CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Feb. 4, 2000
RAT Conference gathers theater groups from around the
world at UI
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa department
of theatre arts will be the site of the RAT Conference, "Theater and War:
Uses of Art," an ad-hoc gathering of out-of-the-mainstream theater companies
and artists from around the globe, Feb. 17-20 in the UI Theatre Building.
The conference will include two free public performances
in Theatre B of the Theatre Building: "Documents of Time" by Dah Teatar from
Belgrade, Yugoslavia, at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18; and "The End and Back, Again,
My Friend" by globetrotting American solo theater artist Kathy Randels, at
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19.
Although admission is free, donations of non-perishable
food items will be accepted at the door.
In addition, the public is welcome at the "Rat Cafe"
open-performance events, 10 p.m. to midnight Feb. 19 in Theatre B, and possibly
also in Mabie Theatre if enough performers decide to participate.
Other participants in the conference with include
theater artists and companies from the United States, Argentina and Northern
Ireland. The artists from Buenos Aires, Derry and Belgrade will explore the
means of sustaining life and art in the face of war and atrocity.
For further information about conference events, call
the theater department at 319-335-2700.
The bombing of Yugoslavia threatened to destroy Dah
Teatar, and its members were dispersed for some time in Yugoslavia, New Zealand
and the United States. Under the motto "Destruction and violence can only
be opposed by the creation of sense," the company now collaborates in Belgrade
with international artists to build a new theatrical and social future in
a country that has lost many of its most educated people to war and emigration.
Dah Teatar director Dijana Milosevic has written,
"To be an independent non-government group in this country during the last
seven years already signifies a very definite political attitude. The members
of Dah Teatar are not members of any political party but with their work and
lives they have strongly opposed the war and violence and the official political
attitude of the ruling party.
"To stay, live and work in this country despite the
fact that thousands of young people of this generation have emigrated also
presents a definite political attitude. That position can be formulated in
a few words: resistance to chaos, because Dah Teatar has chosen to stay and
welcome those who will one day return."
Randels is from New Orleans and is a graduate of Northwestern
University, but has been working with Dah Teatar. In "The End and Back, Again,
My Friend" she combines music, movement and her own poetry and prose with
materials including "The Odyssey," the Samurai warriors' code, Hemingway,
Tennessee Williams and Meredith Monk. This work has been produced at sites
including San Francisco, Slovenia and Denmark.
The RAT Conference grew out of 1993 articles published
in theater journals, and the subsequent exchange of communications between
small theater companies and fringe artists that create adventurous theater
on small budgets. One of the prime movers in developing the RAT idea was Erik
Ehn, a visiting faculty member at the UI.
In an article titled "Toward Big Cheap Theater," Ehn
wrote, "Theaters that choose to operate under radar, below the market -- the
pushcart robbers, the fools for God's sake, the creeps, the busted alchemists,
the trolls -- have crisis, not continuance, built into their missions. . .
Experimental theaters, geographically and financially isolated from one another,
struggle separately when they could be struggling together -- not in less
pain, perhaps, but in a common and revivifying pain."
"We need to share the work -- the labor and the ways
of laboring. We need to distribute the consciences. We want an engine, outside
the marketplace, built low enough to the ground and out of such measly materials
that repairs are worked in a wink."
Ehn organized the first conference at the UI in 1994.
Various names for this informal organization were toyed with, including "Art
Workers' Hostelry" and Ehn's phrase, "Big Cheap Theater."
But the name and image that eventually stuck for this
loose affiliation of artists without membership requirements was RAT. RAT
suggested various acronyms -- perhaps Regional Alternative Theatres, Raggedy-Assed
Theatres and/or Rogues in American Typecasting -- but it was the rat metaphor
that became the rallying point.
Mary DeDanan wrote in American Theater magazine, "Alternative
theatremakers across the nation easily identified with the image of the rat:
wily, indestructible, pestilent, squeezing through impossibly tight places,
sneaking into the xerox room at the day job, using up all the toner, then
sneaking out. The rat doesn't seek to change or reform the dominant structures
and forms, but to infest them."