Final Thoughts; Under the Radar
We can’t stand still any more. Happening outside the traditional theatre, site-specific performances rely on it’s history and its geography. This style rejects the conventions of society and itself simultaneously, by altering the perception of the spectator. Many performances consists of a specific site, or generic, place and time. At the heart of the issue is the question of whether a particular performance, conditioned as it is by the particular environment in which it is created, can be moved either physically or spiritually to another site?
The diverse and eclectic sites chosen as venues by site-specific performers over the past decade have proved an inspirational beginning to a movement that seeks to show the limitations of the space in a traditional theatre building and the vast range of alternatives that are on offer. A careful exploration of the distinction between 'uninhabitable space' and 'cultural space' seems likely to be fruitful all-round for site-specific work.
In Gardens Speak, we were taken beyond the ground, to hear the reactions, and the cries and the laugher of these refugees story, of the deep desires in life. I think that’s why it was so effective, it made me forget about the outside world for a moment and as it took place, allowed me to write my own new history of that space. No matter what space, we cannot separate from our spiritual and experiential lineages. I will now remember the Burrows Theatre, very differently as I dug my hands into the soil of the grave.
In fact, this entire theatre festival itself was site specific, I don’t think I would have had such deep and grandiose reactions to these projects if I saw them uptown, or in Harlem, maybe Brooklyn though. Theatre festivals are like music festivals, in this sense they are a site specific concert, they engage the audience member to come face to face with the artist, with the group or with the issue.
Furthermore, during protests this weekend, I observed on very theatrical aspect of these communal, site-specific, spectator gathering filled with participatory cheering and singing. Certainly there was art, and chicanery, and freedom of self within conformity. “and when we are old; and when our last hour comes we shall meet it humbly, and there, beyond the grave, we shall say that we have suffered and wept, that our life was bitter, and God will have pity on us. Ah, then dear, dear Uncle, we shall see that bright and beautiful life; we shall rejoice and look back upon our sorrow here; a tender smile—and—we shall rest” (Chekov). I look back on Under the Radar Festival with a tender heart for the artists who gave their time and soul to this work, for the organizers and administrators who came to speak with us, to show us the beautiful light that under the radar shines on experimental new york off-broadway theatre. I cannot wait for next year, for not just using boundaries to push traditionalism, but to overcome modern obstacles in the evolving world of live theatre.