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  • Writer's pictureInês Mota

PQ19 | Workshop and volunteering experience

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

I could barely contain my excitement when new information about Prague's Quadrennial 2019 started to appear! From the moment I returned from my short 4 day visit in 2015, I knew I wanted to explore PQ19 like there was no tomorrow.

The first time around, in 2015, I was there just as a visitor, experiencing the exhibitions, proudly checking-up on my project and casually catching a few performances and talks. (Well... maybe not as casually as I would like to admit... In truth, I exhaustively analysed the program of PQ15 every evening, carefully weighing my choices for the next day and making sure I wouldn't miss anything I would terribly regret). I was so impressed by everything I saw there that this time I made sure I was more involved, managing to stay in Prague for 10 days - the whole duration of the festival.

When PQ19's organisation started posting about results driven workshops as part of PQ Studio, I applied for a few and eventually chose the "Scaling-up: Transfer your production from a studio to a larger theatre", a 4 day workshop presented by Allan Stichbury and Poe Limkul, in which we would work on a design of ours originally thought for a small stage.

Taking into consideration my love for scale modelling, this workshop was particularly appealing to me because it also approached the exact opposite problem I had observed during my internship in 2017 with the Red Ladder Theatre Company in Leeds, U.K.: how to scale down a production to facilitate touring in small and unconventional venues. I had gotten face to face with the problems and opportunities scaling down can create and was therefore curious to find out how it would be possible to scale up a production without making the mistake of just "filling in" the space with frivolous elements.

I was so looking forward to participating in this workshop that I immediately booked my trip after being accepted as a participant.

A few months later, June 2019 finally arrived. For the workshop I had prepared a 1:50 scale model of the set I had made for Exímia Sociedade, a play by Funâmbula_Grupo Criativo staged at the tiniest theatre venue I know in Porto - the Sala de Bolso of ASSéDIO Teatro.

(Just for reference, and because it's a skill of mine I'm quite proud of, I had a low cost flight with limited cabin luggage and I managed to fit this demountable scale model inside my bag as well as a whole box of materials and flight accepted tools I thought I might need, not to mention clothes for the entire duration of the stay - and afterwards, I still found a tiny space for a few books and souvenirs!)

The workshop took place at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU). They were really helpful and supplied us with most of the materials and tools we needed. We only had four days of work, one of which was dedicated to setting up the exhibition of the final results of the workshop. The schedule was tight but the mood was relaxed and positive. It was really nice to exchange experiences and exploring ideas with people we had never met before and from so many different places in the world.

My project involved adapting the X structure made with black and yellow tape of the original set into a big white square divided in two at the diagonal. Roughly, the idea was to create two different spaces: one where the characters faced their tests and another one where they received the instructions or waited for their turn.

This play portrayed the final test of a complex admission process into a perfect society, the Exímia Sociedade, where inequality and injustice don't exist. To succeed, the contestants must face multiple and extremely hard physical and psychological tests. The final test, the play, was a confession in front of a jury (the audience). 

For this adaptation I tried to play with what was visible or hidden from the public. Therefore, I thought of an imposing cement wall that is pulled up to the grid when the tests begin and reveals a two-way mirror with a normal sized door at the centre. The contestants would cross to the other side either when they had finished their test or to pass them - in three days I didn't have enough time to solve all the problems this set would create but it was a good creative exercise and source of debate.

The fourth day we prepared the exhibition and welcomed the visitors.

When the workshop ended, I started my volunteering experience at the Quadrennial. Through this programme I was able to accompany Sam Trubridge on his Night Walk performance that explores nomadic states and blind navigation, and help visitors experience the 36Qº site-specific immersive installation that used virtual reality.

In my free time I went to visit the PQ's exhibitions and see some of the performances. Outside of the PQ, I was able to catch some other great performances with my workshop mates: the ballet "The Trial" at the Estates Theatre by Mauro Bigonzetti inspired by Franz Kafka's work; "Macbeth - Too Much Blood" a variation on Shakespeare’s play by David Jařab at the Divadlo Na zábradlí ; and a triple dance peformance of "Farm in the Cave: Refuge" and "Whistleblowers" by Viliam Dočolomanský, and "Navždy spolu!" by Hana Varadzinová and Eliška Vavříková at the Dox contemporary art centre.

To sum it all up, these 10 days in Prague were intense. By getting more involved, this time, I got to meet incredible people that share my interest in theatre design and also a desire to meet and share experiences with others from all over the world. It's a chance to get informed about what's happening in their countries through the work they present and discover what are the main interests or concerns that we all have in common. Each PQ has opened my mind to many things I hadn't thought about before. It's fascinating.

I am definitely looking forward to PQ23.

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