‘Table Top’ Performance Making Workshop Series, Colombo-London-Kathmandu
‘Table Top Stories’ is a performance making workshop series led by the UK-based theatre company Forced Entertainment. The workshops were convened by Floating Space in Sri Lanka, and Katha Ghera in Nepal, in collaboration with the British Council. These workshops brought together 10 performers/performance makers from Sri Lanka and Nepal to create a series of performance work conceived and performed using the top of a table and a selection of objects. This performance making approach is based on Forced Entertainment’s Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare at Home which tells the plots of all of Shakespeare’s 36 plays featuring a table top, household objects and a compelling approach to storytelling.
January 2021 thus began for Floating Space with an opportunity to collaborate, reconnect, and slip back into thinking with a community of artists about what creative practice might feel like again, especially how it might take shape following a year of constraint and uncertainties. Working within this broad-based collective sharing, artists returned to thinking through patterns and approaches to storytelling, and how we might use/find our voice through the structures of a story. The creative provocation in the workshop comes in the form of a table – the most functional of furniture, the most ubiquitous of props – now transformed into a ‘stage’ that artists explored as form and structure, allowing for the experience of storytelling in deeply personal, as well as playful ways. Over a period of four weeks, and a staggered process of large group workshops and partnered mentoring sessions, all conducted online, artists came together in an act of translation: where tables they found in their homes were transposed into a stage where stories might unfold, where worlds may be imagined. What’s more, entire casts of characters were made up of objects found around the house, in a pantry cupboard, or under the sink! Sometimes decorative, sometimes banal, these objects that lie around the house, were seen anew, as they came to hold the core of the stories shared.
What ‘Table Top Stories’ has given this community of artists is the space and context to ask questions; questions that we have always been asking in some ways: why we make work, and how we approach making. That we are straddling a pandemic heightens these questions, as we also explore the online interface, finding for ourselves the right tone, exploring ways of being present.
The participating artists from Sri Lanka are Abiramy Patkunam, Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke, Chalana Wijesuriya, Sumathy Sivamohan and Tasmin Anthonisz. Having completed the workshop period, some of the artists will be sharing their works-in-progress online. For more information on the sharing, please email us or drop us a message via our Facebook page
What does it mean to imagine community, even while we are a part of it? How, and why do communities come together to establish identities, share experiences, ask questions? How significant is a collective presence in the theatre practitioner community (in Sri Lanka)? In what ways can we build meaningful relationships within, between, and across practice?
With these questions in mind the phrase ‘imagining community’ frames a proposed symposium that hopes to engage a local theatre community, as well as regional theatre practitioners and scholars to discuss and explore the topic, thus creating an intimate opportunity for the sharing of ideas, concepts and opinions that drive our individual and collective work as theatre and performance practitioners. This symposium is positioned as a creative space, as well as a catalyst for action where what it means to be a community is thoughtfully and practically engaged with by individuals and groups who see themselves to be stakeholders in this act of critical imagination.
This is only a ‘first step’. One that asks: ‘how’ do we come into being; in what ways have meanings and practices changed around our sense of/approach to performance and production processes; ‘why’ do we meet in this conversation. It is, however, a decisive step taken in a larger effort to create spaces where artists speak with artists, coming together in the spirit of openness and curiosity about aspects of the performances we make and our artistic processes. It is also intended as a context that enables reflection, sharing and for building networks within the theatre community.
The proposed symposium will attempt to act as a catalyst for mobilizing a practitioner community in theatre and performance. The intention is to practically engage in planning and developing a possible network and context for future sharing and networking meetings, reflexive roundtable groups, interdisciplinary and critical working groups interested in enabling performance research projects and arts policy building. Other activities envisioned include mentoring, practical workshops, and possibilities for research and publication. The target community includes representatives from the Sinhala, Tamil, and English theatre contexts of Sri Lanka and invited artists supported by the British Council, academics and undergraduate/graduate student audiences, as well as artists from interdisciplinary contexts who might be able to contribute to the roundtables/workshop sessions.
The symposium would be governed by the principles of
Openness | Artist-led | Inclusive / Enabling
rite | now opens at the Global Voices Summit, 2017 in Colombo
Intended as a multi-layered dialogue with the online space, its consciousness and evolving practice, Floating Space Theatre Co. presents its latest work ‘rite | now’ – a site-responsive sound installation. ‘rite | now’ is designed as a durational immersive experience that evolves over a two-day period. The work is open to the public free of charge this weekend on December 2 and 3 from 11am-6pm at Trace Expert City, Maradana, and is presented in conjunction with the Global Voices Summit 2017 in Sri Lanka.
When invited to create a work that would sit alongside the Global Voices Summit in Sri Lanka, we started with a series of questions, thoughts and provocations. They seemed to capture our own mixed feelings of empowerment, anxiety, fascination and even nostalgia (that we were conscious of) as we considered our everyday engagement with digital territories-
- How fragile is the digital space?
- How fragile are we as we engage in the contexts and methodologies of digital practice?
- How does the archive of knowledge transform because of the digital conversation?
- How does the way we know, the way we experience, the way we engage shift or change because of the new ways of speaking we encounter – and are invited to experiment with?
The spaces we occupy online give us frames of knowing and understanding ourselves in relation to site and content. And yet, there is fragility: fragility that we contend with, even as we participate within the structures of content-generation and knowledge-proliferation. Even as we contend with our changing senses of our ‘right’ and dis/empowerment in this new phase/face of being human.
How will we shape our own ‘trace’ – these fragmentary acts of participation that we intend to be witnessed?
