The Gathering is an outdoor, immersive, community-engaging theatrical experience with an audience-driven resolution.
This work-in-progress was devised at The National Puppetry Conference at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in 2012 and 2013 by Amy Rush, in collaboration with a talented artistic team. A portion of the developing (workshopped) piece was presented as part of the community day at The 2013 Puppeteers of America National Puppet Festival (r)Evolution in order to receive constructive feedback from a larger puppet community.
The Gathering features live actors, storytelling and puppetry and asks the audience to question its role in the time together.
Inspired by sociologist Emile Durkheim, we examine collective consciousness.
Durkheim described it this way: “… two consciousnesses exist within us: the one comprises only states that are personal to each one of us, characteristic of us as individuals, whilst the other comprises states that are common to the whole of society.”
The Gathering draws on archetypical concepts to create societies which challenge the “two consciousnesses” of the individuals in the audience. An element of improv engages everyone in acts they “should” already know, which makes one question their belonging and how much they might take the leap to defend the community they so quickly have become.
When portions of The Gathering were presented at the 2013 Puppeteers of America National Festival, many new questions emerged, mostly out of the success of the social experiment. Much of the older crowd was disturbed by having been manipulated and having been placed in a specific moment in history (which they, themselves identified) onto this purposefully universal and timeless story. Most of the younger audience members enjoyed having taken a ride of emotions and enjoyed feeling a part of this larger story. Above all, we feel this piece is on the right track. Future work will emphasize how to end the piece in such a way as to take care of the audience and its reflection and to transition into a talkback session. Additional components of the story, involving more object work and puppetry also will be included.
This project is in development, with plans to continue to examine the story and how audience of all ages, abilities and backgrounds can get the most meaningful experience out of the presentation. The goal is to tour to small communities (in various forms) in weeklong residencies, which include performance training alongside professional performers, with a meaningful discussion immediately after each performance.
photos by Alex Griffin