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experimental theater in queens

Maids – Final Installment

Mutation From Original Themes, Into Exploration Of Time

handan ozbilgin bromley director lpacNovember 5, 2011 / Long Island City / Theater in Queens / Queens Buzz. And so it was that tonight we, the audience, were once again asked to step out of our comfort zone and join Producer / Director Handan Ozbilgin on her journey of exploring the interaction between the audience and the theatrical production. Director Handan Ozbilgin Bromley is shown in the photo to your left.

In the prior two productions I had attended, the two prevalent themes were the exploration of the roles we play in life and the interaction between audience and cast. These themes were explored within the context of the Jean Genet play by the same name: Maids.

In this production the Maids theme was only visible to those of us who had attended prior performances in the series. And in some respects, barely visible at that. And along with this thematic reduction, the dynamic of role playing became far more subtle.

Audience Interaction With Cast

laguardia performing arts centerThe second theme, that of audience interplay with the cast, was so smoothly incorporated into this production, that it had the effect of muting this theme as well. What ensued was something totally different than what we’d seen before – an exploration of the sense of time. Not ironically, this fit the name given to this final installment: Tick Tock Tick Tock.

The new theme explored in this production was the sense and in fact feeling of time. When we are engaged, time flies. And conversely when we are not engaged, time moves on, ooohh … ohhhh, sooooo sss … ll .. oo … ww … ll .. y. In this play, there were two primary time keepers: the assistant and the director. But in fact we were all anointed time keepers when we ‘signed in to audition for the production’, as we were given wrist watches upon entry. In the photo above, three audience members are seen 'auditioning for a role'.

Experimental Theater In Long Island City

laguardia college theaterThe play started, unbeknownst to us, when we arrived and had to sign into be seated. They had ‘staged’ us to be applying to become dancers, actors and actresses for the current theatrical production. Each audience member signed in, filling out an ‘application’ which included questions about the location of the longest waiting time we’d ever experienced, about the circumstances surrounding our first kiss, the last time we looked at our watch and the current time. In the photo to your left you can see audience members 'applying' for a role in Maids.

The Time Keeper - Meet The Director & His Assistant

director actor actress fernando torresWe were lead onstage, where we met ‘the director’ who asked us if we were prepared to give the monologue or perform a dance. The director’s questions and comments seemed to be a mix of improvisation and practice. In any case, they were entertaining, and he didn’t belabor any of us too long, so that we were not made too uncomfortable before he relegated us in with the rest of the audience. The production had begun, and we were a part of it.

The director segued from the audience auditions to auditioning the actors and actresses of the real production. At this point Solange and Claire, the two maids from the Jean Genet work, came onto the stage and were timed by the director and his assistant as they performed various vignettes of their original roles. In the photo above are the director and his assistant.

Circus Acts & Slapstick Comedy in LIC

circus acts and slapstick comedy licThe time keeping for me, never quite allowed me relax. So there were periods when time would fly by, as the actors and actresses entertained us with a number of disconnected circus acts and slapstick comedy routines [see photo to your left]. At other times we would become totally cognizant of each and every second passing, as the director and his assistant, both acting very bored, would count down the seconds.

Some of the circus acts included a young man doing ballet, carrying a little girl’s dress. He falls in love with one of the maids and the director tries to dismiss him. In another act the young man serves popcorn, rides a tricycle, and walks around with a child’s air balloon. These provided comic relief and the time flew as we laughed, as we were entertained. In the photo to your left is an actor riding a tricycle in the final show of Maids.

Waiting ... For The Production To Re-engage Us

laguardia college theaterMeanwhile there were acts when the director and his assistant provided a counterpoint. They timed everything, and as they counted the minutes and seconds, it was absolutely silent, and time slowed down to nearly a stop, as we waited for them to proceed with the production. We were captive and time passed by at the pace it does when seated in an airplane waiting for traffic control to find a gate for disembarkment. And finally the director orders the actors and actresses to begin again, and the time no longer hangs so heavily. In the photo to your right the audience enjoys a comedic scene.

Maids - Jean Genet Play - Experimental Theater In LIC

the maids licThis was theatrical art imitating life. When you’re fully engaged, time flies. And when you’re not engaged and waiting, it nearly stops.

This awareness of time was made even more evident, as the cast rewinded one of the acts, like rewinding your video on the digital video recorder. The director asked various members of the audience to play his role. He asked the first ‘chosen one’ from the audience whether they wanted to fast forward, pause or rewind the production. They choose fast forward, and off the cast went, playing through another scene where the director marries one of the cast members and then gets dumped for an auditioner he’d previously dismissed.

Another mischievous audience member chose ‘pause’ but they transmuted the request to ‘rewind’ and ran through another scene. By now we’ve all become very aware of the time as I looked at my real wrist watch for the first time since entering.

Film Shown Within The Play

claire and solange in maids licWe were then shown a film of Solange and Claire on the very stage we were sitting upon [see photo to your right]. They acted out their scenes again and again, and in slow motion. I found some of their lines worth contemplating – again because they reflected real life observations, such as: “we do this, and the same thing happens every time” and “we waste too much time on the preliminaries” and “it is already over and you didn’t get to the end”.

These sentiments resonated. There’s no doubt that every human life contains so many repetitive acts [like brushing your teeth, eating, commuting and the like]. And there’s no doubt we spend a great deal of time on so many mundane things [the preliminaries, like bathing and combing our hair before we go out], such that that by the time we die [reach the end], we haven’t accomplished very much of what we might really have liked to do.

Maids - LaGuardia Performing Arts Center LIC

madame solange claire in maids licThe director and his assistant started reading back to us some of the answers we submitted on our ‘applications’. This process reinforced my reflections and sounded a bit like psychological free association.

The director then engaged the audience in making wishes, selecting a few more ‘chosen ones’ from amongst us. A young boy wishes for a watch. A woman wishes to see Madame enter the room. The young madam is shown with her maids in the photo to your right.

Actors & Actresses Playing Their Roles Upon Life's Stage

laguardia college performing arts center licWhat does each of us really wish for? Unlike as children, in adult life we must perform our roles upon the stage of life [waiting?] and pursue our dreams in our spare time [engaged?].

Madame eventually does appear. But she is not the older Madame of the past, but rather a very young girl. A telephone call comes into the Director. After receiving one of them he ‘freezes’ Madame. The cast cheers.

After another telephone call, a member of the audience is asked to poison her. He obliges, but Madame refuses her tea because it is too cold.

And the third telephone call is the curtain call. The show is over. The photo to your left shows the cast and audience mingling after the experimental theatrical production. The entire performance, including an audience of about 25, was held on the main stage at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center.

Writer / Director Ozbilgin took us for a ride, on the one hand making us laugh, and on the other making us feel uncomfortable. She made us painfully aware of the passing of time, asking philosophical questions about the speed of it in our lives. But she didn’t answer those questions. She left that to us.

Photo Slide Show Of Maids at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center

The following is a photo slide show of the performance of Maids at the LaGuardia College Performing Arts Center. The cast includes: Alexa Campo [madame], Rebecca Lynne [maid], April Evans [maid], Dana King [assistant time keeper], Nelson Patino Jr. [young man] and Fernando Torres [the director].


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