From September to December 2015, I devised and taught weekly sessions on dramaturgy for second-year students of Theatre Design at Utrecht School of the Arts. The first part of the course focused on reading and staging theatre repertoire, the second part focused on performance since the 1960s and the notion of re-enactment. The dramaturgy of the sessions aimed to create a sensitivity for dramaturgical practice as a form of collective research. Therefore, the main part of the sessions was student-led; they were asked to report on the different texts, provide analyses of the works and provoke discussions within the group. The students got to know the different case-studies not only through collective reflection but also through collective making. They extracted principles, theme’s and questions from the original works, that they re-framed in relation to their own situation and context.
The picture below is taken during a re-enactment of one of the case studies by Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Coco Fusco – Two Undiscovered Amerindians visit the West (1992/1993). The re-enactment was performed during the HKU open day and inside the school. The students decided to create a durational installation in which they performed various tasks that belong to the daily practice of students of theatre design. This created some distance to the problematic colonial representation performed in the piece by Gómez-Peña and Fusco. However, there were some similar principles in the construction of the original work and their re-enactment. For instance, they explored the credibility of a certain role, playing with costumes changes and gradual amplification of this role. But the students also stepped out of the marked performance space, as they each took turns in performing. Furthermore, they did not look for interaction with people passing-by or sitting in the central hall. This may have been due to the context in which they decided to perform. In a way, it seemed, the work could have been more risky, for instance by performing in public space. I will be looking forward to thinking more about this work also in relation to contemporary performance works in public space, such as Ceci n’est Pas (2013) by Dries Verhoeven.