The year 2020 was a turning point for the world of theatre. Everything came to a standstill and public space started to disappear overnight. Theatre venues were closed down, while theatre itself actually moved to the outside world, including squares, streets, shopping malls, restaurants, ski slopes… We started to play roles in everyday life and observe dramatic situations that we had not known before.
In Polenta we will tackle an event as a form that is open to the point of evading any conventions of a theatre disposition, in which the roles of performers and spectators are clearly delineated and where the stage is established as a space of fiction from which we make sense. We will challenge a format of an event that, although scheduled, can be attended by spectators who do not necessarily recognise it as an “Event”. This assumption will prompt us to relocate the event to a grocery store, this being a meeting place with no inscribed desire for an event, for interaction. As a venue, the grocery store is suggestive in itself, since it always functions as a site of desire. A grocery store is a place that promises what could be, if we choose so. It is not totally unlike theatre which presents the lives of others on the stage, just as the products with their labels and billboards show us the lives of others, or our own lives as they could be.
Our point of departure and reflection will be Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta, a novel by Aglaja Veteranyi, translated by Kristina Jurkovič. Its main protagonist is a girl, living in dire circumstances, who wants to become a travelling artist, an actress.
The Polenta project was initiated by the actress Eva Jesenovec.
It is conceived as a site-specific happening, most probably in a grocery store. The original idea, which evolved during a covid-related lockdown, came from the notion of a meeting space. During the lockdown, when theatres were closed, a grocery store was almost the only place where people could meet each other. In the project, we are interested in the intrusion of theatre art into a space where it is not expected – the event provokes random spectators who unwittingly find themselves in the space of art. We want to blur the line between the everyday life of a food shopper and art.
Although life has become more bearable with the epidemic on the wane, and radical restrictions on public life have been lifted, the awareness that theatre is a living art, conditioned by the meeting of people in person, and not by a “theatre space” in the auditorium or virtual, remains relevant and topical.
Together with Eva Jesenovec and dramaturg Jernej Potočan, I researched similar theatre practices abroad. We were intrigued by conceptual happenings that open up a different view of a familiar, often-traversed space. Since we have not yet seen this kind of performance in Slovenia, we feel confident to claim that the Polenta project (as part of Drama Laboratory) will be refreshing and innovative.