RA - Site Speculative

From time to time, we will get a nibble...an expression of interest from a potential producer - be it an individual or a festival - who finds the concept of a Patria work fascinating and perhaps appropriate. None of these bits of interest has ever panned out, but being the naive optimists that we are, we try to follow up on every lead in the hopes of getting something happening.

Such was the case of RA in Yugoslavia.

While in France, Thom (Sokoloski - stage director for the Patria team) had met someone connected with a music and theatre festival in Split on the coast of Yugoslavia. This Zoran expressed interest in a production of RA for the Split festival. A resort town from ancient times Split was the location for the summer palace of the Emperor Hadrian of Rome which palace was still very much in evidence.

Thom had been in touch with this Zoran and was assured that once we arrived in Yugoslavia, all our expenses would be covered while we explored the site and planned the production. There was even the possibility of transferring the show to Dubrovnik. Not only that, but there was another bite, this one more serious from the Festival de Liège in Belgium with an interest in the as-yet-to-be-mounted Black Theatre so Thom and I plan to go to Yugoslavia and Belgium.

We have just finished a burnout summer with a workshop production of the Greatest Show ... sorry, we'd love to stay and sweep up the debris but must run, cheerio...

Aug 6. My sketchbook shows I made some notes about the importance of food and smells to the production and the possibility of presenting the work in a variety of languages.

Aug 12. Amsterdam A six-hour layover (it's 3 a.m. our time). We go downtown for breakfast and wander around then back to the airport for our flight to Zagreb. The flight was an earache of screaming jet engines however when we landed, the airport staff were very helpful in ascertaining that there was noone at the Split Festival office. We got a connecting flight and arrived in Split.

We connect with Zoran who is burned out (we immediately recognize the familiar symptoms) following what appears to have been a season full of disasters. They only received our letter the day before and are totally unprepared to deal with us. We see some Brecht Opera and hope for a sunnier tomorrow.

The next day we discuss the production possibilities in the vaguest of terms. We have some names of conductors, musical directors, technical director etc. and some tentative dates. We are told the Festival cannot help us with any expenses so we move to cheaper accommodations and start to scout around the palace ruins. We familiarize ourselves with the various locations, take photos, make sketches. We were shown videos of previous operatic works presented in the same location.

Friday. We're supposed to meet the T.D. but he had to cancel. We asked to see the shops and wardrobe facilities but when I arrived, noone showed up. We go to the beach instead. As RA is a total sensory experience, we are noticing every aspect of the ambience. The bay at Split is filled with rotting seaweed and stinks. This doesn't seem to deter the local sunbathers who slather their enormous torsos from the gallon cans of olive oil beside them and bask like pink and red sea lions. We continued a few hundred feet up the coast where the water was cleaner, no seaweed and no people, so we swam there.

Our new hotel had a bell-tower 5 feet from my window so the next morning we had no trouble getting up at four to watch the dawn light grow and listen to the ambient sounds around where we would perform the latter units. (see notes and drawings from sketchbook) Later, we meet the T.D. who says Send drawings, I am sure it is possible. Having heard that line before I'm skeptical. I ask to see the shops and wardrobe but told, Oh, noone is there today...you should have seen them yesterday. Thanks.

We never did see the Festival director so there was no final word. But go to Dubrovnik...we'll tell them you're coming, everything will be great.

Sunday. A most perilous but spectacular bus ride along the coast to Dubrovnik, followed by a very long walk from the bus stop to the old city and the Festival office. Thom's laptop now weighs eighty pounds. We have been smoking lots of Marlboroughs and are in the best of condition. Outside the old city at last, Thom collapses in the shade while I go scouting. I find the festival office but its not open for an hour. I have a coffee with the music director of a festival in nearby Hvar then retun to the festival office, meet the director, collect Thom and we explain RA.

They're doubtful as the festival only presents traditional music but they're thinking that they might do something more progressive in the near future. They find us a room. [expensive? Oh, not much, you know, just the usual you know...perhaps extra as you are only two nights but you know, don't ask. It turned out to be twice the usual but included breakfast and laundry] It is close, at the home of the manager of a large hotel who is very gracious and offers us brandy and history before we go off to an outdoor performance of Carmina Burana which was quite wonderful.

Monday. We try to phone the Canadian embassy in Belgrade - no answer. We try for air tickets to Belgrade; there is one available for Tues. a.m., one for Tues. p.m. - otherwise wait until September. Our host has invited us to his hotel beach so we catch a few rays with the rich guests.

Tuesday. Up at 5.30, bus to airport. Thom takes the 7.30, I wait for the 12.30. Meet you in Belgrade.

Belgrade downtown was pretty decrepit, grey dusty, polluted and under construction. The locals seem to cope with pollution by smoking a lot. Dead pigeons limp down the street biting at your ankles. Their eyes are sewn shut. The embassy is helpful in getting us a flight out for early the next morning so we sleep at the airport, glad to be leaving.

Thursday. Amsterdam We call Belgium...call back later We call the bank...the only way to get money is to wire it from home...Nobody we know is home. We go to John McDowell's house (John was music director for RA in Holland and for the Greatest Show we'd just finished.) Noone had a key, but it turns out we can stay in an attic room. I sleep for 20 hours. We call Belgium again. They say call back Monday and come Tuesday. Thom calls his bank to get them to wire money. They put him on hold and the call cost f100. They said money would arrive Wed. We climb down the balcony and in John's back door. At least we have a comfy place to stay.

Saturday. Changed the last of the cash, got some food, visited some friends who we'd worked with on RA in Leiden.

August 25. Early in the morning before the rain starts in earnest, I go upstairs to wake the crazy Danes so Thom can climb up to their balcony after locking John's apartment. Burning our bridges behind us, we spend our last guilder on train tickets for Belgium so hopefuly everything will be taken care of. To sum up and preview the section on the Black Theatre - Site Specific, suffice it to say we were met, transported, fed, shown sites, wined and dined, treated like important people, given enough money to get back to Amsterdam, pick up Thom's cash from the bank in time to hop a plane home. RA looks pretty doubtful but we are full of optimism about the Black Theatre.

Black Theatre...Part one