On Invitation started in October 2018 at ArtEZ, during the second year of the Master of Theatre Practices (MTP). 

Here, I document the three presentations that took place at ArtEZ. 

First Presentation, 19th October 2018 Theatre 1, ArtEZ, Arnhem 

I wanted to be directed by the audience. I wanted to give the audience the role of director. I would play the role of the actress and I have a memorized text. The audience would have an actress to direct and that would be our performance.

This was initially my idea.
I begun questioning my willingness to do whatever the audience asked me to. Would I signed the performance as mine, if I did not agree with what the audience proposed? Could I turn down any proposal from the audience when I made such invitation? And why give them the role of the Director, when they already have a role, the Audience?

Considering these questions, I thought that making clear the rules that both actress and audience want to set/follow in a performance, would be a good start for a presentation about Autonomy. I would make a Contract with the Audience.

The way you introduce the contract, will define your relationship with the Audience. Choosing the language, words, and tone to negotiate and draft the contract, becomes one of the most important factors to consider.

I called it Agreement instead of Contract. Although legally there are only slight differences, I found it more aggressive to call it Contract. That would put me in harder position to start a conversation with the Audience.

The way the invitation is made, will cast the audience (Bogart, 2007).

The presentation was divided in three parts:

1- make the Agreement;

2- coffee break/ Agreement signing;

3- Performance;

 

To make the Agreement, I used a question form from artist Lina Issa (Lebanon, 1981). On stage there are sheets of paper placed on the floor with the letters A,B,C,.... I ask some questions to the Audience (Agreement #1). The audience members should stand next to the letter they chose. The final Agreement will be draft with the options with the most votes (Agreement #2).

After the questionnaire, there was a break.

My initial intention was to do half of the presentation one day (questionnaire) and the other half (performance) the next. Since it was complicated to organize the presentation on such terms, I gave up and did everything on the same day, but with a break.

During the break, I printed out the agreements (Agreement #2) and handed them to the audience members to sign. 

Everyone signed, except one member of the audience, Conrad Useldinger. I insisted, but as I was concerned about the time I had for the performance, I did not explore "the argumentation" as a performative element. Nor did I dare not let him watch the performance. I just warned him that I could not be responsible for him during the performance.

In the Performance, I was exploring two elements: the subtext and the exercises of autonomy. 

In the lecture Art of acting and the theatrical: Premisses in understanding the autonomous actor, the professor of theatre Studies at the University of Bergen, Knut Ove Arntzen, posits that 'from the debate about the inner  and the outer in the art of acting, we have learnt that the actor may  be  independent, also in regard to the text. So, the actor can be looked upon us as autonomous on performing the subtext. That is one way of looking at him/her as autonomous'.

Meeting this idea, I decided to explore the subtext as an exercise of autonomy. (1)

The other autonomy exercises came from interviews I have been doing to other actors. In these interviews I asked the interviewees to give me an exercise of autonomy. I was performing them in the third part of this presentation. 

I asked Maria Pisiou, a dancer also from the MTP, to help me set the stage and operate the lights. Considering this was a presentation about Autonomy, I gave her the freedom and responsibility to choose where the blackout should happen. To me, this detail, transforms a process of creation into a collaboration process, where each of the elements taking part in the performance are autonomous and responsible for their decisions.

The same rule was true for the Audience. Giving them the possibility to choose, also makes them responsible for their choices and for the performance.

Feedback:

The presentation was confusing. The rules were not clear. But there was potential to continue exploring this idea of contract as a subject for a performance and as a performative element.  

(1) Developing this research, I decided not to present a Performance at the end, but to make the contract with the Audience the performance itself. I intend to develop this idea of the subtext as an exercise of autonomy in a future project.

 
 

Agreements

The Agreement #1 is the Agreement proposed to the Audience.

The Agreement #2 is the Agreement chosen by the Audience at the end ofnthe Performance. 

