IVANA MÜLLER - WE ARE STILL WATCHING
in collaboration with
David Weber Krebs,
lighting design &
with the financial support of
Performing Arts Fund NL, Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and SNS Reaal Fonds.
with kind support of
Het Veem theatre,
duration approx. 60 minutes
available languages English, French, German, Croatian, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Slovak, Spanish, Hungarian, Estonian, Romanian / new translations on request
flexible, cf technical rider
touring party 2 pax
links & downloads
> performance sheet (EN)
> dossier de diffusion (FR)
> past in pictures
> HR photos (password)
> technical rider (password)
archives (not exhaustive)
We Are Still Watching is performed by spectators; by an instant community of "audience members" that changes every evening of the show. And as they change, the piece also radically changes every time it is performed.
We Are Still Watching has the form of a “reading rehearsal” in which spectators encounter each other while reading a script together. During approximately an hour spent in company of each other, spectators create and perform a community, making decisions individually and collectively while « simply » reading a text that someone else has written for them.
In the “mini-society” that’s being created each evening of the show, everybody slowly but surely gets his or her role… Everybody speaks in the "I-form", everybody reads badly and everybody engages one way or another although no one ever read the script before and no one knows what will happen next. We Are Still Watching is a piece in which the idea of “spectacle” slowly shifts to where we least expect it. Something that for a moment could look like a bad theatre play, becomes an invitation to look beyond what is being scripted. While still staying in the realm of theatre and representation We Are Still Watching leaves place for something "real" to happen.
« If you're just comfortably assuming you have all the agency in your life, you should go get shaken by this play. »
Portland Mercury, 2013
« The excellent ‘We Are Still Watching’ is an exception to the rule’ (…) Let’s pass on the finesse of the writing (it requires quite some talent to imagine the reactions of the different spectator profiles when facing such a dilemma), it’s the device itself of this smart and self-reflective piece that surprises by its evocative power ». Libération, 2014
We Are Still Watching was made by Ivana Müller in collaboration with Amsterdam based choreographer Andrea Bozic, Brussels based artist and theatre director David Weber-Krebs & Brussels based dramaturge Jonas Rutgeerts. The piece was developed within the framework of Ivana Müller's Encounters project (Frascati, Amsterdam 2012) and created in English. At this moment the piece exists in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Brazilian Portuguese, Croatian, Spanish, Hungarian, Estonian and Slovak translations.
4, 5 and 6 November 2022 - Festival d'Automne, Maison des Métallos, Paris (FR)
12 and 13 November 2022 - Festival d'Automne, Maison des Métallos, Paris (FR)
24 October, 6 and 20 November 2020 - CSS Teatro Stabile, Udine (IT)
3 October 2019 - Hellerau, Dresden (DE)
16 September 2019 - Lafayette Anticipations / Echelle humaine / Festival d'Automne, Paris (FR)
5, 6 and 7 April 2019 - TEN Teatro Eliseo Nuoro , Nuoro, Sardagna (IT)
20 October 2018 - eXplore Festival, Bucarest (RO)
14 and 15 May 2018 - Danse de tous les sens, Falaise (FR)
1 February 2018 - Festival Pharenheit / CCN du Havre Normandie,Le Havre (FR)
18 and 19 November 2017 - Festival Contemporanea de Dança / SESC 24 de Maio, Sao Paulo (BR)
8 and 9 November 2017 - TAP / Rencontres Michel Foucault, Poitiers (FR)
13 and 14 October 2017 - Schauspiel Leipzig / Residenz, Leipzig (DE)
7 October 2017 - Nuit Blanche 2017, Mairie du 3ème arrondissement, Paris (FR)
20 May 2017 - Ménagerie de verre, Paris (FR)
26 January 2017 - WIELS, La Nuit des idées, Brussels (BE)
10 December 2016 - Le Rive Gauche, Scène conventionnée, Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray (FR)
25 November 2016 - OPEN Festival, SIN Culture Centre, Budapest (HU)
12 and 13 November 2016 - La Casa Encendida, Madrid (ES)
15 October 2016 - L'Échangeur, CDCN, Château-Thierry (FR)
7, 8 and 9 July 2016 - Baltoscandal International Festival, Rakvere (Estonia)
28 May 2016 - Festival Extrapôle / Pôle Sud, CDCN, Strasbourg (FR)
26, 27 and 28 January 2016 - Le Carré - Les Colonnes, Saint-Médard-en-Jalles (FR)
27 September 2015 - Divadelna Nitra International Theatre Festival, Nitra (Slovakia)
25 and 26 September 2015 - Theater Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau (DE)
20 and 21 September 2015 - Ganz Novi Festival, Zagreb (HR)
7 June 2015 - Festival Latitudes Contemporaines, Lille (FR)
5 May - 22 November 2015 - La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (IT)
24 April 2015 - Le Carreau du Temple, Paris (FR)
24 and 25 March 2015 - La Villette, Paris (FR)
25 October 2014 - Carovana S.M.I., Cagliari (IT)
3 and 4 October 2014 - brut, Vienna (AT)
30 September, 1 and 3 October 2014 - Crossing the Line Festival, New York (USA)
30 September 2014 - Teatro Metastasio, Contemporanea Festival, Prato (IT)
26 September 2014 - Terni Festival, Terni (IT)
10 September 2014 - Short Theatre, Rome (IT)
