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Theatricalising civic spaces : radix theatre, boca del lupo and site-specific performance in Vancouver Leung, Parie 2007

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THEATRICALISING CIVIC SPACES: RADIX THEATRE, BOCA DEL LUPO AND SITE-SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE IN VANCOUVER by PARIE LEUNG B.A. Hons., National University of Singapore, 2004  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS  m THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Theatre)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 2007 © Parie Leung, 2007  ABSTRACT  In 1985, M i n i m a l A r t sculptor Richard Serra emphasized that were his sculpture, the Tilted A r c to be moved from its site in N e w Y o r k ' s Federal Plaza, it would have been an act o f destruction. Since then, his phrase, "To move the work is to destroy the work" has become synonymous with site-specificity, a practice conceptualized i n the Minimalist A r t era i n a bid to redefine relationships between art work and viewer through a heightened sense o f site, time and act o f viewing. F r o m the fecund experimental, outdoor and street performance work which arose during the late 1960s and 1970s i n A m e r i c a and parts o f Europe, site-specific performance emerged as a significant form of theatre practice favoured for its potential for sensuous, threedimensional, and visceral performance environments. Due to its conceptual borrowing o f sitespecificity from visual art theory however, site-specific performance, inherently different from the sculptural form, has amassed various debates, definitions and models proffered by theorists and practitioners, trying to pin down guidelines and rules for the practice. The main debate at hand is whether theatre artists should stay true to Serra's statement with regard to anchoring and fixing their performances in specific sites, or can the ephemeral and live nature o f performance rework site-specificity into something more open and fluid. T o this end, various theatre companies have approached site-specificity i n innovative ways and i n my study, I have illuminated the creation process and works o f two Vancouver theatre companies - Radix Theatre and B o c a del Lupo, who have since 1994 and 2001 respectively, been consistently experimenting with site-specific performance in ways which show a positive divergence from site-specificity's original requirements. M y thesis analyses the two companies' process o f creating performance,  ii  body o f work and hones i n on two key productions from each company, each o f which offer examples as to how the theatre artists have engaged with site and site-specificity i n innovative ways.  T A B L E OF CONTENTS  Abstract  11  Table of Contents  i v  Acknowledgements  v  Dedication  v  1  2  3  Introduction  1  1.1 1.2 1.3  1 7 8  Introduction and Thesis A i m s Methodology Overview  n  Site-specific Performance: K e y Intentions, Definitions, Ideas and Debates  10  2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4  H 15 18 26  B r i e f Background to E r a Site-specificity: Origins in M i n i m a l A r t Movement Site-specific Theatre: Early Precedents Site-specific Performance: Definitions, Ideals, Debates, Models  Vancouver's Radix Theatre and B o c a del L u p o : Backgrounds, Mandates, Production Histories  50  3.1 3.2 3.3  50 51 63  Vancouver Theatre and Site-specific Performance Radix Theatre B o c a del Lupo  4  Radix Theatre Production Analyses: B o x / B o x and Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour .... 71  5  B o c a del L u p o Production Analyses: Vasily the Luckless and The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces  96  Conclusion  106  6  2  Bibliography  11  Appendix I Behavioural Research Ethics Board: Certificate o f Approval B06-0334  127  Appendix II Behavioural Research Ethics Board: Certificate of Approval B06-0575  128  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The experience researching site-specific performance i n Vancouver has been a special, inspiring and often entertaining one, given the fascinating work o f the theatre companies I have been privileged to write about and Vancouver's unique civic sites and narratives. For helping me see this thesis come to light, I would like to thank Dr. Kirsty Johnston, my supervisor, for her insightful and thorough guidance, tireless support, warm encouragement, sparkles o f wit and meticulous engagement with my work. Dr. Johnston gave me valuable advice and direction early on in the project, and was a strong force behind its structural development and wonderful completion. She also sought out useful external sources for my research, including a talk on site-specific work, which was beneficial to my understanding o f theatre artists' approaches to the practice. Professor Ronald Fedoruk, I am indebted to for his wisdom, anecdotal insights and eye-opening questions o f concepts I have explored in this thesis. Besides suggesting changes that have significantly benefited my work, such as the streamlining o f category names i n m y theoretical chapter, he has also inspired me to further this research in areas I have not previously considered. I would like to thank Professor Jerry Wasserman who first introduced me to Boca del L u p o ' s work during discussions about my research interests. This serendipitous introduction eventually led to my discovery o f Radix Theatre, thus forming the basis o f my case studies. For their wonderful explorations into the form and hard yet inspiring lives as theatre artists, I would like to thank members o f Radix Theatre and B o c a del Lupo. These two unique companies revealed to me a magic that I always believed existed i n theatre creation, a belief now cemented i n m y continued interest i n theatre research. For Radix Theatre, always digging into the root o f matters and jolting the nerves o f audiences, I would like to thank Andrew Laurenson and Paul Ternes for taking time out from their busy schedules to talk to me at length about the process o f creating socially relevant theatre; entertaining my questioning with anecdotes and experiences about past and present productions; and inspiring me with their idealism, goals, and constant interrogation o f society and humanity. In particular, I would like to thank Andrew for allowing me full access to archival files, filled with fascinating notes, art, photographs, newspaper cuttings and draft scripts, thus allowing me to piece together past productions for study. A t the same time, the material touched me for they revealed the honest toil, labour and sometimes frustration that go into creating such experimental, visceral productions. I also appreciate very much the access to video archives, which was a big help in piecing together Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour. Thank y o u also for the paraphernalia such as the Sniffy the Rat t-shirt and R i c k Gibson sunglasses, they were wonderful companions while I was writing about the production.  For B o c a del Lupo, I am ever grateful to the effervescent and innovative Sherry Y o o n and Jay Dodge who work their magic into the park and continually delight many a k i d and adult. Thank you for taking time out to talk to me about your creation process, past productions, and exploring the differences between site-specific performance and outdoor theatre. The interviews were filled with candour and humour and you have touched the k i d i n me with your clever and visually stunning work. I am also personally indebted to Hilary Davis for her patience and kindness i n producing photocopies o f archival material such as newspaper reviews and scripts, photographs and video-clips which greatly helped in my research into the Stanley Park spectaculars. In particular, thank y o u for taking time out to retrace the steps and point out to me the sites where Vasily the Luckless unfolded. The experience o f imagining the production as it was done along the Stanley Park trail was sensuous and thrilling. I would like to thank the University o f British Columbia for its wonderful working environment, and the Department of Theatre, F i l m and Creative Writing for supporting my research through teaching opportunities. Within the department, I would like to thank Karen Tong and Gerald Vanderwoude for their assistance with administrative matters and for our fascinating conversations. For their constant love, support, encouragement, advice and belief i n me, I would like to thank my dad and Chie who cheer me on i n Singapore, and my m o m who understands me completely far away as she is i n Hong K o n g . M y cousin, Winnie, I am indebted to for helping to fund my studies and for her constant support and confiding ear. M y dear aunt, I would like to thank for all her cheeriness, even though she did not fully comprehend my work. She was a constant source o f joy and is sadly missed. Calum, my foundation, cheerleader, sounding board, entertainer, biggest fan and constant companion, I would like to thank h i m for being there for me i n the harshest moments, for always lifting my spirits, and for his unwavering love. Thank y o u also for helping me transcribe notes and for proofreading my work. N o words can really describe how wonderful it is to have y o u share i n this happiness. For everyone else I might have missed out, thank you.  vi  l b the memory of my adventurous, ever curious, taCented and tovety aunt Leung Sui Wa 1933 - 2007  1  INTRODUCTION Site-Specific Performance and its Sites of Tension  1.1  Introduction and Thesis Aims  I can no longer sit passively in the dark watching a hole in the wall, pretending that the auditorium is a neutral vessel of representation. It is a spatial machine that distances us from the spectacle and that allies subsidy, theatre orthodoxy and political conservatism, under the guise of nobility of purpose, in a way that literally 'keeps us in our place'. I can no longer dutifully turn up to see the latest 'brilliant' product of such-and-such in this arts centre, where I saw the latest 'brilliant' product of others only yesterday, a field ploughed to exhaustion.  Mike Pearson (Wiles 2)  This thesis explores Vancouver examples o f a primarily western performance movement generated during the late 1960s, characterised by an exodus o f art and theatre from the sacred spaces o f museums and theatrical auditoria. Although directorial and 1  scenographic innovations enabled by technologically advanced theatres cannot be denied, purpose-built theatres structurally designed to keep performers and spectators physically i n place - both apart and i n roles - became anathema to many artists and theatre practitioners in the seventies. D a v i d Wiles, expressing his frustration for these "brilliant products" or what he  David Wiles refers to "sacred spaces" in his book, A Short History of Performance Space. (2003) The term will be elaborated on later. Performance theorist Mike Pearson uses the term "theatrical auditoria" in his book Theatre/Archaeology. (2001) 1  1  terms commodity theatre i n A Short History of Western Performance Space (2003). outlines two key reasons which led to the site-specific performance movement. The first is contemporary theatre artists' dissatisfaction with purpose-built theatre architecture, which performance theorist M i k e Pearson calls the "spatial machine", and its commercialist goals. (2) O f this sentiment against purpose-built theatres, Wiles writes, "theatre architecture turned out to be one o f modernism's greatest failures, flexible, versatile theatres stripped o f social messages proving a conceptual impossibility." (22) The flexibility-and versatility o f these spatial machines seem to imply that purpose-built theatres are devoid o f meaning as a blank canvas starts as a virginal slate for painting, since they house new "brilliant products" one after another. Accordingly, these commodity productions inevitably lack social agency 2  resulting from their itinerant and rootless natures geared toward capitalist exchange. In a critique with Marxist undertones however, Wiles points out, citing Pearson, that "space is never empty" and "can never be a neutral vessel o f representation." (4) Pulling away from director Peter B r o o k ' s famous statement i n Empty Space (1968): "I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage", Wiles charges purpose-built theatres for their facade o f neutrality and emptiness, when they are actually structures upholding theatre orthodoxy and political conservatism. (4) H e further writes o f Pearson, who i n 1998 sensed that "the only way to escape the dead hand o f the theatrical past is to work i n found spaces that impose given rules." (3) A s I shall go on to explore, many theatre artists i n the seventies did try to escape the conventions o f the theatrical past by moving out o f purpose-built theatres to create work This view is somewhat extreme however, as even theatre architectures or "spatial machines" can amass their own history and value, albeit as a palimpsest for productions perpetually writing over the past, or as a value construct upholding theatre institutions, canons and orthodoxy. Even though they seem "blank" and stripped of social messages, time passing necessarily endows the theatre space with a life - a history of events, innovations, premieres, and so on. Attending a conference in Toronto, Canada in May 2006,1 had a chance to listen to renowned marionette master, Ronnie Burkett, in a new lecture/theatre auditorium. He spoke of the difference between performing or speaking at the new venue, fresh and without any discernible character, and that of a little old theatre, full of atmosphere and narratives - of joy, lost, pain, sorrow, history and so on, thus troubling the idea that the spatial machine is an empty space. 2  2  in found spaces. Wiles attributes this movement to be one of the main reasons for sitespecific performance's emergence. In found spaces, the sites' existing narratives and values can connect with performance to broach more experimental works than commercialist theatre.  Accompanying this repulsion to the politically conservative and unwelcome orthodoxy associated with spatial machines is the second reason that led to the emergence of site-specific performance: the desire to re-embody the eye, which has become separate and distant i n its perspectival function as put forth by philosopher, Rene Descartes. (Wiles 4) According to Wiles, Descartes cultivated the detached scientific gaze i n order to understand the position o f human beings in relation to the universe, based on contemporary beliefs o f the classical cosmos. In the Renaissance era i n 1588, ideas o f the finite and bounded classical and medieval space gave way to the new concept of space as infinitely extensible. (Wiles 4) Since the position o f human beings was displaced from the centre o f the cosmos as believed i n classical times, Descartes assumed a position on the sidelines where he could view reality. The result o f this repositioning and Descartes' explorations into the gaze was his restoring of the "satisfying centripetal order o f the classical cosmos" through the eye and brain. A s Wiles expounds, Descartes believed that "visual sensation passed through the optic nerves to be mapped onto the [pineal] gland i n the middle o f the brain, where the mysterious ego could study the image." (4) Descartes thus, "installed i n the centre o f the skull a miniature theatre where the self could contemplate reality and decide how to deal with it." (Wiles 4) Gazing out o f the cornea from a miniature theatre i n the middle o f the brain, the viewer sees through a pseudo-proscenium arch, reminiscent o f a spatial machine convention where spectators watch from a "secure place in the darkened seat i n the stalls [in this case] within the skull."  3  (Wiles 7) In the changing perspectival climate during the late sixties and seventies i n Europe however, critics rose up against ocular primacy, to enable a return to the body as a material whole for experience. A s I shall go on to explore in the following chapters, site-specific performance, created outside purpose-built theatres is able to free itself from seating structures which traditionally kept performers and audiences i n place and apart. In this way, spectators are able to experience the performance and environment three-dimensionally,  3  rather than from a two-dimensional perspective. Thus, site-specific performance emerged from a need to escape the spatial machine and also the desire to activate sensuous experience for spectator and performers.  Although site-specific performance, sometimes referred to as outdoor theatre,  4  emerged from experimental work i n the 1960s and 1970s, outdoor performance is not entirely new to theatre and performance history. Wiles also notes throughput his book, before architectural theatre structures set parameters, rules and theatre-going etiquette for audiences, theatre was created outdoors i n open spaces, public places, town-squares, village centres or even by the river bed. While these performances took place in spaces similar to work created 5  in found or unusual sites today, their intentions and meanings are different from site-specific performance, given that they were early manifestations o f theatre and culture. The rise o f architecture specific to theatre production generated social connotations for both audience and performers and highlighted class division and gender differences mostly i n the form o f  During my interview with Andrew Laurenson, one of Radix Theatre's artistic directors, he used the word "three-dimensional" to describe audience experience in site-specific performance. This reference is erroneous given that site-specific performances can be produced in indoor found spaces. Due to the number of outdoor site-specific performances however, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Theatre architecture existed since the Classical Greek theatre carved by the hillside and Roman theatre, which was built on the Greek tradition. Yet in different cultures, performances were held without rigid structures and could occur in open spaces around a fire for example, or on wagon stages that were mobile. Asian theatre like the Balinese festival and the founding of Japanese Kabuki, all began outdoors without set architectural spaces. 3  4  5  4  seating arrangements, for example, with the Elizabethan Globe Theatre which divided classes amongst the pit, galleries and boxes. The spatial segregation between performers and audiences also resulted i n a code o f acceptable behaviour ossified and upheld i n various manifestations o f the theatrical event. Thus, along with theatrical activity of the late sixties and during the seventies especially within Europe but also i n America, seeking a revisionist approach to theatre "out there" - away from the spatial trappings o f the theatre building came a rejection o f these conventional codes o f behaviour by various practitioners and theorists who contributed to the movement. The new ideal was to collapse the divide 6  between performers and audience and take into account the possibilities the environment had to offer. A s Wiles cites Pearson, the challenge was to "fold together place, performance and public." (3) Although the movement saw a range o f experiments and practices that can be broadly described and categorised, one main genre to have developed theoretically and practically i n this vein is site-specific performance.  In this thesis I focus on two Vancouver theatre companies, Radix Theatre and Boca del Lupo who have, since 1994 and 2001 respectively, been experimenting with site-specific performance possibilities i n innovative ways. From their experiments with the form, artists from both companies have developed their own approaches to sites i n a range o f performances within Vancouver, with R a d i x ' s production, B o x also touring to Victoria and 2  Toronto. I w i l l consider and analyse how and why these two companies have both taken up the terms and challenges o f "site-specificity" i n their works. I w i l l argue that while the "site-  These conventional codes of behaviour apply especially to indoor theatre spaces that require audiences to remain seated during performances, to react verbally or by applause only in their immobile positions, and to observe a general sense of decorum associated with the theatrical event. Many theatre practitioners' need to create work outside of spatial machines also seems to imply a rejection of behavioural codes insisting on a passive audience that is "kept in place". The preference is for a physically and intellectually engaged audience attuned to political and social issues which theatre works illuminate. 6  specific" label is theoretically linked to the traditional notion that assumes a work's fixity to 7  a site - based on site-specificity's origins i n the M i n i m a l A r t movement mainly involving sculpture i n the 1960s - this definition is often reworked in generative ways during the creation process i n performance. There is general consensus amongst theatre artists that simply placing a performance in a site with no conceptual connection disrespects the site and takes away from site-specific performance as a form. Indeed, some theatre artists delving into site-specific work begin their creative process with pre-conceived ideas about site-specificity in mind and treat them as guidelines to their practice. In contrast, others work with existing conceptual ideas or with their own understanding o f the relationship between site and work, thereby opening up new ways o f looking at site-specificity. Radix Theatre and B o c a del Lupo both offer v i v i d alternatives to the traditional notion o f site-specificity through their experiments. In order to explore the companies' choices and address their innovations, I w i l l first define the terms o f my analysis and then place them in the broader context o f sitespecific performance i n Canada o f "the last decade or so" - since the late 1990s. (Houston and Nanni 7) Canadian theatre practitioners and scholars Andrew Houston and Laura Nanni note i n their editorial for the academic journal, Canadian Theatre Review ( C T R ) that this was a time where "an increasing number of artists [began] to migrate from purpose-built theatres and galleries to spaces o f creation", ranging from "cars to loading dock, swimming pools to waterfronts or houses to factories." (Houston and Nanni 7) I w i l l follow this with an introduction to both Radix Theatre and B o c a del L u p o ' s mandates and production histories, before moving on to analyse select productions.  The term "fixity" here refers to two things. The first is the work's physical immobilisation: that it must remain in one specific site. The second refers to the fact that the work must be physically and conceptually derived from the site and therefore created only for it. 7  6  While site-specific performance has gained tremendous breadth as a field o f research, its uniqueness and richness as both a localised and globalised practice begs for closer analysis. Current scholarship i n the field cover practices in the United Kingdom, America, Australia and Canada. In Canada however, not all theatre groups experimenting i n this genre have received scholarly attention. Moreover, the thematically-based academic journal C T R which I mentioned earlier has only recently (2006), published an issue with site-specific performance as a heterotopian overview of practices and experiments within the country. Drawing inspiration from the "specificity" i n the label, site-specific performance, I hope to analyse specific, localised productions a little more in order to explore how they fit into more internationally determined definitions or alternatively, how they fit into existing conceptual models. In this endeavour, I shall be looking closely at select Radix and Boca productions. While both companies were mentioned in C T R and have been reviewed by newspaper critics, they have not received much scholarly attention beyond this. Given the richness and success of their productions, they are definitely worth reviewing.  1.2  Methodology  I w i l l conduct a largely phenomenological analysis o f the productions. In this respect however, I am limited due to the ephemeral nature o f performance. Even though I wish to have consciously lived and experienced all the productions I have selected for analysis, it was not possible. Thus, from the range o f productions I shall explore, I was only able to attend one o f the four works. This casts an interesting angle for my research as I w i l l be at once, archivist, researcher, and i n philosopher de Certeau's terms, both a voyeur and a walker. (9293) In order to piece together productions I have not experienced, I have interviewed artists, 7  following the University o f British Columbia's guidelines for ethical research, combed through available archival materials and analysed newspaper reviews. For the performance I managed to attend, I have both my memory o f sensory details and notes taken from experiencing it as an event.  1.3  Overview  Chapter T w o introduces and explores key terms for my analysis: site-specific performance and environmental theatre. I w i l l briefly trace the beginnings o f "sitespecificity" i n visual art, particularly, i n M i n i m a l A r t terminology and concept o f the m i d 1960s. I w i l l then move on to survey its appropriation by the theatre medium - site-specific performance and more generally, by environmental theatre. Since site-specific performance has recently been variously termed - a fraternal twin o f environmental theatre, or even the new nomination for environmental theatre, I wish to explore the impetus for their emergence as w e l l as compare some of their theoretical bases i n order to shed light on their interchangeability as genre names. The focal point for this overview w i l l be intention and ideals that precipitated the movement into what it is today.  The remainder o f the thesis treats the cases o f Radix Theatre and B o c a del Lupo as a means to explore how site-specificity i n performance can be open to more open and fluid interpretations. In Chapter Three, I introduce each company's respective background, mandate and production history. In Chapter Four, I describe and analyse two productions by Radix and i n Chapter Five, I analyse two by Boca. I have selected these productions as examples o f innovative approaches to site-specific performance, specifically i n their level of  8  engagement with sites. In each chapter, I also review how each company's ideals, mandates and performance concepts fit into or upset parameters o f site-specific performance dealt with i n Chapter T w o . Chapter Six, the concluding chapter, w i l l review my research findings and include suggestions for further study.  