WWI. (Re)Visions of the Aftermath, presented this week at Theatre Glendon beginning Wednesday February 26, is an exercise in history & story-telling, both onstage and inter-actively through social media. What was World War I? What impact did it have, perhaps still has now?
The production looks at the documented stories of Gavrilo Princip –the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand—as well as stories of men and women affected by the war, combining contemporary renditions and modern (artistic) impressions of WWI. As their facebook page asks: “Whose voice is more important? What are the impacts of the war on us today? Who cares? (Re)Visions of the Aftermath navigates its way through these controversial questions and attempts to find the WWI story.”
They invite your participation:
Help us define war through this interactive performance:
- Before the performance visit our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/revisionsoftheww1aftermath) and tweet @revisionsofww1 words, quotations or photos that represent war and you might just see them in the show.
- Make sure to bring your smart phones and tablets to the performance as we collaboratively define and explore the First World War.
- Don’t live in Canada/Ontario? Watch our live stream on our Facebook page and participate online – visit Theatre Glendon’s youtube page for the live stream: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheatreGlendon
In anticipation I ask Director Aleksandar Lukac questions about the project.
1- Is WWI. (Re)Visions of the Aftermath a play or something else?
I would call this a theatrical event / it is a result of a six month research-writing workshop the students in my Glendon College, Approaches to Theatre Class conducted since September. They were placed in groups and were basically instructed to search their own memories of WWI. This could have included very personal histories like stories from their grandparents to just historical research to just very blunt imagining of the stories of soldiers and women from the period. We also included some authentic contemporary cabaret numbers and comedic writing. These really offset the expected gloominess of the play.
On top of this we have an online component / the play is live/streamed on YouTube and we are expecting the audience / in the house as well as around the world to tweet their own WWI stories to us / this happens in a segment of the play which is formatted to look like an audition for future theatre-film projects about WWI. It is interesting that this dynamic is far more present in some European countries / there are whole festivals showcasing new works about WWI. Canada seems to be less obsessed with the subject.
I personally was born in Sarajevo and am flabbergasted with the developments there / I grew up considering Gavrilo Princip to be a hero of the Bosnian liberation from the Austro Hungarian hegemony / let’s not forget that Hitler was given as a birthday gift the original plaque commemorating Princip’s deed that was ripped from the locale by Nazi soldiers. Today the history is being revised (hence the title of our play) and the West seems to put more and more blame on Serbia for the assassination and subsequent war. Others keep to the more traditional interpretations of the causes and effects of WWI. It is pretty chaotic – the winners usually write the history – we live in the world where those original alliances have been broken down and history is being interpreted by new winners – if you are young you probably don’t care, however if you have packed a few years you get a shock. This shock is what prompted me to do the show. Take an x-ray of where our collective memory stands on the subject.
2-You’ve used social media before in theatre. How did you use it before, and how is this different?
Two years ago we did Marat Sade Occupied (still available online http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7rUIbLF-fM ) and it was dubbed world’s first fully interactive play through social media. It was a wonderful experiment albeit somewhat chaotic – actors and audience members were tweeting live at each other and the play – using the Occupy setting as a context. All of the commentary was immediately available for everyone to see on our huge screens so everyone was in tune to other messages and posts. It was a stormy interaction teaching us possibly even more about the audience attention and interests then about our subject. I loved the energy of it and the unpredictability of the exchanges – we had no filters and people could tweet anything they wanted.
This time around we are trying to experiment with a more directed uploading of information – we expect and solicit from the audience to contribute their own proposals for WWI stories – ones that would be worth a movie or a theatrical treatment. We shall comment back in a segment where several groups are auditioning their own stories – it is a more streamlined and hopefully more defined segment – but since it is live we are still facing the possibility of people posting all kinds of things – this is essential part of social media and it would be counter productive to eliminate the elements of chance in this process.
3-You’re a practitioner of political theatre, with a history of edgy work in Eastern Europe, Canada and internationally. Is this more of a theatrical experience or more a political experience… and why?
I would say it is both because the two cannot be separated. Theatre is political in nature because it is public – when you add the social media component it becomes even more so. You know, I grew up artistically in a politically very monolithic society in which it was easy to commit to a “side” – opposition to the ruling class was always expected from the artists. Today in this version of democracy commitment to an idea or a side is much harder because we know both more and less about any issue in the world. Adding multiple voices through social media just exposes that problem – that we are confused and aware that there are also people whose job is to create this confusion as well as profit from it. I believe our show reflects this – and this is why it is very political.
4-World War I is very remote from our own time. Does that make this easier or harder?
Well many people would say that we would not have had WWII without it – that most problems in the 20th century were caused by the political movements after WWI. Would Soviet Revolution, Hitler, formation of a number of states in Middle East to name just a few, happen without WWI? But since this is also a project mostly written by my students, it was also an opportunity to hear what this generation’s take on WWI is. This is neither harder nor easier – it just is. It just might be harder for my generation to hear how the values placed on historical events are changed today.
5-Do you think we understand what war is in this country?
No, I don’t think so – although paradoxically there are so many people here who have escaped their own wars. But hearing their stories, when and if we do, are completely different experiences compared to living even one day under bombs or any other type of warfare. However the worst example of the misunderstanding of what war might be the situation with the Canadian war veterans who are experiencing a government negligence that is inexcusable.
6-If I am in another country can I participate? And if so, what will I experience on my tablet, laptop or smartphone?
Everyone can watch on http://www.youtube.com/user/TheatreGlendon and tweet at @revisionsofww1
We will be receiving the tweets – hopefully this time either related to the scenes we have already performed or tweets that will be suggestions or concepts for possible scenes/movies/performances related to WWI. We will be showing these messages in only one segment of the show – but our actors will be commenting on the received messages throughout the show itself.
7-The internet is chaotic, especially when people get excited about something. How will you avoid a free for all?
Again, we will lay out the expectations but of course you can’t control the input so there is always a chance to create chaos. That is the fun of it, is it not?
Theatre Glendon present “WWI. (Re)Visions of the Aftermath” February 26- March 1st. For tickets call 416-487-6822.