Academic journal article TheatreForum

Rimini Protokoll's Reality Theatre

Academic journal article TheatreForum

Rimini Protokoll's Reality Theatre

Article excerpt

As I sit in the theatre to watch Rimini Protokoll's 100% San Diego, I feel the audience's excitement to see this world-renowned company do the groundbreaking work they call "reality theatre." The thought of watching people from the community share themselves with the audience is enticing. When the performance begins, the audience is touched by the ten-second introductions to the hundred people who are representing San Diego. An affiliation begins to develop between the audience and the performers. The intention of the piece is to have, "these 100 citizens create a living, breathing portrait of San Diego: a whole city on stage, part theatre, part reality, 100% San Diego." (La Jolla Playhouse, 2013). The task of putting a human face on statistics seems a beautiful and worthy endeavor. As the show progresses this is accomplished in some ways, but in other ways it tends to demean the performers, creating a wave of uncomfortable sympathy in the audience.

One such section plays stereotypical music as the performers unwittingly allow themselves to be stereotyped as they pretend to celebrate the cultural diversity of San Diego. The 30% of San Diegan "Hispanics" stand up and dance to Mariachi music. The term Hispanic lumps them into a category delineated by the color of their skin and the language they speak, not by their cultural heritage. Instead of exposing through the performance the racism inherent in the statistical category "Hispanic," it is not acknowledged, leaving the performers marginalized by both the statistics collected and the artists who chose to use them. The audience claps in support, but there is a weight of ignorance plaguing the space.

A section that is successful in humanizing statistics is when Rimini Protokoll split the stage in half with large signs hanging above reading "me" and "not me." Provocative personal statements like "I believe we should be at war in Afghanistan" and "I believe in the death penalty" are projected and read aloud while each of the hundred people move into whichever column they stand for. The tension in the audience is palpable and people are titillated by the excitement of watching their representatives reveal their opinions as the statistics of their city unfold in human form. The opinions behind these politically charged statistics electrify the air. There are audible gasps from the audience and a sense of fascination in the room. …

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