City Council Meetings as Performance Art Theater

No, really.
Over one weekend, in a series of 15 minute pieces, 16 female directors will answer the question “What is political theater?”

City Council Meeting is a new, participatory theater work conceived and written by Aaron Landsman, directed and developed by Mallory Catlett. Part play, part town hall meeting, City Council Meeting is performed participatory democracy. Catlett and Landsman have made a structure and script that draw on actual government meetings from around the country. For the Culture Project’s Women Center Stage series, they are opening up the form to create short, pointed disruptions throughout the room, which can raise staged bureaucracy to unexpected levels of poetry.
And a bit more description:

Supported by a HERE Artist Residency, I am working on a new piece with director/dramaturg Mallory Catlett that looks to be performed participatory democracy. Inspired by photographer Paul Shambroom, and by a truly Shakespearean city council meeting I attended last year in Oregon, this piece is about the poetry in bureaucracy, the architecture of power and the comedy of procedure. Audience members will have a chance to be Mayors, schoolkids and priests, testify on issues of their concern, and webcast live. City Council Meeting is about the imperfection of democracy and the imperfection of theater. Please stay tuned. City Council Meeting was a finalist for the 2009 P73 fellowship.
Finally, a Q&A:
Where have you attended city council meetings?
In New York, Chicago (IL), Portland (OR), Bismarck (ND), San Antonio (TX) and Minneapolis (MN). In most of them I also interviewed a council member or other official. I also read through all the rules and procedures for Chicago's city council, and sat in in a closed door session in Bismarck. All told, I'm guessing I clocked about 30 hours.

How do you turn a city council meeting into a play?

Very carefully.

What's the most common issue that came up?

It ranges from "The rent is too damn high" to "What do we do about the apocalypse." Which I guess for some people are one and the same thing.

I'm guessing there wasn't a lot of drama. Did you keep yourself awake by digging a pencil into your thigh?
In fact, I got so thoroughly bored doing research that I can use my thigh as a giant pencil! Actually, I have seen some of the best theater ever at city council meetings. Some of which is in the piece. Some of which involved disinfectant. Also the physical set-up of the space, with a person giving a dramatic speech facing upstage, a group of powerbrokers facing her down, and a video monitor displaying the whole thing to the folks back home, is what originally drew me to this. Did you know there is a whole spate of ethnographic studies on "Performative Governance?" It's true. They discuss the application of an appearance of civic engagement in dramaturgical terms. Ultimately, this piece is trying to find the poetry in bureaucracy, the sublime in the procedural.
I can't chaperone a field trip to NYC for the March 5 and 6 performances, but if anyone is there and goes, let us know how close to reality it gets.

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