PuSh Blog

Waiting For Pensotti—Thoughts on Cineastas from James Long, Theatre Replacement Artistic Director

January 20, 2015

The 2015 PuSh Festival presents Cineastas, February 5–7,  by Argentinian theatre-maker Mariano Pensotti. Mariano holds the title of returning artist most often presented by the PuSh Festival. Our love affair with Argentina’s treasured cultural export goes back to La Marea (2011), featured as part of the Vancouver 125 celebrations with the City of Vancouver.  Other PuSh appearances include Sometimes I Think I Can See You (2013), El Pasado Es Un Animal Grotesco (2012), and now a fourth visit, with Cineastas, a masterful work of theatre.

Mariano’s impact in Vancouver isn’t limited to the performances; his presence in town will be deep and wide reaching. We asked James Long, Artistic Director of Theatre Replacement, to share his thoughts on Mariano’s impact in our city this Festival, and beyond.

Greetings from NYC! Marcus Youssef of Neworld and I are here on a five-week marathon run of Winners and Losers (Push 2013).  For those of you who know the piece I’d like to assure you we are still pals and very little blood has been shed in the two years we’ve been doing this thing. Well some blood, but that was an accident.

This town is nuts for contemporary performance at this time of year – three major festivals, 8 zillion other venues popping out work. I’ve seen everything from the bafflingly virtuosic (Andrew Schneider’s Youarenowhere) to the sleep inducing (leave that one nameless) to the hilariously pornographic (Ivo Dimchev’s Fest). I’d describe Fest in more details but I fear the NSA might be watching my emails. The one I desperately want to see but am skipping for the moment is Mariano Pensotti’s Cineastas. I’m saving that one for home.

Mariano Pensotti, Cineastas, 2015 PuSh Festival
Photo: Carlos Furman

Mariano is one of the most programmed artists travelling around right now. We at Theatre Replacement had the great pleasure of working with him this past summer during our annual education program New Aesthetics. His vision is so articulate, and simultaneously so massive, and in the current milieu of contemporary performance he’s a bit of radical because, wait for it… he dare to tell stories. You know stories… things normally kept in books or movies. Works of fiction with characters, emotional journeys, motivations, narrative arcs. And they are bloody beautiful to look at. Those PuSher’s that remember El Pasado es un animal grotesco (2012) know what I am talking about. His capacity to take the narrative form and then dig deep to reinvent it both conceptually and scenographically is inspiring.

El Pasado es un animal grotesco photo courtesy of the artist

And then there’s his actors. El Pasado was a bit of clinic in performance. I’m going to dare to stereotype South American performance for a sec and liken the unabashed style and deep technique to a lovely Brazilian piece (O Jardim) I saw here at La Mama the other night. Another piece of classic storytelling executed by performers avoiding the self-conscious, ironic, meta–performance style that pops up in a lot of work I see right now, something I am quite guilty of myself. The eschewing of the ‘fourth wall’, often considered ‘the bold move’, can become a security blanket.  With O Jardim, a piece that performance wise and bit in the staging reminded me of El Pasado, the performances were emotionally raw and unapologetically positioned deep behind the fourth wall. The vulnerability came in committing to the other actors, not in keeping their eyes on the audience. Good ol’ fashioned acting but spun inside a structure and visual design that was technically and structurally progressive. With Cineastas, I’m pretty sure the actors slip between direct address and fourth wall acting – no doubt seamlessly. I’m very curious to see what they have to say about the process of creating the piece with Mariano when they do their Case Study on February 6 at the PuSh Assembly.

Putting up fiction is a real trick. As a culture we are less willing to suspend our disbelief.  With all the information, suspicion, knowledge and perspective readily available to us in our normal lives any crack in a staged artifice can quickly become a yawning distraction. In my experience thus far, Mariano keeps it tight. He keeps it fictional… and somehow immediate at the same time. And he keeps it conceptually sound and visually stunning. I’m looking forward to sitting inside of Cineastas for a couple of hours when I get back.

Oh… and a final company pitch. I mentioned we worked with Mariano this past summer at Theatre Replacement’s New Aesthetics education program. Check out the website. This summer, its two weeks with Gob Squad (Kitchen and Super Night Shot in 2014) —freaking geniuses! There are only 20 spots. Deadline is Feb 15 for applications.

James Long
Artistic Director
Theatre Replacement

Join us for Mariano Pensotti’s Cineastas on February 5–7, 8pm at SFU Woodward’s. Book your tickets to Cineastas on your PuSh Pass, Youth Passport or buy single tickets online.