Dear audience member,
Welcome to Translating Lola. We have come to the end of a year of various stages of rehearsal and are excited, nervous, exhilarated even…to show you the outcome – for now. Because this is a living portrait that captures an evolving relationship, every performance will be different.
I write you this text to give you a better understanding of my interests as a theatre maker, my research as a student, and how this production came into being. Whilst you are welcome to read the text before the performance, I would suggest reading it after so you can first experience the work.
A bit about Lola, and our process:
With this piece I ventured into the realm of what is known as ‘documentary theatre’ in which directors work with non-actors. There was a big challenge in this to me: How to do it in a way that wouldn’t condescend but empower us both. I have seen a few pieces where the non-actor is shown simply standing in front of an audience as though it were some sort of miracle. I feel this belittles and simplifies the very people we invite to work with us. How could I instead bring someone’s complexity to the stage?
What if instead of trying to frame “non-actorness” one does the opposite? Performance has the potential to act as a game-space, co-understood by actors and audience. When a person learns to navigate this space (as an actor) the choices they make in so doing (e.g. how they stand, what energy they project, what tone they use, the extent to which they direct) register as personal choices, and so, paradoxically, reveal the individual through acting.
I first began to make work in the Red Light District because of my ethical concerns as a woman to the atmosphere of sexual objectification. However, when I met Lola I had an opportunity to see a perspective other than my own: her career was a choice, albeit one made in the face of economic crisis. It became clear to me that Lola’s work is one of highly skilled performance, in which she shifts between various roles and emotions towards the work. Though she is a prostitute and I am a maker/performer, there have been times when I felt I prostituted myself and times when she has been the maker/performer of an elaborate fiction. Things are not always one way or the other.
I wanted to look further into what it really means for us both to be a ‘Lola.’ We started our process by spending several months meeting in her apartment to talk, via a translator, about things we care about. Sat at the table, we realized that Cosas de la Vida(themes of life) were a way for us to explore the roles we play in daily life. Once in the studio we began to explore what it is to simply be on stage, speak and play. All of this was completely new to her. It proved to be a much more vulnerable performance than the one in the window.
For a while, we improvised and played games to explore a genuine and empowering way of translating our interactions to the theatre. This was a great way to get started but when we showed our work in progress I realized that as the director I often found myself trying to steer the work from the inside, taking responsibility for the structure of the piece. It was difficult for me to make the switch to being fully present as a co-performer.
The big change came when I started to work with a script alongside the improvisation. This script is not a script in the traditional sense, but rather a score of fixed positions, themes and phrases. This approach is needed precisely to maintain our playfulness. Structure can create freedom and vice versa. Of course, to work in transition between script and improvisation is a balancing act. One which I believe will continue to challenge our virtuosity as we perform in front of live audiences.
The translator has been present throughout our process and now joins us on stage. She is not a professional translator but a friend. Elena is as much a lead role as any of us in that she still interprets though we only hear her speak someone else’s words. For me, the beauty lies in this act slowing down time, enabling you to observe details in the performance and yourself that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
A bit about me:
I was born in the Netherlands and raised in the United States. I grew up watching old sitcoms like I Love Lucy and listening to jazz. Since then I have always had a love for all things ‘Showtime,’ including being on show myself.
I got involved in the Improvised Comedy scene at a young age. It was the perfect place to live out all my alter egos and led to my decision to study performance and directing in London.
The pattern of changing countries every few years meant I didn’t end up as part of a company. Instead I discovered the world of night entertainment –Cabaret and Burlesque- where the producers don’t care if they’ve heard of you. They only care if you manage to seduce a crowd.
At some point something started to itch. It was an increasing awareness of my ‘tools,’ my ways to hook the audience, and the sense that both the audience and myself were willing players in an act of magnification.
I wanted to blow up these tools, this pouting and gesticulating and voice work, exaggerate them beyond their ‘sexiness’ so we could think about why we knowingly play this game. But I realized immediately that it could never be done in front of the very audience who want to be kept in the realm of seduction. After a first attempt at exploring this in writing at the University of Amsterdam, I came to DasArts to think about alternative ways of exploring these devices.
“Looking at modes of seduction/persuasion, where the stage acts as a magnifying glass for the everyday” became the starting point of my research. Already then I had a fascination for the universal relationship between performance and power. I felt that by sharing this with an audience they might be able to consider when and why they themselves apply or experience strategic, seductive behaviour. Or better even: When not? I wonder: If we can be aware of our use of performance in the everyday can it also free us from the idea that there is such a thing as a non-performer?
A bit about the unexpected:
You turn up to a rehearsal with your plan neatly written and the studio set up…but there’s also:
Body consciousness, cigarette breaks becoming staged smoking, dressing to look the part of the director, renting the window to buy time, first time bicycle rides, director/performer/friend schizophrenia…In short: the work is as much about rolling with the waves as trying to control them. There is something about the unpredictability and risk involved in this type of portraiture that feels like I’ve discovered something gratifying precisely because a personal relationship cannot be planned in advance or distilled into words.
As for Lola and I: We continue to work together and so our relationship evolves and with it the focus. In this last week the word seduction suddenly took a back seat to a new, intriguing and complex word: Intimacy.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the show!