20 Principles for APL Design (2017)

 

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Visual design is a critical factor in the composition of every Akropolis Performance Lab piece. We are very deliberate in the selection of each element brought in to enhance both the work of the actors and the experience of the spectators, with particular attention not only to cohesion within the production itself, but consistency to the aesthetic principles we’ve developed over nearly 20 years and which form a foundational, minimalist through-line for our entire body of work.

The Glas Nocturne at CATAC Balch Street Theatre Akron OH (Photo: Annie Paladino, 2015)

For the last 10 years or so – in addition to directing – I have acted as scenographer for our productions, in collaboration with our Artistic Associates; determining the scenic, lighting, and costume designs. This throws off some people, who question why no designers are credited, and who wonder if that means we just pull these things together with less emphasis than we place on the acting and dramaturgy. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Every detail of an APL production is a carefully considered aspect of the dramaturgy, approached with equal importance.

This year, we are bringing in designers once again for 730 Steps, prompting me to put into writing those guiding aesthetic principles, so they can be shared and understood by our new partners. And while they are specifically geared toward design in this form, these are the same fundamental principles which guide all aspects of our creative work.

Ecce Faustus at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Ballard WA (Photo: Mark Zufelt 2016)

20 Principles for APL Design

  1. Use as little as possible, but of the best quality possible
    •  based on money, availability, & time
  2. The space is always what it is. The design happens within and in relationship to the-space-itself
  3. Exploit the difficulties and flaws, don’t try to hide them
  4. Don’t provide the spectator with answers. Give them just enough to recognize the questions and draw their own conclusions
  5. Use Real Objects, unless unobtainable
    • Fabricated Objects should be made with the highest degree of craftsmanship and “real world” permanence
    • Theatrical Facsimiles are not acceptable
  6. Everything on stage should be practical. Question anything that is purely decorative
    • Everything should be able to serve multiple functions
      • As it is
      • As it could be
      • As it has never been before
  7. No electronic or recorded sound effects. All sound created by the performers
  8. No Technical Special Effects (fog, strobe, video projection, etc). Whenever possible “stage magic” should be created by the actor or the architecture
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    The Glas Nocturne at APL Downstairs Studio, Lake Forest Park WA (Photo: Joe Patrick Kane 2015)

  9. Shadow is at least as valuable as Light
  10. Before using gobos or other effects, determine whether the same result can be produced by an actor or the architecture interacting with the light
    • If not, What is the intent?
    • is it indispensable?
  11. Use unusual angles
  12. Use color sparingly, to maximum effect
  13. Use everything sparingly, to maximum effect
  14. Costumes should never dictate what an actor cannot do
  15. Actor insight is crucial regarding costumes
  16. Light, set, and costumes should stimulate the spectator to develop an understanding of people, place, and atmosphere
  17. Light, set, and costumes should stimulate the actors toward always greater awareness and precision
  18. Light, set, and costumes should provoke the actor, not solve their problems for them
  19. No principle is inviolate
  20. Once conceived, question everything
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Seneca’s Oedipus at WSFGC Garden House, Seattle WA (Photo Julia Salamonik 2006)

 

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730 Steps Premiere Announcement!

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Raskolnikov (Tyler Polumsky) Murders Lizaveta (Annie Paladino) (Rehearsal Photo by Joseph Lavy)

Mark your calendars!
Friends, supporters, and media folks, we are very excited to announce that 730 Steps, (an original adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment), will have its premiere run of performances
July 14 – 29, 2017!

In a move which we expect will once again defy preconceptions, 730 Steps will be produced in the Isaac Studio Theatre at Taproot Theatre Company, marking the first time since 2004 that APL has produced a full-scale work in a traditional theatre space.
Our work has always been developed with sensitivity to the relationship between the performance art and the specific architecture it inhabits. Over our history, we have developed an approach to creation that we consider “site responsive;” creating work that is at once both very specifically detailed in its performance score, and flexible enough in execution to interact organically with each unique space we perform in.
Over the years, we have produced in a Beacon Hill historical estate house, the Volunteer Park Water Tower, a church sanctuary in Ballard, and the basement of our own home. We have also produced in the On the Boards Studio, CHAC, Freehold and The Chamber Theatres (once upon a time in the Oddfellows Building), and Theatre4 at the Center House Armory.
730 Steps is developing into a very theatrical piece and we’re thrilled to have been invited into Taproot’s beautiful Isaac Studio Theatre to bring it to you!
Wherever we perform, rest assured the artistic principles, vision, and commitment to austerity and intimacy that define our work as uniquely APL will continue to guide us without compromise.
So, mark your calendars!

