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AN AMERICAN creative group is lining up a non-narrative performance installation to be experienced entirely through headphones, for the first time in the kingdom.
Members of the Theater Mitu Company, founded in 1997 by artistic director Rubén Polendo, are excited to showcase the Utopian Hotline at the Bahrain National Theatre.
Visitors will gather underneath a large projection screen and around a communal table - at the Flexible Theatre - to send messages of hopes, dreams and desires and ‘reimagine’ their shared future.
The interstellar concept involves a group of performers musicalising these collected messages.
The group that promises the ‘out-of-this-world experience’ has been invited to the kingdom by the Enki Performing Arts Centre to be part of the Enki Performing Arts Forum. The visit is being supported by the US Embassy Bahrain and the Mid Atlantic Art Foundation.
“We are honoured to be guests and share our work with the audiences of Bahrain,” said Rubén, who is also the director for this work and has been committed to challenging the parameters of theatre research and practice with Mitu for more than 20 years.
“We have had the great fortune of spending time in the Middle East and in the Gulf over the past few years; this includes Lebanon and the UAE,” Rubén added. “We are incredibly excited to be presenting it in Bahrain.”
The performance is designed for limited audiences who will gather, not in the darkness of a traditional theatre, but underneath a 30-foot projection screen on a carpet and around a communal table.
It will make the audience question: ‘Is anyone out there, is anyone listening and are we alone?’
“In 1977, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) launched the twin Voyager spacecrafts to try and answer these questions,” explained Rubén.
“Aboard was the Golden Record, an artifact intended to communicate who and what we are. After 43 years and more than 13 billion miles, this proverbial message in a bottle is the farthest human-made object from Earth. If we were to send another message into the distant future, what message would we send?
“To answer this, Theater Mitu created a public telephone hotline prompting people to leave messages for the future. These voicemails, along with messages from astronauts, astronomers, futurists and children make up the source material for the company’s new work, Utopian Hotline.”
The voicemails make up the source material for a vinyl record and a live performance, created in partnership with SETI Institute, Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative, and Brooklyn Independent Middle School.
Four performers, connected to members of the audience through headphones, will transmit the collected messages.
“Together, they will acknowledge coming into a community as an inspiring action. An action that has consistently shaped this planet’s future,” he added. “An action that reaffirms that someone is listening, that we are, in fact, not alone.”
During the showcase, which will be performed tomorrow at 7pm and 8.30pm and on Sunday at 7pm and 8.30pm, the audience will be asked to remove their shoes at the entrance. They will then choose a spot to sit on a comfortable pink carpet before strapping in for the ultimate galactic ride.
For details on the company and the showcase, follow @theatermitu on Instagram.
Theater Mitu’s practice investigates trans-global performances, interdisciplinary collaborative models, the performativity of non-violence, the geopolitics of objects, contemporary mythology, artist training, ritual and the sacred. Its considerable body of work has taken on a variety of forms such as developmental and production work with some of the world’s leading theatrical innovators, research and pedagogical work with renowned universities and conservatories, engagement with non-theatrical communities and international trainings and research initiatives with leaders in the field.
The non-profit organisation has earned a wide reputation for itself as an ‘adventuresome and dynamic ensemble’ of artists.
Aside from Rubén, other members include:
Justin Nestor (co-artistic director)
Denis Butkus (company member)
Scott Spahr (company member)
Michael Littig (company member)
Monica Sanborn (company member)
Ada Westfall (company member)
Shanga Parker (guest artist)
Ryan Gamblin (guest artist)