Dissections of classic plays on film

Dissections of classic plays on film
A still from the video reconstruction of Rumstick Road (1977).

There is a YouTube video clip by The Wooster Group titled, self-deprecatingly, Generic Rehearsal Conflict.

In it, stage manager Teresa Hartmann - looking a little worn - addresses the camera against a backdrop of heated arguments: "We actually don't have footage from this rehearsal at all, because when they dumped all the files, they were scrambled. It was just, like, colour bars."

On stage, group co-founder and director Elizabeth LeCompte, wild-haired and voice raised, is frustrated. One of the actors is unable to replicate a specific move she desperately wants, because that crucial moment from a previous rehearsal has been lost on a corrupted computer file.

This 2013 rehearsal for their upcoming production of Cry, Trojans! (Troilus & Cressida) at the Singapore International Festival of Arts in September is one of many examples why the fiercely avant-garde American theatre company relies so heavily on video documentation.

This extends beyond their rehearsals to meticulous reconstructions and carefully curated footage of their stage productions. Next week, group archivist Clay Hapaz will be arriving in Singapore to showcase six of the company's seminal productions on film as part of the arts festival's public engagement programme, The O.P.E.N.

This includes one of group's earliest works, Rumstick Road (1977), which stitches together archival footage, audiotaped conversations, family letters, dance and 35mm slides to capture the spirit of the work, which was a response to the suicide of the late Spalding Gray's mother. Gifted monologist Gray, who himself committed suicide in 2004, was a founding member of The Wooster Group.

The group is known for its radical dissections of classic plays - whether those by the likes of American greats Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill, or William Shakespeare in the case of Cry, Trojans! - interrupting these works with technology, a blend of the high-brow and low-brow, and experiments with genre and form.

Speaking over the telephone from New York City, where the group is based, Mr Hapaz, 53, says: "At our heart, we are showpeople, and even though I'm officially the archivist, I think at heart I'm a showperson and we'd like to have people experience these shows - even if they are once removed as videos - as performances.

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