#1

 

Agreement between Performer and Audience

The following AGREEMENT is drafted on this the 19th day of the month of October, in the year 2018, between 11:25 am and 12:15 pm, at Theatre 1, in ArtEZ, located at Onderlangs, 9, Arnhem.

Maria Joao Falcao (hereinafter the “PERFORMER”) and __________ (hereinafter the “AUDIENCE”) agree on the following:

1- As a PERFORMER I would like to invite and offer theAUDIENCE a presentation of a work in progress, of an experiment of my artistic research that I believe is relevant. I would like to share with the AUDIENCE what I have been working on, thinking, writing, experiencing till this present day.

2- As an AUDIENCE I will offer the PERFORMER

A- my time.
B- my attention
C- my interest.

D- my silence.
All- my time, my attention, my interest and my silence.

3- The PERFORMER will give the AUDIENCE this AGREEMENT, and it will be used as a ticket to enter the presentation.

4- For the AUDIENCE this ticket should be
A- an invitation
B- free, we are in an Educational and Institutional context.

C- free, this is an unfinished work, a work in progress.
D- 2,5 €, a symbolic price, since the act of paying a ticket is part of my experience as an AUDIENCE.
E- have the value the AUDIENCE wants to give it, according the experience.

5- Both PERFORMER and AUDIENCE would like the presentation not to be disturbed by mobile phones.

A- Yes

B- No
6- As an AUDIENCE I would like, during the 3rd part of the

presentation, to be:

A- sited in the dark.

B- be visible during the presentation.
7- As a PERFORMER I should take responsibility and have respect for the AUDIENCE, I should take their time as seriously as I expect the AUDIENCE to take mine.
8- As a PERFORMER I should respect the freedom of the AUDIENCE not wanting to participate.

9- As an AUDIENCE I should:

A- respect the choices made by the PERFORMER.
B- allow the presentation to happen without disturbing it. C express my discontent.
D- enjoy.
ALL - respect the choices made by the PERFORMER, allow the presentation to happen without disturbance and enjoy.

10- As a PERFORMER I should not underestimate or judge the AUDIENCE by their gender, age, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, intellectual or social background, etc.

11- As a PERFORMER I should not use the stage to attack or offend someone for personal reasons.

12- As an AUDIENCE I should not
A- interrupt the presentation
B- participate when I am not invited to.

C- attack the PERFORMER.

ALL interrupt the presentation, participate when I am not

invited to or attack the PERFORMER.

13- As a PERFORMER I have the right to fiction, to play a role during the presentation.

14- As a PERFORMER I have the right to make no concessions and to try to make the presentation I have thought, rehearsed and imaged for today.

15- As an AUDIENCE I have the right
A- to judge the PERFORMER.
B- to judge the presentation.
ALL- to judge the PERFORMER and the presentation.

16- As an AUDIENCE I have the right to
A-don't understand.
B- not be interested.
C-enjoy and relax.
D- don’t participate.
E- want to know more about the presentation and establish contact with the PERFORMER.
F- to leave.

ALL- don’t understand, to not be interested, to just enjoy and relax, to don’t participate, to want to know more about the presentation and to establish contact with the PERFORMER

and to leave.

In WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have set their hands and seals to this AGREEMENT as of the day and year first above written.

AUDIENCE:_______________

PERFORMER:______________

 

 

#2

Agreement between Performer and Audience

The following AGREEMENT is drafted on this the 19th day of the month of October, in the year 2018, between 11:30 am and 12:15 pm, at Theatre 1, in ArtEZ, located at Onderlangs, 9, Arnhem.
Maria Joao Falcao (hereinafter the “PERFORMER”) and Mariela (hereinafter the “AUDIENCE”) agree on the following:

  1. As a PERFORMER I would like to invite and offer the AUDIENCE a presentation of a work in progress, of an experiment of my artistic research that I believe is relevant. I would like to share with the AUDIENCE what I have been working on, thinking, writing, experiencing till this present day.

