“One must straightforwardly realize what has not yet appeared in history namely, democracy.” – Joseph Beuys
Last Audience is an immersive performance event where audience members are invited to build and embody the work. It is a collaboration between choreographer Yanira Castro and composer Stephan Moore—Bessie-award-winning artists whose twelve-year collaboration has resulted in over ten projects that have toured nationally and internationally. Last Audience is an evolution in our continued line of questioning about the construction of theatrical experience and the audience’s role within it. Commissioned and presented by NY Live Arts with an accompanying two-year Live Feed Residency, it will premiere October 16-19, 2019.
Our practice involves the creation of algorithmic systems, scores, and software programs, which ensure that elements of each project (choreography, music, environment) unfold uniquely in each performance in response to the actions of the audience, democratizing and decentralizing control over how the work is made and experienced. In Last Audience, we aim to advance this practice by inviting the audience to embody the work. They are this work’s performers, stage crew, and musicians, as well as its audience. For inspiration, we are borrowing and re-contextualizing the traditional requiem mass for its structure and potential political themes (mercy, judgment, benediction). Each night, an audience of 75 will be guided through a 10-part score, every part of which is unique to that evening, never to be reused. These scores prompt movement, sound, text and scenic changes. We will sing, shout, whisper, construct costumes, wear masks, form tableaus, orchestrate lighting, build sets and dance as part of a communal live act. For example, the audience might be asked to kneel for 115 seconds (the average length of time it takes to sing the national anthem), perform a series of supplicating gestures or flood the space with light. Castro and Moore will guide the performances along with three long-standing collaborators: Kathy Couch (environment/light/set), and David Thomson and devynn emory (performer/choreographers).
To prepare several distinct scores for the run of performances, Moore will be developing a diverse set of materials – a songbook, sets of invented handheld instruments, pre-recorded materials, and sections of generative electronic scores that will be controlled by the audience – as well as language and other methods for guiding interaction. Versions of these materials will be developed over the course of numerous residencies and encounters with test audiences.
We recognize that democracy is a tall order. As the Beuys’ quote that begins this statement suggests, it is a myth. Western theater is rooted in Greek democracy and tragedy, where the chorus (representing society) is a body that tries to make sense of what is happening from within the play. Our audience occupies the position of both witness and chorus, both itself and the representation of itself—the subject and the doer of the work. With Last Audience, we ask: How do we engage participation and dissent? Can theater bring understanding and nuance to the way we commune?
Cue points: 27:55, 43:21, 50:10, 1:02:56.
STAGE premiered at Abrons Arts Center’s Playhouse in September 2017. It was part of a trilogy of works, CAST, STAGE, AUTHOR. STAGE is an improvised work for dancers and stage machinations with a musical score by Stephan Moore, performed live by Moore with Scott Smallwood and Suzanne Thorpe. In STAGE, the frame is constantly in flux, made unreliable by lighting, stage elements and the performers’ constant play with how they project presence to an audience seated in the balcony.
This score was created by Stephan Moore using a software algorithm that listened to the environment surrounding the computer where the software was running, collected sonic fragments from the environment, and then, on cue, composed a structured accompaniment to a choreographed dance sequence. This was created as an early experiment in how a generative system might be incorporated into “Last Audience.” Note that a contrasting realization of this score structure (Version 8a) can be found in Stephan Moore’s New Music USA profile.
Cues: in Act 3 (1:18:44) and Act 1 (3:27)
“Court/Garden” at Federal Hall was presented by LMCC as part of The River To River Festival 2015. A spectacle in three acts, CG took as its inspiration the ballets of Louis XIV’s court as a metaphor for the 1% (Act 1) and the participatory practices of the Occupy Wall Street Movement (Act 3). In CG’s third act, the audience was invited to create chaos with the performers–to shine light on what they wished to see, write text and have it read aloud by others, and make and parade in the “Queen’s” skirt.
Start and End Dates
10/16/2019 — 10/19/2019
New York City, New York