All images by Nada Žgank
Staging a Play: The Glass Menagerie
Author of concept and director Matija Ferlin
Performers and choreographers Loup Abramovici, Anja Bornšek, Maja Delak, Matija Ferlin, Žigan Krajnčan
Dramaturg Goran Ferčec
Set designer Mauricio Ferlin
Author of music Luka Prinčič
Costume designer Matija Ferlin
Creator of make-up and hair styling Tinka Pobalinka
Lighting and technical director Saša Fistrić
Designer Tina Ivezić
Photographer Nada Žgank
Organizator Nina Janež
Executive producer Sabina Potočki
What I Saw
On a wider than long studio stage there is a build-up: four white walls with entrances that could well be the set for a performance if the walls weren’t only half a meter tall. On the right side of the build-up, there is a white table with chairs around it. When we enter the space, the chairs are put in a line next to the table, facing the back wall. The dancers are already sitting on them, with one guy – the director, the Croatian Matija Ferlin – standing, talking with huge gestures to them, sometimes jumping or moving as if he were warming up. After we all get seated, the dancers start moving around the stage. They make funny and big movements and it looks as if though they were copying each other, or maybe copying the director. They dance around the half-lit stage, then return to their seats.
What follows next is the assisted recreation of the staging of the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, with the director sometimes giving out instructions, announcing the next scenes and reflecting on what we are seeing. When he acts as the facilitator of the ongoing process, he talks directly to the performers; when he takes up the role of the commentator, he talks into a microphone and reads his notes from small pieces of paper. Whenever he does this, he hides away: behind another performer, in the corner of the stage, with his back to the audience. All instructions and comments are given in English and that is the only language spoken in the performance. In his role as facilitator and commentator, Ferlin might be referring to Tom Wingfield, the narrator of the original play, who is the one recalling the events that we will see unfold on stage. But this analogy is as vague as the staging of the play itself. Because what we see is not a direct interpretation of the play but a version that is at once very precise and also extremely different.
The seven scenes are performed through movement that looks as if the performers where learning the adequate moves to the play separately from the text itself (at one point they actually have the text in their hands as they perform) – similarly to the habit of rehearsing just the text of a performance. What if we learned the moves first and not the text – is the question the performance asks. Or how can we forget the lines, the names of the characters, the story? I sit in the performance without knowing the original play, which puts me in an interesting starting position, on that a viewer has read the play would have to reach while watching the performance. The state of letting go of the text, of the narrative. I find that I also have to let go of my expectation to see beautifully choreographed moves, solos or duets. What I get instead is the seemingly clumsy and random movements that are in reality probably highly pinned down and precisely executed. These look both like a sped up and a slowed down version of everyday moves that one does while having a conversation and going on about their lives. It is the abstraction of a mundane state, the continuation of the everyday life of the characters in a new and empty space which is free of the burdens of the narrative.
The music is – similarly to the movements – distorted, repetitive, only left-over from real music. The last scene is performed to a remix of Benny Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing – the most compact piece of music of the whole performance. But when the common movement of the two performers on stage becomes coherent, Ferlin stops the scene. We will skip the waltz, he says. The same way, when as a viewer I feel I now have understood what is happening, he stops the show again and states that they had been in this space since 8am in the morning and now really need to take a break. He kindly asks us to remain seated. It is not the effect of surprise that he is going for – everything is as uneventful as the next thing. Nor time, nor space, nor the performers have the right to take everything under control: the freedom of the performance and subsequently of the viewer is that anything is as important or unimportant as anything else. I might as well spend the whole time looking at the people sitting and whispering to each other while others are doing the dancing and I will not have felt left out. Beautiful movements or ugly ones, text or silence, the play or the commentary, the actors or the dancers, etc. – they are all interchangeable. So why not actually interchange them?
Nuts and Bolts
Company Name: Emanat
Director: Matija Ferlin
Premiere: 12.10.2015, Old Power Station Ljubljana
Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes. No interval.
Partners: Emanat Institute and Matija Ferlin with partners: Bunker, Ljubljana / The Old Power Station – Elektro Ljubljana, Mediterranean Dance Center - San Vincenti, Croatia, Pre-School Education and Grammar School Ljubljana
Cast size: 2 female, 3 male
Touring size: Cast of 5, 3 technicians, 1 escort, 1 producer (10 total)
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 5.5m, 12m, 11m
Maximum height/width/depth of stage: 6m, 14m, 13m
Load in time: 10 hours
Strike Time: 2 hours
Cartage information: The whole set fits into one van
Translation options: Performed in English
Touring history: 18.10.2016, Borštnikovo srečanje, Maribor, SI 01.07.2016, PUFF, INK, Pula, HR
20.04.2016, Old Power Station, Ljubljana, SI
19.04.2016, Old Power Station, Ljubljana, SI
11.12.2015, Old Power Station, Ljubljana, SI
10.12.2015, Old Power Station, Ljubljana, SI
Future performance dates: 11.03.2017, Gibanica Festival, Old Power Station, Ljubljana, SI
Available for touring from: 3/11/2017
Representation: Maja Delak, , +386-31-311079, Emanat, Trg prekomorskih brigad 1, 1000 Ljubljana, SI
Synopsis: In Staging a Play: The Glass Menagerie, inspired by Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, Matija Ferlin explores the area between the abstract dancing body and the conventions of theatre language. Together with four dancers, Ferlin confronts an almost impossible task: to try to re-discover theatricality through the potential stemming out of the juxtaposition of body and text. The stage establishes the possibility of disclosing tensions between the questioning of theatre conventions and the releasing new imaginations. "We read the text and we speak it out. When we tackle a dramatic work, do we always need to stage the written word as a spoken word? Or does the body have the freedom to find a different inner apparatus with which it articulates the spoken word? Is it possible that the tool that is considered secondary in classical theatre becomes primary?” Matija Ferlin.
Reviews: "Despite some conceptual predicaments, Staging a Play presents a step further in the experimentation with movement; the dancers have pursued a detailed movement research for their creations and have thus opened up certain important questions for further consolidation of contemporary dance into the discourses of contemporary performing arts."
14.12.2015, MMC RTVSLO, Melanholija s potencialom: Staging a Play, Nenad Jelesijević
"Each performer creates her/his choreographic structure, which is mostly improvised, that sheds light on the dramatic figure, at once refining and elevating the whole with her/his movement spectrum. It was fascinating to see how much originality was brought about by the new medium and how the The Glass Menagerie was related in a new movement idiom, composed from abstract dance tones of unspoken words that delineate Tennessee's play. Matija Ferlin has tackled this canonical Tennessee's play boldly and creatively. We have to admire the ingenuity with which Ferlin and his creative team have translated the play into the corporeal idiom and how they staged it on the podium of dance theatre in an entirely novel way. Undoubtedly well worth seeing!"
18.01.20116, Parada plesa, Steklena menažerija. Pogumno in ustvarjalno, Daliborka Podboj
Matija Ferlin graduated from the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam and subsequently lived and worked in Berlin. After returning to his hometown Pula, Croatia, he focused on researching and rearticulating different concepts of stage performance and other media, such as short movies, videos, and exhibitions. His stage works include Sad Sam Revisited, 2006; Another for One (Drugo za jedno), 2007; Lucky Between the Mountains, 2007; Sad Sam Almost 6, 2009; The Most Together We’ve Ever Been (in collaboration with Ame Henderson), 2009; Onformance (Nastup), 2010; Solitaires (Samice), 2011; Sad Sam Lucky, 2012; The Other at the Same Time (Istovremeno drugi), 2012; Students of Harmony (Studenti harmonije), 2014; We are Kings, not Humans (Mi smo kraljevi a ne ljudi), 2015; Out of Season (in collaboration with Ame Henderson), 2015. He has presented and performed his own work throughout Europe and North America and in numerous festivals such as Kunstenfestivaldesarts, ImpulsTanz, Vienna; Spider Festival, Lyon; Young Lions and Gibanica, Ljubljana; Ex-Yu Festival, New York; Rhubarb Festival, Toronto; Contemporary Dance Festival, Bogota; Infant, Novi Sad; FTA, Montreal; Actoral, Marseille; Zero Point Festival, Prague; and many others. Ferlin has collaborated with choreographers, directors, visual artists, and dramaturgs, including Ivica Buljan, Christophe Chemin, Maja Delak, Luc Dunberry, Goran Ferčec, Mauricio Ferlin, Ame Henderson, Aleksandra Janeva, Radoslav Jovanov Gonzo, Heinz Peter Knes, Mateja Koležnik, Keren Levi, Karsten Liske, Roberta Milevoj, Maria Ohman & Claudia de Serpa Soares, Sasha Waltz, David Zambrano, Tin Žanić, and Jasna Žmak.