  2. As an AUDIENCE I will offer the PERFORMER my time.

  3. The PERFORMER will give the AUDIENCE this AGREEMENT, and it will be used as a

    ticket to enter the presentation.

  4. For the AUDIENCE this ticket should be an invitation and free, we are in an

    Educational and Institutional context.

  5. Both PERFORMER and AUDIENCE would like the presentation not to be disturbed by

    mobile phones.

  6. As an AUDIENCE I would like, during the 3rd part of the presentation, to be sited in the

    dark.

  7. As a PERFORMER I should take responsibility and have respect for the AUDIENCE, I

    should take their time as seriously as I expect the AUDIENCE to take mine.

  8. As a PERFORMER I should respect the freedom of the AUDIENCE not wanting to

    participate.

  9. As an AUDIENCE I should enjoy.

  10. As a PERFORMER I should not underestimate or judge the AUDIENCE by their gender,

    age, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, intellectual or social background, etc.

  11. As a PERFORMER I should not use the stage to attack or offend someone for personal

    reasons.

  12. As an AUDIENCE I should not interrupt the presentation, participate when I am not

    invited to or attack the PERFORMER.

  13. As a PERFORMER I have the right to fiction, to play a role during the presentation.

  14. As a PERFORMER I have the right to make no concessions and to try to make the

    presentation I have thought, rehearsed and imaged for today.

  15. As an AUDIENCE I have the right to judge the PERFORMER and the presentation.

  16. As an AUDIENCE I have the right to don’t understand, to don’t be interested, to enjoy

    and relax, to don’t participate, to want to know more about the presentation and to establish contact with the PERFORMER and to leave.

In WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have set their hands and seals to this AGREEMENT as of the day and year first above written.

AUDIENCE: _____________

PERFORMER: ___________

Second Presentation, 28th February 2019 Theatre aan de Rijn, Arnhem

 

This presentation was divided in three parts:

1- reading a letter to the Audience; 

2- make the contract; 

3- co-creation with the Audience;

The letter 

According to Richard Schechner (1987), since the Greeks, theatre is a place for competition. The audience should decide who was the best playwright and who was the best actor.
This both turns audiences into judges, just as actors are ‘transformed into winners and losers’ (1987, p.135)

Actors and audiences are condemned to judge and to be judged from the beginning of the western tradition of theatre. Audiences ‘are neither absorbed into the performance as participants nor simply ‘enjoying’ it’ and actors ‘react by playing up to the audience or intentionally scorning it’. (Schechner,1987, p.135)

How can actors liberate themselves from judging and being judged? And is the Audience aware of these roles?

This was what I explained in the first part of my letter to the Audience. I wanted to share with the Audience the fact that our relationship has lasted for many years. And how it has changed over time until we get here.
If audience participation or passivity are now concerns of some theatre theorists and practitioners, they were not in the 16th century. How to silence the noisy audience? The actor's technique also developed out of a practical need for the actor to be heard. A lively relationship between actor and audience.

Making the contract, co-creating

There is a tacit contract between Actor and Audience, a set of ‘unspoken rules’ (Sedgman, 2018, p.12), which the audience has already agreed to when attending the event. These can range from paying a ticket, sitting in the dark or in a designated place for the audience to sit, not interrupting, not eating/drinking during the performance, not talking to the actors, meeting the expected reactions of the drama/comedy (cry/laugh) or applause at the end.
I also wanted to address these unspoken rules. 

In this Agreement, I invited the Audience to co-create the Performance with me. Assuming here that performance is what happens between actor and audience and for which we both are co-dependent and co-responsible (Erika Fisher-Lichte, 2005). I invited the Audience to establish the conditions of our relationship.

 

In the first presentation (October, 2018), I named myself PERFORMER in the Agreement. Assuming the PERFORMER as a character that I would play in the third part of the presentation. 

