Cast with activists, educators and artists dedicated to social change and justice, this work defines its pedagogy through 4 core principles:
That the final play structure shall be co-authored
That multiple actors can interchange the same role(s)
That the (non) actors contemporary life experiences will be inserted as interruptions into the play script.
That any member of the cast or audience can interrupt the plays narrative and speak their own truth.
We are about to tell you the story of a
An exploiter and two of the exploited are the travelers.
Examine carefully the behavior of these people.
Find it surprising
though not unusual.
Inexplicable though normal, incomprehensible though
it is the rule.
- Bertolt Brecht, extract from The Exception and the Rule
Last Thursday night, in the midst of a blizzard, a collection of players and spect-actors created a forum in the Museum of Non Participation. Within the space of the gallery, we enacted a play, Bertolt Brechts The Exception and the Rule, whose very subject was on trial.
Also, on trial, were these questions:
Where does power reside in the room?
Who gets to speak, and who is silenced?
Which facets of a narrative will come to light?
Within Brechts play , the rule implies a legal language or a directive, while the exception evokes being ungovernable or searching for an alternative to either the state or the free market. Together, they act as both a statement, that the rule cannot exist without the exception, and a question, as to what a state of exception might be. Through the story of a merchant and his servant, The Exception and the Rule explores themes of capitalism and economics, labor and hierarchy, legislation and state ideology, hiding and secrecy, and the lack of union rights.
A significant part of Karen Mirza and Brad Butlers engagement at the Walker and in Minneapolis was working together with Twin Cities citizens to translate this play, using methods of Augosto Boals Theatre of the Oppressed in a series of four day-long workshops. The performance presented as a one-night only event was the culmination of this immersive work. How do you take process-based practice and the intimate space of a closed workshop to the open and very public space of the gallery? These were the challenges and the risks at play as we presented our interpretation of the play to an audience of between 80 to 120 people.
I am the narrator
I am the translator
I am the transcriber
I am the one who bears witness
To the uncomfortable being of other
In that in-between space
Who holds the tension in this space?
Who has author(ity) here?
- Andrea Jenkins, extract from Deep Privilege
The audience, or spect-actors, were brought into the Rules of Engagement through the Games for Actors and Non Actors:
Within the performance, there were formal contradictions between flow and rupture. Ruptures came from literally breaking out of Brechts tale through freeze frames and Forum Theater. Through freeze frames, players and audience alike were able to pause and silence the performance in order to interject narratives/opinions/discontents from their own lives and experiences. In Forum Theater, a real event was enacted in which the spect-actors were invited to take up the position of the oprimido and re-imagine the scenario, in order to affect change.
co-erced, manipulated, guided, coaxed, rehearsed, coddled,
cajoled, nursed, pushed into..forgetting al-l of that mess-s-s-ss-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s through ..
- Veronica Ochoa, extract from of 13
There were tensions between image (Boal) and narrative (Brecht). Throughout the course of the performance, players cycled as readers made their way through the script. Multiple players voiced single characters, while, simultaneously, others generated improvisational tableaus (the body as phonetics). Both pushed against binaries, engaging the simultaneous roles as oppressors and oppressed.
In conclusion, we find ourselves in a contraction, in the space of having generated new modes of language, and acknowledging the limits of language. Theres an inability to find a means to speak to all of the registers on which this work operates mute, voiced, gestural, political, social, personal, anguished, agent.
A reconfiguration of nosotros, the Spanish for WE. There is nos, the subject we. This is the people with power [the oppressor, colonizer, privileged] contained with-in hyphenated yet in constant exchange with the other, el otro, the oppressed. I add the @ to have both-genders-in-one and in order to neutralize the masculine predominance that exists within the Spanish language.
- Rigoberto Lara Guzman