Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Global Alliance for Justice Education Conference

Why do we underestimate the depth of Youth? I just put on a 4 day Shadow Liberation workshop with students (mostly 1st year students) from Jindal Global Law School to craft this Forum Theatre performance for 200+ audience members, from 50+ countries. We devised the script and rehearsed for 3 days, then put up the show on the 4th, and the performers where reflective and insightful. This cross-cultural show was dynamic because the style of intervention in the forum was so diverse.

In the scene depicting Sexual Harassment: People activated bystanders to interrupt the act, asked the man how his mother would feel, and even one man came and started sexually harassing the perpetrator.

In the scene depicting Domestic Violence: some people chose to have the women assert herself, or have other family members intervene. One man came onstage as the neighbor and confronted the abusive father in a very graceful and warm but still firm manner, it was amazing, really.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Articulations: Live Video mixing for Empowerment

Jacob Camara, of Articulations Electroniques, and I lead this community driven project in which students collected video and still images of diverse people in Bangalore.
The image and video collection process served as a community building activity about how people see themselves reflected in public space. Filming people dancing and celebrating created empowering cultural images as material for live video sets. The collected material was mixed with archival video, and found footage to create video sets that were projected and accompanied by music to reclaim public space. There where two events took place at Rangoli Metro Art Centre and a film screening at Srishti. For more about the process visit the Articulations Blog.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Acting in Solidarity to Stop Gender Violence in Asia

It was an honor to facilitate this Shadow Liberation workshop for Asia's Theatre of Oppressed Network at South/Central Asia's 1st Regional Theatre of the Oppressed Conference in Kabul, Afghanistan with Afghanistan Human Rights & Democracy Organization. At the gathering, practitioners from around the region shared strategies and challenges related to working for Women's Rights and against Gender Violence. Read more about the regional Theatre of the Oppressed activities in the Conference Brochure (which includes an article by your friend here).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chhaya Cinema: Indian Leather Puppetry

I gave this workshop & lecture at Atta Galatta as a part of Out of Focus presented by Maraa.
For centuries, flame illuminated screens and moving shadows cast by leather puppets have been used to narrate epic stories. These shadow puppet traditions can be found in Orissa, Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. While Shadow Puppetry maybe thought of as the original Cinema, the advent and advancement of modern Cinema runs parallel to the decline in traditional Shadow Puppetry. What is being lost? And how are Shadow Theatre artists borrowing from Cinema to create contemporary work for modern audiences?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Training Creative Arts Therapists in India

Welcome to the new batch of Foundation in Creative Arts Therapies (FCAT) students at SMART Studio. As an introduction to Drama Therapy I guided them through trust building activities and used line repetitions as a gateway into archetypal relationship conflicts.

Below is an excerpt from a letter of support I wrote for the FCAT program:

Creative Arts Therapies is a rapidly expanding field, as more students want to pursue this as a profession, and more mental health institutions, as well as individuals, are embracing these treatments, there is a sharp increase in the demand for such training programs. Usually if a talented and qualified Indian practitioner wanted to seek post-graduate training in the Creative Arts Therapies they would go abroad to study. FCAT makes it possible to pursue such studies in India, and conducts the program in such a way that it is accessible to parents and working professionals.  

As a majority of the literature on Creative Arts Therapies is North American/Eurocentric, FCAT stands to make substantial contributions to the culturally appropriate practice of Creative Arts Therapies in the subcontinent. Through dialogue, case examples, and critique of existing practice, FCAT is highly culturally responsive in context and thus is developing cohorts of practitioners prepared to respond to the unique joys and challenges of working as a Creative Arts Therapist in India. In my capacity as a Faculty at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, I supervised two FCAT student interns who lead groups for the Srishti student body. These groups were met with a high level of enthusiasm by the participants who reported enjoying the expressive outlet as well as an increase in self-awareness.

In any of the Creative Arts Therapies there is a need to strike a balance between artistic self-reflection and academic rigor in the domain of Counseling Psychology. FCAT is a well balanced and structured program. By partnering with  Parivarthan, Counseling, Training and Research Centre, FCAT has really curated a program that offers the best of both worlds to produce well rounded practitioners.

It's my honor to be on the Faculty of this new and dynamic program.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Embodied Engagement for Creative Academics

Unlearn. Before the start of the new academic year Geetha Narayanan, the Founder/Director of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, likes to shake things up a bit with innovative faculty development. In this spirit, I had the opportunity to facilitate a session on Embodied Engagement for my colleagues. As smart and professional as everyone is, the Srishti faculty definitely still know how to let loose and have a good time.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Drama Therapy and Sexual Violence

What does resilience look like? I held this question at the core of my workshop with the students of Antioch University Seattle (an expanded version of this presentation). I started off with an overview of Shadow Liberation, then we made shadow enactments by mashing up transparencies, paper cut outs and color cellophane on multiple overhead projectors. See more pics here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

ShadowLight Productions Brings Shadows to Scale

In my discussion with Larry Reed of ShadowLight Productions about the difference between traditional and contemporary Shadow Theatre he said, "traditional Shadow Theatre is mostly language based while Contemporary Shadow Theatre is more image based" In light of this comment watch the videos below and see why Larry Reed has been so influential in Contemporary Shadow Theatre.