Loup Abramovici studied dance at CNDC L'Esquisse in Angers and CCN Montpellier, France, where he met teachers and choreographers such as Gilbert Canova, Loic Touzé, Mathilde Monnier, Simone Forti, Benoit Lachambre, and many others. Over the past years, he has been collaborating with Meg Stuart, Vera Mantero, Germana Civera, Loic Touzé, Mustafa Kaplan & Filiz Sizanli, Rémy Héritier, Antonija Livingstone, Maja Delak, Bojan Jablanovec, Bara Kolenc, Catherine Contour, Mala Kline, Teja Reba. He is also developing his own work.
Anja Bornšek graduated from the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance in 2007. She then attended a two-year study of Body Mind Centering and became a certified Somatic Movement Educator (Moveus, Germany). Her movement studies have been influenced by Frey Faust, Martin Sonderkamp, Julyen Hamilton, Matej Kejžar, Katie Duck, Elizabeth Farr, Anton Lachy, Jozef Frucek, Linda Kapetanea, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, and Mala Kline among others. She has collaborated with and performed for choreographers such as Begum Erciyas, Joao da Silva, Matej Kejžar, Snježana Premuš, Jana Menger, Sebastijan Horvat, Maayan Danoch, and Mala Kline. Anja explores the processes of tuning by focusing on the dynamic intertwining of sensation and response. Her interest lies in ways of embodying specificities of various presences, viewing movement as an experienced, unfolding event on a body/mind map, communicating embodied thinking in space and time. In 2014 she completed her Masters of Contemporary Dance Education at the HfMDK Frankfurt. She is currently developing and facilitating an audience format called Physical Introductions for Tanzhaus NRW in Düsseldorf.
Maja Delak is a choreographer, dancer, performer, and teacher. She studied contemporary dance at CNDC L'Esquisse in Angers, France, and at numerous dance seminars. From 1993 to 2002 she was a member of the international dance group En-Knap. She was the initiator and programme head of the secondary education programme for contemporary dance at the Pre-School Education and Grammar School Ljubljana, where she also regularly gives classes. In her choreographic opus, Maja Delak has traversed numerous worlds, which – despite different contents and approaches to work – whirl into an anchorage of her dance poetics, with which she is defining the methodologies of contemporary dance with increasing precision. In 2006, Maja Delak established Institute Emanat, with which she aims for the affirmation of contemporary dance – both with stage production as well as with book (Transitions series) and education programmes (Agon). In 2010 she won the Prešeren Fund Award, the highest recognition for achievements in the field of art in the Republic of Slovenia for her performances Expensive Darlings, Serata Artistica Giovanile and Ways of Love. In 2013 her performance Shame was awarded as best performance at the Gibanica (Moving Cake) Festival of Slovene Dance. In the same year Luka Prinčič and Maja Delak received the Golden Bird Award for artistic achievements in the field of performing arts, awarded by the Liberal Academy. In 2015 the collective of dance pedagogues of the contemporary dance programme at the Pre-School Education & Grammar School Ljubljana won the Ksenija Hribar Award for pedagogical work.
Žigan Krajnčan has been devoted to different aspects of creativity from an early age, from playing violin and trombone to singing in the choir, acting and dancing. After finishing his primary education, he decided to enrol in a contemporary dance school. Although he had very little dancing experience, he passed the auditions. During his secondary education, he was actively participating in many school productions and out-of-school projects led by Ivan Mijačević, Maja Delak, Matjaž Farič, Ivana Djilas, Miha Hočevar, Matjaž Pograjc, Kaja Janjič, Gašper Tič, Sinja Ožbolt, Gregor Luštek, and his brother Kristijan Krajnčan, with whom he also co-created the interdisciplinary project Hidden Myth. He has won numerous awards in street dance competitions and has been recognized and awarded for his work in the contemporary dance field.
Goran Ferčec studied Art History and Polish Language and Literature at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Arts in Zagreb and graduated from Dramaturgy at the Academy of Dramatic Arts (ADU). He is a writer, playwright, dramaturge, and assistant in various theatre projects. He publishes his theatrical and theoretical texts in different magazines. His debut novel There Will Be No Miracles Here (Ovdje neće biti čuda) was published in 2011. The same year saw the premiere of his performance text A Letter to Heiner Müller (Pismo Heineru Mülleru), directed by Bojan Đorđev. His play Female Workers on Hunger Strike (Radnice u gladovanju) premiered in 2014 in collaboration with fringe ensemble in Bonn. In 2015 he published a book of essays under the title Handbook for Yesterday (Priručnik za jučer). This project is his fourth collaboration with Matija Ferlin.
