Theatre Design & Technology - Oct 1971 - 18
But I ran into no difficulty about doing that,
I just went ahead.
Mrs. Cortesi: Did you demount your show
every night or leave it up?
Mr. McClintock: We had to take it up every
night because every night we were in a different location. Normally we did about four
shows a week and we were in a different
place each night.
Mrs. Cortesi: Mr. Munn, how long did it
take you to set this up? What design would
you like to see in the street or in a public
place when you are putting something on that
would make it happen more easily? What
would make other people have to work less
hard to do what you are tryi ng to do?
Mr. Munn: One point I think very important
to street theatre, to any kind of outdoor environment, and which could be very important to architects when designing outdoor
environments is people's interest in what
is going on. They want nothing to be
One performance that I attended was in
Brooklyn. It was interesting to see the reaction when the truck came in and they began to set up. There were kids allover the
truck: the hood, the top, the sides. As soon
as they put up the stage there were kids all
over the stage, backstage or on the steps.
This is a difficult problem for the directors
and technical people, but I think when thi nking about a design space, this kind of reaction should be considered. It is very much
an important and positive part.
It is important not to hide anything.
Some of the most successful street theatre
I have seen has been in ghetto neighborhoods. I think one reason is because there
is a warmth in their old architecture that is
lacking in many of these designed plazas
that we have allover the city.
Size, as mentioned, is very important.
At a recent symposium with which I was involved we talked about performance location.
The groups represented were of all sizes,
ranging from two-people puppet shows up to
the Shakespeare Festival. They all preferred
to perform in a street lined on both sides
by dwellings where people were living,
rather than in an office building, schoolyard, or next to a school. In a street with
dwell ings peopl e can look down from their
apartments and they can invite other peopl e
into their apartments so they can all view.
Others can go up on the rooftops to watch.
This is very important.
Mr. McClintock: I would like to add something. I think it is very important in planning
and performing in the street that we don't
-particularly in the kind of neighborhoods
that Tom and I are talking about-make the
operation too simple when we are out there.
Often people who perform in the street
want to be able to set up before they leave
one location so that everything is ready
when they arrive at another. They can push
a couple of buttons, run a few thi ngs out,
and the show is ready. It is set up in five
mi nutes and can be taken down in another
But if those peopl e standing around on
the streets can see how things are put together, it is much better: they can learn
from that experience. They need a chance
to see what it takes for somebody to hang
those lights up. They learn a great deal and
they are very interested.
In our first few performances out on the
street, we were busy chasing people away.
Then we thought about it, and decided we
were doing ourselves an injustice.
One thing we did not do that I think we
should have: If you perform three or four
days a week in the street, then your company should have a fifth day at your theatre.
You should invite all the people that you
have performed for out in the street to
come in and talk to you. That will help get
more people interested in your theatre from
all angles. This extra day a week when people can come into your theatre and talk
about your technical setup, about what you
did, about the art involved, etc. is important.
Mr. Sonnenfeld: Before McClintockandTom
Munn spoke we had nothing but a lot of
baloney from the lot of speakers. One
speaker wouldn't even speak. One man
talked about emotional catharsis. I didn't go
to architecture school so I don't know what
that is. Another man showed us some
plastic bubbles that were fun but which nobody can afford.
Mr. Smith: What is your point? We can
make our own judgments.
Mr. Sonnenfeld: Do you mind if I finish?
Dan Toan talked about architecture and the
importance of it, but the fact is that the
architects have not convi nced us citizens to
get our governments to spend money to
give us the kind of spaces that we should
have for peopl e to interact in. We are talking about people interacting with architecture and with each other.
Ernie McClintock gets interaction because
he is in the streets with the people. You
get interaction in the street, you get it in
the Italian street fairs, you get it sometimes
on Broadway or Wall Street, but let's hear
more about ways to get it, about ways we
can get our cities and our governments to
give it to us.
Ernie was the first one to talk about the
reactions of people in the street.
Mrs. Cortesi: I disagree. First, I think everybody this evening has spoken about people
and their reactions. Second, you seem to be
aski ng for an evening on government funding.
Mr. Sonnenfeld: Not at all. The government
is paying for all these buildings.
Miss Healy: The problem is, you don't need
any special buildings. You can work with
what you have. For the past year I have
been putting up sail sculpture similar to
the sail sculpture I have put up outside. I
have been showing five or six different ones
on West Broadway on nice Saturdays. At
first I too wanted to get out early and get
the sail up before it got crowded on thp.
street, and have a presentation for everybody. But as it happened, I would get out
later and people on the street that I didn't
know would help me put it up. They were
so interested in how I did this, why I did
it, that it was going to go from the top of
the building to the sidewalk, that I would
have people holdi ng ropes all over the
street. They got very involved and they
liked it and I liked it.
Not only that but when it is up, what
ever piece it happens to be-I have different pieces for different days, for different
winds, and depending on the way I feelthe reactions are just great. The people
who come down on Saturday are a lot of
gallery-goers; those are not the people I
want, and those are not the peopl e that I
get. I want the people who are in the neighborhood, the old Italian famlies, the big fat
ladies going to Grand Union. I say, "Would
you hold this?" Then they are holdi ng the
rope and they say, "That's very pretty. I
I think there is a tremendous need on the
part of these peopl e to experience the organic. They trudge through the streets on
their way to Grand Union and they forget
that it is a sunny day, that the wind may be
blowing, and that color against the sky is a
very beautiful thing. Once you remind them
of these things, they really become interested. You don't need special spaces. You
make your space by what you put into it
and you don't need a lot of funding, either.
Mrs. Cortesi: You can argue that you make
your space special by what you put around
it. The walls, the houses. That is what we,
as architects, are concerned with also and
where we take guidance from you.
Mr. Pertz: I had a feel ing that Sonny was
going to say let's save our special places
for special things. That is disaster. The difference between New Orleans' carnival and
Rio's carnival is just that in America we
make everything so efficient that we take
all the spontaneity out of it. That is what
happened to street festivals when they became festivals in capital letters. I think the
most difficult thing is trying to find spontaneity.
Mr. Duffy: Throughout the first half of this
discussion I really didn't hear anybody
talking about the street as a theatrical environment. I just heard people talking about
little, tiny events they stuck in an environment somewhere. But the theatrical environment of a street is a living thing.
Orchard Street is a real horror show on
Sundays because of the way the spaces
are shaped and the people who are there.
The Sheep Meadow has different areas
with different architectural qualities that pro-
THEATER DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY
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