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  • TFTI PG Symposium 2020

Our Speaker: Tom Straszewski

Presentation title:

The Fall of Lucifer: shared sensations within the domestic space of online theatre



Bio:

I am a PhD researcher and community theatre director, currently exploring how community theatre groups use sites in their performances of the York Mystery Plays. I specialise in site-based theatre, with credits including York Mystery Plays 2018, Shakespeare in pubs (Henry IV: A Pub Wake) and gardens (Richard II), Dracula in an abandoned house, a Dickens travelogue in parks (The Lazy Tour), and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist in a gin shop attic. I work closely with York International Shakespeare Festival and York Shakespeare Project on community productions.




Abstract:

With our physical horizons dramatically reduced, online theatre allows communities to gather together and perform once more. However, online read-throughs have focused on the aural/oral, with visual elements often an afterthought. In doing so, online theatre positions the screen as the site of performance, rather than as a nexus of physical presences. Meanwhile, sensations shared by actors and audience- touch, smell, taste- become impossible to share, undermining the “concentrated co-presence” that characterises theatre performances (Sullivan 2018).


I address these issues by bringing site-specific methodology- a focus on the specificities of a space- to bear on a domestic site. As Klein et al. (2019, 10) suggest, ownership of a space is formed not only by money or legal documents, but by “the rituals (daily and extraordinary) that we enact within it”. In rehearsing this ritual play of community/identity-forming, it becomes a way of forming domestic sites as a creative space. By staging the York Mystery Plays’ Creation of the Angels/Fall of Lucifer, I explore how physical touchstones found in a domestic space- a matchstick, a chair, a handful of earth- can ground a virtual, global performance in the physical and local.


In advance, I ask viewers to find within their local environment the following items:

A box of matches.

Earth/soil/dust A throne.

A blank page.

The dominant scent.

A familiar taste.


These might be the actual object, a substitute (a cigarette or a bike light for a matchbox) or a metaphorical replacement (earth/soil replaced by a local map). Be creative!


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