Made for Hapiness
IDEA AND PERFORMANCE: IVA SHVESHTAROVA AND WILLY PRAGER
DRAMATURGE: IVANA IVKOVIĆ
MUSIC: EMILIYAN GATSOV
LIGHTS: RALITSA TONEVA
GRAPHIC DESIGN AND COSTUMES: GEORGI FLOROV
FROM: BRAIN STORE PROJECT AND DNK
What I Saw
The first of several dance pieces in the festival, Made for Happiness is full of good ideas and fun moments. Everything in this production was aimed at manufacturing happiness on stage - from handing out stress balls to the audience as they entered the theatre and encouraging us to sing along to Louie Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” to the performers wearing electric-shock pads that force their muscles to contract in autonomous movements, and drinking champagne with one another.
The most successful moment in the piece, for me, was when the performers forcefully cackled for about 10 minutes straight while proclaiming all the ways culture tells us to find happiness via often external and capitalistic consumption, like - “Be Beyonce!” “Buy a cactus!” “Exercise!” “Go to nature!” etcetera. It was a beautifully sardonic segment of the production. But I’m not convinced that the performers/creators wrestled with this concept with any kind of depth. While they displayed all these ways of manufacturing happiness, I wanted them to go one step further and begin to articulate the detriments of this artificial or coercive happiness. Instead, they proved their mettle by cleverly demonstrating all of the ways culture tries to produce happiness and fails.
In a touching moment of collective action, the performers projected a karaoke video of Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” inviting us to sing along with Louie himself. Perhaps I’m unusual in this regard, but when I hear “What a Wonderful World,” I’m always moved to shed a few tears. It’s reactionary; I can’t help it, and I’m not the kind of person to be moved to tears by art, virtually ever. But it happens with this song, every time. It reminds me that it is, in fact, not a wonderful world for most people. This isn’t a despairing or hopeless reaction, however; I’m moved to tears because of humanity’s capacity for hope even in the most unfortunate circumstances and full of empathy for all those struggling to exist as best they can.
After sitting through the production and allowing myself to have a little cry at the sound of Louis Armstrong, I’m left asking myself, “What’s the use of happiness, anyway?”