Radical Acts: Cheap Art, Performance and Play in the Streets
Spring 2014 quarter
This one-quarter long, introductory program is a ten-week examination of the role that cheap art, performance and play have fulfilled in society, not only historically, but also in more modern times. Because of the powerful role they can play in shaping human consciousness, we will explore ways of returning them to their popular roots where they can thrive outside the reign of corporate control, mainstream media, and money. Together we will investigate ways cheap art (such as masks, puppets and costumes made with everyday inexpensive materials) and performance can have meaning that is created by “regular” people and for “regular” people rather than fed to us by the entertainment industry. We will explore the answers to many questions. What is it like for performance art to spring from our imaginations without the need for large amounts of money? What if performance art was accessible to all people, not just those with the means and education to consume it? What would it be like if performance art reflected deeply felt social truths that connected to our own lives? How does street theater interrupt everyday life in the public sphere in a way that helps us connect to our own humanity? How does the use of material objects (puppets, masks, signs, banners), as well as performers voices and bodies, connect performer and audience in ways that create meaning?
Our program will approach these questions in two ways. On the one hand, we will have a strong academic component in which students will acquire knowledge about the history of performance and art in the hands of the people, looking at its aesthetics, theories, and controversies. We will examine the rich cultural heritage of performance in the streets and connect it to the people and places where it lives on today. Our exploration will be situated in an international context, and we will use film and text to examine performance throughout history and around the world, such as, but not limited to, political street theater, Carnival, Mardi Gras, the Bread and Butter Puppet Theater, Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance and more.
On the other hand, we will engage in large doses of experiential learning as we use simple materials like recycled fabrics, cardboard, scraps of wood, paper, reused items and other inexpensive materials to create our own cheap art and performance, which we will share with our friends and neighbors in the local streets of Olympia (or other surrounding areas) and the college campus. During the first half of the quarter we will participate in The Procession of the Species , Olympia's yearly one-of-a-kind celebration of the natural world, held in conjunction with Earth Day. 2014 will mark the 20th year of this community celebration, which often draws crowds of up to 30,000 and has serious creative intent. The Procession was designed to bring a deep love of life into the heart, and onto the streets, of Olympia. In preparation, students will work in one of the largest community art studios in the country where people of all ages create costumes, masks and puppets from inexpensive and recycled materials. Participation in this part of the program will require three Sunday evening rehearsals in the community, as well as the Saturday afternoon Procession.
During the second half of the quarter we will continue to use the street as a live public space, a radical act in response to the privatization of such public space by radio, television and film. We will use unorthodox methods to create our own cheap art, performances, celebrations, protests, and social commentary, which we will develop in response to current events happening both locally and around the world. Throughout the quarter our work together will develop our visual imaginations, critical thinking and writing skills, all of which are essential to academic learning and readily transferable to any profession or vocation.
No performance or art experience is necessary for this program.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day and Weekend
|January 31st, 2014||New spring opportunity added.|