Theatre

Ever since my childhood I wanted to work in the theatre. I was encouraged by two amazing men who were regular patrons at my father’s bar in Sliema, Malta. The two men were Frank Ganado and J.J. Tellus. Mr. Ganado was a wonderful gentleman and a veteran of the Maltese stage. He gave me my first script, a short comedy sketch called Stop Press, which I directed (and acted in) for my elementary school prize day in 1978. J.J. produced many vaudeville and variety shows in Malta in the 1970s. His zany approach and eccentric lifestyle were very influential on my desire to take up a career in what he called “show business.” Both men sadly passed away in the late 1990s.

I first started taking the theatre seriously in my late teens, when I met John Suda from the Drama Unit of the Education Department and together we produced Francis Ebejer’s L-Imwarrbin (The Cliffhangers) at the New Lyceum Theatre in Msida. The multi-talented Claudette Pace, Ray Calleja and David Agius, who eventually became household names in their own right, were in the all-teenager cast for that production of Ebejer’s play. John become my mentor and I owe him a great debt of gratitude for teaching me how to shed my inhibitions and acquire a level of self-confidence required for working in the performing arts. John and I went on to become great friends, and besides turning me on to Dungeons and Dragons he also introduced me to my first professional contacts in broadcasting. John was the common denominator in most of the theatrical productions I worked on between 1985 and 1992. My role was usually that of sound designer and/or composer.

In 1992 I abandoned my full-time career in broadcasting to join the Mediterranen Institute Theatre Studies Programme at the University of Malta as a full-time student. My teachers at the University of Malta, and other theatre people they introduced me to, initiated me into a world of theatre that had been unknown to me previously. The first thing I learned, from the wonderful Professor Nicola Savarese, was that everything I thought I knew about theatre was wrong. I came to understand and firmly believe that the dramatic text was not the central element for making theatre. I came to value the actor as the most important resource for any dramaturgical exploration. I also became entranced by the notion that theatre can serve for more than entertainment or art. Applied theatre became my genre of choice. Still, I tried my hand at directing a small number of works purely for their entertainment or artistic value, but by 1996 I came to realize that I could no longer bring myself to spend six weeks working with a group of actors and other theatre-makers just to entertain an audience or make arty-farty theatre.

This realization did not happen overnight. In 1994 I left Malta for Germany where I was contracted to work in a small circus during the summer. While in Germany I founded a small experimental theatre group driven by the idea that theatre in not only a profession but a way of life. Tanja Beyer, my first companion in this experimental group, called our collaborative project Platonium. Within a few weeks I left for the United States were I worked with another small group of collaborators under the name Platonium. When I returned to Berlin for the New Year celebrations of 1995 I wrote/complied my first (and only) theatre manifesto.

Doing theatre this way led me to collaborate with a small group of hard-working experimental theatre-makers in Madison, Wisconson, led by Claudia Tatinge Nascimento. It was there that I decided to refocus my work in the theatre to line-up with my PhD coursework in Performance Studies at New York University, which included very intensive workshops with Richard Schechner and Augusto Boal.

Thanks to Joel Plotkin, who created the Online Guide to Applied and Interactive Theatre, which I have maintained since 1998, Applied and Interactive Theatre is what I’m most interested in now. Performance Studies has given me a broader appreciation and understanding of the theatre, and as I worked on my PhD dissertation I took a hiatus from making theatre as I had for so many years. Teaching in the Drama Department and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts has also provided me with an interesting forum for rethinking my interest in theatre as a profession, as a way of life, and everything else in between.

In 2003 I was introduced to a new world of performance production by the amazing Coco Fusco. Starting in September 2003, I worked as her Technical Director, coordinating all technical aspects for her multimedia performance called The Incredible Disappearing Woman. This work explores how and why we relate to political violence via technological mediation.

The following year I moved to the UK and started exploring performance through the Internet more closely, but with fewer practical outputs. The current project in this vein relates to Facebook. It started in 2009. An intitial demonstration of this work was presented at the TaPRA annual conference at the University of Plymouth in September 2009. Plans to develop it further are ongoing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: