Report on the 4-day workshop + 1 day of presentation (as part of Boarding Pass Project – The East Side of the Stage)
I had the honor of leading a 4-day workshop with one presentation day as part of the Mittelfest festival held annually in Cividale del Friuli. The workshop took place during the MittelYoung phase, dedicated to emerging theatermakers and curated by a team under 30. Although the open call invited a diverse group of theatermakers with different backgrounds, only three committed and curious actors, Marta Soci, Federico Furlan, and Andreas Garivalis, participated. They studied together at the Udine Acting Academy, which created a well-coordinated group dynamic, making my job easier and more enjoyable.
Each day began with a physical exercise or a specific practice, with each participant taking turns to offer their own practice. On May 16th, Andreas led a half-hour session combining workout, stretching, and dancing. After the physical warm-up, we transitioned to a writing exercise I designed based on a concept from playwright Emma Denis-Edwards at the Royal Court in London. I adapted her “World Map” exercise to focus on climate issues, which was the main topic of the workshop and the Boarding Pass project.
Personally, as an author, I was interested in exploring the intersection and relationship of racism, capitalism, nationalism, fascism, and climate change, as mentioned in the open call. To approach this topic, I started with the personal and the childhood experiences, extracting the political and social aspects from there. The writing exercise revolved around a series of questions:
- Where are you now? Do you see any nature from where you are?
- Where was your first family home? What was the environment like there?
- Where were you born? What type of eco-issues did you face there?
- Where was your mother born? If she had any photos of nature, could you describe them?
- Where was your father born?
- Where was the first place you visited away from where you were born? Did you encounter a different type of surroundings from where you come from (animals, plants, ocean)?
- Where would you like to visit? Is it a cityscape or a landscape?
- Where do you feel safe? Does it have to do only with people or also with the environment?
Each participant took time to remember, reflect, think, and write. After the break, in the afternoon session, we engaged in a structured discussion based on each participant’s answers to the questions. The rest of the group was free to take notes on post-it papers and scatter them around large papers of different colors. At the end of the session, each participant received a collage of drawings, notions, and stories(produced by the others) that resonated most with their writing.
The second day started with somatic exercises led by Marta Soci, drawing from her experience of working with people with disabilities. These exercises were based on storytelling and aimed to express the sense of fabulation and structuring, using the stories shared by the participants about their local ecosystems and the environments they grew up in.
As stated in the open call, the participants were asked to explore what kind of text a forest, a river, an animal, a stone, a mushroom, a rock, or an ocean could speak. After the physical warm-up, we transitioned to a round table session where participants expressed their biggest eco-concerns related to their local communities. Encouraging writing, speaking, and performing from an imagined, conceptual non-human perspective, each participant chose a focal point or character to represent on stage. Federico chose a highway, symbolizing the aggressive investment urbanism policies that led to the unrecognizability of the city he was born in. Marta chose two mushrooms growing in a ghost amusement park called Veneland, close to her hometown. Andreas chose several characters representing the yard of his childhood home in a near-apocalyptic future.
By the end of the second day, we started approaching one of the imagined goals outlined in the workshop’s concept: to create a non-anthropocentric, post-human environment and initiate a genesis of a new world through performance and text.
Day 3 also began with body work, this time proposed by Federico and based on the 5 Tibetan Rites series. In the morning session, we discussed and read several texts related to the topics, characters, and themes chosen by each participant. To deepen our understanding of Federico’s format and his piece on the highway, we delved into the work of the Forced Entertainment collective, specifically their performance “Nights in This City,” which offers a fake tour of Sheffield. In relation to the inanimate subjects, particularly plants and the complex ecosystems they form, we explored the text “Resist like a Plant” by Michael Marder, which discusses resistance and learning from plants. The text was written as a recount of a Occupy Wall Street movement, and the author states: ‘To resist like plants, on a common front, which does not amount to a confrontation, we would need to learn from them, to be and to live with them, to let something of them flourish in us.’ I think a text shaped a lot of ideas, and playfulness in the approach to what became the text and performance with multitude of characters written and played by Andreas.For Marta’ piece, we read and discussed passages from “The Mushroom at the End of the World,” a book dealing with the global trade of a specific mushroom species, the matsutake, and its ecological consequences.
