Tashmadada in the media

Great Article in the San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle
Nirmala Nataraj, Special to The Chronicle

Shakespeare's "King Lear" encompasses the dread and loathing associated with aging as well as the universal trope of exile and alienation. Australian performance artist Deborah Leiser-Moore resurrects the tragic gray eminence to moving effect in her show "Cordelia, Mein Kind": Through a series of interviews between a woman and her father, a recently deceased Holocaust survivor reeling from the loss of his family and his subsequent exile to Australia, Leiser-Moore explores the complex relationship between Lear and his youngest daughter, Cordelia.

"In particular, the silence is an aspect we wanted to explore," says Leiser-Moore, who deals with issues of identity, culture and memory in her work. "Why doesn't Cordelia speak? What is being carried in the silence? What is left unsaid by Lear?"

The play is also intimately connected to Leiser-Moore's father.

"As he was getting older, his obsession with the film 'The Yiddish King Lear' grew, and he loved coming to my place and watching it with me," she says. "It was during this time that I saw how he identified with the Lear character, and how deep this was and how it triggered his memory of his life growing up in Poland, and the loss of his family in the Holocaust. ... And in effect, I am the Cordelia in my family."

The collaboration between Leiser-Moore and "Cordelia" director Meredith Rogers evolved from working together when Leiser-Moore was an artist-in-residence at Victoria University in Melbourne. Rogers was drawn to Leiser-Moore's approach to making theater, which led to a vital process of research, discussion and on-the-floor improvisation.

"The co-writing process came quite easily," says Leiser-Moore. "Meredith has a great way of bringing out the stories and a good eye for selecting and editing the most relevant ones, so the general chatter was magically transformed into usable performance material."

The piece, envisioned as a highly physical and gestural dialogue between film and live performance, is aided by the choreography of Sally Smith. Rogers says that she and Leiser-Moore worked with Smith to expand the movement vocabulary "and find the places in the piece and the particular ways that the movement score could work with the other elements in telling the story. ... Deborah is a strong Suzuki-trained physical performer, and we knew from the outset that we wanted to employ movement for the way it can convey complex feelings and ideas very directly but without simplifying them."

Performance and film coalesce to create an integral experience of the work, which is particularly important because Leiser-Moore wanted to create a piece with her father, who was too frail to perform live but was amenable to being filmed. "We found this allowed us to expand into other images plus, of course, the fact that there was a Yiddish film version of 'King Lear' made it irresistible to pursue in the performance," Rogers says. In effect, this enables the show to consistently include two performers onstage throughout the piece.

While Leiser-Moore has spoken about the universality of the work, there is also a strong sense of how rooted it is in Australian culture, both thematically and aesthetically, which will be particularly exciting for audiences unfamiliar with Australian theater.

"The themes are universal, but many of the particulars, starting with Deborah's accent and the suburban landscape, are Australian," Rogers says.

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The Down Under Essay Contest

Creative Nonfiction in association with Tashmadada present The Down Under Essay Contest.

Judged by Lee Gutkind (USA) and Leah Kaminsky (AUS)

The U.S. quarterly magazine, Creative Nonfiction in association with Tashmadada, seeks new essays for a special “Australia” issue.

We’re looking for a variety of perspectives – from locals, expats, tourists, or anyone else – and will consider essays of all forms and focuses as long as Australia’s landscape, people, and/or culture are prominently featured; the stories are true; and submissions are previously unpublished.

Essays must be vivid and dramatic. Writing should combine a strong and compelling narrative with
a significant element of research or information, and reach for some universal or deeper meaning.
We're looking for a well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice. Essays must be 4,000 words maximum and submitted by March 16th 2012

There will be two contest winners, but all submissions will be considered by the judges for inclusion in Creative Nonfiction #46: Australia, which will be launched at the 2012 Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Prizes generously provided by The Writers Conversation.

$6500 For Best Essay*
$2500 For Best Essay by an Australian Writer **

Electronic submissions only.
There is a $20 reading fee; multiple entries are welcome ($20/essay).
All submitters have the option to include a 4-issue subscription to Creative Nonfiction with their reading fee; up charges vary and depend on mailing address and postal rates.
To submit please click the appropriate links below:

Reading fee plus a 4-issue subscription:
to the U.S: $25
to Canada $45
to anywhere else in the world: $60

Reading fee only $20

*All writers and submissions, regardless of country of origin, will be considered for the $6,500 prize.
** Only submitters who are current citizens or permanent residents of the Commonwealth of Australia will be considered for this prize. The same writer/essay may not win both prizes.

