Yesterday I arrived home from Evora, Portugal, where I had spent a week with 13 of my CTP undergraduates and one of my colleagues. We were performing in a festival called Writing on the Landscape (Escrita na Paisagem), which typically runs for three months every summer. This year because of budget cuts the festival was shortened to just two months and included a bit less international work. My students have been blogging about the experience over on the MMU Student Projects blog and many of their images are appearing on Twitter (look for the ctportugal hash tag).
Overall, the experience was pretty great for the students and for me. It was nice to be in a new country and to have a bit of time and space to think about what it means to make work that tours. The show we were touring was a project I made with the students as part of their second year of studying on CTP, and it was relatively culturally specific to the UK. I was slightly worried that the piece would not translate well to a new context and to a country where English is not as commonly spoken as it is in other European countries. We were also translating the piece from a black box studio in Crewe (of the generic variety that I’ve come to hate) to an old, deconsecrated church that has a lot of very peculiarities that give it character and imbue it with character. I also noticed that a lot of the other work in the festival was political or related to themes that might be considered topical at the moment (the ‘crisis’ especially). Our show, was entirely personal and specific to conceptions of childhood and intimacy; I was worried that it would seem trivial in comparison to the other work in the festival.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the piece did manage to transfer cultures and languages fairly well. We made a number of adjustments to the piece to make it clearer, but the integrity of the piece remained in tact and (if anything) the piece seemed to really develop in its new context/culture. We heard after the shows from audience members who found the piece moving, funny and who could relate to it even though they didn’t always catch every word. The Furbies also performed very well – in our dress rehearsal they were unusually quiet, but on the night of the show they seemed to get over their stage fright and became extremely talkative and opinionated (I never tire of hearing them say ‘boring’ when it is quiet). I also think the students had a good experience of feeling like their work as students can have an impact/effect outside of the context of the university. They were also able to see some films, live music, a theatre piece and have conversations with artists who were part of the festival. I think these experiences will deepen their understanding of how their work fits into the greater fabric of the world in which we live – maybe it will even encourage some of them to create unexpected work in their final year inspired by the trip.
For me, interacting with the students in the relatively casual setting of Evora (and spending time with them at the pool and sight-seeing) was really rewarding. There is always a fine line, I think, between the social and the professional with students but I think we managed to bond in a very specific and difficult-to-articulate-way that will serve us well as we move together into their final year at university. I was also really taken by Portugal and hope that Brian and I will find a way to make it there for a break at some point. It is a little pocket of Europe that I had not given enough consideration to before…now I will.
This weekend, I have a lot of email to catch up on and I’ll be spending a bit of time offline celebrating my anniversary with Brian (it happened while I was away). On Monday, I have a busy day of meetings and catching up at MMU before I head to Kent on Tuesday to give my paper at TAPRA. I’ve edited the one I posted online by removing everything about Tomorrow’s Legs in order to make it fit within twenty minutes. I need to put together a few slides to support the presentation, but I’ll do that en route to Kent I think. Next week I also have a number of interesting phone calls that might result in some changes in my circumstances…stay tuned for information about that over the coming months (if you care). Now, off to have lunch outside, as if I was still in sunny Evora.