A Wake For Lost Time – A 24-hour Durational Piece January 10-11th at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace
Interview by Hallie Seline
I met with the fine folks of the Elephants in the Room collective in the TPM backspace this week as they were in the throws of refining their first ever 24-hour durational performance piece experiment A Wake For Lost Time, running Friday January 10th-Saturday January 11th, with a live-stream component.
HS: Hi friends. Care to introduce yourselves and what you do?
MS: Moez Surani, Poet. (he laughs)
MR: … I wish I could introduce myself as “Poet”. Hello, I’m Michael Reinhart, and I guess I would say I’m a Theatre Creator.
HS: So tell me about the Elephants in the Room collective and how you started.
MR: We’re a group of artists who wanted to find new ways of working, integrating other forms and to find ways to create some synthesis between our different artistic forms. Many of us had been inspired by companies in Europe and New York who had found ways to create that synthesis, like the Wooster Group and She She Pop for example, and many of us hadn’t been satisfied in the past with the opportunities or lack of opportunities we had to explore these kinds of creation methods. We all auditioned in various ways in response to a posting done by Theatre Passe Muraille and here we are.
Our hope over the past few months has been to come into the experience with our different backgrounds and influences, whether we were performers, performance artists, playwrights, dancers or poets for example, and try to figure out a way of working and creating together in a unique and hopefully interesting way.
HS: This is the second session that you are meeting and creating since your first session where you initially met one another and began working together. What are some of the benefits you’ve discovered that comes with working as a group of 8-13 artists of various artistic backgrounds?
MS: Material gets generated very quickly. We go from concept to product very quickly. Because there is so much man/woman-power and being a group of individuals with access to a variety of strengths and materials, whether it’s creative material or physical prop or set material, we benefit from the diversity of our artistic backgrounds.
MR: Things can also move slower because we have so many bodies, in terms of decision making, however the benefit to working in the way that we do with the artists that we do, is that we’re working in more of a layering fashion rather than from a linear, traditional narrative perspective. We develop ideology, concept and discipline on top of each other so it makes kind of a tapestry rather than something more traditionally linear. It’s been quite interesting to explore working in that way. You have to compromise or else the work doesn’t happen but with everyone being dedicated to the work, with this group of artists, you can develop some extraordinary things.
HS: Tell me a bit about the structure of your developing working model.
MR: We’ll we require a lot of time working together because we really are starting from scratch, trying things out. We’re still in a very early stage of working as a group, even though we’ve done it off and on for almost a year, it’s still quite early, and we’re still trying to figure out an exact working model that we can call our own, being a unique set-up of artists.
I’m really interested in System’s Theory, which is another story all together (he laughs), but the idea of disparate elements working where links of communication are made and are strengthened over time and so by working and working and working, even when things like concept or narrative are not completely clear, by the act of building, all of a sudden a narrative or a theme or a concept emerges. For example, an apartment building starts off as a hole in the ground and a bunch of pieces of metal and then by work and time, all of a sudden an apartment building emerges out of all of that effort, instruction, architechture and ideas. I think we work in a similar way, albeit we work in something ephemeral like theatre. We develop a couple of parameters or start with the spark of an idea and we take some stabs at it. From that, a critique is made or another image is presented and then we work with that in relation to the first idea. We add another and another and then over time and work, all of a sudden something builds and eventually something emerges which could be a concept or as on Friday, it could be a show!
HS: Tell me about A Wake for Lost Time.
MR: A Wake for Lost Time is a 24-hour ritual to time, for time and for the things that were lost in time. Largely it’s an expression. For example, as in a wake for the dead, you have a corpse in the room and you have people who are mourning and a party occurs eventually. People move the corpse, or push the corpse or deal with the corpse throughout the wake but there’s this party happening as well. What is that party? Well yes, it’s a party and yes, it’s a celebration of the person who died but not exactly because people are getting drunk and having sex in the other room and they are fighting and doing performances and all of it kind of has nothing to do with the person who died, exactly, but it has everything to do with death. Because what these people are doing is expressing their life and vitality face to face with death. They are creating, if only for a moment, a profound stalemate with death, which they know can’t last, but that’s what humanity does. Our death is rather at one end of time, you know? Time’s the container or the avenue, perhaps, and death is at the end of it… or at least that’s one way to think of it. What we’re doing is we’re bringing time here, using that kind of ritual event. We’re not just representing it but we’re physically letting it be real by having it act on us as performers and the performance itself for 24 hours.
MS: I think one aspect that I’m excited about with this show is that it’s going to recur in two hour cycles but there are parts in each cycle that once they’ve been performed, physically they will impede future performance. Things will stay on stage, take up space and the subsequent cycle will try to be redone as faithfully and as intensely as possible but there will be the residue of the previous time it was done and then the time before that and so on. Also, not only will you have the residue of the prior cycles building up, but at the same time, we’re going to be up all night and either degrading or getting better as the hours accumulate. One of the main tensions I see is going to be with the physical space and how we’re going to work with or around it.
HS: If you could entice someone to see A Wake For Lost Time in 5-10 words, what would they be?
MR: That’s tough… You get to participate in something trying not to break…
MS: Oh god… give me a second.
MR: They get to experience time. There are many ways in which, we think, people don’t really experience time as much any more. It just slips by. One of our invitations for this is “For a little while, maybe try to get it back for a bit with us”.
MS: I’ve got it. Fishes, Norad, feast, string theory.
HS: Intriguing! Last question, if you could recommend a song to listen to before coming to see the show, what would it be?
MS: Tom Waits – Time
MR: The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars.
A Wake For Lost Time
by the Elephants in the Room collective
What: A 24-hour performance experiment that explores how time passes through bodies. It’s a disquieting party, an ardent ritual and an ode to what’s happening and what’s to come. This interdisciplinary theatre collective combines performance art, poetry, classical and post-dramatic theatre to create a show where the typical patterns break, clocks are flung aside and time, steady and relentless, conquers and is conquered by the stage debut from the Elephants in the Room collective.
The Collective: Kanika Ambrose, Donna Marie Baratta, Kathleen Goodleaf, Jenna Harris, Karen Hawes, Thomas McKechnie, Michael Reinhart, Tanya Rintoul, Moez Surani
Stage Managed by Kristina Abbondanza
‘A Wake for Lost Time’ is a one-time only 24-hour performance experiment. To attend, audiences can purchase tickets to any number of the three public performance periods within the ritual (scheduled at the beginning, middle and end of the 24 hours)
People can leave at any time during the ritual, but there will be only one scheduled intermission (and time for re-entry into the space) which will occur during the halfway point of a given public performance.
Friday January 10th 2014: 7:30pm -10:45pm ($10.00)
Saturday January 11th 2014: 11:30am -1:45pm (PWYC)
Saturday January 11th 2014: 3:30pm -7:30pm ($10.00)
‘A Wake for Lost Time’ will include a live stream of the entire 24-Hour performance. The streaming will begin on January 10th at 7:30pm.
Please click the link below for more information and to watch the performance: