By Ness Roque
The following text is submitted to the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) on October 8, 2017. The submission required all dramaturgs to explain their project while keeping all details anonymous to avoid bias from the panelists. The work that was talked about here is Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s “Gobyerno.”
This essay was awarded an Honorable Mention by LMDA’s Elliott Hayes Award for Outstanding Dramaturgy 2018.
In “EF’s Visit to A Small Planet: Some Questions to Ask a Play,” it is presumed that the world of the play as a performance exists as a separate space bound by a special set of rules. The reader of this world—whether s/he is an audience, dramaturg, actor, or director—is given a luxury of distance as s/he is able to ‘squint’ her eyes from a certain distance and ask questions about the world of this play and methodically, almost in a manner of scientific inquiry in a laboratory, dissect a ‘planet’ that is much much smaller than the real one s/he is in. While the essay has its appeals and merits, I cannot help but feel uneasy in that the whole exercise mirrors imperialist and colonial power relations of looking, reading and ‘scientifically’ understanding a fascinating smaller world of an Other. That is not to say that this was intentional. At the very least, it is only a manifestation of the systemic pervasiveness of certain ways of thinking and being.
Maybe I began with a digression. What I wanted to say is that the work I will discuss clearly refuses to fit into Fuhler’s small planet.
The Project I will discuss is a six-year global project which started in 2015 as a collaboration between our Performance Company, a Foreign Playwright, and a Filmmaker who was born and raised abroad but repatriated to the Project’s Country of Origin. In 2016 the team expanded to include a Visual Artist, and three other members of our Performance Company. The premise was to create a performance about government where the audiences form and perform their ideal government, which they document on film, and then watch.
Another iteration of the Project that we hoped for was to create an online database of these ideal governments, hosting active discussions about the experience of being part of the Project, as well as larger discussions about issues tackled by the audiences when they created their own governments.
At the end of the six years, a larger documentary film about the six-year journey of the work will be produced. We also hope to use the films and the insights that the audiences have made to lobby certain issues with policy makers.
Some key words that prompted us to pursue the Project were words in performance vocabulary that also pointed outwards towards the performative everyday and performativity that cross over to political language: protests as rehearsals for revolution, politics as theater, enacting legislation, etc. We were interested in employing the language and system of theater and cinema to activate “audience agency” as an opportunity to question and exercise “active citizenship.”
The Project runs for six years because one president’s administrative term in the Country of Origin is six years.