ON TRIAL TOGETHER
February 26, 2014
One of the most interesting theatrical experiences of the season happened this past weekend at New York Live Arts. In On Trial Together, Sasa Asenti and Ana Vujanovi and their team don’t perform for the audience. In fact, it’s the reverse – the audience performs for them. On Trial Together is a completely interactive, audience driven piece that examines questions of society, interrelations, and the self.
Once the audience was gathered in the lobby, Ana and Sasa addressed us, inviting us to look through the windows at the outside world and bid it goodbye. For their purposes, we were entering a completely fictional world for the next two hours. They also talked about Serbia and how confusing things were there and how different ideologies come into play. But knowing how Americans so dislike the word “ideology”, they decided to use the term “fiction” instead. And ‘the only way to fight a fiction is with another fiction.’ They then divided the audience into three groups – people who were interested in true democracy, people who were interested in sociological conventions, and…well, I honestly don’t remember the third. I chose the first group.
What followed defies easy description in a short space. Each group were given different sets of conditions: a global national council deciding whether to go to war against another planet; MTA workers striking to get their jobs back while rumors of an asteroid heading toward Earth circulate; two groups living side by side – one group infected with a disease they created, the other group hypochondriacs. After being isolated for the first part of the evening, the groups were allowed to co-mingle and share (or not) and see what happened. Overall, it was a fascinating fictional happening. The evening ended with a group discussion about what happened and how people were affected.
While it may seem a little dry and intellectual, the evening relied on the audience’s willingness to play. Just like Dungeons and Dragons or any Live Action Role Playing (LARP) game, it’s only really fun if you involve yourself and play. And just like any good LARP, if you play, you can’t help but get caught up in the world, the stakes, and the drama of the situation.
I don’t know if it was great theatre, but it was truly fascinating. And I learned a fascinating sociological lesson – nothing brings down walls between people quicker than some wine and chips. Perhaps our world leaders should spend an evening On Trial Together.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston