You might think that this would be best coming from a member of Tricklock Company, the hosts, curators, organizers, promoters, arbiters and chain-smokers behind Revolutions. The fact is, whenever I ask any of them to talk about what it’s like putting on a theater festival, their blank expression speaks bounds even before their general answer of, “I don’t know what would interest people about putting on a theater festival.”
I can frankly attest to their being so steeped in the process—the taxing, harrowing, ecstatic process—behind the festival that an attempt to relay that process to any ol’ bystander either risks an oversimplification of the work or an oversharing of stress begotten by it.
You might wonder why I am able to attest to any of it. I’m not, really, but one of the benefits of being a Pyragraph arts correspondent is that when it comes to, say, this international theater festival, Tricklock doesn’t simply put out a reclining chair on the front row as they might for any other critical journalist; instead, they welcome me so fully into their fold that I can confidently say, “I’m the best attester you’ve got.”
So let’s begin to break this down as per my understanding of it. It would be prudent of you to remember that theater is nothing close to science.
And a theater festival, at that, ain’t similar to any other kind of festival.
Revolutions is in its 16th year, and it shows in the way that Tricklock members maneuver around each other.
We seem to be in the age of the festival, with the Burning Mans and Coachellas flooding the mainstream and the impulse to put things like bacon and chocolate and ketchup into the festival format every chance we have. What no festival, whether it be well-financed or incredibly niche, has in common with the theater festival is the number of stipulations required. In a music festival setting, for instance, the stage might be different, the speakers might be bigger, but aside from these mathematically achievable hurdles, the show remains relatively the same as if it were in a Boston basement bar: The sound guy does his sound guy things; the show goes on.
With theater, so much intrinsically rides on the space—its distinctions and restrictions and how the actors are blocked and play within it—that many hours must go into a touring company’s preparation to play in that space. Having attended a couple tech rehearsals (chaperoned by Hannah Kauffmann) the first week of the festival, I was chuffed to see how quickly and capably acts are able to adapt and augment to a foreign space. Brooklyn-based Aztec Economy was rehearsing at five times the show’s speed, only slowing their speech to regulation speed in order to puzzle through an awkward moment that could only occur in a new environment.
The aerialist troupe Paper Doll Militia had similar moments of problem solving, with the added conundrum of making sure the rigging systems worked in such a way that everything could be synchronized to avoid 25-foot free falls. Easy.
So much rides on the malleability of theater performers to succinctly address and overcome obstacles that aren’t apparent until the performers inhabit the space in which they are to perform. This can hardly be said of any other type of festival; none other asks a player to adjust to being able to perform in the moment with just a moment’s notice.
Blocking: It’s just as important for the theater organizer as it is for the performers.
“Blocking” defines as the physical arrangement of actors on a set. But what about the theater festival organizers?
What’s become very apparent in my observations of Tricklock as they pull off Revolutions is their uncanny ability to know their roles and how to move in and of themselves. It isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem solely for the reason that each member wears so many different hats, from marketing manager to driver.
Revolutions is in its 16th year, and it shows in the way that Tricklock members maneuver around each other. Like a well-staged performance, Tricklockians understand their roles and schedules and deliver their responsibilities with an unrivaled clockwork. “Collaboration” is too weak a word and “configuration” is too mechanical. Rather, Tricklock acts as a sort of nervous system in which each part delivers the appropriate bit of information at the appropriate time while simultaneously reading and responding to each other’s well-orchestrated movements.
“Well-oiled” is a term I’ve used in the past to describe Tricklock. I’ve recently learned “well-oiled” is a paltry description for them.
One must not underestimate the adjective “international.”
What occurs when this unlikely modifier is prescribed to a theater festival is a compounding of the first two points I’ve adjudicated on.
“It ain’t another festival” gets a second life here. Proven in its lack of ease, now the festival must operate with the complication of bringing acts into a doubly foreign space—foreign not just in the innate newness of the space, but foreign in that it’s literally foreign to many of the troupes performing.
The “international” moniker umptuples the process of bringing acts from other countries, i.e., visas, foreign affairs, media naysaying. While it expands the perspective of the entire festival, don’t forget that it takes a massive dexterity on behalf of the organizers to create cohesion in respect to that expanded perspective.
So how do you put on a theater festival?
I’m still not entirely sure; any further wiles Tricklock possesses elude me. I only hope we can unlock more tricks the next time Revolutions comes around, but it’s not really fair, because it seems that Tricklock is recreating and reconfiguring every year themselves. Such is the nature of theater, I suppose; such is the nature of theater festivals.