Thanks to Larry Reed for donating a series of ShadowLight Productions videos to Shadow Liberation! For more videos check out ShadowLight Productions on YouTube, and for the DIY crowd, they have put out a Shadow Theatre Manual.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

3D Shadows of Christine Marie

Christine Marie is a director and experimental shadow artist. She pioneering the use of large scale 3D shadows. The 3D effect is stereoscopic (red/blue) like old school 3D. Christine is interested in inviting the psyche into her work though symbolism, movement, and dimensionality. No Puppets, only objects. She thinks about her work in cinematic language, and while she uses haiku in her devising process, there is no spoken dialogue in her shows.

The following video is from Signaling Arcana/4Trains, Christine Marie's latest work centered around an intimate relationship impacted by structured time, trade and industrialization brought about through the introduction of the train.

Stay up with Christine Marie on Facebook and Vimeo

Collage Shadows

What happens when you take old art slide show transparencies, a hand full of overhead projectors and group of high school students? Thanks to Todd Elkin, Arts Educator, at Washington High School in Fremont, CA, we were able to visually mash-up shadows with found images on a large scale.

I started the day by giving a Shadow Liberation presentation, and setting a context for the use of Shadow Theatre for Social Justice. The rest of the day was dedicated to visual play in the school theatre.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gamelan Sekar Jaya

After a few years, I caught up with Sarah Wilner of Gamelan Sekar Jaya, a sixty-member company of musicians and dancers, practicing traditional performing arts of Bali. We met at their studio in Berkeley, with beautiful instruments and an Overhead Projector Shadow Theatre set-up for the youth.

The previous video is of Kawit Legong: Prince Karna's Dream, a collaboration between Gamelan Sekar Jaya and ShadowLight Productions. The following video, Creatures of Balinese Mythology, was performed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

See more on the Gamelan Sekar Jaya Vimeo, or their Facebook page

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Manual Cinema in Chicago

In a warehouse studio, Manual Cinema is in the early stages of rehearsing their upcoming show, ADA/AVA, which will debut June 13th-16th in the Pivot Arts Festival. Their clean, fast paced, heavily film influenced style of nonverbal shadow theatre is magnificent. 

ADA/AVA has 3 active overhead projectors, facilitating quick cuts, smooth fades and lucid double exposures, while a 4th overhead projector comes in at times for special effects.

In my conversation with Sarah Fornace she said "We live in a society where we see 2 dimensional images all the time without thinking critically about it. In shadow puppetry you can see the seems." Hanging out with Manual Cinema defiantly got me thinking creatively about how images are constructed.

Now for the video. Check out this music video they did for eighth blackbird.

Here's the trailer for their latest production, Lula Del Ray

If you're in Chicago you can see Lula Del Ray at Theater on the Lake, June 26th - 30th. Don't forget to like the Manual Cinema on Facebook for updates, and check them out on Vimeo for more videos.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Shadow Jam in Vancouver

The sun was reflecting off the snow capped peaks in the distance as I entered an industrial building in Vancouver, Canada for my first encounter with a Shadowjam. For 8 years now Mind of Snail has been putting on these fully participatory improvisations at the intersection of music, shadow puppets and storytelling. 

It started with a Potluck, then as the sun went down, we crafted shadow puppets out of old cardboard, plastic waste and color cellophane sheets. Once it was dark we gathered in a circle and tuned into the light and sound that was already in the space, before collaboratively improvising stories with light and sound. It's often described by participants as a shared dream.

I was excited to finally meet Jessica G and Chloe Z (Mind of Snail), compost-modern puppeteers, and I was blown away when they brought me along for a film shoot of their show, The Whales Back. Watching them weave a magical underwater world through music and cleaver shadow effects was truly inspiring. The video isn't out yet, but here is an old trailer with some of their work. Get their updates on the Mind of a Snail Facebook Page.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dark Materials in Seattle

I met Nick Hubbard (Dark Materials) in a Seattle cafe today, and I chatted him up about Shadow Theatre. Nick said, "Puppets in general and shadows even more so have an inherent quality of magic and wonder." He went on "because the images aren't fully fleshed out there is room for us to build our own imaginative interpretation of the image, which helps stories solidify in our memory."

Nick is currently the President of Puppeteers of America, and as established as that may seem, he is all about experimentation. We spoke about overhead projectors, moving light sources, various materials and screen textures. The pictures in this post come from the Dark Materials Flickr, and you can see his updates on Dark Materials Facebook.

