Stefan Puppio on BAM 2019

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

Since I was a boy I have always been interested in the world of myths and mythology. I remember spending whole days playing board games on the Trojan horse, the myth of Icarus, the myth of the minotaur’s labyrinth and the Odyssey. These first playful experiences have brought me curiously closer to the world of myth and in particular to the actuality within a present social and behavioural context.

Later, during middle school and high school, I had the opportunity to observe mythological texts in more depth, learning not only some aspects of past cultures but also appreciating their predisposition to theatrical representation, already a passion of mine since I was a child.

During my studies in Theatre Arts at Middlesex University I started to appreciate more contemporary theatrical approaches, forgetting the cultural influences of ancient texts being my vision of the very classical and traditional myth. Having had the opportunity to collaborate for BAM, under the protective wing of the theatrical collective Sate of the [Art], it proved to be a breaking point with my reading and interpretation of classical texts and ancient myths. Working alongside artists and creative people such as Simone Giustinelli and Munotida Chinyanga made me discover aspects of the myth, that I have always appreciated, under a new, sparkling and contemporary theatrical perception. For example, during the creative process on the myth of the Argonautika, a show that took place in Palazzolo in Sicily, Italy, we observed the different adventures of heroes and sailors as a series of athletic competitions that the protagonists must overcome in order to obtain the golden fleece. Initially, my approach to the myth would have been closely linked to the original text. The work with BAM and State of the Art instead developed with a mix of physical language and visual suggestions that are not always linked to the myth per se, but are linked to the physical and emotional status of the characters, in an attempt to read the various facets existing among the protagonists without knowing the literary context linked to the myth.

One of the experiences in which I believe I have adopted a new approach in my practice related to the myth occurred during the BAM2019 auditions in which I was asked to create a 3 minute score on a text of a page related to the death of the dog of Ulysses, Argos. The text, which I already knew in the past, has always been an element that I considered limiting since I tend to follow it literally, respecting words and meanings. This time, however, I focused on the images and sensations that poor Argo could have lived in front of his master's gaze that he has not seen for 20 years. In particular, a passage in which Homer dwells on Argo's once infallible sense of smell. This image has created a series of movements in which the argon characters move in space in search of glances to be crossed, guiding his every movement and direction only after his nose has aimed at the lens, slowing down and getting older every time he reached the point sniffed. The character has thus obtained a narrative arc, a physical reality that is not strictly linked to the physicality of a dog, and an emotional condition of preparation and expectation that unfortunately never comes to fruition.

“No animal could escape him in the deep forest once he [Argos] began to track it. What an amazing nose he had!”

Homer, Odyssey book XVII, vv 290-327

As a performer I always wanted to be on stage to test my skills. The experience with BAM, however, turned out to be about discovering new skills and competences. During one of the MA in theatre Arts modules I observed how to structure, deliver and book workshops related to different physical disciplines, such as yoga, contact improv or contemporary dance. For BAM2019, I was asked to step back as a performer and take on more responsibilities as a member of the creative team and as a performer trainer. In fact, the performance experience would have been of greater benefit to young students under the protection of MA students like me. This role allowed me to develop different skills regarding the creation of safe spaces for the performers and to make sure that both directors and actors were in physical, and at times mental, conditions for rehearsals and performances. In reality it has been verified to be a more difficult role than imagined since it was not easy to get the trust and attention of the performers at all times. In addition, as a performer, it was difficult for me to observe from an external point of view, even though I learned so much alongside directors, especially ideas about visual composition.

One of the most interesting challenges was working alongside a moving director Kelly Horne. Although our theatrical backgrounds were different, we kept the dialogue between us constant so that each rehearsal aimed at the specific needs of directors and actors. The aspect of collaboration was crucial in understanding the role of performer training. Moreover, together we have tried as much as possible to create a team spirit to create chemistry not only among the actors but within the collective. At the same time, contributing as a performer in case of need, made me feel further part of the creative process.

The feeling of collaboration has also allowed me to help with some aspects concerning the maintenance of the set.

In general, I feel I have learned a great deal with the experience of BAM, taking a step back on what I consider convenient, facing challenges that I did not know before how to deal with, a not inconsiderable legacy for future collaborations.

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