In 25 days I will be on a bus on my way to upstate New York—Saratoga Springs to be exact—to spend a month training with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company. I feel a flutter in my stomach just writing that. In less than a month I will be arriving on campus at Skidmore College, along with artists from around the world who have left their countries to come on this pilgrimage for the opportunity to study with these Master teachers.
|Miriam Fernandes performing in|
the Toronto Festival of Clowns
But this training is more than just a physical way into creation. It is a way of looking at the world and a series of principles that are malleable and can be applied in countless different ways. For example, there are three shows happening at The Theatre Centre right now: ZOU Theatre Company’s Business As Usual, Ahuri Theatre’s Ralph + Lina, and Play it Again Productions’ Death Married My Daughter. All of these artists were trained at Lecoq or Gaulier, but each show is bound to be drastically different. Just as Lecoq-trained Ravi Jain has created shows like SPENT, A Brimful of Asha, and directed Nicolas Billon’s Iceland, the shows are completely different, but the artist is using the same principles, just applying them differently.
In the same way, artists who study with the SITI Company will not be bound to create work with a similar aesthetic. I think SITI offers artists a way into the creative process, tools, and ways of thinking about the work. In her blog, Anne Bogart quotes Michelle Kokosowski, a French promoter of global theatre initiatives, who talks about the difference between a teacher and a master. “A teacher,” she said, “teaches you how to do something. A master lays out everything he or she knows and then asks you to make something new out of it.” I am constantly questioning the work that I am seeing and making, and asking myself, What is theatre? Where is the line? Does there need to be a line? What is the relationship between performer and audience, and how can it evolve? I think this training will help me examine these questions and challenge me to see how far I can stretch the answers.
I have taken workshops in Suzuki and Viewpoints in Toronto but now I am going to the source of the training. I know we will be working on a whole different level. During the intensive, students train in Suzuki and Viewpoints, but also take classes in Composition, Movement, Design, Dramaturgy, and Playwrighting. I’m really curious to see how the company carries the principles of Suzuki and Viewpoints into the creation of new work. In our composition class, we’ll be studying Aeschylus’ Persians, as the SITI Company is currently working on an adaptation of the play, which will premiere this September in California. I think it’ll be an incredible opportunity to look at the traditions of Ancient Greek Theatre and figure out how to find the contemporary in the ancient.
I admire a lot about how the SITI Company operates: the fact that they are ensemble-based, that training together and creating together go hand-in-hand, that teaching is still at the heart of what they do, and that their training is never static, but constantly evolving. I am particularly drawn to their commitment to international cultural exchange as the company was formed as collaboration between American director Anne Bogart and Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki. The fusion of Eastern and Western artistic practice is thrilling to me.
I think what I am most looking forward to in this month is that it will mark the next big step in my training. I’ve been cobbling together a series of workshops and classes in Toronto, but a four-day class can only take you so deep into the work. I am ready now for a longer, more intense and focused training, away from my city, away from all of the distractions of everyday life. For one whole month, all my focus will go into my artistic practice.
|Yoshi Oida, Theatre des Loges, Paris.|
There are many factors that draw me to the SITI Company’s training, but I think at the forefront for me, is that I am in search of a Master. Anne Bogart and her company have dedicated their lives to the development of this training and creation, and they are truly Master teachers. I sense that I am on the cusp of something big. I can’t wait to see what June brings!
Miriam Fernandes is one of two recipients of Theatre Ontario and Why Not Theatre’s Independent Theatre Creators International Training Scholarship. The scholarship was sponsored by Nekison Engineering and Contractors Ltd. with funds matched by artsVest Toronto, run by Business For The Arts with the support of Canadian Heritage and the Toronto Arts Council.
Miriam is currently in Soliciting Temptation at Tarragon Theatre until May 4.