This piece is on tour in Europe. But no one is going anywhere.

By 2024, British director Katie Mitchell’s latest project “A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction” will have screened in 10 count...

By 2024, British director Katie Mitchell’s latest project “A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction” will have screened in 10 countries. Yet neither Mitchell, nor any cast or crew, will cross a single boundary.

The experiment is part of the “Sustainable theatre? », an initiative of Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland, in collaboration with a network of 10 European producers. Mitchell has created a “tour score” — an online manual with step-by-step instructions for every aspect of the production — which is handed out to local artists at theaters at each stop. But these artists also have creative control: ‘A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction,’ a monologue by American playwright Miranda Rose Hall about a young female theater worker considering human damage to the environment, will look completely different. director and watch wherever he goes.

This zero-travel commitment is part of the theater’s efforts to adapt to climate change. In recent years, a growing number of artists and venues have begun to rethink their reliance on easy, but environmentally costly, international travel.

At Milan’s Piccolo Teatro, where the show opens on Thursday, Mitchell’s vision was reinterpreted by Roman collective lacasadargilla. “You have the artistic freedom to create your own show,” Mitchell’s instructions read, “while working within the parameters outlined below.” These include casting, music and technical requirements – right down to a video tutorial on how to build a power meter.

Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli, a lacasadargilla member who directed the Milan version, called Mitchell’s production, which she saw on Zoom during his presentation in Lausanne, “Model Zero.” Now it felt like she and Mitchell were co-directing remotely, she said.

It’s an unusual production model in European theatre, where directors tend to have the final say on every iteration of their work. The goal, Mitchell explained in a video interview, was to find new avenues for theatrical creation in the face of an environmental threat. “In light of climate change, you can’t have the normal hierarchies, systems, structures or control, because the subject is so much bigger and so much more important,” she said. “You have to give up artistic control.”

Mitchell, who is 57 and known across Europe as a theater and opera director, said she could afford to experiment with what she called “eco-dramaturgy”. “I’m at the end of my career, not the beginning, so I have nothing to lose if I’m wrong artistically. I would like to keep the younger generation safe from this, and they just get the result.

The “Sustainable Theatre? program started with virtual conversations. To come up with a workable production model, Mitchell and another environmentally conscious artist, French director and choreographer Jérôme Bel, held online meetings twice a month for nearly a year with Vincent Baudriller, the artistic director of the Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, and Caroline Barneaud. , its director of international projects.

The team also partnered with researchers from the University of Lausanne to assess the carbon footprint of the theatre. Completing a similar self-assessment process is a requirement for Vidy-Lausanne’s European partners, which include theaters in Ghent, Belgium; Maribor, Slovenia; Vilnius, Lithuania; Zagreb, Croatia; Lisbon; and Stockholm. (The National Theater and Concert Hall of Taiwan has also entered.)

On the production level, the partners signed on sight: at the time, Mitchell and Bel thought that they could create a single production (and a single screenplay) together. Instead, each theater will receive two: In addition to “A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction,” a work by Bel, titled “Jérôme Bel,” will also be picked up by participating theaters.

Mitchell’s work has been responding to the climate crisis for a decade, on and off stage. She quit flying altogether in 2012, she said, after meeting British scientist Stephen Emmott and hearing from him about the need for a drastic change in behavior. The zero travel rule for “Sustainable Theatre?” was her idea — and “irritated people, certainly, to begin with,” she said. Since being based in Britain, she directed “A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction” entirely on Zoom ahead of its Lausanne premiere last September (which she attended virtually).

Cameras were positioned inside the theater to relay rehearsals to Mitchell, and operated by a dedicated technician. “It’s not entirely easy to read a play, and you can’t pick up the little micro-conversations that are going on. We had to have a different communication protocol,” she said. “You could see everything as a problem. Me and my team, we chose not to.

Barneaud, from Vidy-Lausanne, said the experience was positive for the theater’s in-house team. “It gave everyone a greater sense of responsibility. The sound engineer, for example, had to serve as an “ear” for the composer, Paul Clark, since he was not in the room.

Of the script instructions that the Piccolo Teatro in Milan and other theaters received after the premiere, only a few are set in stone. One is to remove performance from the power grid entirely. Instead, to generate electricity, Mitchell placed stationary bikes on stage for performers to ride throughout the show. Mitchell said it was “to show the effort of electricity.” (There are also tutorials in the tour score on how to build the bikes.)

The Milan version, designed for a larger stage than in Switzerland, and with more elaborate sets, uses four bicycles instead of two. While climate change has been a recurring theme in lacasadargilla’s work since its creation in 2005, the demands of the show still force its members to rethink certain habits, says Ferlazzo Natoli: “Normally, we work a lot more with video, but video consumes a lot, and it requires a stable amount of power.

Working with constraints has proven challenging, she added. “It’s so exciting, because we discovered that we can work with devices, lights and instruments that we didn’t know before.”

The artists and producers involved all stressed that the model they had developed was only one option to limit the impact of theater on global warming, rather than a unique answer. “I think we’re really at the start of this journey,” said Claudio Longhi, director of Teatro Piccolo. “This project is a way of asking questions, a provocation.”

When the Italian version of “A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction” airs Thursday, Mitchell will be watching — on Zoom, of course. But there will be no notes from her afterwards, she said. “It belongs to local artists in Milan. They are free to do whatever they want. »

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Newsrust - US Top News: This piece is on tour in Europe. But no one is going anywhere.
This piece is on tour in Europe. But no one is going anywhere.
Newsrust - US Top News
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