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Documentary Film Screening: Devising Gilgamesh. February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015IASCollaboratives, Events0

Documentary Film Screening: Devising Gilgamesh

Friday, February 20, 2015, at 7:30pm
Crosby Seminar Room, 240 Northrop

Screening & Lecture by Prof Lisa Channer (UMN) and Prof Megan Lewis (UMass Amherst)

Gilgamesh Screening Poster sm

The collaborative process of devising a theatre piece from conception to opening night is the subject of Megan Lewis’ new documentary film. Lewis, a former University of Minnesota Theater professor now at UMass Amherst, collaborated with renowned Minneapolis theatre director, Lisa Channer of Theatre Novi Most, on this project.

Over the course of two years, Lewis followed Minneapolis-based Theatre Novi Most as they devised a work – The Oldest Story in the World – around the ancient epic of Gilgamesh. The film is an homage to collage theatremaking, a form of “slow art” which, unlike the usual process of putting up a show, takes time to develop and gestate and involves communal and collaborative creation of the work. Whereas traditional theatre begins with a scripted text and comes to fruition in condensed time spans, devised theatremaking takes the time to create work slowly, in layers, and with the full participation of performers, designers, directors, and writers who all contribute to the creation of the piece.

The Oldest Story in the World, which premiered at The Southern Theatre in September 2010, layered physical training in the Russian system of biomechanics espoused by Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874-1940), training in the ancient Indian martial art of kallaripayattu, scripting by playwright Kira Obolensky, and the design talents of Vincent Olivieri (sound), Adrian Jones (scenic), Daniel Vatsky (video), Annie Katsura-Rollins (costume), and Rob Perry (lights). Original music by Cunei & The Forms (Sasha Gibbs, Molly Dworsky and Johanna Gorman Baer) complemented the talents of nine performers: Barbra Berlovitz, Juliana Drajko, Erik Hoover, Billy Mullaney, Stephen Pearce, Vladimir Rovinsky, Dario Tangelson, Vanessa Voskuil, and Jeanne Wilcoxon. For director Lisa Channer, this collaborative approach – and the physical training process – was an attempt to “stage ancientness differently.”

The Oldest Story in the World was a rock ‘n roll take on the 4000 year old epic Gilgamesh text, which was written in cuneiform; a hero’s journey for our time. Layering a robust physical vocabulary with video projections and live music – created by Cunei & The Forms – the play made connections between this ancient story of unbridled greed and grave personal loss and our own contemporary moment, including the 2003 looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, environmental destruction, and the political landscape of contemporary America.

The process of making the documentary film about collage theatremaking was a collage (or montage) process of its own. Drawing on two years worth of footage, editor Lisa Bettencourt and filmmaker Megan Lewis wove a visual homage to and exploration of devised storytelling in theatre. Devising Gilgamesh is a story of creativity-in-the-making and the potentials – and pitfalls – of this type of collage collaborative work. It’s a documentary about collage storytelling: on stage…and in film.

Cosponsors include UMN Theatre Arts and Dance, The Southern Theatre, and UMass Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

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