Mauricio Ferlin graduated from the School of Design at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb in 1996. He works as a set and graphic designer and video artist, often in the theatre. Mauricio directed the dance performance Warm Thrills (Tepli zdrhi) (Festival of Dance and Non-Verbal Theatre, Svetvincenat, 2001) and co-created the performances Rondinella (with Maja Delak and Mala Kline, 2004) and Rodeo (with Maja Delak, 2007). As a video artist, he has worked for Delak/Kline’s Hi-Res (En-Knap, Ljubljana, 2003), Sarah Kane's Crave (Croatian National Theatre Zagreb, 2006, directed by Borut Separovic), and Ivana Sajko's Archetype: Medea/WomanBomb/Europa (Theatre ZKM Zagreb, 2006, Sajko-Ruzdjak-Perkovic). He was a set designer for Matija Ferlin’s performances The Most Together We’ve Ever Been (2009), Onformance (2010), Solitaires (2011), Sad Sam Lucky (2012), The Other at the Same Time (2012), We are Kings not Humans (2015), and Out of Season (2015). He also designed the set for Mishima’s Modern No Dramas (Trieste, 2014), directed by Mateja Koležnik (Uchimura Prize 2015). He was the designer of the awarded Croatian exhibition Intangible at the PQ 2015 – Prague Quadrennial of Performance, Design and Space.
Luka Prinčič is a musician, sound designer, and media artist. He has been writing music, creating sound art, performing, and manipulating new media in various ways since mid ’90s. He specialises in computer music, elaborated funk beats, immersive soundscapes, incidental music for live arts & video, and digital media experiments. His release Pacification under Wanda & Nova deViator moniker has been described as “skilfully traversing the boundaries between serious artistic and raving club discourse”. Furthermore, his work with Maja Delak was described as “energetically charged, with a cutting, even punk or underground poetics” and as an “extremely fresh interplay of different practices from the field of theatre, dance, music, and intermedia art” (Liberal Academy’s Golden Bird Award). In 2013 he was the recipient of the Ksenija Hribar Award for his sound design for performances in the field of contemporary dance. He performed at festivals like Ars Electronica (Linz), EMAF (Osnabrück), Netmage (Bologna) and Trouble (Brussels), worked at the Ljubljana Digital Media Lab (Ljudmila) and the local hackerspace CyberPipe (Ljubljana), exhibited at Kapelica Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, and MSUM Ljubljana, and travelled with his work all across Europe and further (New York and New Zealand). He currently works at Emanat Institute and runs Kamizdat, a music label for adventurous music, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The aim of the institute Emanat is to affirm contemporary dance art as a topical, alive field of artistic creativity and to develop the area through establishing different structures and modes of activity, with which dance enacts and enhances its creative structures. Institute Emanat advances the activity in three areas: artistic production, education and publishing activity. The three-part structure enacts the main vision of the institute as the notion emanation, making it concrete with a reciprocal intertwinement of individual activities. The central is the production of performances, while at the same time, the institute promotes education and publishing activity as the key elements of the development of the art of dance. Emanat was established in 2006 by choreographer, dancer and pedagogue Maja Delak, who is current director, artistic leader and chief editor of the book series Transitions.
Reflections from Panna
The beauty of Ferlin’s performance lies in how he lets go of the classical definitions of meaning and creation. Instead, he decides to construct a piece that comments on our expectation that performing arts (or art, in general) should provide us with a clear trajectory, an explicit concept and/or idea, a definite point of view, etc. He offers a staging that might look at first glimpse clumsy and undone, then he overlaps it with the grand gesture of leaving the table-work literally on stage. I start to wonder: isn’t it just the same if I look at the actors performing in the so-called set or the ones murmuring to each other and resting around the table? The performance happens everywhere at the same time and nowhere at all. I can choose to focus my gaze wherever I want on the stage – I can choose to be interested or not in the original play, The Glass Menagerie, I can allow the literal context to shape my experience or find new meaning in the space and regard the choreography and the whole performance itself as an original work rather than an adaptation.
At one point Ferlin asks if it is a good enough reason for someone to do something just because they are good at it? What is the point of producing more work anyway? He, seemingly, does not want to produce, but showcase the process of staging. By being as reluctant as possible to create new meaning and produce, he nonetheless creates an original piece, that allows time for us to contemplate on these exact issues – it can function as much as a backdrop for our thought processes as it can become a full-blown and astonishingly designed minimalistic piece.