“I’m gonna talk a bit, then we’ll do some stuff, then I’ll talk a bit more. That’s usually how this goes, that’s all I know.”
With a laugh, and the smile that would become a familiar sight in the next three hours, Tim Crouch’s workshop began.
Soon we introduced ourselves–here was a producer from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, there a Jersey actor/dancer/performer, and over there, a Tucson non-profit worker that Crouch would jokingly acknowledge was a “real person, then.”
This last comment set the tone of playfulness and levity that marked the entire workshop. Throughout, Crouch showed a deep caring for others, embodied in his belief in creation with “real people,” a belief that actors needn’t pander to an audience with psychological realism. Instead, Crouch explained his belief that that tautology–the act of saying something on stage while also showing it–“reduces the audience” in a way that insults, rather than collaborates, with them.
The middle part of the workshop included an exercise in audience/performer interaction. With all of the participants sitting in chairs, Crouch simply set up one person as a “play,” while the rest of us were set up as the audience. We were encouraged to move our chairs and become part of the “play” whenever we liked. Of course, this meant that the line between performer and viewer quickly become blurred; tellingly, I found that once I became part of the play, I felt the same butterflies I once experienced in my own performance art past.
The bulk of this workshop was essentially Crouch explaining a few of his works, including An Oak Tree (in which one of the play’s two actors has never read or seen the play before the night of the performance) and My Arm (a show about a boy who put his arm above his head and kept it there). In his playful explanation of these shows, Crouch outlined a belief in theater that lets the audience imagine the story rather than displaying it–or, as my girlfriend put it, theater that “is more a book than a film.”
To Crouch, the magic in theater is when you can remove the actor from acting in order to liberate the audience. What a wonderful way to sum up that charmed segment of the theatrical world that breaks the fourth wall, that acknowledges, “hey, I am me, you are in the audience, and we are creating something here together.”
It reminds me, as most things do, of a song. This time, the lyrics are Wilco’s:
“Half of it’s you/half is me.” –Wilco, “Muzzle of Bees”
Posted By: Jim Withington
Tim Crouch’s ENGLAND, performed by Tim Crouch and Hannah Ringham, plays nightly at 6:30pm from Saturday, September 6th through Thursday September 11th, at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery. Reservations are required.
news from nowhere, producers of Crouch’s work
Text from An Oak Tree, 1973, by Michael- Craig-Martin, a piece that has informed a lot of Crouch’s work