The Last Week at Dah Theatre

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Goodbye barbecue for the Institute participants on a houseboat on the Sava River outside of Belgrade.

Hi all,

My last week at Dah was busy and enriching, as expected. We continued to do many of the exercises that we had began during the second week. The theatre-makers at Dah constantly remind us that performers need to be dedicated to their craft, and it’s best if they dedicate themselves to one training for a long period of time, in order to learn the most from it. However, for this three-week workshop, we weren’t able to reach that level of depth, and for my own workshops, coming back to Minnesota, everything will also be basic by necessity.

I was struck at Dah, when they are talking about their process, how much time they leave themselves to create even a one hour piece. In the United States, it’s very normal to rehearse a scripted play for a few months, but Dah, in order to generate a full-length devised theatre piece needs a minimum of a year. The way that Dah works, montaging text, movement, and speech can create really unexpected results. But as I saw in the workshops. Simply creating a 3-line monologue can demand a lot of time. For my project, this means that I will have to choose carefully. I was hoping to help my students to create some small pieces of their own, but this will take time (and could potentially take the whole 5 days that I have with each group). But I also got to see (in Dah’s performances) and experience (at the Institute) what kind of results patience and time can bring to the theatre.

I have two different sides of Dah’s teaching that I would like to share. On one hand, it is the very technical (and demanding) theatre exercises, which help to understand how Dah works with devised theatre. One the other hand, Dah’s Director, Dijana Milosevic, gave a well-known lecture called “The Role of the Artist in the Dark Times,” where she shared her experience making theatre in reaction to Serbian conflicts in the 1990’s. Dah has always sought to oppose violence through creation. In the 1990’s they created several site-specific performances to bring attention to different national issues.

Another one of Dijana’s wisdoms that I am interested in is her statement that “when you are personal, you are always reaching universally.” This is exactly where I see Dah’s connection to global citizenship. When they create a piece, they mine the personal experiences of the performers and directors (along with other sources: play scripts, novels, you name it) in order to find connections to “the polis,” the greater world and community. Dah is interested in history, how it is formed, and how it connects to individual experience. This to me is global citizenship.

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Now, I have left the safety of being a student at the institute (pictured above) and move on to the challenge of being the teacher. I have been confirming details for my students (roughly grades 9-12), and I’m preparing to pare down the material that I have written down in my notebook. My first stop will be in Plainview, MN.

Till then!
Jon

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