Restage Lab: Capturing Performance

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Spontaneity is the defining feature of performance. Living people move and speak in front of a live audience to stir thoughts and set hearts on fire. Or flub a line. Or miss a cue. Yes, spontaneity can also be the downfall for performance and, unfortunately,  InterArts students can gaffe, corpse, and stutter with the best of them. There is hope for these grads, though–a second chance to capture the proverbial lightning in a bottle. It is Restage Lab. [flickr id=”6714249061″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]

Restage started with a simple question that is on the lips of every grad after a lukewarm take: when can I do that piece again?  Graduate students make work in a constant, hectic cycle along with papers, presentations, and classwork in the InterArts program. Underwhelming performances are the inevitable side effect of work fatigue in a given semester–underwhelming from the performer’s side and/or the documentation. What good is a large portfolio of so-so work, blurry photos, or shoddy video?

For performers, strong documentation of a strong performance is the only evidence of the work after its run. There may have been an audience. Maybe there wasn’t. Either way, an artist cannot sustain on word of mouth alone. They need a crew, fellow artists in a similar predicament, to create a round-robin of directing, lighting, documenting, and reframing work.

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IMAGe Unit became that crew of artists. I-Unit representatives worked with faculty and staff in scheduling time and organizing InterArts spaces for use during this past J-Session, particularly the Raw Space. Even more, SOC (the Student Organization Council) granted IMAGe Unit a grant for DVD’s, DV tapes, and jewel cases as documentation/presentation materials for Restage Lab. In a few short weeks, the like-minded notion of a few artists grew into a legitimate group dedicated to bettering their collective work.

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I must emphasize that Restage Lab is not a class. It is a voluntary effort. InterArts students did not wait around for the curriculum to create a course to fill the documentation void. We did it ourselves. There is a massive amount of student engagement needed to orchestrate an extracurricular performance group over winter break. The enthusiasm of IMAGe Unit goes without saying…but I still want to say it because it should be said. We worked hard to make this happen, and it’s paying off.

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Only a student-run group could quickly organize for a cause within the greater Columbia College Chicago education structure. In fact, it is better that a student-run group handle such an issue: the students know what they need, and are more than willing to work to satisfy that need. With success, the need for more of these opportunities at documenting performance will rise and catch the attention of the department. Perhaps a course can emerge from the successful experiments of structure in Restage Lab. It certainly would be the best focus group for student interest.

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In the end, Restage is another experiment in performance, another chance to catch the lightning, to erase the flubs and gaffes for future portfolios. The fact that a community like this can sustain and move forward on motivated volunteerism alone is a powerful thing to consider.

The dedicated performers of Restage Lab should be proud. They helped raise the curtain for future work.