© 2017 by CITD.

Beyond Theatre/

What If I Don’t?

 

In a tiny black box space, seven former actors describe a series of moments that led them to leave theater. The piece begins with all seven sitting in a row, facing us. A few simple lighting instruments are mounted on stands onstage. One man stands and shines a light on a young blonde woman. She smiles, warming to the light and the eyes on her. It is clear this woman loves the spotlight. She then dives in to her tale, and we’re off and running.

 

Her story begins in a psychiatric hospital, where she landed after a work-related nervous breakdown. She describes the story easily, remembering how she impressed her fellow patients with the news that she had been an actor. She’s funny, charming, bubbly. It is as if we are having a drink with her and she is catching us up on her life. Part way through her story, her fellow actors grow impatient, telling her to push on, wrap it up. Finally, another takes over, and then another: as we transition from one story to the next, actors leave off mid-tale and others pick up with their own. Blocking is simple but smart: sometimes the ensemble will help populate an actor’s description of his or her memory. One woman describes taking her first acting class: she remembers dressing to the nines, getting her hair done, wearing heels and bangles, etc., and walking into a sea of black-spandex-clad, undulating bodies. At this moment, the cast provides the undulations as she picks her way through them, disdainful, befuddled.

 

Live video feed is also incorporated a couple of times: actors film themselves talking directly into a camera, so we get a close-up shot of their faces. Tales run the gamut. One woman had fallen in love with a director and quit the profession to marry him and have his babies. Her beau became abusive quick: a fantasy-turned-nightmare. Another man left because he wasn’t a very good actor, but later used the skills he was taught to get by doing other odd jobs. There were a couple of people whose stories are less clear to me, due to the translation or perhaps the way in which they were telling the story, or even some cultural references I don’t understand. But what is clear is that these actors are speaking directly from personal experience, trying to communicate their truths as honestly and with as little melodrama as possible.

 

There is a simplicity to the performances: the actors are telling their stories without much dramatic flair, with a bit of a self-deprecating sense of humor, and with the help of their fellow actors. At one moment, the entire cast sits in low lighting, their faces obscured, chewing gum. A sparse, barely heard soundscape accompanied the moment. The actors wait. We wait with them. With little pomp or circumstance, they continue to tell their own stories: undramatic, unafraid.

NUTS AND BOLTS

Cast size and detail: 7 (Including Musicians)

Touring Size:  10-11

Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 6m, 5m

Set Up time (including sound and light): 2 hours

Freight: 7kg

Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes

Representation: Viktoria Kholodova, +7-917-559-2152,

teatr-doc@yandex.ru. More information at www.teatrdoc.ru