Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the United States

By Jan Cohen-Cruz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Performance Structures

Before I met you I thought artists were the people in the
room dressed in black not talking to anyone else.

—Rabbi Daniel Zemel to choreographer Liz Lerman

THERE IS no singular community-based performance style or form. Indeed, part of the appeal of this field is its sheer diversity, aesthetic as well as cultural and ethnic. But there are frequently-used structures, three of which I describe below: collectively grounded popular forms, oft-adapted literary texts, and original compositions shaped by the core participating artists’ particular creative process. Artists use these structures to give form to the content they invite through community-based performance building, such as the story gathering discussed in the previous chapter. The structures are not mutually exclusive; though Dell’Arte, for example, is grounded in popular theater, they still work with preexisting and original dramatic literature. I discuss these structures through case studies of community-based artists whose work includes strong and contrasting examples of each.


POPULAR FORMS

Dell’Arte Players

Dell’Arte, founded in 1974 in Blue Lake (population 1,300), California, advocates a notion of the popular that they call theater of place, “created by, for, and about the area in which you live” (McKenna 2002). In an instructive contrast to Roadside Theater’s generational sense of place/familial roots, none of Dell’Arte’s core members were born in Blue Lake. Founder Carlo Mazzone-Clementi brought a physical theater aesthetic with him to northern California, inspired by “the great traditions of the European popular theater: commedia dell’arte, melodrama, the world of the circus, fairs and streets, pantomime, music hall” (Schirle 2002b, 187). He did not intend to reproduce popular European traditions, explains artistic director Joan Schirle, but he was interested in the essence of the popular, expressed in the United States as silent film, vaudeville, burlesque, jazz, and the American musical theater (193).

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Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Legacies 15
  • Chapter 1 - Early Antecedents 17
  • Chapter 2 - Motion of the Ocean 35
  • Chapter 3 - Establishing the Field 60
  • Part Two - Principles 79
  • Chapter 4 - Between Ritual and Art 81
  • Chapter 5 - Criticism 105
  • Part Three - Methodologies 127
  • Chapter 6 - Storytelling 129
  • Chapter 7 - Performance Structures 153
  • Closing- Boundary Jumping 181
  • Notes 191
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 205
  • About the Author 213
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