"Theater can change the world."
For many people, this statement might sound pretentious, phony, even laughable. Theater? Change the world? Come on! Theater is an anachronism, right? It's just a game for maladjusted misfits played out at the fringes of our culture. If theater has any real impact on society, that impact is so minuscule it's virtually invisible to the naked eye.
Yet when you hear Tricklock Company members make this bold claim—which they do often—the statement takes on a whole new meaning. You can bet the bank this astonishingly talented crew believes this maxim with all its heart. You can also bet they're putting everything they've got into a valiant, well-coordinated campaign to make it so.
The company's single greatest vehicle for transforming this vision into reality is its Revolutions International Theatre Festival, which kicks off its fifth season on Jan. 12 by once again bringing some of the best experimental theater from around the globe to Albuquerque. Yes, it's bigger. Yes, it's better. Yes, some of this stuff will make your grandma wince. For all these reasons, you'd be a fool to not score tickets to this carnival.
You Say You Want a Revolution
UNM theater professor Eugene Douglas puts it best. "This festival," he says, "creates an atmosphere where masses of cutting edge artists come together—slam poets, painters, techs, actors, dancers, people who write about theater—all collecting together because there's this feeling that anything could happen. People want to be a part of it. Personally, I'm totally addicted to it."
Tricklock's Artistic Director Joe Pesce came up with the idea for Revolutions several years ago while the company was touring through Europe. During their tours, the Tricklockers frequently take part in experimental theater festivals. Pesce began wondering why we don't have a similar festival in the Southwest. Never one to dream small, he, along with plenty of help from his Tricklock buddies, quickly made the festival a reality right here in little ol' Albuquerque.
The Tricklockers began bringing in some of the most amazing theatrical acts on the planet, stellar and in many cases legendary performers such as Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theatre, the Czech Republic's Jednotka theater troupe, Britain's hip hop innovator Jonzi D, Akhe Russian Engineering Theatre, the Akho Theatre Center of Israel, the Staniewski Center for Theatre Practices of Gardzience, Poland and many, many more. The Tricklock gang met some of these performers in their travels. Others served as mentors at one time or another, guiding the troupe's artistic evolution. All bring a level of inventiveness to their theatrical creations that we rarely see in our quaint little corner of the world.
"What I'm reaching for with the title, Revolutions, is to let people know immediately that this is not a festival of theater you've seen before," Pesce says. "It's avant garde. We bring in styles from other places that people here in New Mexico aren't familiar with."
The term also ties directly into the Tricklock Company's vision of using theater as a tool to resculpt the world as we know it. "When you consider the word ’revolutions,'" says Pesce, "it's such a jingoistic term, but it's always been the artists who've led cultures to succeed. It's creative thinking that takes a society to a new place and that also brings cultures together. This year's festival exemplifies this more than ever. A lot of companies we're bringing in are cross cultural. I believe the kind of cultural understanding that grows out of that really can bring about major social change."
The Line Up
For three jam-packed weeks, venues all over Albuquerque, as well as a couple in Santa Fe, will host some of the most inventive theater around. There's so much going on it's hard to know where to begin. What follows is a roughly chronological account of some of the festival's highlights. (For more information, see the "Schedule of Events" sidebar or log on to www.tricklock.com.)
From Los Angeles, Lauren Weedman, a regular on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" brings her show Wreckage to the KiMo Theatre. This biographical one-woman show revolving around a fateful lie Weedman told as an 18-year-old is fueled with a tense comedic energy.
New Yorker Thaddeus Phillips then presents his ¡El Conquistador! at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, a story about a working class Latin American man who travels to the big city hoping to become a soap opera star. Told in Spanish with projected English subtitles, this eccentric, fantastical performance boasts an impressive supporting cast along with amazing sets and props.
During the festival's second week, Phillips returns with his troupe the Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental to perform The Earth's Sharp Edge at UNM's Rodey Theatre. This show will use a series of clever conceits to probe the nature of airline security and international migration.
On Jan. 20, the Tricklockers ride up to the Roundhouse in Santa Fe to perform some short pieces for our state legislators. Joe Pesce will also take this opportunity to rail at our representatives about the importance of funding the arts.
The Performance Project from Massachusetts specializes in working with people either in jail or recently released. The group will present Walk With Me at UNM's Theatre X, an original movement and theater piece that addresses issues surrounding incarceration.
New Mexico playwright Charles Pike and Chicago's Prop Theatre present another intriguing collaboration with Elephant Murmurs at the Tricklock Performance Space. This bizarre, surreal political satire solves the riddle of Bill Richardson's lost years between stepping down as Clinton's Energy Secretary in 2000 and being elected New Mexico's governor in 2002.
Ireland-based Angel Exit Theatre is made up of performers from Brazil, France, Greece, Ireland, England and the United States. The troupe will bring its gothic ghost story Bolt Upright to Theatre X, which tells the tale of a young woman sent to a remote farmhouse to care for two orphans.
For one night only, Vincent Mantsoe of South Africa performs an evening of dance mixing African forms with Balinese, contemporary, ballet and martial arts at the Rodey. Also for one night only at the Rodey, New Yorker Sekou Sundiata presents a solo dance performance called Blessing the Boats, revolving around his experience getting an organ transplant.
The Tricklock Company itself will bring its own dark magical fairytale, Splinters, to UNM's Theatre X. Set in a world with many suns, our hero, Harry, sets out to discover why these suns are going out one by one. Splinters makes creative use of masks and also showcases the troupe's unique brand of physical storytelling. Tricklock members Kevin R. Elder and Juli Etheridge will also perform original solo pieces at Theatre X.
Last but not least, the Reptilian Lounge, the Tricklock's long-running late night cabaret featuring some of the most brilliant artists in our community runs for the duration of the festival at the Tricklock Performance Space.
¡Viva la Revolución!
How serious are these Tricklockers and their far flung international comrades about overturning the established theatrical order? Well, like all true revolutions, this one has its own manifesto. In it, the organizers vow to "stand united in the belief that training in and exposure to the broad spectrum of world theatre can empower the youth, and an entire community, to create what it desires and to improve the overall standard of living, deeply, and over the long term, for every citizen."
"Ten years from now," says Kerry Morrigan, one of the founders of the Tricklock Company, "I see Revolutions being a landmark festival in the region. I want for there to be a lot of national attention on this festival. There are people around the world who already know about it, artists and such, but I want people from all over the country to come here just for the festival, like they do for the Balloon Fiesta."
If anyone can pull it off, it's this gang. When the revolution happens, it won't be televised, but it might just play out on stage. If that's the case, you can bet the Tricklock Company and their international revolutionary friends will play starring roles.