In this second presentation, I called myself ACTRESS. It is also a character, but it is the same throughout the presentation. The Actress who reads the letter to the Audience and who co-creates the Performance with them.
This was my first attempt to see the Agreement negotiation as the Performance itself.

It should also be mentioned that, in the first presentation, the contract comes from a need to defend my rights in relation to the audience. In this second presentation, the contract is an invitation for the audience to co-create with me. The contract is the basis and what starts a conversation about our roles.

I proposed a new questionnaire, using the same format (Agreement #3) as Presentation #1. I projected the proposed Agreement and changed the Audience's choices in real time (Agreement #4). The focus was on negotiating between the Actress and the Audience's choices. 

In this presentation I started working on the concept of theatricality. Through this concept, as an actress, I ‘continually remind the spectator that [s]he is in the theater, face-to-face with a consummate actor who is playing a role’ (Feral and Bermingham, 2002). 

I wanted to address  this concept by introducing fictitious elements in the presentation and playing with Audience expectations.

Due to a technical problem, I could not print the agreements. I decided to solve this problem by adding to the agreement that it "should be celebrated with a toast".  

At the end, after writing the final Agreement (#4), I brought the wine so we could "sign" it with a toast. But the wine, wasn't wine, it was tea (the rosé and the white wine) and grape juice (the red wine). 

To introduce the concept of theatricality is to bring the risk of fiction. It is bringing the possibility of theatrical elements (such as role, character, fictional circumstances, pre-determined script, rehearsed behavior) to the real negotiation.

I wanted to play with the Audience's expectations and also bring a new layer for the audience to read this presentation.

I finished the presentation by singing a song. This was a personal statement that an actor should be able to experiment and do something that s/he is not "good" at - as I am a terrible singer. It was also to expand my idea of what a performance should be, escaping the idea that to perform is telling a text to an audience. 

The Presentation - personal feedback 

After one Intensive month we were all exhausted. There were 8 presentations on this day. Mine was the last one. The audience was very tired. There were person lying on the floor, literally.

But there were also mentors and examiners who reacted and provoked, such as Pavlos Kountouriotis, the program director and lawyer. 

This was very helpful for the presentation and for me. It made me realize how, as a facilitator of this presentation, my focus balances between reacting to questions asked by some members of the audience and entertaining others who are beginning to disperse. 

Because this presentation depends on the reactions of the Audience, I question how I train and prepare for such event. Since the unexpected always happens and it is impossible to predict how the audience will react.

To be more prepared, train and develop this performance and start designing the next presentation, I began to experiment with the audience.

This presentation was not only to show the development of our research, it was also a 'green light assessment'. After the presentation and its defense, we would pass or fail.

I passed.

Agreements

The Agreement #3 is the Agreement proposed to the Audience.

The Agreement #4 is the Agreement chosen by the Audience at the end of the Performance. I highlighted what the Audience added to the proposed Agreement.

#3

 

Agreement between Performer and Audience

 

On this the 28th day of the month of February, in the year 2019, between pm and 9:30 pm, at Theatre aan de Rijn, Maria Joao Falcao (hereinafter the “ACTRESS”) and the Members of the Audience (hereinafter the “AUDIENCE”) agree on the following:

 

1-  To CO-CREATE a PERFORMANCE, the Third Part of the Presentation “On Invitation” by the ACTRESS.

2-  To CO-CREATE means:

      - to make clear the roles of both the AUDIENCE and the ACTRESS;
      - to establish and create the conditions for the PERFORMANCE to take place;
      - assume the responsibility for what might happen during the PERFORMANCE;
      - to trust that both the AUDIENCE and the ACTRESS play their role;

3-  The ACTRESS is an actress who is attending the second year of the MTP. The ACTRESS is giving a presentation on the subject of her research, “The Autonomy of the Actor”, and being assessed.

