European Voluntary Service

This is Pekarna's blog for EVS volunteers. Pekarna is a sending and hosting/receiving organisation for EVS volunteers and their volunteers (send and hosted ones) will keep you up to date about their work.

Evropska prostovoljska služba

Pekarna Magdalenske mreže Maribor te vabi, da se tudi ti pridružiš množici prostovljcev/-k Evropske prostovoljne službe (EVS) in odpotuješ v organizacijo po svoji izbiri v drugo državo EU. Smo pošiljajoča in gostiteljska organizacija EVS, ki mladim od 17. in do 30. leta za obdobje največ enega leta uredi vse podrobnosti za brezskrbno in povsem brezplačno delovanje v tujini.
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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Performing politics

The two things that I’m most interested in are performative arts and social and political engagement. The latter was already part of my life, both as a representation of my day to day actions, and as a number of activities I used to take part in back in my city, Cluj. I don’t think this facet of my personality and life will fade away any time soon. And that realization that my organization is politically active was one of the reasons I was very happy to join them.
However, the performing arts part was only tangentially a part of my life. What I mean by that is that of course I was following the theater scene, I was attending theater performances, but this would rather correspond to a hobby level of engagement, and I wanted more than that. Since I didn’t study acting or directing, and I had no idea if I would be good at any of that, years ago I tried something that I knew I have some talent in, and that is writing. I started to write theater reviews and sending them to publications that I appreciated, who published them. I actually started with a magazine that I loved, who had a contest for the young theater critics, which I won.
This kept me going for a while. I even enrolled in a master in journalism, Media Production, to make sure I’m qualified to delve in the area of writing and performance, even if only tangentially.
But I always had a need and desire for more, I wanted to be a part of the festivals that I was attending and maybe reviewing, and the shows that I was watching and writing about. It’s pretty hard, even for those who have studied theater, to make it their job – it doesn’t pay much, and it’s anyways very hard to catch a break and be hired by a theater.
So, when I came to Maribor, knowing that my organization has theater of the oppressed classes and that they are active in the artistic field, I thought this might be a chance to give it a go in some hands-on involvement.
The theater of the oppressed as such is not a form of theater I’m particularly fond of. That is because it is mostly a form of social work, a tool for social change rather than a form of art. And whilst I think activism is crucial for political change, and I also believe in the combination and synergy of art and political message, I think that the esthetical form needs to be kept and carefully worked at. This is not of particular interest in the theater of the oppressed. Its practitioners are mostly interested in portraying an oppressive situation and encouraging people to actively participate in its development. Which is, again, great, empowering and maybe even functional in its purpose. But it’s not art.
The workshops and my implication in some projects together with the group So-so-so and the group ZIZ, both part of my organization, have brought me quite a lot though.
I was always very uncomfortable with public speaking (i.e. situations such as holding a presentation, not those such as casually speaking to people, which I love). This was always one of my fears. And I decided to subject myself to as much public speaking as I could. And from being pretty scared of taking turns in saying some words about ourselves in an I-don’t-know-what-workshop, to acting on stage is a pretty big leap! Actually sometimes, when I have a look over the photos from our performance, I still can’t believe that I’m doing that. And while I might not have I don’t know what skills or talent, and while I’m still nervous for a while on stage,  I’m pretty proud of myself both for having the courage to do it, and for the results.
Another thing that I learned from co-creating and acting in a performance is that it’s not really a larger-than-live, science-fiction, other-worldly endeavor to make something happen from scratch, to build a decent performance. It is actually something attainable. Something that you can, step by step, put together, reshape, and make it work.  And I want to hold on to this feeling, because I am going to start my own project, a workshop and a final performance on body image and the media influence in our self-perception, and I think this is a pretty big, and at the same time, scary endeavor.
One last realization that I’m going to mention here is how important the people that you work with are.  In an activity where you’re so exposed, it is very important to trust and rely on your co-workers. It’s very important to hear from them that you did great, to trust their opinions and feedback, to be able to work with their feedback live, on stage, where you need to be in character as much as you can, so you need the others to interact and be in the moment with you. If you don’t have that, and you don’t respect the other’s actions, choices and tastes, you cannot go on, as you no longer feel and pleasure in it. At least I can’t. Fortunately, it only happened to me once to decide to leave a workshop because I wasn’t working with people I was the slightest bit on the same page with. 

Ah, and one more thing: as I mentioned, I always wanted to be part of a (good) festival, with more than attending or writing about it. And now, we’re going to perform our forum play, ‘Act like a girl!’ at Lent, and maybe even on the Theater of the Oppressed Non-festival! Not bad at all! :)

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