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Anarchy: a user's guide in Spanish

The Age > Entertainment > Arts

Liza Power

TWO feet protrude from a wooden barrel, green sock on one, red on the other. The barrel rolls to the left then right before legs appear, followed by a pair of black shorts and a torso. A slender arm extends towards a nearby stake mounted with a tin letter box, next to which a man waltzes with the rusted skeleton of a single, fold-out bed. Behind him, a woman with a kitchen sink strapped to her shoulders rocks to and fro while the concrete by her feet is vacuumed by a figure disguised in a hard hat and surgical mask wielding a dilapidated carpet sweeper.

A tattered pram here, welding masks and abandoned car parts there - what could be a scene from a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film is, in fact, a workshop by Spanish performer Younes Bachir of the celebrated Catalan theatre collective La Fura dels Baus. Held in Open Channel's gargantuan Docklands shed, the 10-day Andante program was brought to Australia by local performance group Tashmadada.

Today's collaboration, no doubt amplified by searing 40-degree heat, fittingly captures the ferocious intensity that defines La Fura's signature style.

La fura is the Catalan term for ferret - a sewer rat, Bachir explains with a smirk. Dels Baus, he adds, denotes the district the company was working in when it formed in 1979.

In any La Fura production, the audience - often positioned centre stage - is, Bachir says, as integral to the show as the lighting, script or music.

Much of the workshop centres on how to perform confronting, violent and angry movements without terrifying onlookers or putting them at risk. La Furan performances work as exchanges; if the audience backs away, the show loses its dynamic appeal.

The group's reputation for provocative theatre is well founded. In their 2002 Sydney Festival performance of OBS: Macbeth, audience members were smeared with raw offal. In 2004, XXX courted controversy with its graphic depictions of sex and violence.

The company's contribution to the Barcelona Olympics opening ceremony marked a turn towards more palatable performance, (the organisers asked for ''less blood'' but they still got a few bloody moments into the show), but its production of Ligeti's opera La Grande Macabre, which will open next year's Adelaide Festival, still pushes boundaries - especially when the singers make their entrance through the rear end of a giant naked woman.

It is the company's reputation for testing and crossing such barriers that has attracted the 18 participants from around Australia to the Andante workshop. Drawn from a variety of disciplines (theatre, acrobatics, dance) and varying in age from 20 to their late 50s, the performers are six days into preparations for a show that will be staged tomorrow as part of Open Channel's 35th birthday celebrations.

The objects littering the shed were collected from the Darebin tip last weekend. As Bachir explains, incorporating found objects into performances is another La Furan penchant, as is smearing skin with clay and pigment. Performers were told to souvenir items that would remind them of home if they found themselves at the end of the world.

Today, Bachir directs the tangled web of metal and limbs while fellow La Fura collaborator Zamira Pasceri plays trance-like electronica and films their progress on camera.

For Bachir, who has collaborated with La Fura for more than 15 years, the starting point for the workshops is translating and teaching participants the company's specific ''La Furan'' performance language.

For performer and long-time follower Ira Seidenstein, the most appealing accent of the La Furan language lies in its unpredictability. ''I have worked in the theatre for many years, but mostly when we see performances of circus and theatre, they have a certain rhythm to them. La Fura is quite different. They might appear chaotic and violent when you watch them, but then you realise that beneath this spontaneity is a very complex approach to interaction.''

Seidenstein says this ''language'' allows performers the rare privilege of being ''truly individual within an ensemble cast'', a freedom that springs from a foundation of trust between members of the troupe. ''The language is based on feeling, intuition, the energy of a space and how a person responds to it.''

Sydneysider Meme Thorne likens the workshop to ''rediscovering an old friend''. A veteran of Sydney's avant-garde '80s theatre scene, Thorne feels Australian theatre has suffered a radical shift towards conservatism in the past 20 years.

''There used to be a language like the Furan language in Australia, based on visual, physical and gestural communication, but I'm not sure it's here now, at least in Sydney, anyway. I'm not interested in easily digestible theatrical landscapes. I want to be confronted and challenged.''

Being a little older than the sprightlier workshop members has not dented Thorne's enthusiasm. ''Many of the young performers have more physical energy, but there's a maturity and gravity that comes with experience. There is a raw honesty to this kind of theatre. It's about creating moments of poignancy, ethereal beauty, generosity, humility, passion, anger and fury. It's anarchic in some ways, but that's what theatre is supposed to do - remind people they're alive.''

The workshop performance will take place on Saturday at 6pm, Shed 4, North Wharf Road, Victoria Harbour, Docklands.

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