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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Experimental theater lab: ‘Change(d)’

Created by the Department of Theatre and Dance, the experimental theater lab showcases the creative ingenuity of Davis students.

This spring, Sarah Salem, a third-year dramatic arts major, and Duskin Drum, a PhD student in performance studies, have co-opted a new experience titled Change(d).

Salem and Drum created the idea for the production while living in the cooperative living known as the Domes.

“We were influenced by communal life,” Salem said. “Taking care of the land and each other; there’s no hierarchy.”

Salem’s overarching goal is an exploration of collaboratively devised work. She wants to see different perspectives addressed in the collaborative process, and Change(d) allows for this diversity.

The performance focuses on themes of ecology and politics. In this massive framework, each participant will have the ability to bring work from their own field of study. This diversity of source material will guide the direction of production.

“I’m very interested in the message. We’ll use theater games to commune with one another. We’ll learn each other’s passions,” Salem said.

She believes the unscripted nature of the play will yield a performance crafted by the participants.

Drum believes the play will create a collaborative community.

“We were both excited about the ideas of the Brazilian performer Augusto Eoal. It’s exciting to now get a chance to work on his techniques,” Drum said.

Drum has a diverse background in theater. After a short stint in college, he dropped out, became a street performer and a puppeteer. Eventually he performed internationally till after seven years he returned to continue his collegiate career.

“There’s a tradition tied to directorial and performance roles. We wanted a model of performance and education that was less authoritarian,” Drum said.

In pursuit of this goal, their performance is wide open and process-oriented. Duskin stressed the commitment necessary for this sort of project to succeed. They intend to do three major shows and a series of public appearances. If they are able to create a serious production, their work will be time intensive.

Though Ezka Whaley-Mayda was not part of the creative force that engineered the process, she still was one of the first proponents. A third-year art studios major, Whaley-Mayda lives with the two organizers.

Whaley-Mayda looks forward to the open-minded nature of the performance. She took careful emphasis to note, though small of stature, she would provide all she could to the production.

“I expect to be really uncomfortable [but] also to be joyful, lie on the floor, hopefully not vomit. I have never done experimental theater so I am very interested,” Whaley-Mayda said.

The lab is still accepting participants. Rehearsals will take place Monday through Thursday and the lab will culminate in performances presented May 24 through 26. The first workshop takes place March 8 at 10 a.m. at Wright Hall. For more information, email dwdrum@ucdavis.edu.

BEAUGART GERBER can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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