9  2  SITE-SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE Key Intentions, Definitions, Ideas and Debates  This chapter begins with a brief introduction to the era that produced various prominent performance practices including environmental theatre and site-specific performance. The concept o f site-specificity germinated from the M i n i m a l A r t movement in the 1960s, amidst wide-ranging experimental work aimed at tackling or exposing social problems and questions haunting and burdening society. Part o f this chapter explores the original impulses during the late 1960s and early 1970s which led to the performance movement characterised by works in unusual, found or non-purpose built theatre sites. I w i l l give a brief overview o f several performance practices aligned with this characteristic, ultimately focusing on site-specific performance as the emerging significant and fecund field o f exploration. The overview highlights the idealism and sentiments that gave rise to a spate of fundamentally different practices which nonetheless, shared impulses that generated the movement. These practices, which can be described as early manifestations o f site-specific performance, contributed to diverging ideas o f what constitutes the practice, particularly when compared to site-specificity's original usage in M i n i m a l sculpture. The overview is not meant to be exhaustive or all-inclusive. I have focused on key intentions, definitions, ideas and debates surrounding site-specific performance with a purpose o f drawing together major points o f references, which w i l l ultimately converge on a Canadian, and specifically, Vancouver landscape.  10  2.1  Brief Background to E r a  The disenchantment with commercial theatre paralleled a broader disenchantment with the culture at large, with America as a world power, with material well-being, with the ethic of the isolated figure labouring to merit the approval of society.  (Sainer 14)  The era spanning the sixties to the seventies was one o f social and cultural upheaval, following the wake o f two world wars, the C o l d War, the arms race and lasting through and beyond the effects o f the Vietnam War. Within the arts and especially i n sculpture and theatre, established conventions were questioned and rebelled against, the underlying problem being the commodification o f the arts. Products churned out by museums, galleries 8  and theatre architectures fed mindless entertainment to the masses, while "aesthetic and social considerations ran a bad second to the needs o f the box office." (Sainer 13) Theatre scholar Arthur Sainer, tracing the avant-garde theatre movement in the United States i n his book, The N e w Radical Theatre Notebook (1997) noted, "playwrights and directors felt that the commercial theatre barely contained vestiges o f a serious art form [and] the significant concerns o f their lives could not be dealt with i n any depth in the commercial theatre." (14) A s a result, experimental work within art, sculpture and theatre proliferated, with a focus on collapsing the divide between spectator and art/theatre work, reflecting the Artaudian ideal of  Douglas Crimp argues in On the Museum's Ruins (1993) that the commodification of sculpture in galleries led to the Minimal Art movement, an alternative to mainstream sculptural work, exploring spatial and viewer relationships. David Wiles, as I mentioned in Chapter 1, argues that commodity theatre caused theatre artists to explore performance outside of purpose-built theatres. 8  11  assaulting the spectators' senses and stripping the theatre o f superfluous conventions to its minimal needs. One o f the main solutions seen i n both sculpture and theatre was an escape from the "spatial machine", a term coined by performance scholar M i k e Pearson to describe the theatre auditorium. A s I quoted at the beginning o f Chapter One, Pearson saw the theatre auditorium or arts centre as emblematic o f theatre orthodoxy and political conservatism, selling "brilliant" product after "brilliant" product, which to him, was a "field ploughed to exhaustion". (Wiles 2) B y approximation, the museum or gallery was the visual art "spatial machine" counterpart to the theatre auditorium. A s I w i l l mention i n the next section, the M i n i m a l Sculptural movement, often credited with originating the concept o f site-specificity, sought to rebel against commercialism through marrying sculptural work to specific sites, i n order to foreground the primacy o f spectator experience. This practice seems fundamentally phenomenological, prioritising the spectator's conscious, lived, experience o f the work, rather than a distanced and objective viewing of an autonomous artwork associated with the divisions kept by spatial machines. The shift from the spectators' voyeuristic role to their conscious experience can also be seen as an "attack on the prestige o f both artist and artwork", (Crimp 16-17) an inherent privilege associated with exhibitions. In this way, to return to Sainer's words, the "ethic o f the isolated figure [or artist] labouring to merit the approval o f society" gives way to communal participation and exploration. (13)  Accompanying this anti-commercialist sentiment was a theoretical struggle within disciplines which theatre historian M a r v i n Carlson addresses i n his book, Performance - A Critical Introduction ( 2  nd  Edition) (2004). According to Carlson, the concept o f  "performance" expanded in the 1960s and 1970s due to terminology and theoretical strategies developed i n the social sciences, particularly i n anthropology and sociology. In the 1973  12  issue o f the academic journal The Drama Review, theorist and theatre practitioner Richard Schechner listed seven areas "where performance theory and the social sciences coincide". (11) Thus, performance in everyday life, including gatherings o f every kind, ethnography, human behaviour and so on, coincided with the structure o f sports, ritual and play. (11) This broadened denotation and connotation o f "performance" opened theatre studies to inter- and cross-disciplinary studies. Despite the proliferation o f performance ideas and practices within theatre i n 1970, Carlson notes that many "performance" theoreticians and practitioners were almost entirely associated with the art world, still dominated by the theoretical interests o f minimalism and high modernism. (139) The minimalist attitude i n "each separate art rejected] the 'dispensible, unessential' conventions o f its own tradition as w e l l as o f other arts to seek its own formal essence." (Carlson 139) This similar attitude is evident i n modernist theatre history where Edward Gordon Craig, Adolphe A p p i a and subsequently, Artaud, "stripped away accumulated conventions and the borrowings from other arts to discover the 'essence' o f theatre". (Carlson 139) However, performance also intruded art territory and, as art critic Michael Fried notes, "a kind o f stage presence antithetical to the essential minimalist project" emerged. (Carlson 139) Scholar N i c k Kaye also quotes Fried in his book Site-Specific A r t - Performance, Place and Documentation (2000): " i n forcing an incursion o f the time and space of viewing into the experience of [art] work, Fried argues that minimalism enters into a realm which 'lies between the arts', where 'art degenerates as it approaches the condition o f theatre'" (3) Despite Fried's despairing o f the survival o f art against the reach o f theatre and performance, this stripping down o f conventions and borrowings between disciplines helped to open new perspectives regarding site-specificity in both art and performance.  13  The incursion of space - surrounding, literal or real - into the viewer's experience o f artwork revealed minimalism's engagement with different orders o f space, which as Kaye notes, challenged the viewer's privileged position as reader "outside" the work. (25) A s mentioned i n Chapter One, this privilege is linked to the ocular primacy of the Cartesian subject. In her dissertation Performing W o r l d . (2005) scholar Laura L e v i n elaborates on the "historical operations o f perspectivalism". (91) Using the example o f the proscenium stage, she writes, "the picture frame caters to ' a familiar modern appetite: the desire to view others as theatre from a position of unstaged freedom. B y giving the world to be seen without incorporating the spectator within its visual terrain, the picture frame stage installs the audience in a position of perceptual mastery." (91) Levin, however, charges this perceptual mastery to the "solipsism o f the Cartesian subject - the individual who verifies the reality o f the external world relative to his [sic] own being." (119) Reminiscent o f minimalism's efforts to challenge the viewer's privileged position, L e v i n draws on phenomenological readings o f site to redress the Cartesian posture: by "destabilising the subject", and "recognising that the environment has a phenomenal or literal existence that is independent or [the viewer's] apprehension o f it." (119) According to L e v i n , "by foregrounding visual and other sensory registers o f perception, environmental and site-specific performances are uniquely able to facilitate an encounter with what [she terms] the 'environmental unconscious', which can render perceptible those aspects o f environment that we habitually engage and routinely overlook." (120) This shift from the spectator's ocular and perspectival mastery to one that involves the conscious experience o f the environment through the bodying forth o f space is 9  Stanton B . Garner, Jr. uses the phrase "bodying forth of space" in Bodied Spaces: Phenomenology and Performance in Contemporary Drama (1994) to describe performers and spectators literally filling the space with their bodies and therefore experiencing the environment and their relationship to each other. 9  14  an integral impulse and ideal o f experimental performance during the era, which was imbued with political, economic and social issues that needed immediate and active reception.  This era thus saw anti-commercialist sentiments, a stripping away o f non-essential traditions and conventions and the foregrounding o f environmental and spatial elements i n performance i n order to jolt the spectator's senses and unconscious into acting on social change. In the next section, I w i l l give a brief introduction to site-specificity from its M i n i m a l A r t movement origins.  2.2  Site-specificity: Origins in Minimal A r t Movement  To move the work is to destroy the work. - Richard Serra, (Kaye 2)  In the mid-1960s, what has now become known as "site-specificity" emerged as visual art theory, used mostly by sculptors o f the M i n i m a l A r t movement to expose the material conditions o f galleries and museums, w h i c h art historian Douglas Crimp recognised to be "art's institutionalisation within the system o f commerce". (155) According to Crimp, "the real material condition of modern art, masked by its pretense to universality [and its precondition o f autonomy - belonging to no specific site], is that o f the specialised luxury commodity." (155) This "no-specific-site", or no-place, as Crimp terms it, was, i n reality, the museum - both the "actual museum and the museum as a representation o f the institutional system o f circulation that also comprises the artist's studio, the commercial gallery, the collector's home, [...] the corporate headquarters lobby, the bank vault" and so on. (Crimp  15  17) Acting as residences for art, galleries and museum spaces effected the "disintegration o f culture into commodities" through their elite connotations and business operations. (155) A t the same time, art's institutional exhibition spaces, which Crimp saw as surrogates o f the private domicile - for which much art has historically been made to adorn i n the bourgeois private interior - were revealed to be determining, constraining, and drastically limiting art's possibilities. (160) Facing this architecturally-ossified tradition and cultural climate, M i n i m a l artists worked to revive the meaning o f art lost in its mindless consumption through sitespecificity - a method characterised by the "refusal o f circulatory mobility" i n the work's "belongingness to a specific site." (Crimp 17) In this way, M i n i m a l sculptures were often large or technically un(re)movable, except by physical destruction or destruction by enforced removal leading to its conceptual destruction.  A n emblematic example o f this conceptual destruction is seen in the famous controversy o f M i n i m a l sculptor, Richard Serra's Tilted A r c . T o recount briefly, the Tilted A r c was a 12-foot-high steel-plate wall, 120 feet long structure, inhabiting a "site that is public i n a very particular sense" (Crimp 176) - a plaza flanked by a government office building housing federal bureaucracies and by the United States Court o f International Trade. According to Crimp, the plaza also adjoins Foley Square, the location o f N e w Y o r k C i t y ' s federal and state courthouses. In the literal meaning o f site, the sculpture was i n a plaza; i n the figurative sense o f site, however, it was situated i n the "very centre o f the mechanisms of state power." (176) Moreover, this structure tilted slightly toward the office building and the trade courthouses, swept across the centre o f the plaza, dividing it into two distinct areas. In its radical form and material, "the sculpture imposed a construction o f absolute difference within the conglomerate o f civic architecture." (Crimp 179) Furthermore, while the 16  "sculpture did not disrupt normal traffic patterns" - it did "implant itself within the public's field o f vision;" "soliciting, even commanding attention, the sculpture asked the office workers and other pedestrians to leave their usual hurried course and follow a different route, gauging the curving planes, volumes, and sight lines that marked this place as the place o f sculpture." (Crimp 179) Serra's sculpture faced much opposition from the moment o f its installation i n 1981, with "the most vociferous [coming] not from the public at large but from the representatives o f the state, from judges o f the courts and heads of federal bureaucracies whose offices are i n the Federal Building." (Crimp 180) Lengthy discussion amongst opposing parties suggested moving the work to another location. It is this suggestion o f his . work's mobility that prompted Serra to say the words, "to move the work is to destroy the work", (Kaye 2) indicating that moving the Tilted A r c would destroy it conceptually. The sculpture was eventually physically destroyed since the sculptor would not have it moved. The struggle Serra faced against those i n power illuminated the political orthodoxy surrounding conventions o f art, while illustrating the power o f space, which is never neutral, such as the plaza which became a giant chess-board or metaphorical battlefield, both purported territory o f those i n power and a public space which could technically be claimed by the people for the people. This controversy in the history o f site-specific artwork, led to an important and significant debate i n later definitions and practices o f site-specific performance, split between two main camps: 1) partisans o f "fixed" site-specific work and 2) theatre artists who believe that site-specific performance can tour. A s with all extreme antinomies, there are those who settle for a compromise i n between. These distinctions distil a range o f possible definitions o f site-specific performance, ranging from the purist view o f absolute fixedness to one more open and fluid, depending on creation process. Thus, these  17  opposing and in-between "camps" are the basis for my argument that the purist notion o f sitespecificity i n performance can be reworked i n positive ways.  In the next section I w i l l briefly trace several performance precedents o f site-specific theatre, known under different names and varying i n impulses. Given the vast range o f potential historical antecedents, I cannot be comprehensive. Instead, I w i l l address several key practices which are reflected in what scholars, theatre critics and the general public assume or perceive to be site-specific performance today.  2.3  Site-specific Theatre: Early Precedents  I am for an art that is political-erotical mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum. I am for an art that embroils itself with everyday crap and comes out on top. I am for an art that tells you the time of day, or where such and such a street is. I am for an art that helps old ladies across the street. Sculptor Claes Oldenburg (Martin 1)  Site-specific theatre is a vast field and practices and productions claiming to be sitespecific have also, by nature o f their staging aspects, been referred to as outdoor theatre, environmental theatre, street performance, and so on. A s such, it is interesting to trace several prominent and influential experimental theatre practices which emerged i n the late sixties and seventies that i n some way, contributed to site-specific theatre practice today.  18  In The Theatre is i n the Street: Politics and Performance i n Sixties America. (2004) Bradford D . Martin argues that with the end o f the C o l d War emerged a pervasive effort by diverse collectives to "move beyond bourgeois cultural venues such as theatres, concert halls and museums, to democratise culture by trying to communicate with broader audiences where the performer-activists encountered them - mostly i n the streets." (Martin 10) According to Martin, one of the main cultural consequences o f the C o l d War was the "retreat from overtly political subject matter i n the arts". (8) The McCarthy era, which saw the 1947 House o f Un-American Activities Committee ( H U A C ) " H o l l y w o o d " hearings", greatly repressed cultural expression, so much so that the L i v i n g Theatre's cofounder, Julian Beck, recalled "even the critics would say ' y o u cannot m i x art and polities'." (Martin 8) The trend toward "apolitical" art extended to the visual arts, where abstract expressionism became the dominant form, though it was "neutral" and "devoid o f ideology". (Martin 8) Therefore, one of the main impulses for outdoor or street performance i n this case stemmed from the need to communicate with broader sections o f the public, often with some degree o f activist sentiment.  10  One o f the most prominent theatre companies that emerged during this era was the L i v i n g Theatre, founded by Judith Malina and Julian Beck i n 1947, the same year as the H U A C hearings. Although the company started off pioneering unconventional staging o f poetic drama i n the 1950s and early 1960s i n N e w Y o r k , they were faced with "a cultural establishment ill-equipped to accept a unique experimental enterprise" and had four o f their  Martin mentions several important antecedents to groups such as the Living Theatre prior to the Cold War. One such example was the Provincetown Players in the 1910s, which practised "collective creation" and stressed personal liberation and community goals. Many Player participated in the 1913 Paterson Strike in the old Madison Square Garden where fifteen hundred silk workers re-enacted their strike before an estimated audience of fifteen thousand. (8) 10  performance venues closed down by the authorities over ten years. (Living Theatre website) B y the mid-1960s, the company began operating as a nomadic touring ensemble, morphing, while i n Europe, into a collective; living and working together toward the creation o f a new form o f non-fictional acting based on the actor's political and physical commitment to using the theatre as a medium for furthering social change. (Living Theatre website) In the 1970s, the collective also began to create work for non-traditional venues, such as the prisons or Brazil, the gates o f the Pittsbugh steel mills, the slums o f Palermo and the schools o f N e w York.  In The N e w Radical Theatre Notebook, (1997) Sainer mentions another prominent company, The Pageant Players, formed by a group o f young people who wanted to use theatre as a forum for their political beliefs, of a generally Marxist orientation. Their predominant frustration was that the United States was imperialistic abroad and repressive and smothering at home. In terms o f approach, they "wanted no part o f a traditional theatre building", preferring to perform indoors and out, at political demonstrations, schools, parks, on the street and even i n a Laundromat. (Sainer 18) Y e t another influential company was the Bread and Puppet Theatre, founded at the beginning o f the 1960s by German-born Peter Schumann. B o t h a puppeteer and choreographer, his troupe's theatre approach combined the "use o f massive puppets, at least twice the size of humans, with sometimes grotesque, sometimes noble countenances, tiny rod puppets, and human figures, often masked, with rude humour, lyric gentleness and almost archetypal violence i n the stories." (Sainer 17) The troupe performed regularly i n a loft on Delancey Street in N e w Y o r k and also took to the streets, exploring issues such as the U S involvement i n Vietnam. The troupe later moved beyond the streets to other sites like a mountain. (Sainer 43) For the L i v i n g Theatre, The  Pageant Players and the Bread and Puppet Theatre, political statements were important aspects o f their performances and the streets and public spaces were used to "disseminate" their messages, which were not possible i n the theatre auditoria spatial machine, which together with museums, were linked to the "American military-industrial complex". (Martin 7)  The last antecedent o f site-specific theatre I shall mention here is Richard Scheduler's The Performance Group. Originally called the N e w Orleans Group when it was founded by Scheduler, Franklin Adams and Paul Epstein, the group moved to N e w Y o r k in 1967 and was involved in staging a guerrilla-warfare piece, simultaneously taking place at twentyseven locations both i n theatres and on the street. (Sainer 20) Eventually, with the number o f members dropping to fifteen, the group called itself The Performance Group and moved to a garage on Wooster Street in Manhattan, renovating and calling it the Performing Garage. It is important to note Scheduler's approach as he was (as the other companies mentioned here), disenchanted with the theatre auditorium convention, which divided spectators and performers into distinct spaces. H e was inspired by artist A l l a n Kaprow's book, Assemblages. Environments, & Happenings (1966), in which Kaprow, as Scheduler summarises, proposed and created environments, based on paintings expanding and escaping from their frames, eventually spilling over to the floor, becoming assemblages and whole constructed environments for spectators or "experiencer" to explore as they wished. Based on this theory, Schechner coined the term Environmental Theatre for a new practice which drew spectators into performance action through spatial innovations within set and seating design and the doing away o f the established etiquette o f sitting and watching passively. Thus, for the group's performances, "environments" were constructed allowing performers and  21  spectators many levels throughout the space. (Sainer 43) For example, seating arrangements were designed with several levels, using wooden scaffoldings and platforms. These towered over and surrounded the centre performance space almost like a theatre-in-the-round, but innovative i n that they were unevenly spaced, ranging from little nooks for a single spectator to a galley on the highest tier where spectators could sit i n a row, with their legs dangling over the side, protected by a scaffold bar across the torso. Moreover, spectators were encouraged to move around during the performance, to change their seats, move closer to the action and sometimes even participate i n the action. These unconventional practices and doing away with the rules o f theatre event etiquette allowed Scheduler to achieve his goal o f audience participation, though it also incurred risks, which L e v i n notes in her study, such as spectators inappropriately touching female performers and even kidnapping one o f the performers halfway through a performance.  W h i l e environmental theatre as shown i n the above example, is not particularly affixed to a specific site for figurative meaning, focusing instead on collapsing performerspectator divisions through constructed or reconfigured environments, this need to bring the spectator out o f their seats into active participation is a common aim for theatre artists producing site-specific performance. Theatre scholar A r n o l d Aronson provides a deeper analysis o f environmental theatre scenography i n his book, The History and Theory o f Environmental Scenography (1981). According to Aronson, "the word environmental is applied to staging that is non-frontal." (1) Traditional theatre auditoria configurations such as the proscenium, end, thrust, alley and arena stages are a l l considered frontal since a spectator "rarely has to look more than forty-five degrees to the right or left in order to view the whole production." (Aronson 1) While the perspective might vary slightly for each structure,  22  Aronson notes that i n all cases, the audience faces "forward" and is generally focused on the same space and action. (2) However, within this definition of environmental theatre, examples o f frontal and non-frontal work differ to the extent that some unlikely works might actually be referred to as "partially environmental".  