28 and 29 August 2014 - OperaEstate Festival, Bassano del Grappa (IT)
25 and 26 August 2014 - Festival Castel di Mondi, Andria (IT)
23 May 2014 - Staatsschauspielhaus, Dresden (DE)
28 February 2014 - Kaaitheater, Brussels (BE)
25, 26 and 27 September 2013 - STUK, Leuven (BE)
21 and 22 September 2013 - Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon (USA)
21 September 2013 - Maria Matos Teatro Municipal, Lisbon (PT)
29 and 30 April 2013 - HAU / Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin (DE)
11 January 2013 - Chassé Theater, Breda (NL)
19 and 20 December 2012 - Theater Kikker, Utrecht (NL)
14 and 15 December 2012 - Grand Theater, Groningen (NL)
5 December 2012 - Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Rotterdam (NL)
27, 28 and 29 November 2012 - Frascati, Amsterdam (NL) - premiere
FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH WILSON LE PERSONNIC IN « MA CULTURE », SPRING 2015
You have created We Are Still Watching in Amsterdam. Can you tell us something about the “geneses” of the piece?
The idea of the pièce came in 2011, during important political and social movements that were happening around the world; Arab Spring revolutions, Movimiento 15-M in Spain, Occupy movement, Occupation of Teatro Valle in Rome etc..
In the Netherlands, where I lived at that moment, a new mentality regarding the place of culture, art, health and education in the society has been publicly displayed on governmental level and produced, in a shockingly abrupt way, not only enormous cuts in the national budgets but also a new scheme in the way we live and work together.
I remember that with a group of colleagues we were trying to figure out what to do in order to influence these irreparable changes. It was our (tax) money that was redistributed it was our lives and practices that were put into question, we knew about the ways this was happening, yet we couldn’t do much to change it. We didn’t have any constitutional right to do it. Even talking to the Queen wasn’t an option because she neither could have done anything about these decisions.
Off course, we did make international petitions signed by thousands of people, we gave interviews, participated in shows on television, took part in marches and demonstrations… but all of this was, at the end of the day, only a media “teaser” for the general public. To me, all this brought into question some essential relationships with ideas such as “citizenship”, “participation”, “democratic representation”. It also brought my interest to the idea of “voice” and « representability », in the sense of: what do we represent and how are we represented, both in society and in theatre.
(Ironically, at the same moment in 2011, Dutch television magnate and tv-producer John de Mol started the reality television singing competition « The Voice ». The show, as you know, soon became a global phenomenon being franchised in more than 50 countries all around the world.)
In that same 2011 I was preparing a program for an event that I was curating and organizing in Theater Frascati in Amsterdam called Encounters in which the main point of departure was the idea of “dialogue”. We Are Still Watching was a part of this event.
I always considered the place of theatre as a place of thinking and exchange and its various forms as a vehicle to develop different sorts of « dialogues ». In fact theatre mostly functions as a dialogue; a dialogue that happens « in between » performers and spectators, stage and back-stage, image and sound, darkness and light.
Theatre, when it is really happening, is never « about » something, it is always « in between » the things. So, yes, this question of dialogue between spectators and performers which happen to be the same people was one of the starting points when imagining We Are Still Watching.
Another important issue for the creation of the pièce was the notion of « community », which to me is still one of the most constitutive and significant elements of “theatre”. By “community” I mean the group of real and concrete people (both performers and spectators) that gather in the theatre every evening and that share a certain potential; a potential to “create” time together, a potential to change or influence each others ideas, a potential to share a part of history together (even if this being only the experience of one evening spent together next to each other), a potential to imagine together, a potential to, and why not, change things for real.
When working on the concept of We Are Still Watching I wanted to create a performative frame which could stage the creation of such a community, both in a real and in a fictional way.
A huge question was: how to organize that on stage? And than the idea of the « script » came. A script in which we could generally address the issues related to “our condition” (both as spectators and citizens), introducing questions of: “reality” and “fiction”, “professionalism” and “amateurism”, the ways we “perform” (in theatre and outside of it), our relationship to the “script” (what to do with the script? from the beginning of the piece becomes “what to do without the script?” towards the end of the piece), the potential that we have together (what can we do together and cannot do alone?). etc.
