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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Artel Primer

ARTEL артель

1. a labor collective, historically, artels were semi-formal associations for various enterprises: fishing, mining, commerce, collections of loaders, loggers, thieves, beggars, etc. 2. a cooperative association, a commune of democratically-minded artists. 3. American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory

Artel is a theater laboratory for continuous research into the potentials of the human being and the craft of performative expression. Through specific engagement with the histories and cultures of Russia and America we aim to create performances that provide space for deeper reflection on our shared human experience.

Artel was founded in Los Angeles in March 2006. Taking as a starting point models from European and Russian theater studios (such as those created by Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Chekhov and Grotowski), Artel is dedicated to the responsibility and citizenship of the actor through engagement with the tradition of artistic practice and theatre craft. As a laboratory, we spend much of our process discovering connections between impulse, spirit and expression, investigating the roots of the performance tradition on which we stand while uncovering new ways of challenging and expanding the role of theater in society. By focusing our lens on Russian culture and themes, Artel researches and re-imagines theatrically the histories and cultures of the USA and Russia in efforts to bring the audience and performers into a visceral and sensorial experience of innate human questions. Our devising is a quilt-like gathering of our physical based laboratory research, our cultural research and our literary research.

By hosting dialogues (after our performances and in our creative home) we create a space for deeper investigation of the sources for our performance material which simultaneously builds community as well as challenges and ignites our theatrical work to evolve. We aim for our theatre to be an instrument that can entice audiences back into the theater, entice audiences out of the theater, entice audiences to share their own creativity, entice communities to come together and mutually reveal new perspectives on social and cultural understanding through active dialogue and experiential knowledge.


Piece for Schiele, a site specific 10 minute meditation on life of Egon Schiele at Papadakis Gallery, San Pedro, July 23, 2006

Bulgakov Raw, an original experimental performance, August 2006. Held at our residential theater, Artworks on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, Bulgakov Raw was free to the public. The local community was invited to join us on a traveling adventure through the essence and soul of Mikhail Bulgakov and his time. We reached out to the audience, literally moving them during the performance through rooms, hallways, outdoors, rooftop views and the theater, evoking a heightened sense of engagement and experience.

Kolyada, a 10 minute performance that toured throughout the month of December in 2006. We traveled to the Electric Lodge in Venice on Dec. 4th for a night of Max 10 performances, the Ford Amphitheater on Dec. 6th in Los Angeles to support fellow Los Angeles company, Zoo District, in their fundraising campaign and finally, back to our theater for Gogol Mogol TeaRoom Salon I. This piece was based on the Russian tradition of Kolyada, an age-old cultural celebration of the Winter Solstice. We engaged our audiences by leading them through the experience of this ancient ritual through nontraditional storytelling and interpretation: songs, masks, mythical characters and very few words, of which were both Russian and English. Our various locations allowed us interaction with several different Los Angeles communities.

Rumpus, at Nighthawks, the first ever installment of a monthly salon at Bootleg Theater in Echo Park, March 19, 2007. Artel was invited to perform a 10-15 minute piece based on the Nighthawks chosen theme of the classic children's tale, "Where the Wild Things Are”. This performance challenged our imaginations to create the atmospheres and characters of the story through heightened physical and rhythmic use of our bodies and 6 foot long sticks.

War Machine, a Butoh Surge Street Performance, Saturday March 17, 2007 in Hollywood was a collaboration between Artel members Olya and Bryan and Butoh Dance performers Corpus Delecti. For an afternoon, both companies paraded Butoh inspired costumes, make-up, and movements throughout the streets of Los Angeles, as part of a larger protest against American Imperialism, evoking a visceral experience for all spectators. Artel offered our studio as a home for all the performers to meet, plan and collaborate.

We Play Devil's Advocate (Variation #50) [LA version], Highways Performance Space, part of the curated evening by Heidi Carlsen on April 6 and 7, 2007. This installment of our Bulgakov material was a culmination of our physical training, research and compositions over the previous 13 months. The performance connected us to the space and the Highways community. Artel established an important relation with Leo Garcia, the space’s Artistic Director which resulted in our being invited to perform there again.

