What Happened to the Seeker - FTA Field Notes

Part of Field Notes from the Festivals, a series of posts, rough and not very edited of my experiences in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto from the Festival Transamerique, OFFTA, Magnetic North Theatre Festival and Luminato. Subscribe VIA EMAIL or RSS

What Happened to the Seeker

STO Union

Rating: A cluster of stars in an otherwise dark firmament.

Act 1 = 3 experiences - for me: puppet show video => installation => audio.
Act 2 = video of Seekers trip to India,

Nadia, even before the show, says things I need to hear.

Need to hear in the Taylor Mac sense.

I believe, as a theater artist, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Because I believe, as a theater artist, I’m not a teacher; I’m a reminder. I’m just trying to remind you of things you’ve dismissed, forgotten, or buried. - > Taylor Mac

Need to hear in the sense of not feeling crazy in a world that doesn't talk about these things, in a theatre culture that neither listens to or speaks truths that connect the personal to the social.

A show about theatre and about one person - but theatre and one person as they exist in a world and a history.

A set of instructions and experiences for us as an audience - different from the instructions of mainstream theatre which asks us to pay money, sit down, receive and move on. This is something else, but always theatre.

It is a handing off and a sharing of responsibility.
An acknowledgement of responsibility and desire to withdraw from the battles. But we know which battles - we are presented with the mess of individual and social relationships.

It would be easy to let the bitterness and quest for serenity disconnect and dismiss the culture as we find it.

Instead the final words are the words of the future, spoken by the newer voices. This gesture is one of profound grace and hopefulness.

Exactly as expected from STO Union – grace and hope where none might be predicted.

Remaining shows

Theatre Prospero MAY 27-29, 7:00 PM
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Ottawa - Magnetic North June 9-12: 7:00PM June 13: 2:00PM
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Part 1 (for me)

Sitting in the upstairs bar, converted to a screening room with popcorn we are encouraged to eat. If we want.

Also: "Please move if you need to, it will make the experience much nicer."
A piece of advice that should be taken beyond the theatre experience.

I watch a puppet movie about a "Director", her friend "George" and producer "Sarah". The puppets are masking tape Mr Dress Up style, rough and non-spectacular. They are full of humour and emotion. There is an elegance to the roughness and an understated technological skill - the windows are little green screens video monitors showing us the remote snow bound home the Director has moved to.

"If I weren't a puppet I'd close my eyes"

The director is making a play (or not) worrying about the interest in a privileged bitter white woman artist.

"Can I interest you in voting fascist?"
"What's in it for me"

In the past two STO Union works I've seen (including 7 Important things) the questioning of the present situation, and therefore the viability of the future, is a consequence of the past - the past of the people making the show and the people in power - largely Boomers. The "kids today" are not blamed even as they are sometimes judged by the Director and George as mysterious or vapid.

This show is also a kind of handing off from Nadia to Sarah Conn and her peers - Mara McCallum and Madeline McKinnell who host the video and audio portions.

Sarah gets the last word. But that's later.

Part 2 for me

An exhibit of objects from the life of the Seeker (who is the director for Part 1.)

Naked John and Yoko.
A funeral wish written before spelling mattered.
A script and taped performance of a childhood ¿sexual? assault by older children that the adults in the Seekers life fail to deal with - causing a break in trust.
Post cards of pictures - proof of relationships, hair dying and it's effect on career success as a actress. Friends and party schedules. The Seeker is a rebel trying to make a go of it.

The Seeker is not Nadia but of course is. A work of biography with displacement and fiction. Like all work. But the biography isn't just inside, internal, familial. It is a biography that happens in the world and history. A finance minister is appointed to start neo-liberalism. The Seeker doesn't notice. Except that she does later - including it in this show.

The exhibit relies on my curiosity. My presence is not enough.

I know some of these stories and these people. The appearance of Tracy Wright in one exhibit takes my breath away and tears my eyes. Finding a link and rereading Don's letter and I am crying again. Her death is a ¿final? straw for the Seeker. I am unable, obviously, to know what the experience of total strangers might be. I don't much care. Frankly.

Earlier there were reflections on a career in theatre - that the Seeker finds theatre in Canada "limited" and "conservative" and she pays a high price for not swallowing these opinions. She has turned to using objects and puppets since she cannot bare to turn humans into commodities. The devastation of AIDS related deaths in the 90's on her friends and community.

There are hugs and enlightenment and a chance to be sorry or not for judging other audience members. There is also a cash bar. And a t-shirt that reads "Drugs and alcohol did not help. Please enjoy the bar."

I want to take pictures with my phone but was asked nicely at the beginning to turn it off, and the phone use of younger people was admonished by the George-puppet. So I don't. I wonder if George would be happy at my restraint or upset that I didn't rebel against rules of the previous generation.

Part 3 for me

An audio conversation listened to in headsets while watching another group experience the exhibit.

A conversation between George and Nadia. Sarah is missing because she needs to work.

There is a fight about whether the show is about Nadia, some guided meditation.

After intermission - for all of us

A video of a trip to India, re-enacting and challenging the Seeker impulse of the 60s and 70s. The pursuit and trouble of finding "serenity without servants." A consequence of questions is the destruction of the object of curiosity.

The film is beautiful, rough, funny and self-aware.

The screen is ritually folded and struck. A chair and microphone are set up. This is the first time Nadia speaks directly to us. It is short, simple and vulnerable. She is wearing the red boots we saw earlier in the exhibit. Her performing boots.

She asks her questions and brings focus to the "love, care and attention" that have gone into this one moment. She includes us as audience, the festival, the town she lives. All of this has been required for this moment.

After, I walk to the outdoor park at UQAM where maybe there is some OFFTA stuff happening. I have missed it. But there is a shape in the sky - also floating impossibly.

What Happened to the Seeker

Produced By STO Union
Created And Directed By Nadia Ross In Association With George Acheson + Sarah Conn + Rob Scott
Performed By George Acheson + Sarah Conn + Nadia Ross
with Mara McCallum and Madeline McKinnell
Lighting Design Steve Lucas
Set Design Barry Padolsky
Video Nadia Ross + Rob Scott
Exhibit Items Sto Union + Wakefield Art Collective
Music Wayne Hunter

Coproduction Festival Transamériques + The Theatre Centre (Toronto) + Bit Teatergarasjen (Bergen) + Brut-Wien Koproductionshaus (Vienna) In Association With Wakefield Art Collective Presented In Association With Théâtre Prospero