What is Work? I asked this myself when I was in dance school in Arnhem, Holland. I remembered my fist work in theater had been “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekov. I had come to that theater, in St. Petersburg, when I was 16 and said that I want to work with them. It was my first experience of satisfying work. Seven years later, I was determined to find out how to work for myself and by myself, with the same satisfaction.
I re-read “Three Sisters” and, to my surprise, these women had a lot to say about work. Even though this play was written 100 years ago, one can still see these women everywhere. I took each character out of context and did improvisations based on their lives. Using their original words, I created monologues and dances that reflect their different life stories. I built a puppet that sat on the stage as a silent witness, observing the audience from the stage. The piece included a Russian folk song, ‘Beauty’, which I performed.
As a transition from one scene to the other, I went into the audience and asked them: what do you think is work? I like to make audience think. My goal was to make them say the word work as many times as possible. I believe that just by saying the word, the audience will get engaged into thinking about their work in their own lives. I recorded all these conversations and at the end of the show I played back what they had said. I created a horizontal dynamic of audience and performance space and a vertical dynamic by having ropes hanging from the ceiling and all my props coming down onto the stage from there. Two of the ropes were connecting stage and audience. One end was attached to my wrists and the other went through the ceiling down to audience, so they could physically control what is happening onstage.
I made a puppet out of one of the theater lights. I attached ropes to the shatters, hung it lower then the others, and animated it so it looked like a black bird flying in the sky. Performance space and audience space intermix. There is no passive witnessing. We all work together. I closed this show with a monologue about my understanding of work. It was a confession like statement for that day. Every day is different.