more important to me. I’m just moving on.

I’m just moving on.

to be continued