4-  The AUDIENCE is:

      A- a collective, attending the MTP2 Presentations; 

   B- a group of individuals, attending the MTP2 Presentations, that respects each other’s options;

5-  The role of the ACTRESS is to perform her artistic statement to the AUDIENCE and to be open to their receptiveness.

6-  The role of the AUDIENCE is:
      A- to see the PERFORMANCE;
      B- to give meaning to the PERFORMANCE;
      C- to remind the ACTRESS that she’s being looked at;

      D- to participate
7-  As an ACTRESS, I have the right:
      - to perform till the end what she prepared in freedom;

      - to don ́t compromise the content of her what she created; - to have pleasure while  performing;
      - to be personal;
      - to fiction;
      - to don’t please the AUDIENCE;

8-  As an AUDIENCE I have the right:
     A- to judge the ACTRESS and her performance;
     B- to leave;
     C- to have pleasure;
     D- to refuse to participate;
     E- to intervene;
     F- to be taken by the performance/PERFORMANCE;

9-  Should not be lost in the relation between ACTRESS/AUDIENCE:

     A- the tension;
     B- the distance;
     C- the message;

     D- the binary does/watches;

     E- the respect;

     F- the sense of responsibility for the PERFORMANCE;

     G- the expectations;
     H- the trust;

     I- the intimacy;

10-  The ACTRESS would like to perform on the stage with house lights on;

11-  The AUDIENCE would like to be:

     A- sited on the stage
     B- sited with distance but at the level of the actor; C- sited on the auditorium;
     D- not sited
     E- wherever they want;
12- The AUDIENCE would like to be:
     A- in the dark;
     B- with house lights on;

13-  The theatrical conventions that should be respected are:

     A- presenting a ticket at the entrance;
     B- don’t participate if you’re not invited to;
     C- no drinks/food during the PERFORMANCE;

     D- black out at the end;

     E- applause at the end;

The agreement between ACTRESS and AUDIENCE should be celebrated with a toast.

#4

 

Agreement between Performer and Audience

On this the 28th day of the month of February, in the year 2019, between pm and 9:30 pm, at Theatre aan de Rijn, Maria Joao Falcao (hereinafter the “ACTRESS”) and the Members of the Audience (hereinafter the “AUDIENCE”) agree on the following:

  1. To CO-CREATE the Third Part of the Presentation “On Invitation” by the ACTRESS.

  2. The AUDIENCE is a group of individuals, attending the MTP2 Presentations, that respects each other’s options;

  3. The ACTRESS is an actress who is attending the second year of the MTP. The ACTRESS is giving a presentation on the subject of her research, “The Autonomy of the Actor”, and being assessed.

  4. The role of the AUDIENCE is any of the following:
    A- To see the PERFORMANCE;
    B- to give meaning to the PERFORMANCE;
    C- to remind the ACTRESS that she’s being looked at;

       D- to participate;

       E- To assess

        F- To give feedback

   5.  The role of the ACTRESS is to perform an artistic statement to the AUDIENCE and           be open to their receptiveness.

   6.  As an AUDIENCE I have the right:

       A-  To judge the ACTRESS and her performance;

       B-  to leave;

       C-  to have pleasure;

       D-  to refuse to participate;

       E-  to intervene;

       F-  to be taken by the performance/PERFORMANCE;

       G-  to consider otherwise;

   7.  As an ACTRESS I have the right:
       - To perform what I intend to;
       - to don ́t compromise the content of my creation; - to have pleasure;
       - to be personal;
       - to fiction;
       - to don’t please the AUDIENCE
​​

  8.  The ACTRESS would like to perform on the stage with house lights on;

  9.  The AUDIENCE would like to be:

       A- wherever the AUDIENCE wants;

The agreement between ACTRESS and AUDIENCE should be celebrated with a toast.

Third Presentation, 1st July, 2019 Theatre 3, ArtEZ

 

 This was my final presentation. The graduation presentation.

