Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Fifteen members of Off-Kendrik had a weekend retreat (from November 14 to 16, 2009) at a rented house in Cape Cod. In addition to its usual leisurely chats (aka bh(N)atano, or adda in Bangla), the group discussed several prospective scripts and possibilities of future endeavors.

Samuel Beckett’s minimalist play “Catastrophe” served as a point of departure for one interesting workshop, which unfolded in two phases. First, one person (“director”) guided one or more individuals (“characters”) into the arena; and with physical contact, silently steered them into taking specific arrested postures with narrative hints. As statuesque stills, they became human sculptures, or three-dimensional vignettes, for a short while. When a composition involved multiple “characters”, their poses were linked via an ambiguous narrative thread. They were then rearranged into successive (two or three) sequential compositions, which collectively conveyed a stronger sense of narrative than a single vignette. Several individuals took turns in playing the “director”, who also became a “character” through the process. What is more, the process emerged as equally, if not more, important than the final product.

The entire group then participated in the final ---and most elaborate--- experiment in this vein. This time, the “director” verbally commanded an “assistant” to arrange each individual. Once the posture was taken, the “character” was photographed before being dismissed. After twelve individuals were thus posed, photographed, and released, all of them repositioned themselves on the previously assigned spots to articulate various aspects of what the “director” called “Urban Angst”, ranging from obsessive competition and multitasking, to schizophrenic immersion in virtual reality. The entire ensemble was then photographed from various positions.

It seems, in light of this experience, that with judicious and precise use of movements, narrative clues, light, and audiovisual effects, such a performance strategy can yield meaningful results.