August 8-11, 1996
At the Austin Rat Conference, spectacularly organized
by the Austin Rats, we decided to put more emphasis on working with
and performing for each other than on talking together, while still
leaving unscheduled time ("terra incognita") to get together with
each other informally. To that end, workshops where scheduled during
the day -- some of them overlapping so that one couldn't attend
everything -- while the evening was left open to see performances
around town (and to go to various very cool parties afterwards).
Group meetings took place only at the beginning and end of the 3-day
The following is a listing and description of the
workshops that were held:
Friday, August 9
- What Everyone Wants/Expects from Producers.
A roundtable discussion for producers and individual artists.
Geared towards creating stronger ties between producers and the
artists they produce. Led by Dominick Balletta, Performance Associates,
New York City.
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Poverty.
Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, Zen, and the idea of voluntary
poverty (as a spiritual value, aesthetic principal, and management
tool). Led by Erik Ehn, playwright, San Rafael, CA.
- Whim Vendors. Site specificity, Theater
of Infiltration. A workshop geared towards performance in the
streets from the perspective of Late Capitalism. Led by Nick Fracaro
and Gaby Schafer, Thieves Theatre, New York City.
- Improvisation for RATs An amalgam of
games and exercises, mostly Chicago-style with some buffoon stuff
(Le Coq) thrown in and who-knows-what-else. Previous improv experience
might spice it up, but not required. Led by Mike Shapiro, Annex
- Producing a Top-of-the-Week Show on Someone
Else's Set. More Theater of Infiltration! The ins and outs
of how to produce a show on another set. Promotion and audience
development will be discussed. Led by Rosalyn Rosen, Remembrance
Through the Performing Arts, Austin.
- Traces of Memory. The Dah Teatar directors
and actors demonstrate and talk about their working process in
making a performance. The "secret" of the actors' and directors'
skillfulness is becoming revealed in the presence of audiences,
enabling them to find out and deeply understand the meaning of
performance. Led by Dah Teatar, Yugoslavia.
- Reading: new work by Erik Ehn, presented
by Ten Thousand Things, Minneapolis.
- Reading: new work by Physical Plant,
Saturday, August 10
- How to Be a Man in the 21st Century This
workshop is geared toward the development of a new piece by Kathy
Randels which will be performed in New Orleans this fall. This
workshop will focus on gestures, finding gestures that are typically
male or ideally male and were-once-male-but-no-longer-male, etc.
Come be part of developing this brand new piece. Be prepared to
move, bring an instrument. It is a movement-heavy workshop, words
are few and far between. Led by Kathy Randels, ArtSpot Productions,
- The Director in Performance. A workshop
for actors, directors and writers which explores the freedom of
creativity as it evolves around the basic tenet, "The performer
is always right but the director is responsible." Manuel Zarate's
work with regional theaters and universities around the country
using this simple idea is slowly changing the way actors, writers
and directors create and interact. Led by Manuel Zarate, Third
Coast Repertory Theatre, Austin.
- Production on the Cheap. A roundtable
discussion about how to create something out of nothing. Continuing
the exploration of Big, Cheap Theater. Led by Christina Giannelli,
Zocalo Theatre, Houston.
- Writing to Jazz.Using jazz aesthetics
to inform character development, participants will riff creatively
to create text. Led by Daniel Jones, Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre,
- Pseudofinal Dance and Marginal Out-of-Arena
Pseudostart Dances Rehearsal. Peripheral text drama etudes
and wide smell performance of drama "Alpha and Omega". Participants
will work with unconscious filling patterns to choice creative
ways in an event. Led by David Chikhladze, Aditi Theatre, Republic
- Creating Site-Specific Work. Theater
of Infiltration at its finest. A great way to explore the boundaries
of what makes theater theater (and to explore a strange city,
and try not to get arrested). Led by Pat Gabridge, Chameleon Stage,
- Practical Revolution. The Catholic Worker
as one model for a decentralized, enduring organization with an
impossible mission. A speaker from Mary House, an Austin worker
cell, will discuss the group's work in town, their local basis
of support, and their relationship with other worker houses around
the country. This isn't about dogma, it's about sharing strategies
for developing viable, socially challenging experiments. Led by
- Reading: new work from Undermain Theatre,
Sunday, August 11
- Strange Fruit. Songwriting for the voice
in Spatial Time. Moving from gleam to time to rock and roll/anthem/lullaby/folk/willow/swan
song, etc. Led by Ruth Margraff, playwright, New York City.
- A First-Step Developmental Workshop of Soul
Searching, an unwritten play by Emily Ball Cicchini. Workshop
will use Movement-to-Music techniques (an offshoot of Grotowski
work developed at Goodman School of Drama) to begin initial explorations
of theatrical devices, salient images and perhaps text in a new
piece about love, war, and reincarnation. Be prepared to be on
your feet. Led by Emily Ball Cicchini, Capitol City Playhouse,
- Critical Response Workshop. The process
is a series of steps based on questioning both from the artist
and responders. This creates an in-depth dialogue with those involved
in the method. The workshop version involves two to three short
presentations which are critiqued in a laboratory setting. The
process is analyzed and discussed throughout the workshop but
the artists presenting the work also get a good critique. Led
by Steve Bailey, Jump Start, San Antonio.
Group meeting on Sunday afternoon: comments/critiques
of the weekend
- would like more group meetings; not enough chance
to meet and get to know new people otherwise; maybe one at the
end of each day to recap for everyone what happened; missed hearing
people's stories; missed making connections and finding out what
has gone on in the past year.
- would like more suggestions of playwrights/scripts
- wish that participating in workshop didn't mean
having to leave the building
- workshops good, not intimidating, not condescending;
mostly, workshops were "facilitated" not "taught"
- would like more designer/artifact maker input
- would like to find another way of communicating
besides the notes on the bulletin board that accumulated
- Mitchell Gossett's (Bottom's Dream, L.A.) experiences
concerning touring Rat theaters and using some host theater people
in cast/crew: it's advisable to keep it small; rehearse it in
your own town, then get together a week before opening and put
- bringing works/ideas in progress vs. complete
entities was good; nakedness is good; "this works, this doesn't"
is good vs. a competitive atmosphere.
- would like to keep in the failure workshop --
how we failed and why
- need to figure out how we can address everyone's
needs, first-time Rats and veterans; how not to go over and over
same territory, yet how to keep subjects open for comment by new
members. We should maybe have oral history sessions: what do you
remember about Iowa City, Seattle, Minneapolis... conference.
Emphasized importance for new attendees to make effort to inform
themselves (like reading web pages, journalism, etc.)
- wish expressed - again - for multiculturalism
of conferences; some would like more cultures represented; others
point out that Rat is open to anyone and excludes no one; thus,
recruiting is artificial.
- would like to compile and discuss collective
list of challenges facing us
- would like to raise practical questions as a
theater or individual and maybe get insight from the group.
- would like to find less demoralizing alternative
to submitting proposals: i.e. using them as a tool vs. a threat.
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