11  To address this complexity, Aronson  proposed a classification o f environmental productions based on the degree to which they move from frontal to non-frontal staging, thereby forming a continuum o f environmental theatre as illustrated below: (7)  Frontal  Perceived Environment  Nonfrontal Implied Environment  Unified Space  Experienced Environment  Surrounding Space  A s can be deduced from the categories, the continuum charts the progression i n the spatial relationship between the spectator and the production scenography, from a primarily ocular perspective to one that involves more bodying forth o f the space. T o explain the continuum briefly, the production in a perceived environment is usually outdoors with no apparent constructed environment. A n y thing within the spectator's perspective can be perceived as environment, including the sky and the ground. This category focuses on mental space within the spectator's imagination. Productions i n the implied environment category physically configure space such that the relationship between performers and audiences reflect contextual significance, an example being the spectators sat in Peter B r o o k ' s Marat/Sade  Aronson gives the following examples: Stanislavski, who represents the quintessential fourth wall illusionistic theatre once said that he wanted the audience at Three Sisters to feel as if they were guests at the Prozorov household, a strange phenomenon for the Moscow Art Theatre which is a traditional proscenium theatre. He then compares this to Grotowski's Doctor Faustus production where spectators sit with Faustus as his guests and the Performance Group's The Tooth of Crime in which the spectators follow the character Hoss, from his kitchen to his bedroom in different parts of the theatre. (2) 11  23  production. Spectators took on two roles: themselves as spectators at a performance event and also as spectators watching asylum inmates perform as i f they were part o f their world. The third category, unified space unifies performance and spectator space by transforming the whole space, such as physically reconstructing theatre seating into church pews and creating arches and stained glass windows overhead. The fourth category, experienced environment, focuses on spectator experience, often in a performance space already configured to envelope spectators. Aronson gives the example o f the Japanese Kabuki theatre stage, which utilises a ramp (hanamichi) running from the back o f the auditorium, through the audience space and adjoining the stage. The last category, surrounding space, is more of an ideal i n which the spectator is suspended i n the middle o f a sphere and is therefore totally surrounded by an environment that does not allow for frontal v i e w i n g . Despite these fascinating categories of 12  environmental staging, Aronson notes that no matter how surrounded spectators are, they are still outside the performance frame or space. A real interaction and relationship needs to be established between performers and spectators. (7)  L e v i n also criticises the limits o f environmental theatre tenets: "while environmental artists eschew the restrictions o f Proscenium Theatre, they exchange one k i n d o f enframement - a world ordering system - for another. The problem is not so much the frame itself, but the attitude that the subject takes up i n relation to it and the self-oriented uses to which it is put." (96) Thus, even though environmental theatre seeks to collapse the divide between spectators and performers through a manipulation arid reconstruction o f space, the spectator-subject's orientation with regard to space alone is not sufficient i n effecting a In response to Aronson's surrounding space category, theatre designer and professor, Ronald Fedoruk notes that a truly surrounding space can be achieved through acoustics and the olfactory sense. Since the visual is always limited by the angle of vision, it is sound and smell, permeating the environment and atmosphere that can allow an environment to totally surround the audience. 12  24  relationship with performers. Furthermore, some argue that environmental theatre has today been co-opted by the commercial mainstream. A s scholar Steve Nelson notes, "today's environmental theatre may move the fourth wall around a bit, but no one is put up against or through it." (93)  Despite these limitations however, environmental theatre does offer an interesting angle with which to study site-specific performance. Indeed, L e v i n deems environmental theatre and site-specific theatre fraternal twins, (105) implying practical differences yet sharing a definite heritage i n theoretical impulses. Thus, environmental theatre and sitespecific theatre are similar i n that they possess elements found in the other: environmental theatre's focus, while not necessarily site-based, could well be; site-specific theatre, with its emphasis on site, could make use o f the frontal or non-frontal relationship between spectators, space and performers to effect a moving experience for both, bodying forth the space.  There are many other performance practices and companies which could lay claim to being early manifestations o f site-specific performance. The four main examples I have described, while fundamentally different i n practice, reflect several shared sentiments and impulses stemming from the larger social environment i n which the respective theatre artists found themselves. Each bears its own genealogy while contributing to an era o f influential impulses. Thus, the political nature o f performance, anti-establishment sentiments, dissatisfaction with the traditional, orthodox spatial machine and the need to reach the public for social and cultural change have coloured site-specific theatre's past. More contemporary studies o f site-specific theatre have yielded key definitions, models and above all, debates.  25  2.4  Site-specific Performance: Definitions, Ideas, Debates, Models  In 1998, theorist Patrice Pavis, in his Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms. Concepts and Analysis offered the following definition of site-specific performance:  This term refers to a staging and performance conceived on the basis of a place in the real world (ergo, outside of established theatre). A large part of the work has to do with researching a place, often an unusual one, that is imbued with history or permeated with atmosphere: an airplane hangar, unused factory, city neighbourhood, house or apartment. The insertion of a classical or modern text in this "found place" throws new light on it, gives it an unsuspected power, and places the audience at an entirely different relationship to the text, the place, and the purpose for being there. This new context provides a new situation of enunciation and [...] leads us to a rediscovery of nature and land use and gives the performance an unusual setting of great charm and power.  .,  •  .  (338)  Pavis' succinct and authoritative definition touches on two key criteria associated with sitespecific performance. The first involves performance space: site-specific performance occurs outside o f established or traditional purpose-built theatres, often i n any space i n the "real world". When such spaces such as diners, parks, old warehouses or disused car-parks, to give  26  a few examples, are designated and used as performance sites, they are termed "found space(s)", (or "found place" as translated by Christine Shantz i n Pavis). In these found spaces, architectural theatre frames like the proscenium arch that usually support artistic illusion are absent. Thus, unless productions are purposely whimsical, the line between art and life is usually eschewed, and interesting relationships are created between the spectators, performers and the environment within the found space. A s a result o f performers working creatively with the space and spectators seeing the space in a different or artistic light, sitespecific performance usually produces a group of participants who have become more aware of the nuances o f a specific site, having experienced it through a different frame o f reference. These participants - performers, theatre makers and spectators w i l l also develop a visual and sensuous memory associated with their experience o f the site-specific performance.  According to Pavis's definition, the second major criterion o f site-specific performance is conceptual. He notes that a large part o f site-specific work has to do with "researching a place, often an unusual one that is imbued with history or permeated with atmosphere". (338) Thus, while found spaces can be anywhere in the "real world", research into the space - whether in its historical background, material aspects or physical possibilities - must accompany the decision to use a particular site. In line with the need for research into found space or a designated performance site Pavis suggests a secondary factor i n the conceptual requirements o f site-specific performance: text. Pavis notes two types o f texts:  13  classical and modern, that can be inserted into found space. In addition to researching, inserting text reflects the active conceptual exercise and intent o f theatre artists which he sees at the core o f site-specific performance practice. Text here can refer to both the script and the performance text, both of which, according to Pavis will throw new light on the space - conceptually and sensuously. 13  27  Some site-specific performance theorists have suggested that the type o f text used plays a role i n determining how "site-specific" a performance might be - one o f the key theoretical debates i n the field. For example, to insert an existing classical Greek dramatic text or a modern Beckett play i n a found space, such as a park for example, might be seen by some theorists as a superimposition o f a play on that site. Since the play is not directly connected with the park i n this instance, and could maybe be performed i n any other location, the performance is considered not purely site-specific. For these theorists, true site-specific performance is fully inspired by the found space and this should be reflected i n new texts developed from researching the chosen site. This recalls the partisans o f fixed site-specific work I mentioned earlier, in the legacy o f Richard Serra's phrase: " T o move the work is to destroy the work." (Kaye 2)  Rather than discounting a range o f site-specific performance as inferior, others have argued for a heterotopian ideal. C T R editors, Andrew Houston and Laura Nanni did just that in their Spring 2006 issue which had called for articles surrounding site-specific performance as a theme. In their editorial article, Houston and Nanni quote philosopher M i c h e l Foucault's concept o f heterotopia, which to abbreviate, is "a kind o f effectively enacted Utopia" found in real places, where all the "sites that can be found within the culture are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted." (5) This is an effective method and as I w i l l go on to show i n this chapter, useful for maintaining an open and generative study o f site-specific performance.  28  Having given a generalised concept o f site-specific performance, I w i l l now go on to more specific definitions centred on the spatial noun, site. Scholar N i c k Kaye, i n his book, Site-specific A r t : Performance, Place and Documentation (2000) gets right to the basics, looking at dictionary definitions o f the word, site:  'site': substantive. [...] local position [...] The place or position occupied by some specified thing. Frequently implying original or fixed position.  'site': 1. transitive. To locate, to place. 2. intransitive. To be situated or placed. (Kaye 1)  A l l these definitions - substantive, transitive and intransitive - connote the literal semantics o f site as a physical ground on which a specified thing w i l l occupy, or on which something w i l l be located, placed or situated. Using these definitions, i n particular the substantive sense of "frequently implying original or fixed position", Kaye again recalls Serra's words i n which a site-specific work w i l l be destroyed or made something else i f moved.  Where Kaye suggests ways to fix the term "site", others have argued that the term itself, relying as it does on spatial elements, is ineluctably unstable. In their article "Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity" (2004) published i n a book with the same title, urban studies scholars Ryan Bishop, John Phillips and W e i - W e i Y e o emphasised the indispensability o f the figurative when it came to the nebulous term, space. According to them, "this figurability allows us to speak o f all kinds o f phenomena, which are not strictly 29  spatial, i n spatial terms." (5) Site, which carries a spatial element i n its meaning, is another term that w i l l benefit from the use o f both its literal and figurative senses. A key concept running through Bishop, Phillips and Y e o ' s article is that phenomena can be beyond description. Back to the all-encompassing space, they cite the Ancient Greek term topos as an example o f how "both literal and figurative senses o f space emerge[d] from a prior form o f conceptualisation, what Immanuel Kant calls the transcendental imagination." (5) The one term topos gives the following familiar terms: topic, topography, and topology. W h i l e the first addresses the space o f thought and the second denotes how we map spaces, the third bridges the two by allowing a flexible or conceptual mapping, which is neither literal nor figurative. (5) In this way, Bishop, Phillips and Y e o state that even space is beyond description. In similar terms,  site has both its literal and figurative senses and possibly even  other uses that are beyond my description here.  T o broaden the definition o f  site in site-specificity to include both the literal and the  figurative, I turn to artist/writers K e n Ehrlich and Brandon LaBelle i n their editorial introduction to Surface Tension: Problematics o f Site (2003), in which they contextualise  site  i n several ways. In one sense, "site [my italics] might function as an operative term through which to gauge [artistic] practice - it is both the physical location o f presentation and the intrinsic negotiations such presentation entails." (10-11) This statement shows  site's literal  and figurative senses respectively. Moreover, Ehrlich and LaBelle go on to describe:  While the terminology of site appears and disappears in varying attempts to define public art, place-specific interventions, community-based projects, and artistic  30  services over the last 30 years, site [my italics] continues to provide a location, both real and imaginary, actualised and theoretical, for considering the physical parameters of place and the phantasmic projections of what place may signal. Site thus may continue to describe the intersection of seemingly oppositional terms, and provide a necessary space for their negotiation. (11)  Based on these literal and figurative meanings o f site, which function as both a "physical parameter" for productions i n material form and an immaterial space o f negotiation between opposing forces, I w i l l go on to describe definitions, ideas and debates surrounding site-specific performance around the literal meaning o f the term site, while also noting its figurative operations within the production analyses.  Here it is interesting to note that while the idea of sites imbued with history and atmosphere is fundamental to the current understanding o f site-specific performance, it has not always been so. Carlson, giving an overview o f site-specific performance i n Performance: A Critical Introduction ( 2  nd  Edition). (2004) notes the "large-scale outdoor spectacles" o f the  British company Welfare State during the 1970s. These often utilised fireworks, elaborate costuming and properties and were produced i n an almost infinite variety o f natural and constructed environments. (117) H e offers other examples such as E n Garde Arts, founded by Anne Hamburger i n N e w Y o r k in 1985 who collaborated with Reza Abdoh, "a major visionary director o f large cultural epics i n untraditional spaces." (118) These examples led h i m to argue that "much so-called 'site-specific' performance has only involved the use o f 31  unconventional performance spaces, indoor and out, with particular attention to the physical characteristics o f the space and at times, to its social or historical associations [though the latter was not necessary]." (119) According to Carlson, it was i n 1993 when the British artistic team o f E w a n Forster and Christopher Heighes began "creating site-specific performances designed particularly to reveal the 'language' o f certain historically, socially and architecturally significant buildings and locations" that history and cultural significance o f the site became major criteria o f site-specific performance.  F r o m my study o f site-specific performance definitions, reviews and debates and productions by B o c a del Lupo and Radix Theatre, I would like to suggest three main categories o f site-specific performance which w i l l help to discern the differences between and innovative practices o f Radix Theatre and B o c a del Lupo. Based on how theatre artists view and engage with site in the context o f their performances, these are 1) site as anchor, 2) site as value, and 3) site as narrative. These categories are not all-inclusive and w i l l leave some 14  examples o f performances out as categorising inevitably does. A t the same time, they could offer interesting angles o f understanding site-specific performance while maintaining an open and flexible attitude. I should also note that performances need not fit into one category and could overlap; while the categories themselves could support, contest or invert each other, much like the heterotopian approach mentioned earlier.  During a discussion on these categories, Fedoruk also suggests two other possible categories. The first is site as vessel, drawing from Helena Goldwater's model of pure site-specific performance as I will mention later. The second, is a situation where the site and performance are inter-dependent where one cannot survive without the other. This second category taps into the idea of virtual space where perhaps imagination is a site, which depends on performance and vice versa. These ideas will be explored in future work. 14  32  The first category, site as anchor, relates to the issue o f fixedness. It draws from the legacy o f Richard Serra's words, that moving the work would destroy the work, conceptually and i n some cases, physically. Site-specificity's germinations in M i n i m a l sculpture worked on the basis o f a w o r k ' s marriage to a site. While it may be easy for sculpture, due to its material and permanent nature to stay "married" to a site until authorities or those in power decide to move it; performance, an essentially ephemeral form requiring live performers, action and spectators to experience the event is a more complicated enterprise. In sculpture, the sculptor completes the work and leaves it for the experience o f the passer-by who happens to chance upon the work in the particular site at a particular time. In performance, there can be no permanence when the performers stop performing and go home for the day. A s M i k e Pearson and Michael Shanks notes i n their book, Theatre/Archaeology (2001), "performance survives as a cluster o f narratives, those o f the watchers and o f the watched, and o f all those who facilitate their interaction - technicians, ushers, stage-managers, administrators [where applicable]." (57) Based on these factors, site-specificity operates differently due to the material differences between sculpture and performance. Thus, it might be useful to add a cautionary note for transposing site-specificity from M i n i m a l sculpture to performance. Serra's Tilted A r c sculpture made a political statement and illustrated the power and territoriality that involves space. Sculpture itself is a spatial form - whether solid, large, small, translucent, and so on, the meaning generated with its situation or positioning is fundamentally different than performance created in specific sites, using live performers, action, visuals, sometimes text. If we revert to the question, can site-specific sculpture tour, there might be a hesitation or two before we concede that indeed it can, but only through human transport. The permanent structural form o f sculpture and the malleable, alterable  33  configurations o f human structures is a crucial difference in grafting site-specificity from sculpture to performance.  This issue o f fixity is dealt with through a survey o f site-specific work in England, Scotland and Wales by scholar Fiona W i l k i e which she documents in her article, "Mapping the Terrain: a Survey o f Site-Specific Performance i n Britain." (2002) The main question we face is "can site-specific performance tour"? To explore this question, W i l k i e rephrases the question thus: "does 'site-specific' imply 'site-exclusive'? This switch from the adjective "specific" to "exclusive" is interesting, as i f we approach terminology from a semantic point o f view, all work is to some extent site-specific since it was made for a particular set o f spaces, planned for a particular time, whether it was outdoors, indoors, found space or theatre auditoria. The planning, writing, rehearsals are done specifically with that space i n mind. Thus, "exclusive" might be a more effective word for the study. In her survey,  "the responses to this question of whether site-specific implies the performance's exclusive materialisation in that one site, are divided exactly down the middle: those who believe that site-specific performance can tour (with qualifications such as "with care") and those for whom the notion of touring such work is a contradiction. The former opinion also notes, "obviously [the touring work] loses something, but it can also carry something else away with it". (Wilkie 149)  34  Back to the issue o f whether site-specific performance can tour and the equally split responses, W i l k i e notes two ways o f dealing with the conundrum: the first is to draw distinctions between levels o f site-specificity. She quotes a Brighton company, Red Earth, whose representative offered this opinion:  Some projects are completely site-specific, i.e., they could not take place anywhere else without losing a strong thread of meaning and connection; while other more flexible projects may work around a certain sense of place, i.e., the spirit or concept at the heart of the project would work in several -- but not all - locations. (Wilkie 149)  Red Earth company's quote highlights the "spirit or concept" at the heart o f the project, begging the question o f creative process: must site-specific performance be inspired completely by a site or can theatre artists have a concept or political statement and then choose an appropriate site to present it? A s we shall see, this question w i l l be highly relevant in my analyses o f Radix Theatre and B o c a del L u p o ' s productions.  In a similar vein, W i l k i e goes on to cite Paul Pinson, artistic director o f Scottish company Boilerhouse who sometimes tours site-specific performance. However, Pinson points out:  That's not pure site-specificity. You can recreate a work 35  in response to a number of differing sites, which is totally valid in itself and is an element of site-specificity but is different from making a piece of work in response to one specific site. (Wilkie 149)  A s W i l k i e rightly points out, Pinson's words raise the issue o f "purity", at the same time opening possibilities o f valid performances with elements o f site-specificity. While a pure site-specific performance model as put forth by Helena Goldwater suggests a sort o f relationship between reverence and irreverence to sites:  To make a truly site-specific piece means it sits wholly in that site in both its content and form, otherwise, i f movable, it becomes more about the site as a vehicle/ vessel.  15  (Wilkie 149)  The site as vessel or vehicle in this case, however, is not the same as the spatial machines supposedly empty o f meaning in the theatre auditorium - even i f it is imbued with meaning and memory from past performances, its primary function and purpose to serve commercial theatre makes it a literal vessel or vehicle o f authority. In its non-auditoria meaning, however, as famed Polish director Tadeusz Kantor - whom David Wiles notes has given the most powerful call for the primacy o f space - says, "space is the 'ur-matter' o f theatre, alive and independent o f the artist." In fact, "space is not a passive receptacle i n which objects and  15  See footnote 14.  36  forms are posited ... Space itself is an object [of creation]. A n d the main one!" (Wiles 13) Thus, seen from this angle, even i f the site becomes more a vehicle or vessel i n un-pure sitespecific performance, it is still an important contributor, even a creator o f meaning.  Here, it is useful to return to W i l k i e ' s second proposed way o f dealing with the complexities arising from the issues o f site-specific performance touring: to create new terminology. (149) T o aid in this matter is the continuum, drawn up by Exeter theatre company Wrights and Sites' Stephen Hodge. The continuum seeks to locate a variety o f theatre practices i n terms of their relationships to place.  CJ In Theatre Building  TD Outside Theatre e.g. Shakespeare in the Park  Site-sympathetic Existing performance text physicalised in a selected site  Site-generic Performance generated for a series of like sites (e.g. car parks, swimming pools)  Site-specific Performance specifically generated from/for one selected site  (Wilkie 150)  Under the "pure" site-specific performance model at the far right o f the continuum, Hodge also added: Layers of the site are revealed through reference to: •  historical documentation  •  site usage (past and present)  •  found text, objects, actions, sounds, etc  37  •  anecdotal guidance  •  personal association  •  half-truths and lies  •  site morphology (physical and vocal exploratons of site)  A s W i l k i e explains, the scale reserves the label "site-specific" only for performances in which "a profound engagement with one site is absolutely central to both the creation and execution o f the work." (150) A t the same time, we can identify elements o f site-specificity as Pinson noted, i n all the categories. Also, i f we refer back to W i l k i e ' s choice o f distinguishing between "specific" and "exclusive", all the categories on the scale are sitespecific to some extent - for example, Shakespeare in the Park is rehearsed and presented at a selected park, with no doubt, staging requirements and audience space planned specifically for that site. Still, Hodge's continuum diagram is useful i n identifying a range o f practices which lay claim to site-inspired work and whether they are termed sympathetic, generic or specific, they are able, through the very nature o f the space or site outside o f the spatial machine, to effect spontaneous reactions from spectators and "fold together" more readily, performer, place and spectator. It is also interesting to note the extra criteria Hodge assigns to the site-specific theatre category as it reflects the "language" o f the chosen site as I quoted from Carlson earlier.  In response to a work's fixity to the site, Canadian artist Paul Couillard, notes the possibilities o f intriguing and visceral experiences for both audience and performer in sitespecific work, and moves away from the term "specific" to yet another adjective: responsive.  38  (32) Couillard's term "suggests work specifically designed to respond to the particular features o f the location in which it is presented." (32) For him,  in site-responsive work, aspects of location become integral to the overall form and content of a performance, making it impossible to separate the "location" from the "work".  (32)  Couillard's approach can be aligned with the issue o f fixity i n that his work and their locations cannot be separated. A t the same time, his work also offers an interesting angle to site: locations Couillard and his partner choose for their work tend to act as threshold sites, drawing together both the everyday and any historical, social or cultural meaning into a dialectical relationship and presented to spectators by reconfiguring the gaze and experience. Having cultivated a working method under the title Duorama, under which approximately one hundred performances numbering Duorama #1, #2 and so on have been presented, their works tend to follow this process:  Each piece is conceived and developed on site, Inspired by factors such as architecture, geography, Climate, traffic patterns, current use, local cultural or social values and the various histories attached to a particular site. (32)  39  For them, working i n a "site-responsive" way presents the possibility o f doing site-specific work i n "traditional" performance venues by interrogating the properties and conventions o f those sites. For example, for Duorama#17 (Calgary, A p r i l 2002), they were inspired by a removable metal plate in the floor o f the host gallery. Devising a four-hour performance i n which they installed themselves in the basement, giving each other artificial respiration, they reconfigured the spectators' gaze in everyday reality while upsetting the conventions o f the gallery. Instead o f being a conventionally framed exhibit, they marked the hole i n the floor o f the gallery with an orange safety cone. Spectators who passed by and chanced to look down expecting construction work are arrested by something else and the work engendered a range of meanings, including "men at work" to "burial". (33) Thus, site-specificity as a concept has expanded from its original meanings and practices in M i n i m a l A r t and acquired alternative terminology o f its own. Even with alternative terminologies, the first category o f site-specific performance is founded on the notion of a fixed and stable site, where the found space anchors a performance in concept and materialisation.  The second category o f site-specific performance, site as value, is linked to the concept o f site as non-neutral and non-empty, where it goes through a constant process o f erasure and writing over, acquiring layers o f meaning and narrative. In this regard, it is useful to look first at philosopher M i c h e l de Certeau's distinction between space and place. In his influential book, The Practice o f Everyday Life (1988) de Certeau outlines: "space is a practiced place", (117) while a "place is the order (of whatever kind) in accord with which elements are distributed i n relationships o f co-existence." (117) B y analogy and way o f example, he explains, "space is like the word when it is spoken". (117) Thus, while place seems to be a material, physical reality through which people can walk or move, space is an  40  intangible concept created and accepted when the place has been moved through enough and identified with a certain function or purpose. Following this idea, scholar and theatre practitioner Cathy Turner, i n her article "Palimpsest or Potential Space? Finding a Vocabulary for Site-Specific Performance" (2004) draws together a range o f views on the layered site from archaeological theories. One such view, gleaned from Pearson and Shanks' book is that "site is always a material trace o f past events and all site work is potentially archaeological." (376) Another view taken from Julian Thomas' article, "Reconciling Symbolic Significance with Being-in-the-World" (1995) is that "human beings, in their concerned dealing with the world, restructure their symbolic orders through a process o f encounter and forgetting played across time" (Turner 376); therefore, "being i n the world includes a sense o f the past, [where] there is an archaeological component within everyday life, what Pearson and Shanks call the "melancholic aspect of our social fabric". (Turner 376) Moreover, Turner cites philosopher Henri Lefebvre who in his book, The Production o f Space (1991) wrote:  The past leaves its traces. Time has its own script. Yet this space is always, now and formerly, a present space. Thus production process and product present themselves as two inseparable aspects not as two separable ideas.  (37)  In these definitions, site is seen to be non-neutral, literally meaning a place for practising and figuratively meaning a space created by that practiced place. T o further the concept o f space,  41  place and site, we can refer back to de Certeau who differentiates between the voyeur and the walker i n the experience o f the city. He writes o f the voyeur:  When one goes up there, he [sic] leaves behind the mass that carries off and mixes up in itself any identity of authors and spectators. An Icarus flying about these waters, he can ignore the devices of Daedalus in mobile and endless labyrinths far below. His elevation transfigures him into a voyeur. It puts him at a distance. It transforms the bewitching world by which one was "possessed" into a text that lies before one's eyes. It allows one to read it, to be a solar eye, looking down like a god. (92) O n the other hand,  The ordinary practitioner of the city live "down below," below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk - an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmanner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban "text" they write without being able to read it. (93)  While I used de Certeau's differentiation between voyeurs and walkers i n my introduction as an analogy o f my reading o f Radix and Boca's productions as a voyeur from a distance, and my experience o f one o f the productions as a walker, i n this context, we see ordinary  42  practitioners o f the city, walking over places and creating spaces which they cannot read, because they are possessed within the landscape.  U n l i k e site as anchor, which is focused on fixity, site as value challenges the stabilities o f site, which is made up o f multiple narratives, i f we view it as space - the intangible area created through an ordered system o f practices in places. Pearson and Shanks provide a comprehensive explication of site-specific performance in their book, which I w i l l quote at length here. While we know that "site-specific performances are conceived for, mounted within and conditioned by the particulars o f found spaces, existing social situations or locations, both used and disused," (23),  They [also] rely, for their conception and their interpretation, upon the complex coexistence, superimposition, and interpenetration of a number of narratives and architectures, historical and contemporary, of two basic orders: that which is of the site, its fixtures, and fittings, and that which is brought to the site, the performance and its scenography: [sic] of that which pre-exist the work and that which is of the work: [sic] of the past and of the present. They are inseparable from their sites, the only contexts within which they are intelligible. (23)  This idea brings me to a revealing analogy between the ghost and the host o f site-specificity coined when Pearson was still a member o f Brith Gof, a Welsh theatre company, with director C l i f f McLucas. According to McLucas, he began to use the terms "host" and "ghost" 43  to describe the relationship between place and event. The host site is haunted for a long time by a ghost or new architecture that the theatre-makers create. Importantly, like all ghosts, the work is transparent and the host can be seen through the ghost. (Turner 374) Furthermore, the host and the ghost, from different origins, are co-existent but crucially, not congruent. (Turner 374) In Pearson, M c L u c a s and Shanks' definitions o f site-specific performance, the "performance recontextualises the sites, where the site is not just an interesting and disinterested backdrop". (Pearson and Shanks 23) In fact, interpenetrating narratives factual and fictive, historical and documentary, the observational and creative - jostle to create meanings, sometimes without laying claim to accuracy or historical verisimilitude. (Pearson and Shanks 159) This is different from site as anchor whose fixity relates to a stability o f site and its meanings. While archaeological approaches to site-specific performance seem to imply fixity on historical past - and although it does to some extent history is seen as unstable and made up of multiple individual narratives. This then plays out in the definition o f site-specific performance.  Site can further be layered through sensoria, Pearson and Shanks suggest. The term sensorium denotes culturally and historically located arrays o f the senses and sensibility. (54) According to Pearson and Shanks, the sites o f both performance and archaeology constitute sensoria - apprehended as a complex manifold o f simultaneous impressions. (54)  For performer and spectator alike the performance event exists as a locus of experiences - spatial, physical and emotional - preserved in the bodies and memories of the varying orders of participants: touch, proximity,  44  texture. (54)  Thus, besides the walking and practising o f place i n establishing a layered site, the senses and sensibility o f the spectators and performers bodying forth the site must also be explored. This is particularly important when paired with the idea o f intersections between narratives o f performance and the narrative o f personal identity. A s Pearson and Shanks also outline in their book, Audience experiences the performance in a state of preparedness which derives from past experiences and the way in which they have chosen to order them and accord them significance. (64) Referred to as the "hermeneutic base o f assemblage", Pearson and Shanks note that, "the audience comes to the performance with a "grid o f pre-understandings which are partly unconscious or non-discursive, but are also contingent upon autobiography." (64) Thus, site as value is effected through an understanding o f space, place and site, with additional focuses on site complicated by sensoria and pre-conceived notions based on personal experiences.  The third category of site-specific performance, site as narrative, revolves around the everyday and draws back from the importance placed on the historical and cultural resonances o f site. In this category, site is usually chosen more for its function and purpose i n the quotidian public experience and can be perceived as having its own narrative. In daily life, there is a tendency to walk through landscapes so that sensoria are not properly 45  experienced but are retained as flurries o f blurred images oscillating from the central to the peripheral object o f the subject's gaze. The every-day walker's loss o f experience is described effectively by members of Canadian and American theatre company, Bluemouth Inc., which creates site-specific interdisciplinary artwork, in their contribution to C T R 126. entitled "Please Dress Warmly and Wear Sensible Shoes". (2006) The article was written collaboratively, taking the form of a collective dialogue sharing the artists' thoughts and experiences i n creating site-specific work. For them, one thing that is so exciting about sitespecific performance is the "possibility o f re-awakening an audience to space." (20) They write: Our lives tend to be focused on what we need to do and the ordinary demands of our particular lives, such that we are rarely allowed to truly live in the moment, seeing rather than experiencing that which is directly around us. We spend the day listening to our own internal noise. Site-specific performance is not just another opportunity to tune out the world. It is the direct opposite. You need to be fully aware in the present moment [...] (20-21)  F r o m their description, site-specific performance could be used to jolt awake the phenomenal senses o f the spectator. L e v i n , whom I mentioned earlier, terms this the "environmental unconscious". The every-day mundane habit o f walking is enriched by the revelation o f the theatricality o f the landscape and city spaces.  46  One o f the most illuminating writings on site-specific performance focusing on everyday life is scholar Sam Stedman's article "The Power o f Site-Unspecificity". (2006) In it, he criticises the modernist definition o f site-specificity, linked to Richard Serra's proverbial words "to move the work is to destroy the work", noting the present cultural climate's repeated challenge to such reductive thinking. (48) H e asks, " i f each and every work can be said to have an integral connection to its venue insofar as it is received i n its particular context - what can be said o f site-specificity?" (48) H i s words evoke W i l k i e ' s earlier distinction between "site-specific" and "site-exclusive" work on the issue o f touring, which I addressed i n site as anchor. Stedman upsets the notion o f "specificity", probing instead, questions about the un-specificity and "generic-ity" o f site. He qualifies this to mean not theatre venues that strive for an unspecific quality but,  theatre situations in which a venue's generic everydayness has equal or greater interpretive impact upon reception than the specific narrative or cultural baggage by which the venue is marked. (48)  Stedman elaborates, i n such works, "the generic everydayness o f the venue threatens to exceed containment within the theatrical illusion, thus generating alternative and sometimes competing narratives." (48) While Stedman's use o f the term site-generic recalls also, one of Stephen Hodge's continuum categories mentioned i n site as anchor, his use o f the term transcends Hodge's "performances generated for a series o f like sites", which is rooted in the touring debate. Instead, he applies the term "site-generic" to works i n which the sites'  47  "generic qualities take on a weight o f their own, potentially creating a receptive disjunction between work and site." (48) Using Toronto-based company, D N A Theatre as case study, Stedman notes the company's use o f generic venues that "vigilantly resist [...] perceived unity between venue and work." Thus,  Although colonised by theatrical representation, the venues of these environmentally staged productions remained explicitly marked by the everyday functionality of their generic qualities, which often resisted narrative containment by and within the work. (49)  One example o f venue Stedman gives is the street. Even though a theatrical production is enacted upon it, "the streets are undeniably still everyday streets that do not respect  16  the  production," (49) shown by uncontrollable pedestrian and vehicular traffic encountered by performers and spectators as they travelled through the venue. Another example he gives is an apartment housing generic, utilitarian things that one would expect to find in an average Toronto dwelling. Used for the production Paula and K a r l , a hyper-realistic performance based loosely on the home life o f Canadian serial killers, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, the specificity o f the story stemming from the sensationalised criminal case, set off a jarring effect i n the generic studio apartment. Stedman found himself drawn to look at the environment, hoping to deduce some truth about what books they read for example, as i f these w i l l offer clues to why they committed murder. A s Stedman notes, "unlike much sitespecific work, i n which the specificity o f the site feeds cohesively into the work's narrative, 16  Fedoruk notes that spaces do not "respect" the production, however, they do still affect it.  48  the generic quality o f these sites invited the construction o f narratives that actively and productively resisted completion." (52) Thus, Stedman's focus on site-unspecificity and sitegeneric-ity, injects an interesting angle o f reference and comprehension for site-based work, which do not follow the criteria o f historical language. Instead, we see positive potential for site-specific performance's illumination o f theatricality i n everyday life.  49  3  VANCOUVER'S RADIX THEATRE AND BOCA DEL LUPO Backgrounds, Mandates, Production Histories  3.1  Vancouver Theatre and Site-specific Performance  It is not m y intention to give an in-depth historical background to Vancouver's theatre scene. It is important to note however, the general trends and practices i n order to situate sitespecific performance formally i n the city's theatre practice. In her article, "Lotusland i n the Limelight" published i n the Globe and M a i l five years ago, Alexandra G i l l notes that Vancouver now has one o f the nation's most vibrant theatre scenes. (15 Jun. 2002) According to some, this has not always been the case and indeed, G i l l mentions how Vancouver had once been referred to as "the backwater of Canadian theatre", whose theatre scene was described as "inordinately depressing" by B o b A l l e n , an English-theatre officer with the Canada Council. (15 Jun. 2002) According to G i l l , the reason for this was a general 17  stagnancy where theatre meant "the same people, had very little movement, almost no coverage by the media and no audience." (15 Jun. 2002) This situation started to change from 1996 onwards however, when a new generation o f diverse young companies emerged and started to claim their place. A s G i l l notes, these companies "distinguished themselves with imaginative site-specific works, startling visual imagery and highly evolved concepts that use physical movement - tap-dancing and stilt-walking being some examples - to tell their thought-provoking stories." (15 Jun. 2002) Site-specific performance is not exactly new to  17  This statement is misleading, and perhaps subjective given Vancouver's vibrant theatre scene in the 1970s and early 1980s, which saw "infusions of public funding that sustained the established companies and allowed new ones to emerged." (Todd 63) R.B. Todd notes, in his description of theatre in British Columbia in The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre (1989) that "by the mid-1970s Vancouver in particular had acquired a spectrum of theatrical activity catering for all tastes." (63) These ranged from classics to occasional experimental productions, comedies to thrillers, depending on each theatre company's expertise.  50  Canada however, as G i l l notes i n her article a year later. In "The Play Location's the Thing", she mentions the form's roots i n the streets o f Europe, and how it had been a fringe element of Canadian theatre since the early seventies. (11 A p r . 2003) Citing examples o f site-specific work such as Toronto's D N A troupe which I mentioned in Chapter T w o and the Caravan Farm company in Salmon A r m , B . C . , which specialises in theatrical horse-drawn sleigh rides. However, she expresses with conviction that, "nowhere else across the country, it seems, are new site-specific works being devised with the same regularity, scope or ambition and critical acclaim as in Vancouver." (11 A p r . 2003) A n important accompanying definition to this surge in the form's practice, is the companies' consensus that "site-specific theatre should involve more than just plunking a script into an offbeat locale," recalling Helena Goldwater's pure model o f site-specific performance which distinguished between a work created solely for the site and one i n which the site is used simply as a vessel or vehicle as theatre artists plunk a script onto it. ( G i l l 15 Jun. 2002) Instead, companies have "striven to incorporate their unusual sites as a character i n itself, allowing the physical contours and hazards o f the landscape, building or room to shape the stories, scene by scene." ( G i l l 11 A p r 2003) It is i n this theatrical environment that Radix Theatre and B o c a del Lupo flourished.  3.2  Radix Theatre  Theatre audiences have become lazy. They sit there in their seats, as if they're watching T V . It's a flattened, distanced perspective. But when you're in a site-specific show, it's a 3D experience, where audience participation is necessary. In a subtle way, we're trying to instil a sense of  51  personal responsibility for the audience's engagement in the show, and thereby, hopefully inspire a deeper level of engagement of the world around them. - Andrew Laurenson (Gill 11 Apr. 2003)  Radix Theatre was co-founded i n 1988 in Vancouver by Belinda Earle, Michael Hirano and Jud Martell. Their mandate was to foster the creation and production o f experimental, socially relevant, and original works o f art, presented i n a variety o f media, with a focus on interdisciplinary performance. The company is also dedicated to an on-going investigation o f collaborative models o f the creative process, continuing to explore the vast potentials offered by collective creation. For the most part, Radix's productions are staged outside o f traditional venues i n an attempt to highlight the theatricality o f unusual sites, and to look at ordinary spaces with a heightened perception. These site-specific performances incorporate dynamic physicality, seductive visual imagery, and provocative content, often experimenting with the audience's role within the performance. Their mandate and description o f performance approach recalls some o f the impulses, ideals and practices o f the experimental works o f the 1960s and 1970s as mentioned earlier i n the chapter. Although not as explicitly activist as their antecedents, Radix Theatre's works tend to stem from political and social commentary and while not necessarily forcing change, allowing spectators to reflect on their values and assumptions about society and the world we live in. Since 1988, the inter-disciplinary collective that founded the company has moved on to develop their own work, which was primarily based i n dance. Under the auspices o f current artistic directors, Andrew Laurenson who took up the position in 1994 and and Paul Ternes who joined him  52  later on, the company continues to create works which, while insisting on exploring new forms and new ideas, continue to be accessible, attempting to lay bare our shared humanity, and above all, inspire audiences. (Radix website) Although Radix was founded in 1988, their body o f site-specific work was produced mostly after 1994 and ties i n with the shift i n management from the founding collective to Laurenson and Ternes.  A n d r e w Laurenson's words evoke several parallels with regards to site-specific performance's antecedents. In particular, resonances o f the environmental theatre impulse seem to stem from his emphasis on audience participation and engagement, a major priority for Scheduler and his company. Once again, we see the desire to return the ocular, voyeuristic, Cartesian gaze - a flattened, distanced perspective according to Laurenson - to the body, which is then capable of bodying forth the space i n order to experience the performance three-dimensionally i n the environment. The three-dimensionality recalls Aronson's differentiation and distillation between frontal theatre and non-frontal theatre, where the scale closer to the latter end meant having the audience physically immersed and surrounded by an environment. There is also a hint o f idealist activism reminiscent o f the 1970s, manifest presently in a tamer version where social change might be effected through the audience's deeper level o f engagement with the world around them.  F r o m my interview with Laurenson, I learned that Radix Theatre's original founding concepts were also similar to the anti-commercialist sentiments experienced i n the sixties and seventies. According to Laurenson, theirs was a sort o f heroic quest, to bring theatre to the public, since "theatre was elitist", had lost its relevance as an art form and since it was also expensive to rent a theatre. W i t h this three-pronged reason, they strove to bring theatre to the 53  public by "getting it out o f the box of the traditional setting" and "exposing it to everyone so that not just the elite could see theatre." A t the same time, Laurenson also notes that sitespecific performance is cheaper and since Vancouver is an expensive city, not having to pay rent is economically beneficial to the company. Thus, site-specific performance was the ideal form for collapsing the divide between audience, the public and performance.  Laurenson further suggested that another reason why site-specific performance seemed to have fared so well i n Vancouver is the Vancouverites' "adventurous mentality" and their love o f the outdoors. In his online review o f Boca del L u p o ' s summer spectacle, Vasily the Luckless, Jerry Wasserman also comments on this characteristic: " i n years past there was usually very little theatre here in summer, the argument being that sun-starved Vancouverites wanted to be outside i n good weather, not indoors watching a play." (Vancouverplays website) However, with site-specific performance as an option, theatre companies can now k i l l two birds with one stone by providing theatre in outdoor sites. Thus, Vancouverites can enjoy the summer outdoors as well as appreciate a theatre performance.  Laurenson is careful to point out, however, that their choices are not only about catering to Vancouver audience outdoor tastes but also about challenging them to think about important issues. H e tells me that one o f his complaints about Vancouver theatre is that a lot of it seems "very thin and kind o f silly" which to him, does not "address some o f the issues confronting us these days." (personal interview) To this end, Radix members always "try to talk about what goes on i n our culture" and ideas for a show w i l l emerge from these discussions. In the two productions I w i l l analyse closely, the company explores a part of Vancouver's history surrounding cruelty and mob mentality, and also the relationship 54  between life, destiny and human responsibility for taking charge o f their own existence. Moreover, Laurenson notes that the "work is hard" and "there are very little financial rewards." (personal interview) Thus, they need a strong reason, inspired from social observation to create a performance.  R a d i x ' s "talking it over" approach i n response to culture and current issues imply that they usually have a concept or political statement before picking an appropriate site to work in. Indeed, Laurenson informs me that company members sometimes have ideas for which they cannot find a suitable location. This does not take away from the site-specificity o f their works however, given that their deciding factor for the site is linked intricately to the suitability o f their ideas to the location. In fact, Laurenson criticised certain performances he had come across which "looked like they took a script and just decided to do it under a bridge because it would be fun", (personal interview) F o r Laurenson, the site and the performance in these cases neither connect nor make sense. O n R a d i x ' s part, they tend to incorporate an attitude o f reverence, i f not involvement with the site, looking at the environment and finding out what it says, has to say, or could say. In this way, the site becomes part o f the performance as a character even though Radix members might have developed a performance concept earlier on. When I asked whether the site or the work comes first Laurenson suggested an analogy with song writing: do we write the lyrics first or come up with the music first? While it could be either, sometimes they occur simultaneously. Thus, it is possible for theatre artists to see a site and be inspired to create a performance, much like Paul Couillard 's "site-responsive" performance. A t the same time, it is also valid i f the theatre artists have a developed concept but choose a site carefully in order for the site to contribute as an equal element o f the production.  