Youth Cultural Center (YCC), Skopje, premiere 26th December 2021
We, the audience, are seated in a circle around the stage. We are being served drinks. There’s a small bar-style table in the corner alongside a modest wardrobe, a mirror, and a dressing table; otherwise the stage is empty.
ГЛУМиЦИ (АСТ(O)ReSses) is a performance that gives the audience the opportunity to explore acting from the inside and perhaps even try it out for a while. The first performer we see is a girl getting changed in a theatre dressing room. She puts on a new dress and asks a person from the audience to help her fasten a button. She places a stocking over her head and applies heavy makeup which gives her face the appearance of a mask similar to those used by ancient Greek actors.
This is the show’s first attempt to provide insight into the actor’s identity. What does it mean to be an actor?
The performers of Artopia’s show wrote and directed the piece themselves. The text feels like a collection of everyone’s individual messages. One is a true diva, another is a “mediocre” actress who wants to be famous, another asks us to get out our phones and follow him on Instagram, and yet another tries to entertain us, to explain themselves. They are each interpreting their roles as actors. Their monologues are personal narratives.
The cast do this without making the audience feel like they’re victims of the system; though they illustrate the barriers, prejudices and problems with the system and how they affect the actors’ work, prejudices, they leave you with a continual half-smile on your face. The language used is straightforward and transcends the personal to become universal.
The performers make an effort to physically involve the audience by having the cast ask for assistance with fastening buttons on their clothing or applying cream to their back, among other requests. Additionally, questions are posed to the audience on a variety of topics, such as what constitutes ‘good’ acting, what is proper behaviour for an actor. The audience is increasingly engaged in communication with them.
In fact, the actors actively encourage the spectators to participate on stage. They encourage them to speak, to add text, sing, dance (at one point, there are more spectators dancing on stage with the actors than there are sitting), and generally to engage with the performance.
The audience is made an integral element of the performance, which – as another actor sitting in the corner explains – is based on improvisation; what happens today will not happen tomorrow; when the audience changes, the show changes.
It becomes impossible to distinguish who is an actor, and who is not until someone gets up from his chair and starts to perform. The actors are among us and we are among them. The dividing line between us is thinner.
In this manner, a community is built. There appear to be two directions for the journey that started in the backstage area: one leads to the stage and the spectacle where the artists sing, dance, and perform along with the audience, while the other leads to the actor’s inner life and his personal experiences.
The show creates the sense that we are actively participating in the performance. In this way we have the chance to see inside the actor and experience what he or she is seeing and feeling.
The actors exchange friendly looks, share laughter, and applaud each other’s performances in a form of support for their colleagues. This heartfelt camaraderie is evident even when directed towards someone from the audience who takes part in the performance. This collective display of support contributes to a warm atmosphere that permeates the entire show.
The dynamics of the staging, which is illuminated by a continuous stream of bright lights, change depending on where the performers are positioned. The actors frequently venture beyond the confines of the traditional stage, meandering along the edges of the space, and engaging in synchronized movements that evoke a sense of rhythm and fluidity. This seamless interplay of motion creates a breathing space and has a relaxing effect.
The show’s greatest strength is not in what it tells us, but in what it shows. By not asking them to give rigid definitions of what an actor is, but to explore the experience of being an actor, we are able to understand more about what an actor is and what they experience. This understanding feels personal, both for the actors themselves and for each member of the audience.
In the end, our applause for the actors intertwines with their applause for us. A show is, at its core, a collaborative effort and a form of communication. Some elements are visible, some are audible, and others are left to the imagination. But most importantly, a show is meant to be experienced. This show succeeds in granting us a glimpse into the world of being an actor for two hours, allowing us to feel a part of that experience in a unique way.
Creators/performers: Natasha Petrovic, Simona Spirovska, Nenad Mitevski, Bojan Kirkovski, Kristina Lelovac, Nikola Nakovski, Nikola Risteski
Stage design: Nenad Tonkin
Original music: Dino Imeri
For more information, visit. Artopia.mk
Flamur Dardeshi is a freelance writer based in Tirana. He has contributed in the areas of translation, analysis, and poetry. His main fields of interest are literature, cinematography, and theatre.