Rachel Erdos is an award-winning British-Israeli choreographer visiting Singapore to present Q&A (the 36 questions). Can a series of 36 questions make you fall in love with someone you’ve just met?
After watching the trailer for Q&A (the 36 questions) I became increasingly excited about the performance. I am a timid audience member, but I do enjoy a participatory performance. Please let us know about the relationship you develop with the audience on stage.
We build up the relationship slowly; we want the audience to feel comfortable. We start at the very beginning breaking down the barriers between performer and audience member, the dancers come on stage and personally greet the audience and hand out the question booklets. We feel this sets the tone, a relaxed tone with less divide between audience and performer.
The performers share personal memories throughout the piece, and as they share with the audience we feel the audience is drawn closer to them, feel they get to know them better so feel less scared of being involved.
The audience participation grows slightly throughout the piece, but we feel it is done in a non-threatening way. Some moments are very intimate and not done for the rest of the audience to hear such as a performer asking an audience member “what is your most treasured memory?” other ways of audience participation are more public for example some of the audience members being invited on stage.
Have you experienced a non-responsive audience in such an interactive performance? If so how do you deal with that in live shows?
Every show is different depending on the audience, but we have never experienced a non-responsive audience. Not everyone in the audience always feels comfortable participating in an active manner but no one is forced to do anything they don’t want to, and if someone says no then the performers find another person who is happy to volunteer. We have had situations that people are less keen to get involved at the beginning, but by the end, they get involved and tell us they are happy they did.
I would like to understand how you embrace and explore vulnerability in performance. Is your cast vulnerable enough to open up and answer the 36 questions or have you developed work in the studio which leads the dancers to a new persona/character responding to your script?
The dancers are not playing a character, this work is real and honest for them, their genuine answers to the questions. The cast is very vulnerable, and mature emotionally. They share real aspects of their life. The process of creating this work and performing it is very special to them, throughout the process they answered the questions in the most honest way and carried on doing so on stage. The rehearsals in the studio have given them the confidence to share and to find the tools/ movement language/ text to do so. We took all of our answers and developed them/edited into the performance that we show. Some of the dancers in the Singapore version of the work are not the original cast but they have found their connection to the work, to the text and they have the freedom to change and adapt things.
I can imagine (from what I have read and seen online) Q&A (the 36 questions) being a very personal and complex piece of choreography. How did you arrive here, a vulnerable, human and complex piece of choreography bringing dance and text up-close to the audience?
I came across the questions in the New York Times a few years ago and immediately connected to them, to the idea of having a formula to get to know someone, I found the questions interesting, fun thought-provoking and stimulating emotionally. I thought that using this as a framework for performance could be really interesting.
We really researched the questions in the studio, sharing through movement and text our honest answers, getting to know each other through the questions, as the original experiment intended. We answered them in the correct order and completed them all. It was clear that this work would have a large text component because I wanted the questions to be part of the script so the audience could find it relatable, not just a work based on the questions and then abstracted.
Under my guidance the dancers created very personal responses and then together we sewed it into a performance, it was a very collaborative process between the performers and myself, along with a team of artistic advisors. It became clear in the process that the best format was an intimate close setting. The audience participation was also not clear from the start of the process; it was developed and explored throughout as what we considered a necessary way to connect the audience to the performers.
Lastly, what do you expect from the audience when they sit and watch Q&A (the 36 questions)?
I want the audience to think how they personally would answer the questions, what thoughts and emotions it brings up for them and to connect in some way to what they see. I want the performance to feel meaningful to the audience.