55  The company's site-specific performances began mostly after 1994 when Andrew Laurenson took over as artistic director from the original founding members. Paul Ternes joined h i m some time later and they are presently co-directors o f the company. Although the company has done numerous performances from 1994 to the present, i n what follows I w i l l highlight performances that are emblematic o f their various approaches to site-specific performance.  Radix's first work i n a non-traditional performance site was Instruments o f Torture (1994) i n which they explored issues o f addiction, desire and revolution in our increasingly technologically driven society. (Radix website) The performance took place beneath the Burrard Bridge, an A r t Deco style bridge built in 1932 to link several districts within Vancouver. Embellished with sculptural details and busts o f Captain George Vancouver and Sir Harry Burrard, the bridge was a transportation triumph and was a marker o f Vancouver's progress. Thus, the issues o f the piece were worked into the meaning generated by the bridge's origins. This performance was significant i n that it also established R a d i x ' s interdisciplinary aesthetic, where the members re-assessed rehearsal techniques in which they incorporated and explored relationships between movement, text and melody. (Radix website). A s an example o f their anti-commercialist sentiment, the admission for the performance was a donation to the food bank.  Three performances, The B l i n d Musician (1996/1997), Absolute Indifference (1997) and A l l Flesh is Grass (1998) followed the performance under the Burrard Bridge. The B l i n d Musician is their only performance so far to have used a traditional performance venue, at the  56  Firehall Arts Centre. While site was not explored "site-specifically" i n terms o f location,  18  the  physical space became a constructed environment with the introduction o f fresh lawn turf, linoleum tiles and hanging window frames around the seating area. Performers also "hung" from the ceiling by nooses and the audience had to walk past them i n order to get to their seats. This performance, drawing on terrorism as a starting point and converging on the correlation between extreme acts of violence and personal responsibility can be compared to Scheduler's environmental theatre projects, where the staging fits in with Aronson's "unified space" category on the frontal/non-frontal staging continuum. For the other two 19  productions, Absolute Indifference was created in the streets - specifically, Vancouver Downtown; while A l l Flesh is Grass was situated i n an empty lot just north o f Vancouver's train station - a six-acre field grown over with weeds, tall grasses and w i l d flowers. The first production was inspired by history as a concept with a focus on memory. The performance took place on the streets around the perimeter of the Vancouver Public Library - site o f archival material. The second performance stemmed from social observation, emphasizing hope i n Vancouver's "urban wasteland."(Radix website) These latter two productions, based on the human and social condition within Vancouver, were site-specific on two levels: i n terms o f material space and also in terms o f the subject matter's link to Vancouver, itself a site.  W i t h the approaching millennium in 1999, Radix conceptualised B o x as an exploration o f uncertainty o f the future: "contextualised by the awareness o f the end o f this  18  Interestingly, the Firehall Arts Centre has its own colourful history, the structure having once been a Firehall building which functioned for Vancouver between 1906 and 1975, when the firemen moved out. 19  Fedoruk observes that scenography can make the traditional purpose-built theatre into a site, thus noting the fundamental difference that while theatre artists impose on purpose-built theatres to create a site, in site-specific performance, the space usually informs and influences the performance with its own narrative.  57  millennium (the familiar) and the beginning of the next (the unknown)." (Radix website) The performance concept was further concretised and inspired by Austrian physicist, E r w i n Schrodinger's thought experiment, i n which a cat is placed inside a box that releases a poisonous gas at some random moment. According to quantum physics, since we cannot see the cat to determine i f it is alive or dead till we open to box to check, the cat enters a kind of limbo, i n which it is both alive and dead simultaneously. (Radix website) Although the original staging concept broached the idea o f performers inside boxes, this was eventually abandoned i n favour o f something more metaphorical: an old diner that had boxed up three cats: a cook, a server and a bus boy, whose lives seem meaningless drudgery. The performance took place at the Templeton Diner i n Vancouver, with its 40's era character still intact. Dining patrons were informed o f the show fifteen minutes before it started and given a choice to stay and watch or vacate. The performance went on as audience members ate. B o x was so w e l l received that a patron funded a re-mount for the Fringe Festival that year. This performance was further developed thematically i n the next year, resulting i n B o x , described 2  as a sequel to the original production. Although the concept and text remained similar, video segments were added to the production, which took place in the Templeton Diner again, before touring to Victoria and Toronto i n October 2002 for its Free Fall Festival. The sequel was nominated for six Jessie Richardson Awards, including Best Production, Best Original Play, Best Actor and ultimately winning for Significant Artistic Achievement for Video and Best Actress.  W i t h the exception o f The B l i n d Musician, for all the productions I have described so far, Radix has chosen varied non-traditional sites, both indoor and outdoor for their performances. A s they became more established i n site-specific performance, the sites chosen 58  for their performances also became more visceral. In 2001, they collaborated with Boca del Lupo on Bewildered, examining the untamed regions o f the psyche: the seat o f hidden obsessions, uncontrollable urges, acts o f violence, insanity and suicide. (Radix website) This performance responded to its three-level site: a rarely used underground parking garage beneath the ballroom o f an old dance hall, merging subject matter and atmosphere into a whole environment. Audiences descended into the lowest tier and as they moved up each level, the subject matter became darker, thereby inverting the traditional hopeful connotations synonymous with ascension.  Even more interesting sites and subject matter followed this collaboration. In 2001, the company experimented with the guided tour form and staged Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour. The performance was drawn from Vancouver's history. In 1990, local performance artist, R i c k Gibson had announced his intention to crush a rat named Sniffy i n between two concrete slabs covered in canvas, in order to create art from the resulting diptych. H i s intention created furore and media frenzy: enraged animal activists, Vancouver citizens, members o f the public and press tried to stop h i m and accused h i m o f senseless cruelty. Gibson's reasons for the performance art piece stemmed from the assumption that his option of quick death for the rat is more humane than Sniffy's life i n the pet store awaiting death as "snake food". Recalling the mob sentiment and public event in their performance, Radix made use o f the guided tour form to bring audiences on a heritage tour of various relevant sites such as R i c k Gibson's house, the area Downtown where he was chased by a mob and so on. The performance was remounted i n 2003 with added locations along the tour and as we w i l l see when I analyse this more closely later on, this production offers an interesting new way to look at tourable site-specific performance.  59  Following this experiment with "touring" as a form, the company staged The Swedish Play i n 2002, i n the Swedish furniture store, I K E A . Constituting performance elements such as the radio play, the guided tour, scientific experiment and Greek Tragedy - and exploring the concept o f desire and object relations - the performance equipped audiences with tiny radio receivers, from which they could listen to a "low-powered F M signal" transmitted inside the store. Audiences were allowed to choose between tragedy and comedy, after which they followed the story as they journeyed around the store. Thus, in these two productions, site was retained as a character i n the performances, although the form and techniques o f production changed.  Over the last four years, Radix has continued to pursue curious subject matter and performance forms. One o f these was "sex, power and freedom of expression" i n SexMachine (2003), based on controversial thinker, W i l h e l m Reich's work on body-centred psychotherapy, linking physical health to mental health; where audiences felt like they were attending a sex clinic, set i n an office building. The production o f H a l f a Tank i n 2003 and 2004, saw the company tackle the concept o f our dysfunctional relationship with the automobile: that "we love our cars but they are killing us". (Radix website) The show took on the form o f "part drive-in theatre, part live radio show" and was situated i n a large parking lot near Science World, with audience members i n their cars facing inward, encircling and watching a 1978 Dodge Diplomat car about to pass the 500,000-mile mark on its odometer. Inspired by the first G u l f War, which Laurenson thought was largely fought over petroleum resources, the show was conceptualised i n conjunction with his worry about the environment, resulting in his decision to give up his car. (Thomas, 30 Sep. 2004)  60  In 2005, the company presented Final V i e w i n g , a contemplation o f sacrifice, good deeds and personal responsibility. The performance revolved around fictional characters, D a n Goodman and John Doe who had saved the former's life by pushing h i m out o f the way o f a taxi, which killed Doe instead. "Trauma, gratitude and survivor guilt have induced Goodman to found he International Centre for Active Goodness, which rewards altruism with cash." (Thomas 3 Feb. 2005) However, as reviewer Jo Ledingham puts it, "Radix is not about answers. Time is fluid; characters are fluid." (30 Jan. 2005) The audience first congregated i n Gastown's Lamplighter Pub i n which Laurenson's character, Goodman presided over a wake for Doe. From this location, the site shifted to the next-door building, representing the Centre, in which time and reality were skewed and the performance became "wide open to interpretation", according to Georgia Straight reviewer, C o l i n Thomas.  The last o f R a d i x ' s works I w i l l describe is the company's latest and most ambitious undertaking, i n which the "themes o f wholeness and fragmentation, gathered around contemporary notions o f the body, mind and soul" are explored and developed into four pieces over two years. (Radix website) The four-phase project, termed Assembly, has spanned from 2005 to 2007. Thus far it has taken the form o f three "experiments", which w i l l be combined for a performance o f the whole. Experiment #1: The Abandoned Body was presented in 2005, as part o f L I V E : Vancouver's Performance A r t Biennial. Inspired by the public anatomies o f the 15 Century and Dr. Robert D . Romanyshyn's book, Technology as th  Symptom and Dream, the performance drew on the image o f the corpse as a way of abandoning the body, a new perspective isolating the body from its living context. Experiment#2: The Fractured M i n d followed in 2006, as part o f F U S E - Vancouver's leading visual arts destination bringing together art, music and performance - at the Vancouver A r t  61  Gallery. For this performance, four "teams" o f three performers each roved through the gallery space, representing divided selves. A simulated severed head was featured in a rolling display case, dragged by an exhausted, mute and blindfolded figure. The third phase, Experiment #3: The Shattered Soul was presented during H I V E 2006, which brought together eleven mostly local and national theatre companies, which presented works inside the Chapel around a common theme. This performance utilised the headset again in which one audience member at a time entered a room with a coffin, contemplating death and the soul. A l l three experiments, fragments o f something larger yet whole within themselves, w i l l be assembled in Assembly later this year.  For the purposes o f my thesis, I have decided to analyse two productions from Radix's repertoire. A s my main goal i n analysing these productions is to examine how Radix tackles or practises site-specific performance, I have picked productions that I perceive to be most emblematic o f Radix's wide-ranging approaches to the practice. B o x / B o x is a useful 2  production to analyse i n terms of the use o f site and application o f performance concepts inspired by Schrodinger. Since it also toured to Victoria and Toronto, the production is a good base from which to examine the key issue o f "tourable" site-specific performance. Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour provides an interesting take on site-specific performance, stretching site from a single location to several fragments (Gibson's old house, Hotel Vancouver and so on) that then make up a whole (the city o f Vancouver).) I w i l l examine how the bus-tour as a form can be used to enhance site-specific performance. A t the same time, the idea o f the "bus-tour" is interesting as it casts new light on the issue o f touring i n the first place. Perhaps a distinction can be made between "internal touring" within the site-specific performance form where site is fluid or transitory and "external touring" o f site-specific performance  62  where productions are presented i n other locations, usually in other countries. For both productions, I have reconstructed an understanding o f how the performance took place through performance documentation and clusters o f narratives left i n archives and from an interview with Laurenson.  3.3  Boca del Lupo  - Boca del Lupo is sort of like the MacGyver of the theatre world. They take a script, some rigging, a handful or two of performers, a couple hundred fir trees and come up with a play that defies conventional theatre. Lynn Mitges, The Province (B2)  Vancouver theatre company B o c a del L u p o  20  was founded i n 1996 by five theatre  artists who studied, trained and collaborated together at the School o f Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. The artists: Jay Dodge, James L o n g , K e v i n MacDuff, Tamara McCarthy and Maiko Bae Yamamoto originally set out to "create [their] own work utilising a physical approach", (Boca website) developed from Polish director Jerzy Grotowski's concept o f a poor theatre. Grotowski's method emphasised the performer's body and mind as solely responsible for creating theatre and stripped away other elements such as designs and effects, which were seen to be superfluous to the theatre medium. This is an interesting link to site-specific performance's origins i n the M i n i m a l art movement that also sought to pare down the form to essentials. Boca's members make use o f Grotowski's  20  Boca del Lupo is Italian for "mouth of the w o l f , a phrase connoting "break a leg."  63  concept i n training methods, rather than i n actual performances. According to Peter Birnie, theatre critic for the newspaper The Vancouver Sun who featured the company in 2003 when it won the largest performing arts award i n Canada, Boca members start the day "with more than two hours o f a training regimen that can include anything from trapeze work and boxing to drill-formation marching". (27 Mar. 2003) They also practise "corporels" - near-acrobatic movements - as w e l l as smaller and more specific isolations termed "plastiques". (Birnie 27 Mar. 2003) Grounded in such physical training, Boca's performances are often intensely physical and performer-centred; even when set designs or other media are utilised, performer talent, expertise and effort are seen as major contributions to the works' success.  In terms o f working dynamics, the group started off as a collective embarking on collaborative creation. They were joined by Sherry J. Y o o n who collaborated on and directed their first performance, Drained, in January 1997. According to Dodge when I interviewed him during the summer o f 2006, after Boca's first five years i n operation, there was a divergence o f opinions within the collective i n terms o f the company's creative direction. Dodge emerged as the artistic director to lead the company for two transitional years. A s the company became more successful, Dodge transferred the artistic directorship to Y o o n who had directed most o f Boca's shows since 1997. He then took on the role o f artistic producer himself, appropriate since he had done most o f the design, writing, fundraising and organising work since the collective's years. The transition years also saw members in the collective drifting off to work on their own productions, to work with other companies and even to start their o w n companies. Thus, i n Boca's later shows, Y o o n took on the responsibility o f hiring and casting performers who joined the company for specific projects. Despite the shift from a collaborative model to one which operates under an artistic director  64  and artistic producer, Dodge maintains, "the director is very much in charge o f the process, but every actor has input. [...] We search out multi-talented individuals, and they help write the piece." (Conner 2 Apr. 2003) In this vein, many o f Boca's works begin with a theme that is researched by both Y o o n and the performers who then develop a script out o f discussions and rehearsals. In a recently released video introduction to the company, Y o o n elaborates on Boca's creative approach: "since [Boca's] inception, taking creative risks has been a mainstay o f its artistic expression, [which also includes] embarking on unorthodox and controversial models o f creation, developing technology and combining mediums i n innovative ways." (Boca website) The result o f this creative approach has been a string o f original productions lauded variously for their innovative use o f space, animation, rigging and imagery designed and constructed by Dodge and other collaborators, especially after 2000. These innovations also reflect Boca's mandate, according to which the company is "dedicated to the creation o f new performances using unique processes o f collaboration and extraordinary interactions between performers and audiences." (Boca website) Thus, most o f B o c a ' s productions are unconventional, reflective o f interesting collaborative imaginations and as The Province's L y n n Mitges proclaims: analogous to MacGyver, the television series of the eighties, whose title character, a secret agent, possessed outstanding resourcefulness making use o f any mundane materials around h i m to create unorthodox solutions to any problem he faces. (Chrisholm I M D B website)  B o c a was founded locally and Dodge and Y o o n saw fit for the company to j o i n the Spirit o f Vancouver campaign, established by the Vancouver Board o f Trade i n M a r c h 2001, which aimed to revive the city's sense o f community pride and spirit. Some o f the objectives o f this campaign were to promote Vancouver as an exciting and culturally diverse community 65  for residents and visitors alike; to position The Board and its members as supporters o f a strong and vibrant community, rich in arts and culture; to identity issues, challenges and opportunities i n Vancouver; and to better publicize Vancouver's accomplishments and help foster the celebration o f community successes. This passionate bid to "harness public and corporate support of the city and region" includes "promoting existing events, creating new ones and bringing back the ones [...] lost over the years". (Vancouver Board of Trade website) Accordingly, one o f the reasons for Dodge and Y o o n ' s decision to j o i n this campaign was to contribute to reviving Vancouver's community spirit through their work, in particular, through their summer spectacles i n Stanley Park - one o f Vancouver's major tourist attractions and local leisure hub - where they wished to establish the spectacle as an annual event. In fact, as outlined on their website, "diversity, interaction with the environment, and community accessibility are key concepts" i n their work approach. However, Dodge explains that in approaching the Board o f Trade's campaign, they also strategically received a "brand of approval" for their work and were able to gain private sector funding for their projects, (personal interview) since the Board and its members pledged to support the Vancouver community's art and culture. This funding is especially important for Boca's summer spectacles as they are o f high quality i n both performance and design yet free for the public. The only financial returns from the public are donations at the end o f the shows collected in vessels normally cleverly aligned with the theme o f the performance. For example, in their latest spectacle The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces, the performers passed around giant constructed shoes for spectators to put i n their donations.  Despite their local focus, Dodge and Y o o n recognise the benefits o f adopting an international perspective, which they state to be one o f the company's core values. Boca's 66  practice can be summed up thus: it "operates locally, finds partners nationally and searches for collaborators all over the world." (Boca website) In their local and national ventures, Dodge and Y o o n "makfe] concerted efforts to find diversity within their collaborators that reflect Canadian culture." (Boca website) The result o f this diversity was already rooted i n the core collective which included members o f Western Canadian and Asian origin. In their collaborative productions, in particular the summer spectacles, this diversity is further enhanced creatively as seen i n one o f their many partnerships with talented musician Joelysa Pankanea, who is originally from Kenya, and an artistic associate with the company. F r o m a national perspective, Dodge and Y o o n are also aware o f their potential for contribution to Vancouver's global image. With Vancouver's upcoming role as host for the Winter Olympics in 2010, B o c a articulates on their website: "as Vancouver prepares itself to be on the world stage i n 2010, B o c a ' s summer spectacular helps our city to j o i n other world-class cities that offer large scale, free theatre in their major parks." In this way, the company aims to represent Vancouver's creativity and theatrical innovation. Furthermore, Dodge and Y o o n have expressed on their website that "to inspire their productions, they look to their own experience and histories along with those o f their collaborators to "find the heart and personal connection to what they perform and create." (Boca website) This heart and personal connection can be seen in their international collaboration with Mexican theatre company, Teatro San Banquito i n 2004, whose members Dodge saw as kindred souls when he first met them at the International Mexican Cervantino Festival in fall 2002. According to Dodge, "they started around '96 as well [the year Boca was established] and their method o f creating work is very similar". (Birnie 4 Mar. 2003) The result o f this collaboration was a remounting of the controversial play, The Suicide written by Nicolai Erdman in 1928. The play was famously "haggled over by directors Stanislavski, Meyerhold and Vakhtangov" due to  67  Erdman's renown as a playwright, though it was eventually censored by the Soviet regime, which accused Erdman o f political slander and exiled him to Siberia. The play only opened in Russia i n 1982. Dodge tells Birnie that together with their collaborators, they "looked to find a play that represented both Canada's and M e x i c o ' s relationship to the United States." (Birnie 4 M a r . 2003) Through their creative connection with Teatro San Banquito, B o c a managed to effect a meaningful collaboration on an international scale.  In 2003, seven years after its inception, Boca won the prestigious and largest award for the performing arts in Canada, the A l c a n Performing Arts Award, funded by the large Canadian aluminium-smelting company after which the award is named. Larry Campbell, the M a y o r o f Vancouver praised them:  Your work is transformative. You help us to imagine how our world can be better, and to dream of new ways to make it so.  (Birnie 4 Mar. 2003)  This w i n was a major success for the young company - and as Dodge admitted later, "was a huge catapult for [Boca's] growth". (Birnie 4 M a r . 2003) The A l c a n award rotates through the disciplines o f dance, theatre, and music/opera annually and grants a company "selected by representatives o f the B . C . Arts Council and the Vancouver Foundation" (Birnie 4 Mar. 2003) a $60,000 production fund for the creation o f new work usually performed the following year at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Although not part of the Board o f Trade's Spirit of Vancouver campaign, the collaboration between A l c a n and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre echoes the former's similar ties between business and the arts. This  68  unique collaboration is certainly helpful for sustaining Vancouver's arts and cultural scene: Dodge himself tells Birnie "without the A l c a i i award, [Boca] may not have survived this long [10 years, by the end o f 2006], let alone thrived i n the way [it has]." (Birnie 4 M a r . 2003). It is with this financial award that Boca went on to fund its collaborative work The Suicide with Teatro San Banquito, which toured Guanajuato and L e o n i n Mexico and Calgary and Edmonton. Besides winning the Alcan Award, B o c a ' s other achievements include being named best young company o f 2002 by Vancouver Magazine and numerous nominations and wins for the Jessie Richardson Awards which recognises outstanding achievements o f the Vancouver professional theatre community.  The reason for Boca's success is perhaps best reflected in Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell's glittering comments on the company's works, from which the key words "transformative", "imagine", "better" and "new" stand out. Indeed, the company constantly strives for innovation, earning them local critics' praises: Birnie notes that "no group loves breaking rules more than Boca del L u p o " (27 M a r . 