‘I don’t believe in colonised knowledge and holistic formulas’

Daniel Irizarry’s two-week workshop will culminate in a staging of Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector General.

Daniel Irizarry’s two-week workshop will culminate in a staging of Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector General.   | Photo Credit: Lee Wexler

New York-based director, actor and teacher Daniel Irizarry aims to whip up a theatrical catharsis with a workshop and performance

Of all the theatre happenings that take place with great alacrity in the city, an international stage practitioner’s rare touchdown adds a dash of diversity, global style, to the local scene. Apart from good tidings they bring knowledge of the craft, a window to the world, and a shot in the arm for those looking to gain a foothold in the precarious world of the performing arts. This month’s intrepid voyager is Daniel Irizarry, theatre-maker and pedagogue from New York, delivered by long-haul flight to the very heart of Mumbai’s nebulous actor-training universe.

Under the aegis of The Actor’s Craft, the training institute founded by Raghav Aggarwal, Irizarry will conduct a two-week workshop titled Awakening The Actor’s Dramatic Instincts, which will culminate in a staging of Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector General, “a theatrical catharsis where [participants will] sweat, dance, sing, and celebrate theatre.”

Creative gambles

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, which he bluntly describes as “an illegal military possession of the USA”, Irizarry brings a politically aware hyphenated persona to his works, which are never short of provocation or artistic risk. His production of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz’s The Madman And The Nun featured a vintage Turkish wedding regulated to the beats of techno-pop with grooms strutting their stuff in pink tutus. His deliriously outré adaptation of Jean Genet’s The Maids, set in Puerto Rico, was a New York Times’ Critics pick, and described as “glittery, dance-spiked explosion of flowers, feathers and sweat.”

Responding to being described as a maker dabbling in extremes, he says, “I don’t believe in realistic theatre. I like to look for invisible angles, and create a new language on stage. A pataphysical alphabet.” The hyperactive changes in cadences that one might encounter in, say, a train journey, is what constitutes realism for Irizarry. For this reason, his plays often allow for a degree of immersion with audiences. “There is no fourth wall in my theatre. You are there in front of me and I can (and want) to see you and hopefully we will play together,” he explains.

Exchange program

For the workshop, Irizarry and Aggarwal conducted a series of auditions, in order to carefully put together their set of participants. The composition of such a group is significant, because they are expected to not just work as individual players, but conduct themselves as part of an ensemble. “I am looking for actors willing to play and take risks, [who are] not afraid to make mistakes,” asserts Irizarry who expects their playground to be, “an environment of complete freedom, respect and vertical madness.” As has been the case with his many international engagements, in places as far-flung as Poland, Turkey and Japan, he arrives at each new location with a respectful readiness to listen and exchange. “I don't believe in colonised knowledge and holistic formulas. Focusing on the ensemble and the Kuden (Japanese, meaning one-on-one dialogue) is how we discover the way we'll work together,” he elaborates.

Gogol’s play, also known as The Government Inspector, has been frequently performed on the Indian stage — a recent version by Akarsh Khurana comes to mind. It’s a satirical play from 1842 that lampoons human foibles and systemic corruption in imperial Russia. It also lends itself well to Irizarry’s focus of placing the actor, with just voice and body, as the performative centrepiece.

“The play is filled with power nuances for actors to recreate, and has visceral echoes in every county,” says the director, who has drawn not just from the English translation by Richard Nelson, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, but also the 1949 Hollywood musical comedy featuring Danny Kaye, where the action is shifted to Napolean’s empire. Irizarry and his new-found cohorts will conspire to create yet another ‘fresh take’ that will, “use the three-dimensionality of space plus time to its maximum potential.”

Awakening The Actor’s Dramatic Instincts will take place from July 22-August 3; The Inspector General will be performed on August 5 at the NCPA; for more details call: 7400099449, 9870204642

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 7:03:30 PM |

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