We Play Devil’s Advocate (Variation #50) [SF version], part of the Fool’s Fury Ensemble Theater Festival, April 21 and 22, 2007 at the Traveling Jewish Theater in San Francisco. A revised second installment of the Bulgakov material allowing Artel to further its goals of forging contacts with West Coast artists, theaters and community.

Going Green Fundraiser The Litte Red School House, Hollywood, May 12, 2007. Artel was invited to provide guests with entertaining drum beats and chants as well as thought provoking guest interaction. Taking the recent fires in Griffith Park and our ongoing environmental concerns, characters, rhythms and songs were devised from an ensemble created post-apocolyptic, mutated human reality.

Glass Windows, A site specific two person improvisational exercises on witches, femininity and play at Annie Appel studios, San Pedro, August 5, 2007.

Nevesta, August 2007, Highways Performance Space, with Hiedi Carlsen once again curating. A short solo work-in-progress created and performed by Olya Petrakova on ancient Russian Wedding customs and the bride as ghost.

Variation #50 [snippet], Arden 2 Gallery, Costa Mesa. A gallery opening and farewell to Teatr Zar at which Artel was asked to perform a short segment of their work-in-progress. This presentation allowed us to share our work with Teatr Zar, building more potential for future collaborations. Our presentation also allowed our work to be seen by donors, scholars and artists that would not have seen it otherwise, many of whom then made plans to see the full presentation a few days later. Most importantly this presentation cemented our relationship with our fiscal umbrella, Arden 2.

Variation #50 (the memorable adventures during the legendary times of Mikhail Afanasievich Bulgakov), Highways Performance Space, December 7 and 8, 2007. Our first individual evening at this venue was a full length version of Artel's Bulgakov material. We played to oversold houses and greatly increased our audience and community base.

Gogol-Mogol TeaRoom Salon

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! for the most enjoyable evening we have had in years. So many poeple forget that art and theatre is for people to meet and.. if possible .. to have fun! You Guys are fantastic!
- J Klass/ Arden 2

To further our mission of being a laboratory that not only expands the theatrical craft but also the role of theater in society by building and sustaining a community based on active dialogue, mutual revelation, joy and play, Artel created the Gogol-Mogol TeaRoom Salon. These are seasonal nights of theatrical experimentation. Often revolving around old Russian calendar celebrations, the evenings are an opportunity to share etudes and test experiments from our laboratory with an audience while encouraging audience creativity through shared barter of songs, stories, dances, or impressions. The format of the evenings continues to develop, allowing on one evening for local musicians to be highlighted by playing after the performance and barters, on another for local Non-Profits to be highlighted in a short speech about their cause, or still on another, for an old New Year's celebration to be partying til dawn, burning old christmas trees and dowsing guests with water from a giant pool! Our core goal remains the same, to challenge the boundaries of theater and the performer/spectator relationship, to question what community is and how it meets, and to invigorate our daily lives with fresh perspectives on Los Angeles culture.

The vivid and comical tales are subversive for Hollywood, because they don’t spoon feed audiences with a beginning, nor tuck lethargic and overstuffed souls to bed with an end. “What are you revolutionaries doing in Hollywood?” I asked Bryan. He explains, “Our work in LA is necessary. In a town where people are isolated, we offer a space to build community.” Community seems the right word. -

Gogol Mogol Tea Room I, included a presentation of songs, dances, drafts, etudes, and compositions by Artel company members on December 13, 2006 at Artworks Theater. Artel’s performance was followed by a series of barter performances: audience members had an opportunity to perform a song, piece of music, dance, poem, or to teach Artel members a traditional dance, song or poem from their respective cultures and histories. The barters were primarily stories and christmas carols.

