Roundtable Discussion: What is Devised Theater?
Sep. 27, 2012
What is Devised Theater?
A roundtable discussion with: David Brick / Headlong Dance Theater, Philadelphia; Raymond Bobgan and Chris Seibert / Cleveland Public Theater; Tom Lopez, Associate Professor in TIMARA; Justin Emeka, Assistant Professor in Theater and Africana Studies; Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance
Friday, September 28th at 7pm in Warner Main Space
What is devised theater? What are the historical antecedents to this performance genre as it exists in the 21st century? How is devised theater connected to social activism and community performance? What are its underlying aesthetic principles?
DAVID BRICK - Founder/Co-Director, Headlong Dance Theater
David Brick’s (Co-Director) first movement vocabulary was sign language. Many years of gymnastics gave way to modern dance when he entered Wesleyan University. Before starting Headlong with Andrew and Amy, he danced and toured with the Richard Bull Dance Theater. Other recent projects include co-directing Madam Douce Amere with Fins for Wings; choreographing Love Unpunished for Pig Iron Theatre Company; and dancing for Nichole Canuso Dance Company. He loves teaching Contact Improvisation at the Parlor and Dance Composition at Bryn Mawr College.
Headlong Dance Theater was founded by Co-Directors David Brick, Andrew Simonet and Amy Smith in 1993. David, Andrew and Amy collaborate in the creation and performance of all Headlong’s dances and share credit for all the company’s work. Our core dancers, especially Nichole Canuso, who has been with us since 1996, contribute immensely to the creative process, as do the other dancers who work with us on a project basis.
Over the years, Headlong has created over forty dances, many of which are known for their witty take on contemporary culture. Rather than relying on a single dance style or technique, Headlong develops a unique movement vocabulary for each new piece. The Co-Directors’ eclectic movement backgrounds include modern, ballet, jazz, tap, contact improvisation, releasing techniques, theater, sports, sign language, Bharata Natyam, and Ghanaian dance. Drawing on these and many other sources, Headlong creates movement that both reflects and comments on the subject matter they are exploring. In Shosha, they looked at photographic images of the Jewish ghetto in 1930's Warsaw, as well as video footage of the Living Theater and other experimental theater groups of the 1970's. In Britney's Inferno, for example, they used videos of Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys as a source of movement material.
David, Andrew and Amy were inspired by the work of Richard Bull and Cynthia Novack early in their careers, and Headlong continues to practice choreographic improvisation in the studio and on stage. In fact, many of the company’s dances include or consist entirely of structured improvisation.
Headlong has performed nationally and internationally to a range of audiences, and their work -- informed by a deep commitment to collaboration, humor, and formal experimentation -- has won many fans and much acclaim.
RAYMOND BOBGAN - Executive Artistic Director, Cleveland Public Theatre
Raymond is now in his sixth year as Executive Artistic Director. During his tenure, CPT has eliminated over $200,000 in debt, developed an operating reserve of $100,000, made significant progress on renovating its buildings, produced 15 world premieres (9 by local artists), expanded its programs to support new work and achieved unprecedented national coverage. Raymond specializes in creating new work through an ensemble process. He was the founding Artistic Director of Wishhounds (aka Theatre Labyrinth) and has directed and collaboratively conceived and created more than twenty new theatrical works. Recent creations include: Year 25 Vigil, with Karin Randoja for Humber College at Theatre Passe Murraille (Toronto), Insomnia, with Holly Holsinger and Chris Seibert, Cut to Pieces, with Chris Seibert;Blue Sky Transmission: A Tibetan Book of the Dead, co-produced by CPT and La Mama ETC (NY); and The Confessions of Punch and Judy, co-produced by CPT, NaCl (NY) and Number 11 Theatre (Toronto), which was published in New Canadian Theatre Volume 9. Other recent shows include: Open Mind Firmament: An Evening of William Butler Yeats, Gao Xingjian'sThe Other Shore, Dennis Kelly's Osama the Hero, and Thornton Wilder's Our Town.
In 1994, Bobgan initiated the Student Theatre Enrichment Program, a job training program that engages at-risk youth in writing, producing and performing new plays. Raymond was the first director of CPT's Y-Haven Theatre Project. Raymond's theatrical work seen in Romania, Brazil, Denmark, Serbia, Turkey, The United Kingdom and Canada and featured in American Theatre Magazine, Canadian Theatre Review, Theatre Journal and in Lisa Wolford’s bookGrotowski's Objective Drama Research. Raymond was recently recognized by American Theatre Magazine as 1 of 25 national theatre artists that will shape the next 25 years of American theatre. He is a Creative Workforce Fellow of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, funded by the Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and an alumnus of Theatre Communications Group/Pew Charitable Trust's National Theatre Artist Residency Program and the TCG/NEA Career Development Program for Directors. Raymond was Acting Artistic Director of CPT (1995-1997) and served CPT in many roles including Associate Artistic Director, Education Director and Resident Director at various times since 1991.
CHRIS SEIBER - Education Director, Cleveland Public Theatre
A performer, director and playwright primarily working in the devised theatre method, Chris develops new plays, solo works and original adaptations. She has appeared in a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional performance venues including Daley Plaza, Navy Pier, Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Cleveland Play House and Cleveland Public Theatre. Notable works include the multi-media one-woman performance Cut to Pieces, co-created with Raymond Bobgan, and Insomnia: The Waking of Herselves, co-created with Raymond Bobgan and Holly Holsinger. Additional CPT stage credits include Fefu and Her Friends, Our Town, Two-Headed, Osama the Hero and Open Mind Firmament. As Cleveland Public Theatre's Director of Education, Chris facilitates the production and tour of 6 to 8 original, ensemble-driven theatre works each season. Through these programs she works collaboratively with C eveland inner-city teens, children in public housing and adults in recovery to create original performances based on the participant’s life experiences. She is the recipient of a Chicago C.A.A.P. grant for multi-disciplinary performance, and her co-written screenplay Moon Tooth was a semi-finalist in the Chesterfield Writer's Film Project. Through the Council of International Programs USA, Chris traveled to Istanbul, Turkey as part of a contingent of Cleveland-area arts professionals working with Turkish artists in the development of arts programs for marginalized urban youth. In 2010, she was awarded a Creative Workforce Fellowship, a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, generously funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Chris' work was recently featured in Convivium33 Gallery's 21st Century Expressions of the Second Sex, a showcase of selected works by leading regional female artists.