2003) and imagines they are so consistently innovative that "members must sweat bullets trying to top themselves" (Birnie 12 M a y 2001); Jerry Wasserman, academic and editor o f Vancouverplays.com and critic at The Province newspaper, regards B o c a as "one o f the darlings o f Vancouver's theatre aficionados". (23 Jan. 2006). Although Boca's productions include both indoor performances in traditional spaces and outdoor performances i n found space, the latter are most relevant for my investigation o f their uses o f site-specific performance.  B o c a started working i n predominantly indoor spaces before moving to outdoor ones in 2001. Early works were performed i n spaces that ranged from a warehouse i n Vancouver's 69  downtown which the collective used when it first started out as a company, to other more orthodox and traditional performance spaces such as the Roundhouse Community Centre, the Firehall Arts Centre and Performance Works on Granville Island. The productions: Drained (January 1997), Real Flowers (March 1998), Terminal (July 1998), Circadia ( A p r i l 1999), Charge o f the M o o n (April 2000) and Last Office (May 2001) were original works and explored issues and goals outlined in the company's mandate. Charge o f the M o o n i n particular, experimented with "extraordinary interactions between performers and audience" by ushering in spectators at the start o f the play and guiding them to stand together at the centre o f a tent i n the performance space, before surrounding them with entering performers. (Birnie 29 A p r . 2000) This is reminiscent o f environmental theatre's focus on collapsing the divide between performer and audience and referring back to Aronson's continuum, seems to fit into the unified space category where the audience is physically surrounded by an environment, in this case, configured by surrounding performers. This experiment was o f short duration however, and the spectators were soon ushered to their seats, w h i c h had been arranged i n arena configuration after the plot exposition. Thus, the audience still had a frontal perspective o f the performance. Drained and Circadia. both performed at a downtown warehouse and site o f Boca's practice could be read as a non-traditional and even found space, given the number o f site-specific performances that have occurred in warehouses. However, Boca's performances there were not intentionally site-specific and the situation was due to financial constraints preventing Boca from securing other venues. B o c a ' s other five indoor productions after summer 2001 were H o l d Your Head Tight ( A p r i l 2002), The Beginners (April 2003), The Suicide (February 2004), The Perfectionist (January 2006), and the The House o f Sleeping Beauties (February 2006).  70  Despite their beginnings i n indoor performance, the year 2001 saw a big transition for B o c a as they co-created their first site-specific performance. A s I mentioned earlier, Radix Theatre approached B o c a to collaborate on Bewildered, performed at Capri H a l l , an old Italian wedding hall consisting o f a large auditorium and two levels o f underground parkade below it, o f which the lowest one was disused and dingy. The play began i n this dank atmosphere and the audience ascended physically i n the space to the upper parkade as the performance progressed, ending with the audience overlooking the auditorium. Y o o n directed the play while Dodge designed the set and lighting. The production won the Vancouver Sun newspaper's Critics' Choice A w a r d for Innovation at the 2002 Jessie Richardson Awards and also served to provide Boca with another avenue for their innovative approach to performance.  The experience with Bewildered inspired Boca to continue exploring outdoor spaces with the result that six out o f its eleven productions after summer 2001 were performed outdoors. The first o f these was Inside (September 2001) performed on a grassy knoll surrounded by water on Granville Island, featuring performers inside a Plexi-glass cube expressing four intermingled monologues. Boca's successful annual summer spectaculars constitute another four outdoor performances, all performed i n a specific area o f Stanley Park - the trails behind the Prospect Point picnic site - except for one, which was performed around the Lost Lagoon. The Lost Lagoon is a beautiful bird sanctuary and a bio-filtration marsh located near one o f the park's entrances from the downtown area. (Stanley Park website) The site has a rich history o f its own and its name and past is immortalised i n a poem written by Metis poet, Pauline Johnson. A s o f 2006, Boca's summer spectacular event is i n its fourth year running and sources for the fifth spectacle scheduled for 2007 have 71  already been revealed. In order, these spectacles are: The Last Stand (July 2002) very loosely based on Italo Calvino's novel, The Baron i n the Trees, befitting the park's arboreal setting i n the park. The plot centres on two brothers, H a l and B o ; the former follows daily and societal routines, while the latter is carefree and defiant much like the Baron i n Calvino's story. B o runs away to live in the trees and H a l begins his own journey to look for his brother, meeting several characters on the way and finally, understanding his brother's desire for freedom. Spectators gathered at the Prospect Point picnic site, a ten-minute walk downhill from Prospect Point, considered the highest point o f Stanley Park - and a pit-stop for tourists. After safety instructions and a beginning exposition scene between the two brothers resulting in B o ' s escape, the spectators followed H a l as he searches for his brother within the trails. Lagoon o f Lost Tales (July 2003), the second summer spectacle was based very loosely on Salman Rushdie's novel, Haroun and the Sea o f Stories, was performed around the Lost Lagoon. W i t h its beautiful scenery and a proper walking trail constructed round it, the Lost Lagoon was atmospherically suited for Boca's work which draws on a story involving the sea. L i k e Boca's source and its protagonist Haroun, Lagoon o f Lost Tales followed the story of Seymour, who goes on a quest to save his parents' marriage. Spectators first see Seymour and his father, a famed story teller, crafting fables. This was interrupted when a man i n a car on the park drive arrived (played by Paul Ternes, R a d i x ' s co-artistic producer and one o f Boca's collaborators on Bewildered), honked his car horn and emerged to abuse Seymour's father, before running off with Seymour's mother. (Birnie 15 Jul. 2003) Seymour's father became mute and spectators then followed Seymour around the trail as he tried to find his mother to salvage his parents' union and therefore, preserve his family.  72  The third spectacle, Vasily the Luckless, took place again i n the trails behind Prospect Point picnic site after a year's hiatus due to the company's touring of The Suicide i n 2004. This time the plot was based on a popular character, Vasily the Luckless from Russian folk tales, and his various escapes from the villain, Marco the Rich, who fears the former w i l l one day lay claim to his massive fortune. Spectators assembled at the picnic site and as before, after safety instructions, proceeded into the trails guided by six herders who helped i n crowd control: this mainly involved directing spectators to gather i n various configurations and to stand, sit, or crouch to watch a scene unfold as they moved around the trail. The herders were particularly important as Boca's summer spectacles had become very popular by this time and the number o f audiences had increased significantly. Although the performances were free o f charge, potential spectators had to reserve a space by registering on the performance schedule listed on Boca's website. B y Vasily the Luckless's showing, the event has become so popular that spaces were "sold out" very quickly and alternative waiting lists had to be established. Furthermore, a survey conducted after Vasily the Luckless's run showed that 4 1 % o f respondents attended the show with children, aged between one to twelve and also consisting teenagers. Herders thus ensured further safety precautions for the younger spectators. The spectacle won three Jessie Richardson Awards: for Innovation, Outstanding Production and Performance for Young Audiences (given to Jonathan Y o u n g who played Vasily).  The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces, B o c a ' s fourth summer spectacle i n 2006 unfolded along the same trails behind the Prospect Point picnic site though i n the opposite direction o f the route planned in Vasily the Luckless. Even though they have been using the same trails behind Prospect Point picnic site for all but one o f their summer spectacles, Y o o n 73  and Dodge go round the trails for each performance and ask themselves what can happen amidst the rich environment offered by the trails in the form of tall trees, tree stumps, bushes, clearings, large rocks, old, massive logs and so on. Similar to Radix's approach to site, B o c a also engages the site as a character and equal contributor to the performance by allowing the environment to speak to the artists during the creation process. Conceptually, B o c a is also similar to Radix i n some ways, i n that its artistic collaborators, led by Y o o n and Dodge usually come up with a performance concept before searching for an appropriate site. For their spectaculars for example, Dodge and Y o o n were inspired by Italo Calvino's novel, Russian folktales and so on. Armed with a beginning concept, they would go to the Stanley Park site, examine its properties and atmosphere and imagine the performance within the site before drafting out a script. Thus, even though multiple returns to the site might have bred familiarity, B o c a ensures their ideas are always inspired by what the site has to offer for every new spectacular and story they wish to create, (personal interview) For example, i n Vasily, the performance ended at the meadow next to the H o l l o w Tree - a massive remnant of a tree hollowed out by what was suspected to be lightning and therefore a novelty for tourists. The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces on the other hand, began at this same meadow. Herders led spectators to the site after initial instruction and upon arrival, guided the spectators to sit, crouch or kneel, depending on their choice while the first scene opened with ten princesses singing and playing croquet. The plot is based on a popular fairy-tale outline o f ten princesses travelling across by boat every night to an enchanted palace ball, dodging their father's knowledge through wit and clever machinations. The spectacle's plot, as seen from the title, is based on the king's quest to find out why his daughters' shoes are always i n pieces in the morning when he locks them i n their shared bedroom every night. He issues a challenge and offers a reward o f any of his daughters' hand i n marriage and potential  74  kingship to any man who could solve the mystery. A s i n the other spectaculars, the audience follows the set trail as the story unfolds.  These productions i n Stanley Park, which Boca advertises to be "free, outdoors, a l l ages roving spectaculars" have become very popular and successful due to several reasons: their innovative use o f space within the trails of the park, particularly i n the vertical spaces (Dodge uses this term) of the towering trees, their gratuitous feature and their location outdoors since Vancouverites are known for their love o f the outdoors i n the summer. Stanley Park, being a place o f leisure and urban Vancouver's "oasis", is the most appropriate site for Boca's all-ages spectacles since it is a favourite weekend and holiday destination for families wishing to experience nature without travelling out o f Vancouver. Right at the heart o f the city, Stanley Park has also been termed a "thousand acre therapeutic couch" by an anonymous local writer, whose words are used to introduce the park on Vancouver's tourism website. Thus, Boca's spectaculars and the Stanley Park site seem to work together for a popular summer entertainment for the public.  Having described Boca's performance history, I w i l l explain my rationale for including the company's outdoor works i n a study on site-specific performance and also give reasons for choosing Vasily the Luckless and The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces for analysis. In Chapter T w o , I delineated links between outdoor and site-specific performance, of which the former can be considered an antecedent o f the latter form. Thus, to some extent, the two categories are interchangeable, with outdoor site-specific performance reflecting a more conscious connection to the site or environment. Even though Boca's Y o o n and Dodge have described their park spectaculars as outdoor, rather than site-specific, the term's 75  currency has seeped into critiques and general usage for reviewers and audiences describing these performances. Some examples are found in Peter Birnie review on Vasily the Luckless " A Wander Through the Woods of Stanley Park" (5 A u g . 2005) and i n D a v i d C . Jones' review for the same production in the online theatre web-magazine, The Boards. (1 A u g . 2005) Moreover, given Boca's engaging approach to the site and environment in Stanley Park for each new production, it is worth analysing their spectaculars from a site-specific standpoint.  In terms o f productions, I have decided to focus on Vasily the Luckless and The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces since they are the latest o f B o c a ' s summer spectacles in Stanley Park and therefore, possess a certain established and seasoned confidence. A s such, they seem more emblematic of Boca's increasingly assured creative approach and production results. Moreover, since I experienced The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces live, it is a useful production to explore based on my own memories and sensations from the event. Despite their longstanding and innovative site-specific performance practices and innovations, the work o f these two companies has yet to receive sustained scholarly analysis. Other Vancouver companies which create site-specific performance have been examined in these ways. Vancouver dramaturg and director Rachel Ditor has looked at the Electric Company Theatre i n C T R (Spring 2006), for example. Given their commitment to sitespecific performance and their generative engagement with the problems and debates attending the practice, these companies afford rich opportunities for scholarly analysis. In the next chapters, I w i l l try to situate some o f their most striking productions within the matrix o f site-specific performance definitions and consider how they both uphold and challenge the premises behind definitions o f this kind o f work. 76  4  RADIX THEATRE PRODUCTION ANALYSES Box/Box and Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour 2  Radix began developing the concept for B o x late in 1998 to 1999. The original idea "began as a psychological exploration o f feelings o f uncertainty about the future, contextualised and grounded in an awareness o f the end o f this millennium (the familiar) and the beginning o f the next (the unknown)". (Radix website) In an unpublished description o f the production in R a d i x ' s archives which I was allowed access, they delineate: "from the banal to the extraordinary, for the duration o f the performance the audience is held captive with the diner employees in the confined space and invited to explore the psychological cages we put ourselves i n . " (Radix Doc. 1) Inspired by physicist Edwin Schrodinger's thought experiment o f a cat's dual or mixture of states as it is locked within a box i n which a poisoned gas is timed for random release, the company originally conceptualised constructing "some sort o f box" to build the performance work in. (Radix Doc. 1) However, while eating in the Templeton Diner, a then "tired looking" (Fanconi et al 109) local Vancouver eatery, the artistic collaborators were inspired by the space and an eccentric waitress who "launched into a detailed monologue about her life". Because the place was busy, she "would stop m i d sentence to do something else" before returning to their table and picking up where she had left off. (Fanconi et al 109) From that experience, the classic Templeton diner was chosen as the site for their visionary box or "psychological cage", in which the forties and fifties air still remained. Indeed, the site's atmosphere, physical dimensions, seating, counters, open kitchen, and equipment such as juke-boxes and old coffee and milk-shake machines inspired some o f the physical and textual aspects o f the performance. In their performance notes, Radix describes how the physical size of the classic diner is both inviting and confining. 77  (Radix Doc. 1) Critic C o l i n Thomas also noted how the diner, a metaphor for the box can be either comforting or claustrophobic." (2-9 N o v . 2000) Inspired by the whole environment and its inhabitants: both staff and regulars, Radix created "composite characters that interact with audience members in non-traditional ways". (Radix D o c . 1) Their main approach was i n assuming the roles of diner staff, such as the cook, servers and busboy, from which they interact with diner-patrons who become the audience. L i n k i n g their original concept o f humanity's state o f awareness and uncertainty of the future to the seemingly limited lives o f the diner's inhabitants, their characters and performance "delve into issues o f work, identity, oppression, risk-taking, limitations self-imposed as well as externally imposed, anger frustration, sorrow and curiosity." (Radix Doc. 1) Metaphorically, the characters "struggle with choices, the safely and dead end feeling o f 'the B o x ' and potentially stepping outside the box into a potentially frightening future." (Radix Doc. 1)  B o x was considered Phase I o f their conceptual project and, after its successful summer presentation at the Dancing on the Edge Festival and a requested and funded remount for the Vancouver Fringe Festival i n Fall 1999, the Radix artistic team decided to revisit the work i n 2000, naming the result o f Phase II, B o x . In their introductory article accompanying the script for B o x , published i n the C T R (Spring 2006), the collective, which 2  included Laurenson, Ternes and Kendra Fanconi as production leads, noted that their decision to create B o x was not well received and met with "reservations and lack o f support from a 2  couple o f [their] major funders." (109) However, the performance was a great success and was nominated for six Jessie Richardson Awards, where it won in two categories: Best Actress for Fanconi and Artistic Achievement for Video. They also subsequently toured the performance in diners in Victoria and Toronto. 78  In terms o f subject matter, form and text, Radix has referred to B o x as a sequel to 2  Box. While i n Phase I, the performance ended "just at the place where the characters decide they should [literally and metaphorically] throw open the door and risk life outside the box, Phase II strives to "expand the ending and dig deeper into the unknown". (Radix D o c . 1) B o x drops one character from its original four-character performance, employing one server 2  instead o f two, and includes additional sequences such as a video clip at the end where the busboy, Albert, seemingly escapes into the open wilderness o f a forest i n which he is free. To give a brief synopsis o f the play, overview o f the characters and description o f the performance: Doris, a waitress, Phil, the manager and cook and Albert the busboy are "cats" trapped i n the Templeton diner, their version o f Schrodinger's box. While "there is not a lot of plot" according to C o l i n Thomas' review o f the performance, he notes that "[the play's] characters drive it." (2-9 N o v . 2000) The show begins with the pre-show segment where Jimmy the busker plays guitar outside the diner, busking for change. He appears to have nothing to do with the show but is later revealed as one o f the characters who has a bigger role towards the end o f the play. Before the performance begins, Doris, Phil and Albert, all Radix performers in character, work i n the diner: greeting and serving customers. Customers unaware o f the performance and who arrived earlier for food are informed about the performance fifteen minutes before it starts and given a choice to stay and watch (upon buying a ticket) or to vacate. During this wait, a video showing looping images o f manual labour and factories from the forties and fifties is projected on the blinds over the window. When all the customers have been served food, Doris provides the cue to start and the trio begins speaking in unison about the "horse-trick": they explain that when they had to give blood, "their" mother taught them the horse-trick - when the needle is going in, pinch yourself really hard on the leg. The pain receptors w i l l get confused and it would not hurt as  79  much." (Fanconi et al 110) The play, they explain in their C T R introduction "is not about cruelty to animals (nor A I D S , nor drugs) but about sensitive creatures, and the tricks they use to avoid pain." (Fanconi et al 110) The first scene is explicitly reminiscent o f the artistic collaborators' first inspirational encounter with the eccentric waitress. Performers acted as servers and began chatting about the "horse trick", interrupting customers eating at their tables, stopping to interact with other characters such as Phil asking Doris what she had written on a b i l l , before continuing to a different table and resuming the story-telling. Constituting approximately twenty-one scenes interspersed with video segments, the performance courses through various issues through the use o f song, dance, dialogue and monologue. Some o f the issues and concepts explored were ownership and work, encapsulated i n the line "cause the customer matters the most," (Fanconi et al 111) trade knowledge i n the form o f recognising regulars at the diner, pipe dreams, ambition, loneliness, self-imposed limitations within the diner/box that at once constitutes home and cage, internal struggles, ideals and freedom. The characters are composite wholes representing attitudinal extremes - pessimism in Phil and optimism i n Doris, while Albert, a pharmaceutical scientist turned busboy exists in-between these two states. While Doris started off treating and cleaning the diner as i f it was her own home, Phil laments about his missed opportunity as a pastry chef for the Hyatt Hotel, his ticket out o f the dreaded place. Albert on the other hand, gives up success and numbness (he was working in pain relief research) for something true in life, even i f that means feeling pain. The performance ends with Albert expressing appreciation for the easier life at the bottom rung of ambition; Doris taking her first break i n years or for the first time and perhaps not returning to the box; and P h i l ' s search for intimacy within the box.  80  I  One o f m y main sources for reconstructing the B o x performance was the script 2  printed i n the Spring 2006 C T R . Radix notes that this version o f the script is "primarily as it was produced i n Vancouver". (Fanconi et al 109) A n y modifications to the text due to its touring to V i c t o r i a and Toronto were minimal, and applied mostly to references to specific nearby neighbourhoods. In fact, the bulk o f the work "went into changing the blocking and creating new video to reflect the new location." (109) From the text then, I gained a sense o f the required staging elements and environment: a forties or fifties working classic diner with the original design largely intact, a long counter with stools, several booths, old coffee and milkshake machines, a jukebox and a working kitchen. Atmospherically, the space should feel more of the past than the present. In addition, a window with Venetian blinds that looks out onto the street is required, together with everyday elements such as pedestrians and traffic passing by. W h i l e this description o f space is based on the Templeton Diner, the company notes from their successful tour to Toronto that "with adequate preparation, planning and creative direction, this script could be presented in other locations". (Fanconi et al 109) However, it is important to find the right diner and this requires that it still carries echoes from the past and that it has not lost its character to renovations. (109) F r o m this description, it is clear that atmosphere is an important factor i n determining.site. While the site could be any other diner, it needs to evoke certain sensuous details in order to fit the work and for the work to fit it. Indeed, it is not possible for B o x to be performed anywhere new and without 2  character, as illustrated by Radix's touring o f the show to Victoria. In my interview with Laurenson, I asked h i m about the changes made to the performance i n order to fit its new locations, Victoria's Sally Restaurant and Toronto's Stem Diner. Apparently, while the diner in Toronto worked very well, being a vintage restaurant owned by the original family for almost fifty years and therefore, retaining the character o f ages past; the venue i n Victoria did  81  not fare as well. According to Laurenson, it did not have very much character, even though this was the best location he could find taking into account such elements as whether the owners were agreeable to a performance, the sight lines, audience size and so on. (personal interview) Earlier, I listed from the script several key staging elements such as booths and a counter with stools that determined performance and audience space. However, the best venue Laurenson could find i n Victoria - the Sally Restaurant did not have these elements. Although Radix's intent was to follow the original script closely, including the required staging elements, the lack o f a counter, a big window, jukeboxes and proper seating booths forced the collective to change almost fifty to sixty percent o f the show just to fit i n with the new staging and space. Even then, Laurenson tells me that the result was unsatisfactory, since the site did not fit the performance and the performance did not fit the site, (personal interview) From this example, we can gather that sensoria is a primary factor in the success o f site-specific performance, without which the performance falls flat and may i n fact become a superimposition o f an existing text onto the space. A t the same time, it is clear that the suitability factor between site and performance is reciprocal. Both elements have to contribute equally and be allowed to "speak" to each other in order for the site-specific performance to work.  