Russian Old New Year, Artel co-hosted a celebration of the traditional Russian holiday on January 13, 2007 with Milla Nova, a Russian community event planner. Over 400 guests brought food and drink, music and dancing shoes, and apparently Moscow Weather with them to the parking lot and three studios on an absolutely Freezing Night in Los Angeles! Combined with Gogol Mogol Tea Room II, Artel members performed inside and outside, led Russian and non-Russian community members through rituals, songs and provided an open stage for performances by guests. This resulted in a night of songs, dances, poetry and story readings, dead christmas tree burnings, and midnight dowsings of water from the giant pool in the parking lot!

I can't remember when we had a more perfect night. Thank you for inviting us to a wonderful performance/happening with the coolest people. ARTEL has really inspired us to explore and expand our meaning of community. - T Tanabe

Maslenitsa Carnival celebrated Russian "Forgiveness" Sunday of the "Maslenitsa" Pancake Week and was Artel's Gogol Mogol TeaRoom III on February 18, 2007. Led by Artel and Milla Nova, this activity was conducted at Artworks and entertained and invigorated adults and children, Russian and American, through traditional games, pancakes and other traditional foods, a ritualistic "Down with Winter" parade around the neighborhood as the sunset, and performances by Artel accompanied by a guest pianist from the USC graduate program playing selections from Prokoviev's sonatas. A few local Russian musicians performed songs in between the Artel etudes and the evening ended with local indie musicians performing a set of original music. The evening rain precluded the community from the burning of Madame Maslenitsa but the day's celebrations enabled all to share in the creation of a traditional Russian carnival with a non-conventional approach.

Gogol Mogol Tea Room IV was held at Artworks Theater on August 22, 2007 by ARTEL. Etudes from Artel's summer investigations as well as the first experiments in reintegrating Bryan's summer Polish work with Artel culminated in an outrageous Gogol Mogol audience cooking show. We expanded our Gogol Mogol Tea Room to highlight a local Not-for-Profit, CAST, as well as local comedy team, Ten West.

...that was amazing, you guys have something insanely special.
- B Canning, LA musician

What is a Gogol-Mogol? An egg-based concoction known as Gogol-Mogol, comes in numerous forms with all manner of ingredients. Common to most recipes is egg yolks whipped stiff with sugar; other options include egg white, milk, vanilla, nutmeg, honey, citrus rind, rum or cognac, short crust, berries, fruits and other assorted toppings. Said to help smooth and soothe a singer’s sore throat, a Gogol-Mogol could be just what the doctor ordered on a cold winter’s day.

Artist Exchanges

To stimulate the growth of our theatre practices and those of fellow Los Angeles performers, Artel periodically invites Master Artists to speak, teach and/or work with us in closed or open sessions depending on the time and scope allowed for our meetings. Members of Artel have also traveled to various Theaters and Institutions to learn from and establish relations with International artists.

Stephen Wangh Worksession was Artel’s opportunity to host Master Teacher Stephen Wangh in August 2006. Mr. Wangh conducted the two day work session with Artel and a guest from Austria. Artel’s understanding of Grotowski’s principles and the collective's standards for practice increased. Mr. Wangh is a mentor of Bryan's and author of An Acrobat of the Heart. In July 2008 Artel will co-produce Mr. Wangh’s Teachers Practicum in the Catskill mountains of New York.

Odin Week was Artel members Bryan Brown and Olya Petrakova’s opportunity to work with Odin Teatret in Holstebro, Denmark. The workshops were conducted by members of this world renowned theater company from September 20th through October 1st of 2006. Practical inspiration was gathered for individual and ensemble development as well as an education in administrative and community outreach. National and international contacts were made and there was also Danish press coverage on Bryan, Olya and their work with Artel.

Slava Polunin Talk was a two hour lecture and subsequent Q and A given by Russian clown Slava Polunin of the world famous Slava’s Snowshow on January 4th, 2007, during his tour to Los Angeles. Artel hosted this meeting at our creative home and opened it to all Angelenos interested. Olya Petrakova of Artel translated Slava Polunin’s words of wisdom, artistic clarity and play. This allowed Artel to meet with and connect to a world renowned Russian artist and community who shared a love and fascination with his work.

