“it was so nice to put some toothy language
to some of the more difficult-to-explain mechanizations
at work in the play. ” — LEAP playwright Chana Porter
We asked Chana…
you talk about Surrealism as it inspires and pertains to this play, and I’m just curious — what exactly does that mean to you, and what bits does it show up in?
“When Tara and I went down to Houston to work on LEAP [for the first stage of its co-world premiere, at The Catastrophic Theatre last year] , we got a community engagement grant from the city to help support our time there. The idea was to go deeper into some of the artist traditions this play is drawing from and we taught a course of Surrealism with support of the University of Houston and the Menil Collection (a stunning museum).
I think there’s a write-off sometimes that happens (I do this to my own work too) to just call a new play “weird” or “experimental” and leave it at that. By studying Surrealism in a deeper way to prep for this course, I realized this play was very much standing in this particular tradition and the more we learn about our artist ancestors the less we have to remake the wheel ourselves. And while Surrealism as a movement certainly had its limitations (and it was a literal club that Andre Breton could kick you out of) it was so nice to put some toothy language to some of the more difficult to explain mechanizations at work in the play. Like, unexpected juxtapositions that create a deeper reality because of their distance, and an emphasis on poetic reality (or what I like to call emotional reality) rather than factual reality. So I’m often using language to express what it might FEEL like, rather than the factual reality.
Artaud had this belief that theater should be a mystical, metaphysical experience, a ritual for both the performers and the audience, closely related to the world of dreams– I love this. And it underlines my instinct that audience is a necessary co-imaginer, a collaborator, who is dreaming this production along side us. So we, as the makers, need to leave room both visually and emotionally for the audience to make their own connections, use their imagination, take their own leaps. It is not a passive experience.
In a larger political sense, Surrealism aims to create freedom from false rationality, restrictive customs and structures (Andre Breton later said that the real goal of Surrealism was for the political revolution, aligning with communism and anarchism).
I think this gets me back to your first question!”