Once I had a général idea of the pièce, I’ve asked my friends and long term colleagues Andrea Bozic (choreographer and artist living in Amsterdam) David Weber Krebs (artist, director and performer living in Brussels) and Jonas Rutgeerts (dramaturge and theoretician living in Belgium) to write the piece with me. This collaborative practice of imagining what could this script be and anticipating « spectators » that will read the lines we were writing, and hearing different voices during endless readings we were doing together during the writing period were essential for the creating of this pièce. We Are Still Watching would definitely be a very different pièce would I have created it alone.
A particularity of 'We still watching' is that it is performed without the “professional performers”, or technicians, and most importantly, without the author of the piece. Why did you make this radical choice?
I’ve always been quite skeptical (as artist) and scared (as spectator) of participatory theatre in which you have ‘trained’ performers (those that “know”) that tell those that are not ‘trained’ (those that “don’t know”) what to do. And then the rest of the spectators watch those who “don’t know” surviving or enjoying in the dramaturgy of those who “know”. In We Are Still Watching we were trying to make a performative context in which everybody is in the same situation. Everybody reads the script for the first time in their life and nobody knows how all of it will end. As you mentioned in your question, during the show no “authority” of any kind is present in the room. It is “only” spectators that perform for each other. This brings an enormous sense of responsibility. If things go wrong there is nobody there to “help”, and if the spectators- performers don’t do something the piece is going into pieces. So people engage differently then they would as spectators in classical theatre situation, especially because they don’t want to perform badly. They want to produce a good show (after all they are paying for that).
This situation of being “on their own” can also bring a sense of freedom, I guess. For example, sometimes it does happen that during the piece spectators stop reading the script and start talking to each other, suggesting actions or telling stories. They are their own time-keepers (the piece varies in length every time, going from 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on how is it performed). The spectators- performers hold the keys to the piece, they can do what ever they want with it. But they always (at least so far) chose to go back to the script. I guess it is because like that they know they have a future together, and they also have an ending together. It is in fact quite a biblical relationship.
Another thing is that the experience of performing a piece together creates a weird sense of intimacy. There are not many people in the world that you share that kind of experience with. While performing the piece the space of theatre is moving somewhere between public and private and some notions of representations are radically changing because of that.
There is a paradox in We Are Still Watching that I find interestingly problematic. On one hand the piece is constituting a community that shares the experience and works the potential of a real meeting thought a fictional frame, choosing their own way to do it. On the other hand the community executes the text and dramaturgy that somebody else imagined and wrote from them, serving as the “workers” that bring the piece into life.
I think that it is a glitch through which all sorts of thoughts and ideas about “performing” both in society and in theatre can emerge.
What was the process of creating the We Are Still Watching? I imagine to work without actors must be as liberating and very complicated at the same time because the piece cannot be rehearsed during its making process.
Like I already mentioned, during the period of writing the 4 of us were anticipating and “incarnating” different voices that started to be formulated in the script. Those imaginary persons were sometimes based on people we knew, both personally or culturally, and they helped us to constitute a sense of “characters” in some cases. One of the most complicated, but also the most exciting, elements of the script is that we never know who will read which role. This decision is made either by chance either by the choice of spectators. So, there is no type casting possible here. We don’t know if the reader will be a man or a woman, a native speaker or a foreigner, a young person or an elderly spectator, person that everybody recognizes (for example the director of the festival) or a totally anonymous person. And this is a very interesting “scripting condition”. In that sense, the piece is really different every time, even if people are “just” reading those lines.
Another specificity of the piece is that you cannot direct it. You cannot work on the diction, on the timing, on the intensity or timbre of a voice that is reading. You cannot practice how the voice is projected in the space. All of this is purely a question of the moment, chemistry and potential of the community of performers. So, it can all sound really bad as much as it can sometimes sound almost sublime. A specific and personal way of reading of each spectator, which is far from “professional actors’” type of reading, is a part of the concept and contributes to the creation of an interesting inter-corporal/inter-textual tissue that gets developed throughout the show. Mistakes, miss-spellings, slips of the tongues, different intensity of voices, different attempts to be (or not to be) performative - all these elements create the “physicality” and “realness” of this piece.
The piece was played in the Netherlands, in the United States, in Belgium, in Germany, in the Portugal, Austria and Italy. Are the reactions of the public different according to the cities or countries where the piece is presented?
Any piece performed in different context brings different reactions of the audience. Even performed on a different night in the same theatre a piece can have a totally different reception. That condition is inherent in how live-art (and probably any art) works. But maybe with this piece the difference is more visible because the proposition is rather extreme, and reactions are visible both in how the piece is performed and how it is watched.