W i t h regard to performer and audience relationships, B o x seems to explore two interesting levels: 1) diner patrons as audience or audience as diner patrons; and 2) audience as regulars o f the diner. The first case is a reversible process where dining patrons were either given a choice to buy tickets to watch the show i f they were there fifteen minutes before it started, thereby morphing into audiences or i f potential audiences knew about the performance and showed up for it, thereby, becoming default diner patrons. Moreover, food 82  is not included i n the performance ticket price and Radix's agreement with the restaurants . was that business would operate normally with the various locations retaining all income from food and drinks, while Radix would only retain proceeds from ticket sales. In the second case, the audience, by nature o f occupying certain spaces within the diner, assumed the roles o f regular customers during one o f the scenes. In Scene Two: Back at Work, all three characters, Phil, Doris and Albert stand on the countertop, describing the regulars, their characteristics and typical orders o f food and drink while pointing to and numbering the different booths and seating where the audiences were. Using descriptions such as "Booth ones skip dessert", "Booth twos are always breaking up", "Booth fives are moms and kids i n the a.m., teen girls with diaries in the afternoon and hookers and tricks after six," Radix envelopes the audience i n the performance, making them part o f the atmosphere simply by nature o f the physical space and indexical lines. A n y study o f performer and audience relationship might refer back to Aronson's continuum o f environmental theatre so that a relationship based on frontality or non-frontality between audience and performance could be deduced. In B o x , the audience's position and role as a "character" in the piece seems to 2  situate it i n the "Implied Environment" category. A s such, the performance can be considered as veering towards the frontal staging end. However, Laurenson points out that i n terms o f sight lines, audience members sometimes had to contort themselves a little depending on where they sat i n order to see certain scenes, (personal interview) The interesting thing about the booth seating arrangement o f the show was that at anytime, the audience had to look sideways at the counter and at the space between it and the booths to watch the performance (except when the characters were right at the booths or tables i n a close-up chat). I f the performance moved to one end o f the counter, it was likely that several audience members would have had their backs to the scene and would need to turn in their seats or crane their  83  necks i f they wanted to see it. Even though this "difficult" sightline was one o f the complaints the company received o f the production, Laurenson notes that there was actually a balance: some people get to see things others do not, but then those other people w i l l see things that the first group does not see. (personal interview) Moreover, i f it was something really important to the performance, they would make sure that everyone got to see it. Thus, B o x did fold together place, performance and public, an ideal to which Pearson aspired. 2  Furthermore, even though the performer and audience relationship seemed to veer more towards a frontal mode o f watching, the wall preserving ocularity is broken several times during the performance when characters address the audience. For example, Doris recommends food to audience members twice, the first time liver and the second time, kidneys while P h i l contradicts her by saying they have not had any of these items i n years. A t another point o f the play, Doris and Albert carry a cupcake with a lit candle, singing "Happy Birthday" to a random customer who then blows out the candle as they take a Polaroid photograph. The character Phil injects some humour here by demanding "a buck" for the cake from the customer/audience member. Lastly, at a particularly climactic moment, Albert returns from a break - that the audience witnesses on video, following him into a porn store where suddenly he is naked i n the middle o f the forest - shirtless, which he follows by removing his shoes and throwing them out the door. Ignoring his colleagues, Albert proceeds to list powerful civilisations that have vanished or fallen, before frantically addressing the audience saying, "Stay together friends. D o n ' t scatter and sleep. Our friendship is made o f staying awake" while handing out fruit from his apron. A s Doris admonishes h i m to "pull [himself] together" and that he is "upsetting the customers", the audience as customers and customers as audience are enveloped i n the action. Whether they are really "upset" or not,  84  they are part o f the action and the three-dimensional experience that Laurenson states is the magic o f site-specific performance.  Box_'s use o f site can be evaluated within the three categories o f site-specific performance I delineated i n Chapter T w o . A s a performance that toured to Victoria and Toronto, the issues i n site as anchor and the idea o f touring naturally comes to the fore. While according to Pinson's comment on pure site-specific performance, R a d i x ' s B o x only possesses elements o f site-specificity and is not purely site-specific, it is more useful to situate the performance on Stephen Hodge's continuum i n which the production could fall under the "site-generic" category - where the performance is "generated for a series o f like sites". (Wilkie 150) Since the performance can be presented i n any diner as long as it meets staging requirements, the performance fits the category. Although the Templeton Diner has an air o f "history" and the main requirement o f site for the production is that it be filled with character through layered and un-renovated sensoria, B o x is not historical nor does it evoke 2  the relationships between host and ghost when it is in the site. Instead, due to the site's quotidian function as a place o f business and food consumption, B o x can be interpreted more from the angle o f site as narrative. Just as Stedman argues that everyday elements can seep into the performance, the production collapses the everyday functionality o f the diner and the fictionalised lives of the diner staff into a Pandora's box: both life-giving (in that it feeds customers), yet deadly (a psychological cage and metaphorical Schrodinger's box). A s audiences open the box in order to experience the performance, it is faced with the highly dysfunctional lives o f Phil and Doris and experiences their internal turmoil, broaching the idea o f hope only at the end. Thus, the diner site i n this particular site-specific performance works most poignantly as a metaphor for life's drudgery, limitations and comfort zones and 85  should be experienced and interpreted as such. In this way, B o x is an effective site-specific 2  performance, using the diner as a character in the piece and making full use o f its potential as a threshold site, where human issues are examined. Thus, i n terms o f labels, the site-generic connotation o f Hodge's continuum can be expanded to include Stedman's "generic-ity" in which the diner site generates more poignant meanings when Radix's performance heightens its theatricality i n response to their own conceptions o f everyday life.  Where B o x / B o x grew out o f collective creation, Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour originated, 2  as Laurenson's own project, stemming from an individualistic sense o f humour which he injected into R a d i x ' s works when he and Paul Ternes took over as co-artistic directors, (personal interview) Having received an individual grant to do the show, Laurenson eventually incorporated it into Radix's performance repertoire and it became a successful production closely linked to one of Vancouver's historic moments.  To give a brief background: i n 1990, Vancouver artist/provocateur R i c k Gibson announced he was going to crush a live, piebald rodent named Sniffy between two canvaslined concrete blocks. (Dafoe 23 Oct. 2001) H i s reason for doing so was to create a diptych from the crushed rat's body and blood, after its quick and painless death, relative to its alternative destiny as snake feed. Due to the public furore and animal activists' intervention, which involved stealing Gibson's crushing apparatus, the artist returned the rented rat to its home, the Aquariums West pet store where it was later purchased by Peter Hamilton, founder of the Lifeforce, an organisation dedicated to raising public awareness o f the interrelationship o f human, animal and environmental problems. (Lifeforce website) When he arrived at the O l d Library Square Downtown where he had originally planned to crush Sniffy and told the 86  crowd o f his aborted performance art attempt, Gibson was threatened, hit on the head and eventually chased by a "blood-thirsty" mob down Burrard Street into Hotel Vancouver where he sought safety i n the manager's office. Since the mob continued to demand Gibson from the hotel's manager, he eventually escaped only when ten policemen ushered h i m out through the back door o f the hotel, acting as human shields to ensure his safety. Based on this incident in Vancouver's history, Radix presented in 2001, the 10 Anniversary Sniffy the Rat Bus th  Tour in conjunction with L I V E : Vancouver's Performance A r t Biennial and remounted it again i n 2003.  Similar to B o x and to some extent, Radix's conceptual process, which usually 2  revolves around ideas and discussion before the seeking out of an appropriate site, Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour did not originate as a physically site-specific piece. Laurenson wrote the play when he was i n university, with the assumption that it would be staged in a traditional theatre venue. However, inspired by the company's practice i n site-specific performance and a sudden realisation that the subject matter was part o f Vancouver's heritage and therefore, of interest to both citizens and tourists, he decided to make use o f the tourist bus form i n order to revisit the issues sparked by the incident. These are namely: the boundaries o f art, conformity, mob mentality and the manipulation o f the media. Centred around the headline, "for a little while, the world cared about a rat" and the sub-heading "a stunning display o f human compassion and stupidity - all at once", the advertisements for the production promised: "a scenic tour to the sites that made the Sniffy story happen", "expert analysis, i n depth coverage", "videos, fascinating unknown facts, meeting people and plenty o f photo opportunities". (Radix Sniffy flyer) Even though the performance is site-specific i n that it is specific to Vancouver and also re-enacts an incident i n Vancouver' history, the production  87  also takes on a contemporary feel. Laurenson notes that reality shows partly inspired the production's form so that the performance was also meant to parody dramatic re-enactments and play on the audience's interest in authentic experiences, (personal interview)  Revisiting the sensibilities caused by the incident, Radix wanted to expose and explore the mob's seemingly senseless rage over the killing o f a rat (which Gibson argued, was seen as a pest and bred for snake food anyway). Indeed, despite Gibson's aborted mission, the mob was so enraged that there were absurd statements made against h i m and his life such as, "I would put h i m up against a wall and shoot him. I can't stand cruelty to animals." (Thomas 25 O c t . - l N o v . 2001) The statement demonstrates the twisted ethical dilemma humans face between themselves and animals. A t the same time, Radix was also intrigued at how the incident sparked headlines i n Tasmania and India and editorials i n Jerusalem, Washington, L o s Angeles, Texas and Toronto. Thus, the performance was created for audience members to experience these issues through re-enactments and tourist activities with an authentic flavour i n terms of visiting sites where the incident transpired.  The main sources for my reconstruction of the performance are draft scripts, reviews, an interview with Laurenson and a video from Radix's archives. A s such, just as Pearson notes i n his performance documentation methodology, there are several gaps which I had to contend with. In addition, Sniffy was staged once in 2001 and later in 2003. M y research suggests the two productions were relatively similar except for the addition o f more material and performance participation i n the later version. Drawing from both versions, I w i l l point out useful aspects o f the production and analyse how it fares as a site-specific work. The staging for Sniffy is relatively simple, relying mainly on the luxury tour bus, video segments 88  played on the bus's video screens, and the various significant sites on the bus tour route. The audience alighted from the bus at several locations for photo opportunities and to walk through the site (coming back to de Certeau's concept), i n order to experience history through authentic place. T o give a description o f the performance: the audience boards the bus i n Granville Island (where rats are a big problem under the docks) and are briefed as i f they were tourists and unaware of Vancouver's social and cultural associations such as the dangerous East-side Hastings area. Parodying the tour-bus convention, everything is treated as unfamiliar for the audience who are told to "use a buddy system", "not to talk to anyone except for those on the bus tour" and "not to give money to anyone who approaches them". (Laurenson Sniffy video)After the initial briefing, the audiences are handed yellow garbage bags, called "performance art smocks" and told to don them for the period o f the tour. There are three main stops along the route where the audience alighted to experience the sites. These are: the basement apartment just off Knight Street where Gibson lived i n 1990, the Railway Club where Gibson and his aides took refuge till the commotion died down and the mob dispersed (the club was open only to members) and the route which Gibson took to escape the mob including Burrard Street and through the lobby o f Hotel Vancouver. The rest of the performance was mostly within the bus where performers played the role of tour guide and the Sniffy mascot, complete with mouse ears, nose, sunglasses and a long grey coat as costume. A s the driver drove past various significant sites, the video playing on the screens would coincide with information on the various locations, interspersed with footage o f Gibson being chased, o f him explaining his intentions, interviews with Peter Hamilton, the Aquariums West owner and so on. There was also a comical video 22 Short Films about Sniffy - parodying the title o f the high-art film 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould (1993) an animation demonstrating other ways Sniffy could die; some examples being under a  89  stiletto, i n a juicer, through a vacuum cleaner and burnt at the stake. Several activities allowed audience participation. For example, the audience was allowed photo opportunities with the Sniffy mascot outside Gibson's old apartment. Morever, led by the Sniffy mascot, the audience also developed a group performance through chanting "Sniffy", "rat" and " R - A T " repeatedly. Perhaps the most powerful image and participatory act is i n the audience's donning o f the yellow performance art smocks. Together with thick sunglasses (similar to the ones worn by Gibson at the time o f the incident) also provided by Radix, the audience were marked as a potential mob simply through colour and a degree o f homogenous anonymity.  Just as the physical location and function o f the diner in B o x meant that audiences 2  were automatically implied to be diner customers, Sniffy's bus tour form implied and naturally positioned audiences as tourists who know little, i f nothing o f Vancouver, its history, dangers and the Rick Gibson incident. Thus, i n terms o f Aronson's continuum, the environment within the bus ensured a relatively frontal relationship between the performers and the audience who faced forward in their seats as the tour guide and the Sniffy mascot spoke. This relationship is complicated however, when the audience is allowed to alight from the tour bus to experience significant sites. For example, when the audience arrived outside Gibson's o l d basement apartment, the audience's role as the observer shifts to one o f the observed as residents around the area look out of their windows to watch the yellow-clad audiences mingling and taking pictures outside the apartment. While the Sniffy mascot remained in character and therefore, was still performing for the audience, the audiences themselves became a performing entity for the public or "accidental audiences", triggering an interesting experience for the audiences originally on tour. Furthermore, this role o f the observer and the observed oscillates as the audiences get back on the bus and look out the  90  window. A s they travel within the bus, they become once again the observers, both o f the actual Radix performers and o f the landscape and sites sweeping past the bus window. Due to this oscillation, it is even tempting to situate Sniffy, when the audience is participating outside o f the bus, i n the "surrounding space" category i n Aronson's continuum. This is most evident when the audiences are "performing" the mob when they walk down Burrard Street chanting "Sniffy", based on the historical mob chasing Gibson the same way. A s the audience is surrounded by a whole environment against and within which it performs, the relationship between audience and performer here becomes non-frontal and even merged.  In terms of Sniffy's position within the three categories o f site-specific performance I suggested i n Chapter T w o , the historical nature o f the piece automatically evokes the site as value's concerns with site being non-neutral and non-empty. The site within site-specific performance here applies to both Vancouver as the specific site o f the subject matter and its physical sites as specific to the Sniffy-Gibson incident. Piecing together a performance tour from clusters o f narratives from 1990, Radix wrote a new narrative for the incident, which could be added to the already existing clusters. While the relationship between the host site(s) such as the Railway Club and the Hotel Vancouver and the ghost performance tour seems to fit nicely, given that the performance is geographically specific and authentic, certain elements do reflect the difficulties o f layering narratives. For example, Laurenson tells me i n the interview that even though Radix approached the Hotel Vancouver in advance about Sniffy and the re-enactment o f the mob moving through the hotel's lobby, when the audience members showed up wearing their yellow smocks, they were only allowed to do it once before the management told them that they are not allowed to do so again. Their reason was that the smock made the "mob" look like it was made up o f homeless people and thus, not an  91  image the hotel wanted. In this example, we also see the everyday narrative creeping into the performance, since it is the present day's convention and association with the homeless that made R a d i x ' s audience alter its mob performance - removing the bags at the door o f the hotel before they went in. Thus, the performance o f Sniffy can be viewed from the angle o f site as narrative as well, recalling Stedman's argument that everyday elements can seep into a performance and highlight the site's theatricality and existing narrative.  Radix Theatre has so far been rather successful in its modus operandi and its sitespecific performances. Critics such as Peter Birnie from the Vancouver Sun has described Radix as "a tiny but highly praised Vancouver theatre company"; (24 M a y 2002) and the Georgia Straight's C o l i n Thomas has exclaimed "Thank G o d for Radix". (3 Feb. 2005) Others, such as Jerry Wasserman has acknowledged R a d i x ' s innovative drive, writing: "the great thing about Radix Theatre is that y o u always know you're going to get something different from your regular experience at their shows." (Feb. 2005) However, he does caution that "different doesn't necessarily mean better" and this attitude is reflected in reviews o f their past and present productions with different critics varying in opinion about the merits o f different productions.  For B o x / B o x , Thomas expresses i n his review "Diner Theatre Cooks U p M a g i c " that 2  while the "wondrous emerges from the mundane in the sequel (which is totally cool)" he preferred the original B o x where the basic idea was fresher and the "show contained deeper levels o f poetic and emotional expression." A s a critique o f a repeated production, he notes that i n B o x , "the artists parody their characters more, and, exploring the same space, they 2  repeat some o f their movement vocabulary." (2-9 N o v . 2000) Thomas' words raise another 92  question or focus for site-specific performance researchers: whether the repeated use o f a site for the same production in different times means the performance might lose its spirit due to a habitualised staging concept. This question is worth exploring and should be included i n the cluster o f research currently available for site-specific performance.  For Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour on the other hand, critiques seemed to help i n between versions o f the production. In his review o f the first version in 2001, Thomas notes that while it is "odd and original", the production is "not entirely satisfying", a sentiment Wasserman reiterates later as I have mentioned. Thomas' specific criticism o f the production was that "driving around [on the tour] mildly enhances the sense o f place and historicity, but [he] could have watched the video at home and gotten almost as much out o f the afternoon as [he] did on the bus ride." (25 Oct. - 1 N o v . 2001) Putting forward suggestions such as " i f the tour's creators can figure out how to rely more on the present and less on the past, they might parlay this thing into a deserving cult hit", (25 Oct. -1 N o v . 2001) he may have directly or indirectly inspired the 2003 version's more participatory show with more "off the bus" excursions than the first version. Thus, the influence o f critics on the performance o f a theatre company is a significant one.  While R a d i x ' s approach to site-specific work stems from an interest i n highlighting the theatricality of unusual sites and i n looking at ordinary spaces with a heightened sense o f perception - as described i n their mandate - the company also engages with the performance form i n order to revitalise audience experience through a three-dimensional experience and to raise awareness o f social issues, thereby jolting audiences into thinking about society and human existence. A s such, Radix does not deal explicitly with the debates surrounding the 93  site-specific performance form. Rather, the collective, led by Laurenson and Ternes engage i n site-specific performance in order to further their cause for socially relevant theatre for an active audience. Accordingly, the formal worries of site-specific performance passed down from Serra - where to move the work is to destroy the work - does not seem to affect Radix's approach to site-specificity. Instead, in line with their conceptual discussions, the collective actively thinks o f and engages with site as spaces enabling the expression o f their concepts, which they share with audiences through performance.  That said, the fact that B o x was not as compelling in the diner i n Victoria where a 2  lack o f essential sensoria took away from the production and forced the company to change a large part o f the performance, seems to indicate that Serra might have been right i n this case when he said "to move the work is to destroy the work." Even though the production toured successfully to Toronto, the diner was similar to the Templeton diner i n Vancouver and was thus technically the same site, although i n a different geographical location. The diner i n Victoria, on the other hand, being essentially different, meant that Radix had to  respond to  the new site, recalling Couillard's "site-responsive" performance terminology, so that they changed the show according to what the site dictated and allowed. In this way, site-specific performance was definitely informed by the site.  O n the other hand, when dealing with issues specific to Vancouver such as i n Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour, Radix manages to address historical issues i n innovative ways, playing on the tour-bus form, which has become a recognisable convention and leisure activity. Although the production is not suitable for external touring to other countries due to its culturally specific basis, Radix engages with the site o f Vancouver as palimpsest, expanding 94  site-specific performance to encompass multiple relevant sites within one production and writing new narratives for the contemporary audience's experience. Thus in Sniffy, theatre performance and the heritage tour form are cast i n a new light, enabling audiences to think about past issues in unique participatory ways, such as through the "mob" performance.  These examples o f site-specific performance show positive ways i n which theatre companies can move beyond Serra's legacy, thus supporting my argument that i n performance's experiments with site-specificity, theatre companies' creation process can rework definitions o f what it means to be site-specific, often resulting in a more fluid and rich idea o f the concept. A t the same time, it is important not to exclude Serra's words, as it has proved true i n certain instances, for example, i n B o x when it toured to Victoria. 2  95  5  BOCA DEL LUPO PRODUCTION ANALYSES Vasily the Luckless and The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces  B o c a del Lupo advertises their Stanley Park productions as "free, all-ages, roving spectaculars". (Boca website) A s such, the subject matter o f these productions tends to appeal to children and families who are the target audiences. L i k e the other two Stanley Park productions, The Last Stand - about two brothers who find balance i n reality and dreams, and the Lagoon of Lost Tales - which shows a boy looking for his mother and hoping to fix his parents' marriage; Boca's Vasily and Shoes also speak to the "all-ages" audience about wealth, poverty, greed, the inequality between the rich and the poor, hope and love through a magical setting that nonetheless, parallels very poignant life issues faced by both children and adults. While the productions do not attack contemporary social and cultural issues with as much conceptual depth as Radix Theatre whose target audiences are adults ranging from their twenties to late fifties or sixties, Boca's priority to entertain the public with a free, professional performance is also a political act, according to Dodge, (personal interview) who notes the elitism o f theatre in traditional and commercial venues. A s such, in terms o f subject matter, Boca's works do not tie in specifically with their chosen site - Stanley Park's Prospect Point picnic site, which seems to be a vessel or vehicle i n which B o c a has integrated its productions. However, due to the park's central function as Vancouver's leisure hub and family weekend oasis, Boca's target audience does match the profile o f people who go to the park. In this way, perhaps we can read the performances on the whole as site-specific in the sense o f the third category I mentioned i n Chapter T w o : site as everyday theatricality. In creating their performances i n the park, B o c a highlights the theatricality o f the site, thus  96  changing park-goers and audiences' experiences o f the particular public space, adding a layer of meaning and fantasy to the otherwise simply functional aspect o f the park.  