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FREE LIVE WEBCASTS: MAD FOREST
May 22 @ 7:00 pm - May 27 @ 3:00 pmFree
THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE AND FISHER CENTER AT BARD PRESENT BARD’S PRODUCTION OF CARYL CHURCHILL’S MAD FOREST, DIRECTED BY ASHLEY TATA.
To RSVP for a performance, click the link below. We will email details on how to watch as the event nears.
May 22 at 7pm EDT (Must RSVP by 12pm on May 22)
May 24 at 5pm EDT (Must RSVP by 12pm on May 24)
May 27 at 3pm EDT (Must RSVP by 10am on May 27)
RSVP required. Performances are free.
Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
“DID WE HAVE A REVOLUTION? OR WHAT DID WE HAVE?” — MAD FOREST
Theatre for a New Audience and Fisher Center at Bard will present three free live webcasts of the Bard Theater & Performance Program production of Mad Forest by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Ashley Tata who adventurously reconceives Mad Forest for a specially modified version of Zoom which blends live performance—with actors from Bard each performing from remote locations across the country—and video technology. It is the first production of Mad Forest in New York City since 1991 at New York Theatre Workshop.
Caryl Churchill, an iconic author of over 50 plays, has been “compared by a fellow writer to Pablo Picasso… Like Picasso, Churchill has an active political conscience, has had a big influence on succeeding generations and is a restless experimenter with form.” (London’s The Guardian).
The Romanian Revolution (December 16–25, 1989) ended with the trial and execution of Communist Party General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena. Three months later, Caryl Churchill, theatre director Mark Wing-Davey, and a group of students from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama traveled to Bucharest. Churchill wanted (as she described) “to see for herself what was happening.” The students were her collaborators. They stayed a little more than a week. By the summer of 1990, Churchill’s Mad Forest, directed by Mark Wing-Davey, opened at Central School to strong reviews. Andrei Serban invited Mad Forest to return to Romania where it played at the National Theatre, Bucharest in September, and then opened at London’s Royal Court Theatre in October 1990. In 1991, New York Theatre Workshop produced the American premiere directed by Wing-Davey with professional actors.
Frank Rich of The New York Times wrote Mad Forest is, “surprising… inventive… disturbing… surreal… it seems to seep beyond its specific events and setting to illuminate a broader nightmare of social collapse…”
Ashley Tata returns to Churchill and Wing-Davey’s collaboration with students and builds on the phantasmagoric nature of Mad Forest in her digital presentation.
This production began as a live theatrical production: the company rehearsed in person and planned on performing at the Fisher Center. Suddenly faced with cancellation due to COVID-19, Tata and Gideon Lester (Fisher Center’s Artistic Director) decided to move the production online. The creative team and cast would band together (via quarantine) to entirely reimagine the production.
Tata enlisted Eamonn Farrell, a director and designer, who, in the role of Video Designer, collapsed the formal and geographic borders of performance using Zoom. Andy Carluccio—a designer, engineer, technologist, and student of Farrell’s—wrote customized Zoom code as the production’s video programmer, creating a modified version of the software to enhance its visual and storytelling abilities and allow for camera editing in real time.
Tata writes, “We found the material breathed differently in this space… State-run, regularly televised addresses are the medium of choice for dictators, as it was for the Ceaușescus. Churchill’s play references the days when the television station was occupied by revolutionaries. They opened the doors so citizens—victims of the regime—could testify and bear witness to how governmental policies had affected them for decades… Transitioning to this format and incorporating it as a design and meta-theatrical element seems almost obvious.”
Designer Afsoon Pajoufar scrapped the original design for the stage and created around 125 individually designed virtual backgrounds against which students would green screen themselves. The green screens, lighting equipment, Bluetooth earbuds, props and costume pieces, and hardwired internet connections, when needed, were sent to student actors in their remote locations.
Fisher Center at Bard then presented a single performance of Mad Forest on April 10, 2020. TFANA’s Founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Horowitz was one of the thousand-plus people to experience this performance. Horowitz contacted Gideon Lester about the possibility of TFANA and Fisher Center at Bard collaborating to continue to rehearse the production and co-produce three additional performances for a wider audience.
Horowitz observes, “It’s thrilling to collaborate with Bard’s Fisher Center and Gideon Lester. What Ashley, the cast, and creative team made is something I hadn’t seen before. It’s powerful not because there is a pandemic, but because the director, actors, and designers are exploring in a fresh way how Mad Forest comes alive on Zoom—not as a replacement for live theatre, but as another way performance can happen.”