Essential Videos on Devising: Part 2

We are going to continue to mine the internet for brilliant videos on the topic of devising. This week we are going to focus on The Builders Association.

The Builders Association, an award-winning intermedia performance company founded in 1994, develops its work in extended collaborations with artists and designers, working through performance, video, architecture, sound, and text to integrate live performance with other media. Its work is not only cross-media but cross-genre — fiction and nonfiction, unorthodox retellings of classic tales and multimedia stagings of contemporary events. This book offers a generously illustrated history and critical appraisal of The Builders Association, written by Shannon Jackson, a leading theater scholar, and Marianne Weems, the founder and artistic director of the company.

Andy Lavender’s chapter in Making Contemporary Theatre edited by Jen Harvie and Andy Lavender offers insight into The Builders Association’s rehearsal processes.

Continuous City

CONTINUOUS CITY is a meditation on how contemporary experiences of location and dislocation stretch us to the maximum as our “networked selves” occupy multiple locations. From Shanghai to Los Angeles, Toronto to Mexico City, CONTINUOUS CITY tells the story of a traveling father and his daughter at home tethered and transformed by speed, hypermodernity, and failing cell phones. The characters they interact with pursue their own transnational business, from an internet mogul exploiting networking across the developing world to a nanny who blogs humorous stories about the people and places within her universe. (Read her blog here.)

These excerpts from CONTINUOUS CITY were shot during a performance at BAM in 2008. They show scenes that reflect the production’s themes of disconnect and distance that can be created by the same technology we use to remain connected. In the first scene, performer Rizwan Mirza negotiates his relationship with an online date who threatens to become real. In the second, a traveling father (Harry Sinclair) talks remotely with his daughter (Olivia Timothee). The excerpt also highlights the use of the multiple screens that were employed as part of this production. Austin Switser, who will be designing video for ROAD TRIP, was the assistant on this production.

CONTINUOUS CITY from The Builders Association on Vimeo.

Super Vision

Conceived and created by The Builders Association & dbox.

SUPER VISION explores the changing nature of our relationship to living in a post-private society, where personal electronic information is constantly collected and distributed. The data files collected on us circulate like extra bodies, and these “data bodies” carry stains that are harder to clean than mud or sin; from birth certificates to bad credit, every moment of activity contributes to the construction of one’s own data body.

In this scene recorded during a performance at BAM, an international traveler (Rizwan Mirza) attempts to cross the border into the US. As he is questioned by a border control agent (Joseph Silovsky) his medical data is progressively revealed and superimposed over his physical body. At a time when people were just becoming aware of internet privacy issues, Super Vision explored the increasing ways in which our personal information might be collected and distributed.

SUPER VISION (1) – data body from The Builders Association on Vimeo.

Also recorded at BAM, in this scene a father (David Pence) is in the process of manipulating aspects of his young son’s identity (Owen Pence). This scene also illustrates the way the Builders use recorded images and video that intersect and interact with the live performer on stage.

SUPER VISION (2) – Dad from The Builders Association on Vimeo.

Sontag: Reborn

Adapted from Susan Sontag’s early journals by performer Moe Angelos, SONTAG: REBORN traces Sontag’s private life from the age of 14 to her emergence as a world-renowned author and activist. The young Sontag wrestles with her emerging sexuality and precocious intelligence, fraught with doubt and insecurity yet driven by her willfulness, ambition and voracious curiosity. The refuge of her diary became integral to her development as a writer, Sontag says herself, “In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could in person. I create myself.”

Directed by Marianne Weems and using The Builders Association’s signature synthesis of poetic video and sound, this tightly-crafted story of self-discovery and sexual identity is both exuberant and intimate, exploring the private life, loves and idiosyncrasies of the iconic intellectual.

This excerpt from REBORN is included as another example of the immersive use of video and the interaction between live performance and recorded. Younger Sontag is portrayed by performer Moe Angelos on the stage as the same performer recorded on video as older Susan reacts and responds to her early journal writings.

SONTAG: REBORN – Excerpt from The Builders Association on Vimeo.

House / Divided

Using John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath as a narrative backbone, HOUSE / DIVIDED (formerly ROAD TRIP) tells contemporary tales of foreclosure, following economic refugees and migrants from two different American eras. Steinbeck’s Joad family moves along the great Dust Bowl migration, while a contemporary house rooted to its site — yet connected to a web of global finance and investment – becomes a container for stories from the current, evolving crisis. HOUSE / DIVIDED explores the changing meaning of home, homelessness, and place both in the present moment and in the broader context of the American mythos.

This excerpt from the beginning of the piece establishes the construct used to move between the two worlds. It also highlights the different ways that media is used to tell the story, from the construction of the house itself to interviews with people affected by and involved in the crisis.

HOUSE / DIVIDED – Excerpt, Wexner (2011) from The Builders Association on Vimeo.

HOUSE / DIVIDED (Excerpt) 2012 from The Builders Association on Vimeo.

Elements of Oz

ELEMENTS OF OZ draws on one of the richest examples of escapist American entertainment, The Wizard of Oz. We revel in the multiplicity of interpretations of this iconic example of popular culture, and examine how tens of thousands of people across the country (and across the globe) have made Oz their own. Through the use of YouTube tributes, a re-contextualization of the film, and the incorporation of new technologies, ELEMENTS OF OZ celebrates and deconstructs this incredibly rich cultural artifact.

ELEMENTS OF OZ: Trailer from The Builders Association on Vimeo.