all images by Nada Zgank
the second time
Written, Directed and Performed by Simona Semenič
Concept and Visual Design by Barbara Kapelj Osredkar
Lighting Designer: Andrej Petrovčič
Dramaturgy and Emotional Support: Barbara Kapelj Osredkar, Simona Hamer, Rok Vevar
Producer: kd integrali Association, City of Women
In collaboration with Klub Gromka – AKC Metelkova
integrali, Ljubljana Slovenia
What I Saw
In the Csiky Gergely studio space, which housed the other two shows that focused on heavy audience interaction (The State and Quintet), the second time was set up deceptively simple: walking in the door, one faced the performance area head on, which was also where the audience was supposed to sit. Elevated on platforms, the rows of chairs were arranged tightly and not on a rake, so not only were you sitting VERY closely to your neighbors, but if you were not in the first few rows, you also could not see the only other feature of the performance: creator Simona Semenic perched on a stool, opposite the audience, with nothing surrounding her. On each chair was a script—the script of the piece—with instructions that we were to read it, and when we were done with our reading, we could go.
Much like The State, the piece began with no introduction, in this case other than what was written on the first page of each script. There were, however, microphones placed throughout the audience, indicating to us that there was a possibility that we, the audience, should read this script out loud, although there were no instructions for how we would do this—what order, or what pace, or what the ultimate result would be. Moreover, the script was written in the three languages of the festival: Romanian, Hungarian, and English, with the presumption being that any audience member could read in any language.
Like other pieces that give the audience no instruction on how to begin, we sat in uncomfortable silence for what seemed like an eternity before someone took it upon themselves to pick up the first microphone, turn it on, and start reading. What proceeded from there was an awkward, unevenly paced, often disrupted (by one audience member who decided to read from random pages), staged reading by the audience in three languages, with the microphones roving in random order from one anxious audience member to another, all while Semenic watched us, not reacting, not performing, just sitting and listening, save for one part when an audience member broke the fourth wall to bring the microphone to her to read. She did, reluctantly (in the talkback we learned that this has never happened, and she makes a point to be disengaged from the narrative).
The piece was apparently a continuation of a piece she created a few years ago, after developing a seizure disorder as an adult, which has naturally thrown her life completely off-balance both artistically and domestically (not to mention physically). The narrative of the piece flowed from poetic and abstract to concrete passages of her life with a seizure disorder as she tries to be a mother and an artist, all written in the first person. At first, the audience (myself included) wondered if she would perform any of the actions written, which often were about personal beautification, but after a while it became clear that the actions were only to be performed in our imagination, meaning that both the images and profound messages of the piece relied entirely on how well the audience could read it.
Throughout the performance I participated in, audience members consistently walked out, and it was unclear whether they were done reading the script or done sitting through this awkward and anxiety-producing experience. Regardless, we pushed through. Despite one audience member attempting to create artistic chaos by reading from random pages (one renown Hungarian critic in the audience hilariously and subtly took control of the mic from this person, and as an audience we all silently agreed to keep it away from them) we made it through the script. At the end, we clapped, although it was unclear if we were clapping for ourselves or for Semenic. In a final hilarious and poignant gesture, the one theatrical action of the piece was for the ushers to hand each audience member a rose, which is the practice of many Eastern European theaters to the performers of a show that has just finished. In the end, each audience member was acknowledged in this way as a contributing member to the performance.
Watch The Trailer
Nuts and Bolts
Cast size: 1 female
Touring size: 1 performer, 1 technician, 1 producer (3 total)
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: small stage, 5 x 5m
Maximum height/width/depth of stage: 8 x 8m
Load in time: 3 hours
Strike time: 1 hour
Cartage information: The whole set fits in a car
Translation information: Can be performed in English
Touring history: city of women ljubljana 2014, Maribor festival 2015, Teszt 2016
Future performance dates: None
Available for touring from: 10/28/2016
Representation: Simona Semenič, author,
Author/Director/Performer: Simona Semenič
Simona Semenič is a dramatist and author of theatre performances. Her texts have won her two national Grum Awards and her dramas have received numerous awards and accolades both in Slovenia and abroad, where her texts are regularly staged. She performed and directed her own productions (I, Victim.; Do Me One More Time; 43 Happy Ends; Kapelj and Semenič Under Construction; Semenič and Bulc For Sale) and the performances of PreGlej group (9 Easy Pieces, This Is Me and What Are You). Her first collaboration with the City of Women goes back to 2005, when she worked as dramaturg of the A.C.T. Metelkova project and directed an adaptation of the performance piece Endless Medication in 2006.
Theatre: City of Women
Reflections from Susan
the second time is a difficult piece of theater to experience, created by an intriguing, aesthetically profound female theater artist who is asking impossible questions while living the difficult circumstances she describes in her piece. Perhaps because of the language barriers, I was on edge for much of the piece, unsure of where the microphone was, sometimes able to follow in Romanian or Hungarian while digesting the content in English, but often finding myself lost amidst the quick pace of some of the readers, while sweating through the uncomfortable closeness of fellow audience members thrust into the literal hot spotlight without instructions on what to do, save for a lengthy script we each held in our hands. I found myself trying to slow things down, to read clearly while not trying to be too performative (I put on my best “book-reading” voice).
However, the dizzying discomfort of audience was visually off-set by Seminic, calmly sitting opposite of us, perched on a stool, unresponsive but not cold, watching the proceedings, giving up control of her own narrative. Like The State and Quintet, both pieces that relied on what the audience brought to the performance table, Seminic had clearly put structure and content on equal playing fields. In her harrowing narrative of neurological illness, single parenting, and being an artist in the midst of this, she is rarely in control, so it seems fitting that in performance, she would give up any kind of artistic control. On the other end, she requires the audience to take responsibility for a narrative they are neither prepared for or desirous of, much like I’m sure anyone who develops a seizure disorder as an adult.
So while I’m not sure this particular piece would resonate with audience unfamiliar with the first piece of what I believe is supposed to be a trilogy, Seminic is asking questions that are very pertinent to international audiences: how does one continue to live “normally” when involuntarily thrust outside of the “normal” life narrative? How do we learn how to give up control, to trust strangers, in a society that is increasingly about individual control? How do we offer real support to those with different abilities than our own while maintaining ownership of our own narrative? And are these questions even possible to answer, or at least answer in the way that we want, or do we have tear down our existing comforts of life in order to rebuild something different?