A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE CITY
The Living Theatre workshop, “A Day In The Life of The City”, was developed by Hanon Reznikov and Judith Malina in 1990. It has become one of our most basic workshops in the 30 years since then, having been performed in cities, villages, and college campuses in the U.S., Europe, and South America.
In the workshop we introduce the participants to basic Living Theatre techniques and then create a play together for public performance. The piece lasts 30 to 40 minutes. We teach the workshop in two days of two sessions of six hours, or in three days, with sessions of four hours each day. Participants can be 25, 30, or more.
We begin by teaching Living Theatre forms from our work in the 60’s and 70’s: “Mysteries and smaller pieces”(1964), “Paradise Now”(1969), and our street theater work in the 70’s. We teach “The Chord”, “Sound and Movement”, “Tableaux Vivants”, “The Plague”(based on Antonin Artaud’s essay on the plague in Marseilles in 1720 from his book, “The Theater and its Double”). We also teach our version of Bio-Mechanics, based on our study of Meyerhold’s theater exercises from the 1920’s in Russia, which we adopted for our street theater work of the 1970’s.
After introducing our Living Theatre techniques, we hold a discussion of what the participants think is most important to say today in theater. Erwin Piscator, Judith Malina’s teacher at the New School in New York in the 1940’s, imbued her with the lesson that you could use anything in theater - big sets, or no sets, lights or no lights, but you must have something to say, and you must know what it is. So, we ask the participants that question. The issues may be the political struggles of the day, war and peace, or local concerns in the community, or technology, or love, or the individual and the group.
The Living Theatre actors then choose several themes and the workshop divides into groups, each cell of five or seven to each theme. We encourage the groups to use the Surrealist poetry game, “The Exquisite Corpse”, to generate poetical text. The scenes are created and we link them with collective actions and processions. As each scene is enacted, the other participants sit in a circle or semi-circle with intent attention. The play ends with the collective Chord, the aural communal coming together, which is one of the most cardinal Living Theatre forms.
The play works beautifully in an inner space, a theater or community center, and equally well in the street. By giving the participants a personal stake in the message, we are able to unlock the commitment to action and art which is so important to impressing upon the audience the magic of the trance of theater.