Highlights Part 4: Independent Projects

Another highlight of this term were the IPs, the Independent Projects of our theater students. During the second year of the Theatre Arts IB course, students are required to work on an IP, which they can do either on their own or together with another student. Informed by their studies of world theatre, most students chose to write and/or direct a piece of theatre. All first years who wanted to have a role in an IP hence had sign up and then audition for the projects they wanted to be part of. I am officially acting in three IPs, the first one being “Juanita”, which I will sum up at the bottom, and the other two taking place in 2014. All performances were brilliant and it was wonderful to see the different theater forms, actors and topics that our first years chose.

Suicide Incorporated

It is a 2010 tragicomedy by Chicago play writer Andrew Hinderaker, directed by my buddy Shira (Israel) Gabriel (Colombia) that evolved into a more drama about the painful legacies that suicide can leave behind. The play was centered on the relationship of two brothers and a company that makes money by drafting suicide notes. The business is Hallmark gone Wall Street, turning a profit by bullishly pushing its clients to perform the unspeakable and targeting those suicide victims least likely to leave notes: Men. The acting was brilliant and left many of us in tears.

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iAm

This play was written and directed by our second-year Sam (Hong Kong/Indonesia). Set in 2023 it explored the themes of preparation for adulthood and love. The main character John, a 17 year old boy had to the sacrament of confirmation; he had to be made fit to be God’s servant. As such, he was by his parents and pastor to Arcadia, a global clinical service that purified him from sin by implanting a microchip and making him forget his true love. It was a very powerful IP with a very distinct style.

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Waiting on Trains

Written by D.M. Larson, “Waiting on trains” was a light comedy, directed by our second-years Winki and Jolie (Hong Kong). It took the audience inside a railway station to explore human encounters between a young men, a rich businesswoman, a station employee and a homeless bum that woke up to what she believed to be God speaking to her. The performance was not just great, it also incorporated a lot of humor-  and hence made us laugh  and giggle quite a lot – and connected to real life experiences.

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What We’ve Lost

This was probably the most surprising IP we experienced this term, written and directed by our second-years Nicole (Panama) and Cengiz (Turkey)The genre of the play is called ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ and presents a surreal experience to the audience by addressing the concept of truth and reality through shattering their perceptions and failing their expectations. And it truly did, in a positive way. It started as a rather “normal” theater performance and then with the sound of a fire alarm forced the audience out and behind the assembly hall, where suddenly chaos broke out. We were caught between screaming girls and zombie-like dancers hidden between the walls and then suddenly walking towards us. There was perfect timing in the amount of show versus uncomfortable darkness paired with kidnapping members of the audience. In the end the two lovers and main characters that were separated at the beginning reunited between lost limbs and lots of blood. A psychologically thrilling IP with an unexpected turn.

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Our second-year Michael recorded the performance, you can watch it here (*goosebumps guaranteed*)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en85CD9IR60

Juanita

This was the IP that I was a part of, written and directed by Maria (Philippines). It was a physical theatre and dance piece that explored the subject of sex trafficking. However, the story behind it touched and moved us all.

“Juanita is the name of my mother who became a baby-maker after she was raped when she was around her 20’s. She got pregnant, and then 9 months later my sister came out which I haven’t seen until now, but I’m going to find her sooner or later after I’ll finish my studies and find a good job. When I was around 5 or 6, I always remembered her bringing men in our house and have sex with those men. I thought this was just an illusion playing in my mind as I grew up. But I’ve met her last year which I did not expected. I asked her of who my father was and she told me she doesn’t know, and I’m assuming she was raped again or maybe she had sex with too many men that she can’t even recognize whose sperm cell won the race. She told me about her life. And everything I’ve seen when I was little was not an illusion at all. She passed away this year, on September. I think she is a great person and I am proud of her, so basically this IP is also dedicated to her, thanking her for my life and for enduring so much pain while abandoning me and my brother.” – Maria

To promote the IP, we did a little photo shoot and changed our profile pictures, below is a selection of photos. The victims were to look sad and fragile, while the abusers wore dark eyemake-up, done by Nadia, one of our arts students from Indonesia, and were to look evil.

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H2. Arzu done

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We were eight dancers (Karina, Nicole & Desiree from Hong Kong, Vilma from El Salvador, Kuba from Poland, Yousra from the Netherlands and me) half of us playing victims of sex trafficking and the others playing the abusers. Maria is an incredibly talented dancer and when she showed us the choreography which she had entirely written herself we were in awe, not to mention the intense music that she had found and that seemed as if it had been recorded for our IP. We practiced for hours almost every evening and Maria took extra time to work on individually building physical, technical and expressive skills with each one of us. The more days passed, the more our work got a concrete shape. The abusers had to look and move with strength, anger, negativity compressed in motions, while the victims had to seem fragile, helpless. Since I would not describe myself neither as an angry nor a violent person, I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror practicing my facial expressions. It was only during the first dance that we were wearing masks.

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The big day came. The performance started with an introductory video displaying information and photos of human trafficking. I still remember the moment before we went on stage. Yousra and me were standing behind the black curtain, watching the four girls perform their first dance with grace and elegance. Sadness and desperation filled the air.

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We caught a glimpse of the audience – the auditorium was filled with more people than usual. Our hearts were pounding in our chests and I could feel butterflies in my stomach while stretching a little bit more. The minutes passed and it was time for us to put our masks on, and with them the role of an evil abuser, that was just waiting to rape its next victim. I felt a little light headed and went over my choreography quickly again. Kuba saw me on the other side and my anxiety caused him to get nervous as well and like a domino we all started reviewing the dance again and then the music changed and it was time for us to walk on stage. Slowly. Dangerous. Confident. The more time passed the more confident we all became and by the end of the first song we could all feel the energy in the air.We glided across stage with fierce movements, fully immersed in our roles.

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Our arms and legs were beating the air and then it was time to push our victims into the cage and with the last sound of a single loud note in the music we took off our masks. It was an unforgettable moment: the excitement paired with my the effort of catching a breath and the shocked faces of the audience before the lights went dark.

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The rest of the performance continued with a powerful shadow dance capturing images of abuse, rape and fear. In the end the victims grew strong and angry and to the sound of wild animals they portrayed their escape. Then we, the abusers, were laying in front of them, then smashed our heads on the floor and beaten by our former victims before the police arrested us.

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The feedback we received from the audience was incredible. Not only was the auditorium filled to the brim with the sound of clapping hands, some people were even crying. After the performance all our friends rushed on stage, giving us tight hugs and congratulating us. It was a wonderful feeling. We became even happier when we saw that even our tutors and Stella, supervisor of “Students against Slavery” had come. This IP has been an unforgettable journey for all of us and we were incredibly happy and proud to have been part of it. Especially as “Students against Slavery” member it was a very emotional experience for me. Thank you Maria. Thank you so much.

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Our second-year Michael recorded the performance, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1YQcq9uVmc