Double Edge Visit was on January 24, 2007 at the Double Edge Theater Company’s work farm in Ashfield, MA. Olya and Bryan of Artel spent a full day connecting with an East Coast company whose mission has many parallels with that of Artel's, paving the way for future collaboration. This was also an opportunity to research organizational and educational development through Double Edge’s library and archive.

Butoh Dance Intensive was conducted by Shinichi Iova-Koga of InkBoat and involved all Artel members from March 21 through 27, 2007 each day for 5 hours. This opportunity allowed Artel to challenge ourselves physically and cerebrally through a new form. Artel's [via]Corpora also presented a public workshop by Shinichi, Disciplines for the Hidden Body: Imagery, Form and Improvisation on Saturday, March 24, 10-3 PM. This allowed Artel to train and meet with other Los Angeles based physical theater artists.

Atelier and Piesn Kozla, Artel member Bryan Brown traveled to Poland from June 18th through July 30th 2007 to participate in the Atelier, Source Techniques - Techniques of Sources, at the Grotowski Institute as well as a July workshop with Piesn Kozla (Song of Goat). Atelier hosted only 17 people from around the world. Bryan’s involvement with these world renowned companies and trainings forged International relationships and opened possibilities for future collaborations with Artel. This was important in the educational development of all of Artel as Bryan expands our knowledge by leading and sharing with the group the research and discoveries from Atelier and Piesn Kozla.

Commedia class with master teacher John Achorn, one of the first teachers at International Dell’Arte school. Begun on January 2, 2007 (and on hiatus since October 2007) Commedia remains an activity that provides Artel and contemporary Los Angeles comedy team Ten West with an insight and exploration into the old traditions of Commedia and mask work. This class opened its doors to several invited artists on June 26th until its hiatus, expanding the working community of Artel.

ReOrientation with Shinichi was Artel's chance to host Shinichi Iova-Koga for three more days while he was presenting at RedCat. 5 hour daily work allowed us to explore in more depth the unique Butoh based devising style of Mr. Iova-Koga.

Teatr ZAR/Matej Matjeka Workshop was an opportunity to meet and work with the resident company of the Grotowksi Institute at our studio on Nov 24th, 2007. The workshop was 5 hours of physical impulse expression and rhythmic/acrobatic ensemble development. This began five days of meetings and sharings with Teatr Zar, deepened Artel's individual and ensemble work, and created relations for future collaborations. see the Open Doors project.

Community Building

Sometimes there are outreach programs that Artel is invited to participate in (or occasionally generates ourself from necessity) that do not fit into our preexisting formulations of community development. Often these are the greatest ways for us to challenge our notions of theater and our capabilities and capacities as an organization.

Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council Festival, July 14, 2007 in Hollywood. This festival was an opportunity for adults and children alike to come together and celebrate their community. Artel was responsible for a carnival aspect: games and traditional folk songs and dances with children and adults, outrageous atmosphere with costume and masks, etc.

CalArts All School Conference, October 12, 2007, was an invitation by Dean Erik Ehn to speak as panelists to the entire Theater Department of CalArts on community building and theater development. This introduced us to a wider student community and began a discussion of possible future collaboration and relations at CalArts.

The First Los Angeles Physical Theater Arts Festival, Nov 23 - Dec 23, 2007, was presented, produced and hosted by Artel's [via]Corpora at our home theater ArtWorks. Two alternate evenings of local physical theater expanded our community of artists and audiences, introduced new perspectives on theater to the Los Angeles community, and established some important press contacts (most notably with the LA Times). This Festival laid the foundation for future festivals and established Artel and [via]Corpora as a presenting organization.

Network of Ensemble Theaters, a rapidly growing national ensemble theater network of which Artel is a member. Through our affiliation with NET Artel anticipates many exchanges with US companies for touring and worksession purposes.

Thanks so much for last night. LOVED THE SHOW!!!!!!! ARTEL must NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, leave L.A.!!!!!
- Frankie Colmane, LA writer/reviewer