By creative Agents Jeff Pedersen & Idun Losnegård, Myiuki Inoue and UWC Theatre Students and teacher Peter Wilson
Ope Hus explored the meaning and value in distance between people, and the risks and rewards of changing that distance. The performance was held in a private house in Dale, and the audience was invited to walk through the house, finding installed performance pieces in various rooms. Each room focused on a different spatial relationship, between the actors and between the actors and the audience.
In one room, the tension between two actors is expressed through elastic cords which are attached to the actors hands crisscross the room, forming a sort of web of emotional tension. In order to proceed, the audience must maneuver themselves through the cords, causing further reactions from the actors. In this way, we challenged the audience to be an active part of the performance – we created spaces that required the audience to interact spatially with each other and with the actors. Some audience members, in the example of the elastic cords, were very nervous, and careful not to touch the cords, others seemed to get a cruel enjoyment out of affecting the actors, and one baby had a wonderful time playing with the cords and worked himself all the way over to one of the actors in order to touch her hand. Of course, all of these approaches to the cords and the actors are seen by the rest of the audience and compared to their own. Furthermore, will the way that the second member of the audience uses to move through the cords be influenced by that of the first? We did not set out to convince the audience that closeness was good, and being far away was bad, or vice versa. We set out to force them to be aware of their own habits and decisions regarding physical and emotional proximity, and hopefully to analyze them.
Our actors included three professionals – Jeff, Idun Losnegård, and the Japanese performance artist Miyuki Inoue – and ten students and one teacher from the United World College, aged between 17-20. We used a wide variety of skills in Ope Hus, most of which were entirely new to our student actors. In a very short rehearsal period, they learned about neutral mask work, chi sao (the ‘push hands’ of tai chi), the emotional preparation and repetition of Meisner Technique, and many other aspects of acting and physical theatre specifically.