Thursday, 20 July 2017

#Instadramaturgy: Catherine Duquette @ Edfringe 2017

Catherine Duquette (USA) presents

Real-time confrontation of real relationships in interactive game-like format from Fringe first timer

Inspired by cynicism. Based on romance. One woman finds herself on the brink of love, lust, fear and hope. The audience are her prospects and decide how her story unfolds.

#Instalove is a joyful, electrifying, and at times, stormy celebration of all the reasons we seek love – from the playful to the pathetic, the pragmatic to the passionate - and how identity is created through relationships. It transposes the quest for love into a live game-like encounter; the audience votes to decide the outcome, so each performance is different.

Performer/writer, Catherine Duquette, presents five different characters. Meet Clare (romantic), Kit (cynical), Cat (sensual), Kate (pragmatic), and Kris (dominant). They compete against each other for the audience’s affections – which will they want to date?

What was the inspiration for #Instalove?

A couple years ago, I was coming out of a long and challenging relationship that forced me to reassess my own patterns, expectations, and fantasies in approach to love; I was also having repeated conversations with friends about their failed search for companionship; and I was witnessing endless contradiction about what we said we wanted versus what were actually getting/doing. 

Meanwhile, most of my friends were participating in online dating. Despite seemingly unlimited options, they weren’t finding what they were seeking. (There’s a direct correlation between infinite choice and misery by the way.) These personal battles, contradictions, and questions about love, both conceptual and existential, unraveled some of the last romantic notions of love that lay threadbare in my mind. 

So I wanted to figure it out: What is this thing called “love”? Why do we do it again and again? And why, despite our “best efforts” are we not getting what we say we want?

To start the project, I went onto OKCupid and Tinder and discovered a pattern among potential mates and competition: four to five types of profiles over and over again selling a specific type of personality. It got me thinking about how I would market myself and why. The process of self-identification was no easy task, and I ended up splintered into five different personas -- the characters that would end up being the dating candidates for #Instalove. 

Then I worked on creating a space that simulated the work of a dating app live onstage, where we would figure out this thing called “love” together.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Depends on the performance. Depends on the public. Everyone responds to different platforms/mediums. But I’m definitely a proponent of performance that does something. Most theatre only provides a passive and temporary experience that despite creating awareness about a topic, rarely generates a discussion to actualize change.

#Instalove is specifically designed to create a space for public discussion both on and off stage. It’s not only the participatory nature of the show that encourages this free discussion, but also my use of game design as a dramaturgical approach. The piece starts off playfully, but the audience quickly finds themselves generating questions and challenging each other to step out of unquestioned routines. 

It’s honest and stunning to watch. In Berlin previews of the show, I’ve witnessed romantic couplings between close friends, weeping after the realization of self-sabotage, joyful liberation of anger, and endless discussion.

Further, the deeply personal content of the show inspires anyone I’m interacting with to be honest and vulnerable, which allows the rest of the audience to be honest and vulnerable, until the whole room is reveling in an open discussion about love, relationships, and identity. 

How did you first become interested in making performance?

I always wanted to perform. I was hooked when I took my first dance class at three years old. When I was 21, I started directing and writing in addition to performing, and I developed my own performance methodology for creating work that drew on personal materials. But it was when I moved to Berlin seven years ago, that I discovered interactive/participatory performance. 

Starting out in a new city, I had to create a body of work before I could integrate myself in the scene. Naturally, this work was solo performance, but I loathed solo performance because I found it lonely. I wanted to (inter)act with others on stage, so I turned to the audience! And the rest is history.

Is there any particular approach you took to the making of the show?

Yes, I used game design as a dramaturgical approach. This gives the audiences meaningful choices that directly impact the show and allow the audience more personal and emotional investment in what happens on stage. (I also write for video games, and game design – because it is interactive – is at the cutting edge of performance, i.e. the art of doing.)

Does the show fit with the style of your other productions?

Yes, I specialize in interactive theatre: improvisation within a dramaturgical score, audience-performer relations, and encouraging the audience to get up on stage to make meaningful choices. However, I would say that #Instalove is the most participatory production to date – it creates a community in real time depending entirely on what the audience brings to the theatre, and the choices of this community directly impact the show. 

Since #Instalove is about relationships, and as in any relationship, it’s not just about me (the performer), it’s about you and me. It’s about us, so the content demands that it be as participatory as possible. There are even a couple moments where I step aside and let the audience steer the ship – these moments offer some of the most compelling and poignant revelations in the piece.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
A sense of community, an expansion of self, and perhaps even a shift in the way they think about love, relationships, and their approach to these things – that public discussion of ideas we talked about earlier. 

In each series of dates, the audience eliminates their least favourite character. Gradually, Catherine’s characters are revealed to all be personas of the same woman. They share the same stories and previous relationships but emphasise different aspects of their lives and perceive their memories differently, taking distinct lessons from them. As the show progresses, the participatory encounters become ever more intimate, heading to the audience’s ultimate choice.

How will the audience’s personality shape Catherine’s identity? Which of the characters will she become with them? Who will they become with her?

Catherine (who is also a writer and narrative designer for mobile games) will create a smartphone app for audiences to download prior to seeing the show, which will help them interact with, and drive the decision making process.

#Instalove is a trailblazer in interactive performance, as it applies game design as a dramatic tool. This concept allows for fun yet meaningful interactions in which the audience not only decide what happens on stage but also involves them with the emotional consequences of their choices.#Instalove encourages the audience to face their own personas in the game of love, all the while reconciling what it means to choose and how that shapes who we become.

American performer, writer, and theatre maker, Catherine Duquette recently relocated to London after living in Berlin for several years. She specialises in audience-performer relations and improvisation within scripted drama. She creates intimate participatory works that draw on autobiographical materials to share contemporary experiences with active audiences. Curious about expanding notions of performance, Catherine fuses theatre, interactive poetry, scripts, and choice-based narrative for video games. With #Instalove she is exploring game design as a dramaturgical approach to theatre in order to allow audiences more emotional and personal investment in what happens on stage.

Listings information 
Venue: theSpace on North Bridge, Argyll Theatre (Venue 36) 
Time: 20.05 (50 mins)     
Dates: 4-26 Aug (not 6, 13, 20)   
Venue Box Office: 0131 510 2381  
Tickets: £6 - £9

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