Coming to London's streets next summer: Pop-up Shakespeare

The Daily Telegraph, 11/4/11

If a strange man approaches you in the street next summer and begins reciting Shakespeare, don't be alarmed. It is all part of the celebrations for the London 2012 Olympics.  Mark Rylance, one of Britain's greatest Shakespearean actors, will stage "pop-up" performances of the Bard's sonnets and speeches as part of a three-month long arts festival marking the Games. Together with 50 actors -- all "disguised as normal people" rather than wearing period costume -- he will approach unsuspecting members of the public and start quoting. Rylance said that a typical exchange might begin with him approaching someone to ask the time, only to break into "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day..." "The idea is to take the beautiful language of Shakespeare and put it in a real situation," explained the former artistic director of the Globe Theatre. "It could be in the middle of the street or stepping into a Tube carriage. Some might be confrontative, some might be intimate." He also has a strategy for dealing with members of the public who are none too thrilled about being approached. "How to meet a grumpy Londoner with Shakespeare? Probably with a grumpy character," he said. The project is entitled To Be Or Not To Be: Shakespeare Encountered and is being presented in partnership with the Mayor of London's office.


Pop-up arts in the an alternative trend went mainstream

The Economist, 11/4/10

An East London train station, austere and damp, is an unlikely venue for a crash course in futurism. But in a recently renovated and temporary -- or "pop-up" -- exhibition space at Hackney Downs station, commuters can school themselves in it. The project, named Banner repeater, is typical of many pop-up art installations: intellectual, obscure and distinctly not for profit. But another type of pop-up has recently prospered: unashamedly commercial shops-cum-marketing tools. Independent galleries and theatres, all with intentionally short lifespans, have been popping up suddenly, often overnight, in the hipper parts of large British cities for several years. The exigencies of the recession encouraged retailers to emulate them: the previous government set up a 3m fund to fill empty shops; landlords became more willing to sign short-term leases. Roland Smith of Theatre Delicatessen, a theatre group (currently based in a building yards from Selfridges), talks of the "thrill" of the transient but tangible pop-up experience in a world increasingly dominated by the impersonal internet. He says he "grudgingly admires" corporate pop-ups, but feels they miss the radical point: "We take a local environment, subvert it and respond to it -- they are just another shop."


New pop-up company brings 'guerilla-style theater' to Idaho

The Idaho Statesman, 12/2/11

Walk into the old Ceramica space in downtown [Boise] and a chill prickles at the back of your neck. It's not the lack of heat or the bits of dismembered baby dolls that litter the floor -- although they help. It's just a feeling. It's one that the theater artists of Boise's new Empty Boat Theatre Company have worked to hone for its premiere production: an original horror play, The Acheri, which opens this weekend. This eerie bit of environmental theater comes from the collaborative efforts of Empty Boat founders Nick Garcia and Hollis Welsh, and theater artist Dwayne Blackaller, who also is an artistic associate at Boise Contemporary Theater. Empty Boat takes its name from an ancient Buddhist parable about a man whose boat is rammed by another in the fog. The man becomes angry and begins yelling and cursing at the person in the boat, only to discover it is empty. His anger is pointless. "Nick is Buddhist and we like the idea that everything is inherently empty of meaning until you add your own perspective to it," Welsh says. For now, Empty Boat will continue as a guerrilla-style theater that will pop up in empty commercial storefronts and other interesting spaces from time to time, drawing an audience that is looking for an edgier theatrical experience grounded in the physical, Blackaller says.


A radical, simple formula for pop-up museums

Nina Simon, Museum 2 blog, 11/30/11

Over the past few years, there have been several fabulous examples of pop-up museums focusing on visitor-generated content. And now, Michelle DelCarlo has created a shockingly simple template for pop-up history museums focusing on personal objects of meaning. I strongly recommend you read her whole blog back to the beginning (it's not too onerous) and check out the evolution of her experimental format, which she has deployed in museums, libraries, and classrooms in the US and Australia. There are a few things about this that I find incredibly interesting:

  • The experience is event-based. Short timeframes work best for participants. Museums that last not for a day or weekend or month but for two hours. The experience is the museum, and the objects are exciting because the people are there to share them. There's no forced sense that the objects should remain or be relevant beyond the event.
  • The goal is promoting conversations. Michelle has an explicit mission to "create conversations between people of all ages and walks of life." It's not fundamentally about the theme or the objects but the conversations that happen around them. (She also has an interesting take on the deliberate choice of "conversation" instead of "dialogue" as the goal.)
  • The design is humble--and radical. Look at photos of Michelle's pop-up museums, and you'll see a bunch of plastic tables with objects lined up on them. Because the experience is the key focus (and because of the highly temporary nature of the experience), the design costs are nil. This is the natural extension of what some innovative exhibit designers have been advocating for: simple, flexible formats that put primacy on ideas and visitor contribution. It tracks almost exactly with Kathleen McLean's Manifesto for the (r)evolution of Museum Exhibitions, all the way down to the snacks. And it looks totally unlike a standard museum.
  • The format focuses on intimate experiences. Michelle's pop-ups reach 20 or so people each time, and that's ok. Particularly for small museums, which deal in magnitudes of tens instead of thousands, this format can provide the kind of unusual deep experience that can only happen at this scale. Smaller is not worse. It is different. 


Pop-up opera in Chicago

WGN-TV News, 11/2/11

It's kind of like a flash mob, but a lot less annoying.   The Chicago Opera Theater [celebrated] National Opera Week by bringing their art to the general public, in places they'd be least expecting it. Today, we watched four company members perform at the Chicago French Market, as unsuspecting customers sat in the cafe area and ate their lunches. The spot often has a musician or two strumming a guitar, but having a tenor and a baritone bust into a bit of opera? A bit out of the ordinary.

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