To present the Cassandra Project's work-in-progress to a few people. We begin planning in April for the August all day performance/workshop. The intention is to introduce the audience to our creative process, give them a taste of the work and seek feedback from them about the whole experience. The work is being created as an homage to those who dare or who have dared to speak and to their experience for doing so. We do not want to keep this experience solely for ourselves. In committing ourselves to "listening for the work" rather than "produce the work", we enter into a different way of working than we have ever encountered, especially collectively. Although this work is easily couched in the arts it is also an experiment and research in community living.
We build a metaphoric loom and begin to literally weave the various "story threads" together. Two people take up the challenge of putting the "scenario" together. Two days later, they present us with the "cloth". Material from the past three years of work resurface and is brought back to life. Throughout the year in between our gatherings, small pods gather in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and we continue to generate material. Now we see it before our eyes. We run the entire scenario, end to end. It is two and a half hours long. When planning the workshop in April we worried that we would have no more than fifteen minutes worth of material!
We invited David Latham, Principal of The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training at the Stratford Festival of Canada, to witness our work. He would be nothing else but frank with us. We begin our two hour journey, texts in hand when necessary, no costumes, no production elements. His comments: " Time was irrelevant, it was not an issue at any moment." "The work feels like a ritual you are all learning for the first time but have known all your lives." "The work emerges not from performance adrenaline, it is something else!" We know now that our work has a heart and we can continue to build.
We re-focus ourselves and get ready for our seven guests who will arrive in two days and spend an entire day with us. We greet them, invite them to the second floor studio (a redesigned barn), we introduce each other, we share with them the project's genesis, our creative process and invite them to experience a few minutes of Authentic Movement. We present approximately twenty minutes of the work-in-progress whereby we begin with a story, a song and soon our guests realize that they are in the performance without having noticed its beginning. Like a sunrise, we never really see it as it happens. We take a break for lunch then return to the studio for dialogue. We invite the exchange of a personal Cassandra experience (we break off into groups of three) and return for more dialogue. We could not have fathomed the richness of our guests response. Much delight and bewilderment. The work has touched them too. Vicky Tansy, who helped us find the studio in 2004 invites us to her studio over the next mountain. She invites a small audience. This unexpected offer created much stir amongst us. "Are we ready?" " What if..." and after much to and fro (a new dynamic of exchange!) we decide that we cannot let pass such an opportunity to challenge the work and ourselves, even at this stage of development. The challenge proved to be formidable and rewarding. Again, the feedback echoed the previous performance/workshop experience. Some people left with eyes that had cried, some felt compelled to look at their immediate lives and ask new questions, others wanted to join our circus.
We are thrilled that the work has had such an impact this early in its development. We fulfilled this year's goal in determining that we indeed have tangible and performable material to share. It most likely will always be a moveable feast, in evolution and infused with the local and global politics and events of our time. Our references to and the use of the classical and mythological texts seem to resonate even more within our contemporary lives. To create this work requires that we remain always on the side of the body's experience of speaking, it is not so much the cause that intrigues us but that which compels one to speak. The process of making the work apparent reveals to us the myriad of accumulated assumptions we make about each other, about creating art, theatre, dance. Creation is not exempt of habit. Judith Koltai teaches: "Consciousness is the interruption of habit" The Cassandra project is a vehicle to ask: How do we know what we know?
We prepare ourselves to open the work to several new audiences in 2006 in Victoria.
Judith Koltai, Treena Stubel, Sarah Hayward, Gayle Murphy, Joan Maclean, Val Campbell, François Grisé, Gerry Trentham, Lisa Beley, Valerie Buhagiar, Leslie French, Cindy Block, Sharon Feder, Kathryn Weiler, Monique Léger.