730 Steps
(based on Crime and Punishment by FM Dostoevsky)
Produced by Akropolis Performance Lab
July 14 – 29, 2017
Isaac Studio Theatre
Taproot Theatre
Greenwood, Seattle WA

Je Suis le Fils de Quelqu’un

Je Suis le Fils de Quelqu’un:
A reflection on touring The Glas Nocturne to Akron OH, November 2015

By Joseph Lavy

“You have the song. You must ask yourself where this song began.” ~J. Grotowski

 

I can’t seem to write the post I want to write.

I want to write a long meditation on heritage and homecomings;
about artistic fathers and family re-membered
over coffee and broken bread;
how the past and the present converged
over wine and rillettes
and how a bottle of aquavit can almost reach the Hour of the Wolf.

I want to write a treatise about the fallacy of linear time

and a Thanksgiving hymn of gratitude
to my colleagues for their faith, talents, and work,
to our hosts for their hospitality,
for artistic homes;

a cry of deep joy
sprung from meeting the challenges of
transforming our performance from one sort of
intimacy to another,
without loss or sacrifice;

a profound parable
of returning and laying it all on the line
before those people–visible and invisible–
who matter the most
and who prove that you are not a vagabond
but that you come from some country,
some landscape
which is still there
and which is you
near or far.

“The Story of the Girl,” segment from Akropolis Performance Lab’s The Glas Nocturne,  Saturday, November 21, 2015, at The Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture/New World Performance Lab in Akron OH.  L-R: Joseph Lavy,  Emily Jo Testa, Catherine Lavy, Annie Paladino, and Zhenya Lavy.

The Director, The Actor & The Difficult Task

I often reject during the rehearsal process suggestions and recommendations which arise as quick, easy solutions to perceived problems; usually because they tend to be superficially driven by theatrical practicality and lack authenticity for the moment. Too often, the job of a director seems to be to find solutions to make things easy for the actor. I believe it is sometimes (mostly) the contrary: to present the actor with the difficult task. To create problems that must be continually confronted and confronted, not “solved.” To demand that the actor work through what must be done and not skim over it. Truth and Authenticity are not–and should not be–easy to come by.

Corpus Christi?

In 2002, APL was about to begin rehearsals on an original adaptation of Pinocchio when the US–exploiting the wake of 9/11– opportunistically decided to wage war on Iraq based on dubious evidence of WMDs. We were unanimously and vehemently opposed to the action, and agreed APL needed to respond artistically, so we tabled the Pinocchio project and picked up Jeanne, The Maid.
Our intent was not to make a 1:1 equivalency between Joan of Arc and modern-day jihadists (Although, they are both religious extremists/zealots fighting wars in the name of God). We were driven mainly by the impulse to interrogate and illustrate the capacity of a corrupt religio-political power structure to manufacture evidence in order to support their desired outcomes and, through immoral & coercive means, actualize their predetermined objectives. And to demonstrate the social complicity of the people who sit there and let it happen, or accept that Ends justify Means.
When we finished rehearsals and were ready to open in 2003, alt-media just began to break the stories of American atrocities in Abu Ghraib prison. Most of the country was in denial that the USA would do anything like that, still pumped up on jingoistic nationalism. If it happened at all, it had to be merely by a few rogue actors. America was certainly on the Moral High Ground.
We were chastised in the Seattle Stranger for “Politics with a Sledgehammer,” even though we never once used a literal reference to Bush/Chaney/Rumsfeld. Now, 11 years later the American Government’s unscrupulous use of torture (ends justifying means) is back in the spotlight.

And our question remains: “Is this the body of Christ?”

Discussion on Devised Theatre

I started a discussion about devised theatre on APL’s Facebook group page, and it’s generated quite a bit of interest among artists and theatre scholars. The discussion was inspired by Kate Kremer’s August 28 opinion piece on Howlround — my opening remarks are as follows:

This discussion of so-called “Devised” theatre seems to me exceptionally myopic. First, if Devised Theatre arose as an attempt to break away from the hegemony of the Playwright, why interview 3 playwrights to the exclusion of other collaborative artists? Second, positioning Devising against Schechner’s nearly 50-year-old statement about directors violating vs respecting the text ignores nearly 2 generations of world theatre artists who have been “devising” (long before there was a pigeonhole for the work) without violating OR respecting The Text, but encountering text as a single, (sometimes) necessary element in the development of the performance event: For example, Eugenio Barba/Odin Teatret, Slowiak – Cuesta /New World Performance Lab, Raymond Bobgan, Gardzienice, APL, and countless others. 
I wonder if this “New Avant-garde” realizes they’re actually behind the times.

 

I could add Anne Bogart/SITI Company, NaCL, UMO, Wooster Group, Double Edge…

Join the conversation or just take a look at what’s been written — it’s a robust and thought-provoking read. (Facebook account required.)