After the lunch break, I had the opportunity to engage in something I can rarely do with my usual playwriting students – acquiring and fixing written materials through improvisation. Each participant created a miniature based on the inputs from the workshop. Then, I assigned each one a task that disrupted the landscape they had created. Federico’s entrepreneur character had to deal with a sudden car accident on the opening day of a brand new highway. Andreas had to confront a devastating fire and its consequences on different elements of a landscape (Platanus, Cypress, Rosebush, Tulip, and the Human). Marta’s mushroom, Amanita muscaria, residing in an abandoned asylum, had the ability to read forgotten medical files of a former human patient.
In the late afternoon, we traveled to Nova Gorica for the opening of MittelYoung, where we watched two circus shows, which I consider equally important in our collective work.
The final day of the workshop began with a set of physical exercises led by me. This time, I offered a yoga-based practice and breathing exercises to prepare the body for mental work and enhance clarity and concentration. Afterward, we discussed a text I developed in collaboration with visual artist Dušica Dražić and curator Mirjana Dragoslavljević called “It Rains Differently.” The main character in the text is a forest, specifically Pešter forest, planted by a forest engineer, Dušica’s late father, during socialist Yugoslavia with the help of Youth Work Activists. We developed an audio play and published a visual book based on our work, and we plan to continue developing an experimental film script. During the analysis of different sequences in the text, we raised important questions about speech and language for non-human characters on stage. We wondered what kind of voice could be attributed to the highway, the Cypress and Platanus, the two mushrooms, and whether it should be generic, gendered, choral, or singular. We also discussed whether the language should be English, Italian, or a third language. Later, we watched the film “Ways of the Heroes,” directed by my colleague Ana Konstantinović and conceptualized by the performance collective ‘eho animato’. The film explores the stories of local individuals from Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Greece, and Italy who have become “heroes” by engaging with pressing ecological issues in their communities. This discussion brought us back to the role of humans in the Anthropocene and their impact on the ecological situation, whether negative (through colonialism, extraction, and multinational companies) or positive, as demonstrated by the heroes in the film.
The rest of the morning and the entire afternoon were dedicated to writing final drafts. After a feedback session, we rehearsed the readings for the public presentation. Throughout the four-day workshop, providing a safe and encouraging environment for feedback was a crucial tool in our working process. Almost every step, task, and small material result was discussed within the group. My role mainly involved moderating and strongly encouraging participants to share their impressions, thoughts, and ideas regarding their own work and the work of others. In the evening, we enjoyed a beautiful new music concert by ‘Lavish Trio’.
The result of the workshop was presented to the audience in the form of a public reading performance. Reflecting the horizontality of my mentoring approach, I read smaller parts and took care of the text screenings during the presentation. The dramaturgy of the event followed a chronology of decay. Federico performed his monologue-performance titled “My Grey Dreams,” set in a reality dominated by corporate capital and aggressive investment urbanism. Andreas presented his polylogue, “Your Leaves of Ours,” depicting a once-idyllic but now scorched and wasted land. Marta’s dialog, “Two Mushrooms at the End of the World,” added an absurdist touch, portraying a world that has indeed come to an end. Following the presentation, I was delighted to engage in an artist talk held in the festival bar, where participants shared their feedback and impressions in Italian.
The workshop and presentation were part of the Mittelfest festival and its specific pre-main-program phase called MittelYoung, dedicated to emerging theatermakers and curated by a team younger than 30. It was an honor to lead the workshop with the three young, committed, and curious actors, Marta Soci, Federico Furlan, and Andreas Garivalis, who studied together at the Udine Acting Academy. The workshop allowed us to explore the intersection and relationship between racism, capitalism, nationalism, fascism, and climate change, delving into personal experiences and childhood memories to extract the political and social dimensions. It was a fulfilling and enjoyable experience that culminated in a successful presentation of our collective work.