I work on the piece for every new performing occasion, taking the specificity of the socio-cultural context into account. We also always translate and adapt the piece in the language of the community that performs it. This transfer into a new language already brings a lot of changes.
It is very flagrant that different cultures have a different relationship to the idea of “speaking in public” and also to the idea of how to “perform” theatre. I have noticed that spectators/performers in USA are much more articulate then those in Europe. They pronounce the text almost instantly like they would read it from a stage. Speaking in public is what in USA kids learn in schools. In Europe not at all. There are also interesting anecdotes about choices that spectators made in different cultural context. For example, at a certain point in the piece spectators-performers have to chose weather to read accompanied with a metronome or not. In most of the places spectators opted for metronome, except in Berlin.
There are many of those examples, but I think that it would be wrong to think that they are only part of some kind of a “national” heritages. I think they depend mostly on the members of a community that has been specifically created for that a show, and the chemistry they all create together.
It is interesting to read that you compare spectators of We Still Watching with citizens in the contemporary democracies.
I guess I was using this comparison when thinking of parallelism between society and theatre, roles we are playing, and ideas of participation, responsibility and “voicing”. When working on WASW one of the questions that was interesting for me personally was: how to act on an individual level in a highly organized, scripted and rule-driven society. How to stay political without becoming a politician.
(…) I think that theatre today is one of the rare places where we can, more of less, still do what we think we need to do, both formally and content-wise. The reason for this is mainly because theatre is a relatively marginal practice. There is no much money in it, the market is not interested in exploiting it, it is never reaching big crowds of people and it relatively invisible, happening in closed spaces that are open to the public only at chosen moment (not like films that are watched 24/24 in live streaming or music that can be downloaded whenever and wherever). Weather a performer or a spectator you have to be physically invested to be a part of it, you have to be present. This fabulous condition gives us a space for experimentation, curiosity and engagement. Theatre is one of the rare places where a group of 250 people will spend an hour together looking at one single image. We give each other that time and that trust in theatre. The absence of performers on stage doesn’t mean that the theatre is becoming immaterial. The spectators are present and alive in the space; they gaze, they reflect, they laugh, they cough, and like this they affect the piece maybe even more then when there are performers on stage. That is in itself very physical and real.
ANDREA STOLOWITZ - IVANA MÜLLER / ”WE ARE STILL WATCHING”
Published in Oregon’s Artwatch on September 26th, 2013
Walking into the Coho Theatre at four in the afternoon on a rainy Sunday in Portland towards the end of the TBA festival, I was not sure what to expect from Ivana Müller’s “We Are Still Watching, “billed as “a play in which the idea of ‘spectacle’ slowly shifts to where we least expect it”. Since we needed to have reserved our tickets in advance, there was none of that last-minute ticket scrambling frenzy that usually accompanies final TBA events. There was a feeling of calm intimacy in the Coho lobby, maybe something akin to having been invited to a private party.
Once we did enter the theater we were given a piece of paper with a seat number on it and told to sit there. The chairs were set up to follow the perimeter of the stage allowing for one row of seating in which we could all see each other.
We all waited patiently until the the stage manager came out and read aloud a list of seat numbers telling those people to reach under their seats to get their script. And with this, the reading commenced. The characters in the script are people very much like ourselves, people who’ve come to the Ivana Müller event and don’t know what to make of it. We are asked to read characters who are trying to make sense of what the event is while we ourselves are trying to make sense of the event.
As we all read aloud together, followed the prompts, gave other audience members our scripts as per the instructions, something interesting began to happen; we were getting to know each other and the characters. In the script there’s the girl who came looking to meet someone, the guy who came because this is supposed to be an important event, the person who had nothing else to do today, and even the ornery audience member who wanted to know what this piece was about. As we played these characters we were also creating an event together as ourselves, deciding how to decide what to do and how to keep the momentum going, and whether or not to keep participating in this exercise.
The high point of the show came towards the end, where a percussive chanting is called for in the script. We were still somewhat self-conscious but all followed the directions, participated, and slowly created an event and a play where what was happening was becoming more and more unscripted. Without any actors, playwrights, or directors present the chanting took on a life of its own; something that was wholly ours. We became both the participants and the creators and at that moment, with the theater vibrating as the chanting continued, there was indeed a true breakdown of order and we were no longer simply watching, we were doing.
If there is a political or social message in this piece it is that we all have the voice, the agency to be both a performer and creator in the political and social world. Our destiny and indeed the destiny of the world is in our hands and we are our own agency of change. So the question, are we still watching or are we participating is in fact an extremely important one and this piece asks us to consider participating.