From this evolved the form of a site-responsive sound installation: we responded to the openness of physical site of the venue, juxtaposing the sensations of a meditative experience with the Global Voices Summit intention to “rewire societies for resilience, reflection and deep research”. We also responded to site in terms of the content of the work, looking into our own responses to the age of the digital and our inhabitation of the online space, while engaging with the Global Voices discourse and community. We chose sound as the expression of the performance work, so that the work speaks as an act of digital art practice. We chose the frame of an installation that would enable participation, and engagement with the work as always in process.
‘rite | now’ is a solitary experience, as well as a performance that evolves through the act of participation. Over the real-time lifespan of this durational work, ‘rite | now’ will grow through the engagement and contributions to it that take place in the moment of encounter. These encounters, it is hoped, will affect the installation – as it is commented on, and disrupted. The invitation to participate then is not simply in the experience of hearing/listening. It is also extended in the desire to elicit a response that will stand as acts of expression and witness. It is also extended in the awareness that to participate is always only a choice.
We wanted to hold on to the premise are still scribes unknown, only emerging in a conscious articulation of who we are online, how we know, and what traces of ourselves we must contend with, before we are ready to accept their own aliveness.
‘rite | now’ is conceived by Jake Oorloff and Ruhanie Perera in collaboration with sound artist Ranil Goonewardene.
Ruhanie Perera and Jake Oorloff present ‘Practice – as Politic’; a lecture performance
02 November 2017
‘Practice – as Politic: A Sharing of Research Insights from the Performance Archive of Floating Space Theatre Co.,’ a lecture-performance presented by our creative directors Jake Oorloff and Ruhanie Perera, is a reflection on the socio-cultural dynamics of place, context and narrative that locates the performance work of the company. Drawing on performance moments, language and aesthetic, and working principles, the intention for this sharing is to trace a trajectory of confronting the theatre as concept, making and site.
Ruhanie Perera and Jake Oorloff are in residence as visiting scholars with the South Asia Program, Cornell University. This seminar will bring to a close their period of research and critical reflection, and conclude the first stage of their research project titled Archiving Practice: Reflecting on Floating Space Theatre Company’s Performance-Making Approaches and Politics in the Context of the Conflict and Cultural Landscape of Sri Lanka.
For more information on the event and for the full list of seminars click here.
‘My Other History’ presented in New York
12 October 2017
Floating Space Theatre Co. is pleased to be presenting ‘My Other History’ on Friday October 13 at Barnes Hall Auditorium, Cornell University. The perfoance opens a weekend of critical conversations under the theme “Sri Lanka: Critical Reflections on Legacies of Authority and Difference” held as a part of the Sri Lanka Graduate Student Conference at Cornell University. The event is co-sponsored by the South Asia Program, the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies and the Society for Humanities.
Awarded the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust Grant in 2011, ‘My Other History’ was written by Jake Oorloff and presented as part of (Un)making Time – a project to support new theatre-making initiated by the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust. The performance has toured three other cities Galle, Jaffna and Kandy between the years 2011 and 2012. Reconciliation was the theme suggested by the Trust, and the performance focuses on a history and experience of displacement and dislocation as a result of war in Sri Lanka. The inspiration for the script was found in a short text titled ‘Home Town Jaffna’ written by D. Subramaniam, who was forced out of his home due to the conflict in the area of Jaffna were he lived. The plot follows his travel to Colombo and eventual return to his place of origin.
Set in a time of Sri Lanka’s move toward political reconciliation, ‘My Other History’ explores the idea of reconciliation as a moment of remembrance, a process of letting go, an act of listening as much as that of confrontation. While emphasis is placed on a reconciliation that is political and collective and pivots sometimes on a notion of moving forward that does not acknowledge its past, this is the story of the personal. ‘My Other History’ is set in the present, while referring to a past that plays out through the memory of a young man and his conversation with his mother who tries to connect her son to his past, and to what is her history. It hints at the history of a people denied of land, memory and life; it touches on a family’s sense of belonging in the context of their experience of displacement and their understandings of being patriotic or even their ability to love their country.
At the ten-year juncture of Floating Space Theatre Co., its founding members Ruhanie Perera and Jake Oorloff are in residence as South Asia Studies Fellows with Cornell’s South Asia Program. This period of research and critical reflection titled Archiving Practice: Reflecting on Floating Space Theatre Company’s Performance-Making Approaches and Politics in the Context of the Conflict and Cultural Landscape of Sri Lanka provides an opportunity for the company’s founding members to critically reflect on the practice of Floating Space. The company has always believed in a reflexive practice, and this is a crucial step in this direction enabling within an academic environment a review of artistic and scholarly contributions made by the company over the last decade. This residency period is also supported by the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust in Sri Lanka.
To read more about My Other History click here
Floating Space Theatre Company awarded Cornell University’s Inaugural South Asia Studies Fellowship
15 September 2017
We are pleased to announce that Floating Space Theatre Company’s artistic directors Jake Oorloff and Ruhanie Perera have been awarded Cornell University’s Inaugural South Asia Studies fellowship 2017-2018.
At the ten-year juncture of the company, its founding members will travel to the United States to take up positions as visiting scholars and engage in research for a period of two months. This research period titled Archiving Practice: Reflecting on Floating Space Theatre Company’s Performance-Making Approaches and Politics in the Context of the Conflict and Cultural Landscape of Sri Lanka provides an opportunity for the company’s founding members to critically reflect on the practice of Floating Space. The company has always believed in a reflexive practice, and this is a crucial step in this direction enabling within an academic environment a review of artistic and scholarly contributions made by the company over the last decade.