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Here We Are q&a preview by Leonie Ettinger
January 19, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Performer .

What is your show about?
“Here We Are” invites the audience to visit the Anarchist collectives of France, Spain and the Ukraine to learn about creative possibilities on how build a non-violent world.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
Experimental theatre is my terrain. To me, theatre is a means of inquiry of our human interactions, a study of our lives, emotions and theories. As every scientist will tell you, to explore an issue in-depth and to make sure no important aspect was missed, constant and repeated experimentation is a must. Theatrical productions demand reevaluation of existing techniques to explore present societal conditions, to raise awareness, to express criticism and to educate the audience as opposed to simply being a form of entertainment. By reaching beyond the scope of traditional theatre, exploring interdisciplinary options and creating unconventional compositions, experimental theatre invites the audience to question existing societal patterns. The challenges of the experimentation particularly excite me. Every project reveals something unforeseen and new. Figuring out how to solve these challenges and create a coherent piece of aesthetic quality can teach us valuable lessons for our personal lives as artists. The next step is to convey the findings of our experimentation to the audience. If the subject of a theatrical piece is well explored and presented, it has the power to inspire its spectators and suggest new models of how the world could be. Edward Albee expressed this very well in his Speech to the American Council for the Arts (1998), when he said “The function of the arts is to put us in greater contact with ourselves and with each other, to question our values, to question the status quo, to make us rethink that which we believe we believe.”

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this winter that...?
My show is the only one opening in NYC this winter that allows the audience to delve into an utopian and free world, where everything is possible. “Here We Are” has many unique surprises for our audience but let's avoid spoilers.

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
On several nights a participant uttered the words “This was exactly what I needed tonight,” when we spoke after the performance. Freely translated, I hear: “I need more nights like this.” Looking at all the glowing faces of our audience members after the show, I expect that the impressions of “Here We Are” will last. “Here We Are” and most of the previous productions of the Living Theatre distinguish themselves, as the aim is not to perform for our audience but with them. Judith Malina once said in rehearsal that she had been trying to determine for years where the difference between the audience and the performers lies in participatory theatre. The solution she came up with was simply that the actors were prepared. Of course, often this preparation, this honing of artistic skills can take up a lifetime but the main point in her argument is, that the angle has changed. We don't see the creators of the artistic work as superior to the audience but as temporarily better equipped, which is an important cornerstone in the Living Theatre's anti-hierarchical approach. As a result, the audience experiences a sense of belonging, which contributes to the impact of “Here We Are”.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
When I think of the experience of “Here We Are”, there isn't just one word that comes to mind. I'll try three instead: subversive, sophisticated, stimulating.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Theatre, among other art forms, makes it possible to envision a different reality and suggest alternate ways for a society to function. In addition, art has the ability to address issues beyond the purely intellectual and instead affect the audience emotionally. Combining familiar concepts unconventionally and providing a sensory experience at the same time, it can inspire the audience to reach beyond the scope of their ordinary perceptions. By incorporating the critical matters of the present into their work, artists provide thought-provoking impulses that can lead to actions for social change. In traditional performances, the audience is exposed to the actors' emotions and is thus invited into intimate proximity with a stranger. If well composed, deep connections can be established that unite us through our basic human needs and overcome cultural differences. “Here We Are” and the version of participatory theatre we are exploring adds another layer by allowing the audience to respond directly. In this way, our show promotes mutual respect, how to better interact with one another. It illustrates how theatrical explorations are powerful and necessary mediums to trigger social change.