T o give a brief synopsis and description o f Vasily the Luckless: the plot begins with Marco the R i c h , the self-proclaimed landlord receiving a prophecy of V a s i l y ' s claim to his fortune, which he had worked very hard to save. After finding Vasily as a baby - (the baby was a prop made out o f a ball wrapped in a baby blanket), and buying h i m from poor his parents, M a r c o proceeded to kick baby Vasily into the bushes to get rid o f him. A couple, Ivan and his wife, Lizaveta find h i m on their way to pay Marco back some money. The spectators were made to gather from the couple's conversation that the world i n which the characters inhabit had experienced a war. Lizaveta wants to keep the baby to replace her own son, A l e x e i , who had died. However, when Marco realises the baby is Vasily, he again buys h i m o f f them and attempts to dispatch h i m by stuffing h i m i n a barrel and floating h i m out to sea attached to a bunch o f white balloons. A s the plot unfolds, the spectators are also introduced to other characters: Marco's five year old daughter Anastasya, who they later see as an adult, an abbot, monks, angels, a ferryman, the dragon king, his companion, Sophia and an old oak tree, represented by the chorus o f musicians who accompany the performance live with instruments such as the accordion and singing. A l l these characters help V a s i l y i n one way or another as the spectators "meet" them, popping out of bushes, appearing from behind trees, swinging down from the forest canopy and so on.  The plot for The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces on the other hand, uses similar themes and draws on a common fairytale trope. A s briefly described earlier i n Chapter T w o B , the evil king's ten daughters have been breaking their shoes mysteriously, and keeping 97  silent when their father asks them about their nocturnal activities. The audience meets most of the characters at the beginning, including the king, ten princesses, the cobbler who is stressed over the daily shoe repairs, and eventually the Poor Guy who steps up to the challenge. The rest o f the performance revolves around solving the mystery as the audiences follow Poor Guy who, as a performance device to hook younger audience's engagement and interaction, repeatedly asks for reminders as to what his tasks are as he goes to stay in the princesses' room to keep watch on their activities. A l o n g the trail, the audience and Poor G u y also meet two old hags suspended in the trees, who after some riddling and lamenting, help Poor Guy with some tips (which the audience must help him remember such as: have a nap before y o u go, don't drink the night-cap) and a hat which makes h i m invisible. In addition, in a scene when Poor Guy is taking a nap, we see him dream about his family: visually, a small family saving the last bit of food for each other can be seen through a constructed window that rotates. Both productions naturally had moralistic endings with the villains Marco the R i c h and the E v i l K i n g suffering their demise. While moral issues were not actively put forth, both productions dealt with the relationship between the rich and the poor mostly by casting the rich as villainous and the poor as innocent hero. There were nuances however: Marco the R i c h was supposed to have worked hard for his wealth "saving every penny" so that the audience can understand his anguish at losing the fortune to Vasily; while the Poor Guy, who succeeds and inherits the kingdom at the end o f the play, apparently becomes corrupted by avarice as described i n an afterword.  In terms o f staging, Vasily the Luckless begins (like Shoes) at a meeting point where spectators arrive on foot, by car, or by the Stanley Park shuttle bus. Attendance is taken, the spectators who have reserved their places online w i l l check in, get their hands stamped with a 98  sign, usually thematic, and then proceed to wait for the guides carrying long poles and flags to herd them from place to place. Children are advised to follow their parents and accessibility is available for the disabled i n wheelchairs since the trails are relatively smooth. O n the whole, the performances' trajectories through the trails remain relatively simple: for Vasily, the audience is taken from the Prospect Point picnic site and led along the Raccoon trail, the Meadow Trail and then finally ending at the clearing near the H o l l o w Tree. For Shoes, the trajectory proceeded in the opposite direction o f the route used i n Vasily. Within the trails however, staging elements and additional visual designs create interesting images and sensations for the audience, while the numerous potentialities o f the space allowed fluid yet varied configurations between performers and audiences.  In Vasily, the crowd gathers round a clearing where the spectators are first met by live singers, led by Joelysa Pankanea, who are i n costume as angels narrating V a s i l y ' s birth and prophecy. A t the end o f the song, the audience sees Marco the Rich, costumed i n brocade throwing a ball which is assumed to be baby V a s i l y down a narrow path behind the audience's route into some bushes, before a couple with a cart trudges up that very path. A t this point, the audience is surrounded by action on three sides, with the singers i n front, Marco the R i c h on their right and the approaching cart from behind. Audience members thus had to turn around to follow the action. Moreover, since there are no immediately apparent framing devices, the audience might perceive the whole environment, including the sky and the ground to be part o f the performance. This is reminiscent o f Aronson's  frontal/non-frontal  staging continuum i n which this scene can fit into the first category o f perceived environment where the audience imagines and brackets the performance environment i n their minds. This  99  configuration is still considered frontal however, as audiences can see all the action by way of turning around i n their tracks.  Other dynamic examples o f varied performer and audience configurations can be found in Shoes. For example, when the audience follows Poor Guy and arrives outside the "door" to the princesses' room, it meets the cobbler character, carrying a prop door. After setting the door i n the audience's path, the cobbler waves the audience and Poor Guy " i n " , allowing the audience's perception o f the environment to shift from an imaginary world to an imaginary palace room. This imaginary room is further enhanced by a large rope-hammock (representing the bed) suspended from several trees over a clearing. U p o n approaching, the herders guided audience members to sit on the ground surrounding the clearing so that audience members formed a circle, looking up at the hammock i n the middle. Several princesses beckon to Poor Guy from atop the "bed" and as the scene progresses, the audience sees Poor G u y climbing up a rope ladder dangling from the side and later pretending to sleep to trick the princesses. The interesting angle o f staging allowed audiences to see through the hammock to Poor Guy who is lying face down, snoring with his eyes open. Y e t another variation o f the performer audience configuration is i n the "boat scene". This occurs after the Poor Guy has donned the hat that w i l l make him invisible. When the audience arrives at another clearing watching the princesses get into boats - the effect is achieved through boatlike structures with a hole at the bottom so that the performers can "wear" the boats around their waists with their arms lifting the boat to the right level - the herders beckon the audiences to stoop down. What follows is a powerful image as the princesses turn round and "boat" their way through the field of audience members, before moving off down the path behind the audience.  100  A l l throughout both Vasily and Shoes, the secondary characters do not acknowledge the audience members. However, all the protagonists and lead characters such as Vasily, Anastasya and and the Poor Guy "see" and interact with the audience. Vasily speaks to the audience several times including " I ' m only sixteen years old", just before he and Anastasya get married; Anastasya asks an audience member to help her read a note from Marco the Rich, her father, saying she does not have her reading glasses; and Poor Guy repeatedly asks the audience, particularly the children to remind him o f his quest and the two old hags' advice to h i m . The only times when secondary characters "break the w a l l " with the audience are when they absolutely need to move through audiences or to ask audiences to move out o f the way. For example, Wasserman notes that Marco the R i c h "endeared himself to the kids" by saying "excuse me, I ' m evil but I ' m polite" as he moved through their space. ( A u g . 2005) In my experience o f the "boat scene" i n Shoes, one o f the princess characters needed to move past me by stepping over a log; she too said, "excuse me, and be careful". Thus, i n terms o f performer-audience configuration and the issue o f staging, Boca's spectaculars mainly operate frontally, as audiences perceive and bracket the whole environment as performance space i n their minds. However, the breaking o f the fourth wall between the protagonists and audience, followed by the wall's subsequent reappearance, when the audience watches the secondary characters open the possibility for other configurations such as moments o f "implied environment" such as when the audience members are automatically implied to be the lake when the princesses move through them during the boat scene. Thus, B o c a ' s spectaculars explore the performer and audience relationship i n an oscillating way: swinging between a more traditional staging perspective and a more experimental environment enveloping the audience.  101  A s I mentioned earlier, Boca adopts a mainly physical approach to theatre creation. This practice is epitomised in the Stanley Park productions, which employ rigging features allowing performers clad i n proper Special Weapons and Tactics ( S W A T ) harnesses to swoop i n and out or up and down trees, surprising spectators following other performers on the ground. This method is used more i n Vasily than i n Shoes, since the plot and fantastical characters such as angels and the Dragon K i n g allowed for more movement in the trees. The director, Sherry J. Y o o n tells me in an interview that to complement the action, set pieces are constructed around the trails, blended into trees and greenery so that spectators get "a sense that they are entering into a world instead o f just watching [from outside, as i n traditional performance spaces dividing performer and audience spaces]" (personal interview) This recalls the three-dimensionality that inspires Radix Theatre to do site-specific work. Dodge elaborates that when the artistic collaborators incorporate performers and design elements in the park trails, they try to make it so that the elements fit into the environment, as i f they belong there. For example, in Vasily the Luckless, a massive bell tower image was constructed by hanging a large bell from a tree in the shape o f a tuning fork. Without the suspension o f disbelief and perceived from outside Boca's constructed "world", this image would be jarring and out o f place. However, with the spectators' total physical immersion into the space - enhanced by the relatively quiet Raccoon, Rawlings, Meadow and Thompson trails in the forest behind Prospect Point picnic site - the "world" or environment envelopes and surrounds spectators who sense that they are part o f the worlds i n which the stories unfold. In a way similar to Aronson's description o f environmental theatre outdoors, Boca's Stanley Park productions indeed frame spectators in an environment where they could expand their perceptions o f performance space to include the sky, trees, gravel road and grass. Through such a "perceived environment" as Aronson categorises it, the division between  102  performers and spectators are blurred and both are i n an imagined and performed world sustained by the plot, set pieces blended i n the trails and the performance.  Furthermore, Boca's creations, to paraphrase M i k e Pearson words, are devised performances, physical theatre, and site-specific work where dramatic literature does not necessarily play a central organising role - nor are they manifest historically, ethnically and experimentally, (xiii) In my interview with Y o o n , Boca's artistic director, who directed both Vasily and Shoes, I asked her i f she was ever compelled to address the historical and cultural resonances o f the site and she replied i n the negative. Instead, B o c a uses the site for devised work, making it seem like a character in the play, where tracing the path, looking out for possibilities and feeling the atmosphere is one o f the first things they do in the creation process. According to Y o o n , they do not, as some companies do, take a script and simply impose it on the site. Instead, during the creation process, which might involve at most, an idea or story on which the production w i l l very loosely be based, Y o o n and Dodge would immerse themselves i n the trails, seeking out possibilities such as variations in visual imagery, specific areas o f vertical space and potential routes so that the eventual performance is atmospherically and physically derived from the site. To seek another term, perhaps Paul Couillard's "site-responsive" performance can be used to better describe their works where each specific trail, step, bush, tree, corner, expanse and space along the path has been combed for possibilities i n how they can or would contribute to the performance. A s such, Boca de Lupo's Stanley Park spectaculars seem illustrative o f site as narrative i n my groupings of sitespecific performance. Using a quotidian public place such as Stanley Park, Boca reveals the park's theatricality and also creates layers o f memory for the audience. Indeed, B o c a has a wide audience base that returns annually for their spectaculars. The lasting effect and  103  memory can be seen i n young audiences: as Dodge tells The Globe and M a i l ' s Jessica Werb: " I ' l l meet up with parents six months or a year later, and they'll tell me that when they walk down the trail, the kids ask them, 'Where did they all go? Where are all the people that live i n the trees?'" (29 Jul. 2005) In this way, Boca spectaculars create and inject narratives and images into the audience's "hermeneutic base o f assemblage", borrowing Pearson and Shank's terminology, so that they might bring along these memories and experiences when they watch the next production.  Critics reviewing Vasily and Shoes have expressed opinions ranging from delight, broad interest, to disappointment at what they see has become formulaic i n B o c a ' s spectaculars, a tried and true approach that has seemingly lost its earlier spark o f novelty. Whereas Jo Ledingham, critic for the Vancouver Courier notes the works' continual magic and hold on the audience, especially the children, others like Wasserman at Vancouverplavs.com and C o l i n Thomas of the Georgia Straight have expressed concern and disappointment that the rigging and "flying" possibilities that have established B o c a ' s signature are now used with no apparent reason nor link to the plot. These critics mostly question for example, the point of dangling a desk i n mid-air and hanging a hammock above it (in Vasily), since this set-up does not add to the plot. However, another question I would like to raise is: is plot the only consideration in such magical settings? I f the point is experimental staging and a creation o f a fantastical world within the site, perhaps such search for meaning might take a back seat.  In this chapter, I have analysed Boca del L u p o ' s outdoor performances from a sitespecific standpoint. G i v e n Boca's level o f physical and sensuous engagement with the site 104  and inspirations based on sensoria such as trees, brushes, logs, clearing and the forest canopy, it is useful to situate their spectaculars in the site-specific performance matrix. Even though Vasily and Shoes are not explicitly described as site-specific, Boca's creation process, which entails combing through trails and immersing themselves i n the environment i n order to establish performance scenes and script structure, makes the company's spectaculars an interesting example o f site-specific performance. While the company worked from a generally undefined methodology, except when it is being labelled or described as "outdoor performance", their unique engagement with the trails within Stanley Park can be described as a site-specific process o f creation. In their case, site-specificity becomes a methodology, materialised i n their creation process and resulting in innovative examples o f outdoor theatre with heightened engagement with its site.  105  6  CONCLUSION  In the previous chapters, I have explored several issues and debates associated with site-specific performance. Drawing from the creation process and inspiring works of two Vancouver theatre companies, Radix Theatre and B o c a del Lupo, I have suggested how sitespecificity i n performance depends largely on theatre artists' approaches and levels o f engagement with the site. In Chapter T w o , i n order to situate and heighten understanding o f Radix and Boca's works in the site-specific performance matrix, I explored some o f the key terminologies such as site-specificity, outdoor/street theatre and environmental theatre. I also drew links between site-specific performance and these antecedents o f the form.  It is interesting to note that some o f the problems that helped inspire manifestations o f site-specific performance in the 1960s and 1970s are still extant today, as seen from some of Radix Theatre and Boca del L u p o ' s intentions for adopting site-specific or outdoor performance. For example, while Sainer argues that theatre companies i n the sixties and seventies embarked on reintegrating art and politics; collapsing the divide between performers and audiences, a trait o f elitist, traditional theatre; and taking the theatre outdoors to the streets or other indoor public spaces, to show their anti-commercialist and activist sentiments i n his book, Radix and B o c a also adopted site-specificity as a methodology to deal with similar issues. Radix brought theatre outdoors into unusual sites i n order to bring performance to the public as well as highlight the theatricality o f everyday spaces. Moreover, it strives to create a three-dimensional experience for its audiences whether i n diners, on bus tours, under bridges and i n a makeshift clinic. B o c a on the other hand, moved to create a "magical w o r l d " within the public and well-used trails o f Stanley Park. 106  Despite the innovations and successes stemming from their site-specific works, commercialism is still a problem both companies face. Even though Radix began by offering free performances or requested "payment" through donation to the food bank in order to demonstrate its anti-commercialist ideals, the company eventually had to revert to charging for performances due to a shortage o f funding as well as critiques from some funders who feel their shows did not generate enough earned revenue. According to Laurenson, the reason for this was that R a d i x ' s shows were smaller and more intimate, so much so that they did not sell tickets. Currently, the company offers free performances for their "works-indevelopment" and charges a price for the actual production runs. Although they try to make their shows affordable, Laurenson tells me that it is challenging and "like every other theatre company, ticket prices have been gradually creeping up." (personal interview) O n the other hand, B o c a del L u p o ' s Stanley Park productions have managed to remain free. However, the company relies heavily on donations, usually collected in vessels appropriate to the theme o f the show, for example, a peasant's hat for Vasily and a giant shoe for Shoes. The company even spells out costs o f production such as performer harnesses, pay, and so on, on their website so that patrons know how their donations can help. A t the same time, they are also reliant on grants and sponsorship as part o f their Spirit o f Vancouver membership which help i n financing these productions.  Furthermore, tying in with the idea that the company's works are still effectively commercial, Boca's free shows also require that potential audiences log-in to the company's website in order to book tickets. The booking system necessitates that its audiences have access to computers, and because o f the spectaculars' popularity, the tickets tend to run out fast. Thus, people have to resort to waiting lists i n order to get into the show, thereby raising 107  the stakes for audiences wishing to get tickets for the production. Hence, these two points: the need to charge for site-specific performance for Radix and the reserving system for Boca's spectaculars result i n the institutionalisation o f the form. Laurenson views this trend sadly as site-specific performance has also evolved such that it has become the popular, elitist and commercial entertainment it tried so hard to break away from. (Personal interview)  One o f the contributions I hoped to provide with this thesis is a close analysis o f some key Radix and Boca works, each of which offer innovative examples o f site-specific performance. While they are culturally specific Vancouver companies, Radix and Boca's creation and conceptual processes and productions offer interesting alternatives to sitespecific performance debates centred on site-specificity's legacy from M i n i m a l A r t , recognised i n Serra's maxim - to move the work is to destroy the work, to which purists o f site-specific performance adhere. Moreover, to aid my analysis o f Radix and B o c a ' s works, I have reviewed some relevant debates and definitions o f site-specific performance, which I have pulled together into three main categories for easier reference. These categories - site as anchor, site as value and meaning-laden palimpsest and site as everyday living theatricality, help differentiate and describe B o x / B o x , Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour, Vasily the Luckless and 2  The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces's level and type o f engagement with their sites. Through my analysis o f these examples, I am able to argue that the creation process and the theatre artists' approach to site has the power to redefine site-specificity, thus broadening its earliest definition.  The two companies and four productions I have chosen to analyse are not representative o f a general Vancouverite approach to site-specific performance. This is most 108  evident i n the fundamental differences between Radix and Boca's works, and even within their production histories. A s I mentioned i n Chapter 3, Radix began as a dance-centred interdisciplinary group, which eventually explored site-specific performance i n order to expose the theatricality o f everyday sites. B o c a on the other hand started o f as a physical theatre group working in purpose-built indoor theatres before experimenting with outdoor theatre. They are important, however as heterotopian examples o f the site-specific performance form's wealth of potential. Given the varied examples and approaches o f both companies' creative processes and their approaches to site, it is clear that more examples and configurations could be studied to further enrich the theories I have discussed i n this thesis. In particular, an interesting example that might be further explored is a site-specific event, as opposed to a site-specific performance performed by one specific theatre company. This is gleaned from my experience at H I V E 2006, a performance event held i n Vancouver last year, which brought together eleven independent theatre companies to create "a giant performance installation." ( H I V E website) Drawing from the beehive as analogy, the site or hive was an old funeral parlour with several different rooms or cells i n which the companies could perform. Participating companies drew lots for their specific space within the site and had to create a work i n response to it, while also following the main theme o f life, death and possibly turmoil as evoked by the venue's historic purpose. Both Radix and B o c a participated in the event and it would be interesting to study their approaches to site-specific performance in that context where the site and theme are picked and delegated.  F r o m analysing Radix and Boca's productions, it is evident that on the whole, existing definitions, ideas and debates on site-specific performance accurately reflect its form and praxis. Interestingly, when the works are analysed against the three categories o f site-specific 109  performance, we see that the approaches to site can overlap such that a performance like Sniffy the Rat Bus Tour can broach issues i n both site as value and site as narrative. This further confirms the nuances that go into site-specific performance in practice, which is usually more intuitive and physical than textual as action and intention respond to or are inspired by a site.  Earlier i n the thesis, I mentioned Andrew Houston and Laura Nanni quoting Foucault's "heterotopia" to reflect the different practices, theories, and ideas surrounding site-specific performance that are so varied and that simultaneously represent, contest and invert each other. (5) While both Radix and Boca works, which I have analysed, are broadly representative o f site-specific performance, both companies' approaches differ. Radix conceptualises performances by discussing socially relevant issues before looking for a site for their productions, thereafter allowing the site to inform and influence their productions. B o c a has a set venue in Stanley Park to which they return almost annually and each time, they rediscover the space, allowing the environment to inform their highly visual spectaculars. While the former states site-specificity as their mode o f performance i n their mandate, the latter uses site-specificity as a methodology in performance. Both companies also do not seem to worry about Serra's legacy. Instead, their performances show that his words are sometimes right. 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