After the experiments with the audience I designed the show in four parts (2):

1- Hello, I am the actress - set description and instructions to the audience;

2- Discovering the show - stories and questions;

3- Break;

4- Agreement;

This presentation was for 26 audience members, which I think are too many. I decided that future presentations should be made for a maximum of 20 people.

And whenever the audience has mores than 10 people, I opted for the democratic vote, where the options with most votes are those of the final Agreement. That choice was for the sake of the length of the presentation. 

In this performance the focus is on negotiating with the audience. But whenever audience members increase, the negotiation becomes more difficult. There is a fine line between the challenge of continuing negotiating and performance loosing its shape and direction. The audience begins to disperse, get bored, tired and loose interest.

The decision for the democratic vote was for the presentation to proceed. Usually, when I present this performance, it is necessary to comply with schedules. 

Also, if the discussion is too long in part #2 (Discovering the show), the last part of the performance (Agreement) won't have the time and attention it deserves. The audience is tired and does not invest in it.  And I am very interested to continue negotiating in the last part. 

 

My concern was how to do a performance where responsibility was shared between Actress and Audience. At the same time, I was interested in understanding how to not perform how I feel the Audience wants and instead perform with the Audience? 

Can a stage direction be a monologue? What does it mean to introduce the theatrical on stage? And how do I do that? Can negotiating a contract be a performance? What does it mean to present oneself in front of an audience saying 'I am the Actress'. And what role is this, the Actress. 

As I make more presentations and with feedback from friends, peers and spectators, I am constantly updating and revising the format and content of the performance. As well as the proposed agreement. and the content of the show. I also continue to develop the Actress character.

The end of this presentation was also an experiment. It was the first time I tried it that way. I continue to do so, but it too can be changed.

(2) I've been using this model in the performances I've made. It is not a fixed model and can be adapted according to the context in which the performance is made.

Proposed Agreement for this last Presentation:

  

 

Agreement between Performer and Audience

 

On this the 1st day of July, in the year 2019, between 6:10 pm and 7:30 pm, at Theatre 3 in ArtEZ, Arnhem, Maria Joao Falcao (hereinafter the “ACTRESS”) and the members of the Audience (hereinafter the “AUDIENCE”) agree on the following:

 

1- The ACTRESS proposes a performance to the AUDIENCE that has been prepared, rehearsed and will take place in real time;

2- The role of the AUDIENCE is to be open and available for what the ACTRESS wants to propose.

3- Theatrical conventions I would like to keep:

     A- presenting a ticket at the entrance;

     B-  the AUDIENCE does not intervene unless invited to;

​​     C-  blackout at the end;

     D-  applause at the end;

4- The price of the ticket should be:

     A- an invitation;

     B - free, since I am part of the performance;

     C- free, since we are in an academic context;

     D-  2 € - symbolic price, buying a ticket is part of any theatrical experience;

     E-  10 €;

     F- decided at the end, depending on the experience;

5- The performance is what happens between ACTRESS-AUDIENCE;

6- The ACTRESS should perform what she has prepared without compromising or underestimating the AUDIENCE; 

7- The ACTRESS should respect if the AUDIENCE does not want to participate;

8- The AUDIENCE:

     A-  should respect the artistic options of the ACTRESS;

     B-  is the one who watches and not the one who acts;

     C-  is part of a collective;

     D- is indispensable for the PERFORMANCE to happen;

     E- co-creates and has responsibility for the performance;

     F- should be critical in relation to what is being seen;

9- The ACTRESS has the right to experiment;

10- The AUDIENCE has the right:

     - to like/do not like the PERFORMANCE;

     - to express what he/she is feeling during the PERFORMANCE;

     - to refuse to participate;

     - to have pleasure;

     - to not be interested;

     - not to understand;

     - to leave;

     - to give feedback;

11- What is precious in the relationship ACTRESS-AUDIENCE and cannot be lost?

12- The performance ends when:

AUDIENCE: _____________

PERFORMER: ___________