Check out the video reel of puppetry design and performance work by Nick, 2008-2011.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sbek Thom: Cambodia Shadow Puppets

In New York City with a fire flickering on a large flat screen behind the white shadow screen, the ancient art of Sbek Thom came to life as a part of the Seasons of Cambodia Festival. The Shadow Puppet Troupe of Wat Raja Bo from Siem Reap, Cambodia performed an excerpt from the Reamker (Cambodian telling of the Ramayana).

The show was beautifully coordinated, between the narration, puppeteers, dancers and musicians. After the show I spoke with the artists who shared with me that the tradition was revived 15 years ago by monk who was the last carrier of this cultural form in the Wat Bo Temple. I was told that puppets are drawn and carved individually, without tracing pervious puppets, an individual puppet can take up to 40 days to make!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Memories of the Future

When I came to the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance tonight I felt a Deja Vu. It was directly across the street from The Point, where I brought my 2007 Forum Theatre project I Want Yo Man! So 6 years later, I'm back in Hunts Point for another Forum Theatre project, Memories of the Future, a partnership between Theatre of the Oppressed NYC and Majora Carter (pictured above). This piece was about the Juvenile Justice System and the Majora Carter Group is seeking to use the audience interventions as material to help them develop an alternative program for court involved youth. Awesome!  Did you see Majora Carter's TED Talk Greening the Ghetto?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Let's Talk Trash

Arzu and I presented "Paint it! The Art of Urban Environmental Justice Education in India"at the Diversity in Research & Practice Conference at Columbia University's Teachers College. This was based on Arzu's mural projects with Srishti students to address the waste management issues of Bangalore. Read more about it in The Alternative, Times of India and the Deccan Herald.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tholu Bommalattha: Andhra Shadow Puppets

In a village outside of Dharmavaram, Andhra Pradesh, Dalavai Chalapathi Rao and I laugh as we play with a giant Hanuman shadow puppet. Though Tholu Bommalattha (Andhra Shadow Puppetry) may be considered a dying artform, it's alive and well in this village.

The large puppets, which are made from goat skin, are painted and holes are punched with custom tools (pictured above).

Whole extended families are involved in puppet making, music, performance and the associated crafts that the artists sell at crafts fairs.

Our hosts brought us into a dark room and gave us a shadow puppet show with the light pouring through the window. The coordination of the music with the brightly colored puppets made for quite a show. I'm planning to bring the Shadow Liberation team here in July! (photo credits Sudebi Thakurata.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dhaatu Puppet Festival

This elephant shadow puppet is lighting up the stage at the Dhaatu Puppet Festival put on by Dhaatu, a Bangalore-based puppetry troupe. Although this festival was intended for children, the focus on traditional stories through ancient puppetry forms was fascinating to me. I look forward to connecting Shadow Liberation with Dhaatu in the future.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mud Furniture Building

Every now and then I've got to get muddy with Jackson and Green Chakra, the eco-building apprenticeship made up of youth from Bangalore slum communities. Here I am out in Kanakapura mashing mud for some some mud furniture.

See the bottles in the mud wall and the built in mini shelves? The work of Green Chakra has come a long way since 2010, when I helped them build a composting toilet. Keep up with them on Facebook and read the article about their work in Bhoomi Magazine.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hip Hop Theatre Open Cypher

At this gathering of Hip Hop and Theatre performers, we blurred the boundaries between art forms to forge dynamic storytelling structures. Through freestyle, cypher and theatre games we established a creative language and made short scenes that integrated all the art forms in the room. Thanks to Yours Truly for hosting and participating with free spirits. I'm looking forward to integrating local talent and Hip Hop Theatre elements into Shadow Liberation's upcoming production.

Monday, April 1, 2013

World Social Forum Tunisia

Yes, another world is possible! The World Social Forum transported me back to 1999, organizing for the protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. There were people from around the world, championing issues ranging from sustainable development to opposing violence against women.

Pictured above is Corrine Kumar, inspiring activist, storyteller and friend. This is at one of the many session put on by El Taller. Their work with the Courts of Women is quite dynamic, as they center the experience around witnessing with an emphasis on community healing.

Above is an image from Forum Theatre Tunisie, who gave workshops and performances in the World Social Forum. It was a reminder of how images have the power to transcend language, as we explored issues ranging from voter apathy, to the European horse meat scandal.

For International Day for the Elimination of Racism this theatre group from the south of Tunisia performed a piece of musical street theatre celebrating their identity as Tunisians to bring to light the racism that exists within Tunisian society.

Riding the Metro and walking through the streets gave me a real feel for daily life in Tunis.

I went hiking with Rando Camp Club in the Mountains of the border of Algeria, and soaked in the natural beauty of the countryside.

Historic Sidi Bou Said was sunny and picturesque on the day I visited with my friends. But don't be fooled by look of the water, I jumped in and I can tell you, it was freezing cold!

What I'm taking with me from Tunisia, besides some painted bowls, is the strength of friendship. The friends I made were so kind and generous right off the bat, I think Tunisia has a lot to teach the rest of the world about what it means to be friends.