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MIST, a musical performance, tells the travel story of Peer. The performance was developed for young children by Theaterschip in the Netherlands.

We are very grateful to Elena Iachininoto for sharing the information below.

1. How did the partners come together? 

The artistic team was: 

  • Erik-Jan – director of the work
  • Ischa – writer. He is a student at Theaterschip and he also worked here for one year as a new maker. Now he’s a professional theater writer and teacher. 
  • Joost – musician. He is also a student of the Theaterschip. Erik-Jan and Joost met each other at the Conservatorium in Zwolle and are still working together for projects and workshops.  
  • Björn – video mapping. Erik-Jan knew him from the collaboration with Theater im Fluss in Kleve (Germany).
  • Elena – choreographer. I came to Erik-Jan thorough Laila, also a student here and now professional teacher and coach.

Erik-Jan wanted to make an interdisciplinary performance so he used his network to collect different people. 

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2. What was the artistic inspiration behind the project?

Erik-Jan saw once a documentary: Alicia. This was a big inspirational source to start writing a concept for a new piece.

Alicia is a documentary about a Dutch girl who couldn’t grow up with her family because her mother was not old / good / responsible enough to raise her daughter. So Alicia has to live with a group in a orphanage and at different foster families.

A child and her family, a house, feeling safe, wanted to go away, waiting, searching, believing are some of the words we use in our making process.

3. How was the project developed?

We started the project with a brainstorm session. In the first week we made a lot of material / scenes from different ideas, with text, video and movements. This week we will still be busy with making material.

4. Did the participants help shape the artistic programme?

During rehearsals we gave the young actors different exercises so we could collect material to make the performance. We asked them for example to write down stuff, to make small scenes from an idea or text.

For the movements I gave them different exercises such as making movements from a mood board I had made. Another exercise was thinking about different ways of travelling (by train, plain, etc.) and first make 5 literal travel movements and afterwards make these movements more abstract by making them bigger, repeat them or doing them in a different way (standing, lying on the ground, jumping etc.).
So actually the youngsters had a lot of input in the work, but they needed exercises and assistance by making material during the working process.

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5. What was the response to the project?

We were all really happy and surprised about the result of this project. We made this performance for small children from 6 years old and they loved it. But for us it was really exciting because our work is quite poetic and abstract, with a lot of stillness and waiting scenes. Parents and teachers also really liked it and told us it could also be a piece for adults because of the theme. The public at our last show was really different from the previous ones. They were teenagers and they also really appreciated the work. So we can say that we made a performance for a broad public.

Children really liked the fact they could use their imaginations and the older public liked the fact that they could approach this theme from another angle. We thought it could be difficult to make a performance with such a theme for small children. This is not what they are used to see and to talk about. And we were afraid that we would make a dark piece without hope. But we managed to bring hope into it thanks to imagination and a poetical and abstract approach.

6. Did the project change as it developed?

During the making process a lot changed every time of course. We started the rehearsals with a lot of different exercises so we could make material and use this to start making a performance. Also the text was written during rehearsals and not before (particularly written for the scenes that were made). Along the way we also made some video material and music. We tried to make everything together so the disciplines could really fill each other. During rehearsal week 3 or 4 we started working with a follow up of scenes. By doing it you realise what you should throw away and what is still needed. So the kind of line you had will constantly be changing till the premiere. With of course some big changes but also (close to the premiere) some smaller changes.

7. What did you learn from delivering the project?

It was my first time making a performance for such a young public. So it was really exciting for me. I was afraid I could not express myself completely. But I learned that you have to stay close to yourself and your way of making so you can take everything out of it. I also learned that children can handle way more than what we think they do and that they can appreciate abstract art if this triggers their imagination. 

After each performance we had a small talk with the public. I loved that! I think we have to do that more often, give a space to talk about what we saw and share that with each other. That’s really enriching.

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8. What were the particular challenges involved in international, interdisciplinary and/or experimental elements?

It was not really a challenge to work together. The process felt really smooth, I have the idea that the makers (musician, video artist, theatre writer, theatre director and movement artist) collaborated well together. We took the best out of the different disciplines and helped each other in finding new ways of working and interacting. Also important is the fact that we started working on this work all together, in this way each discipline could grow, develop and enrich the other disciplines.

9. What advice would you give to others who are developing similar artistic projects?

First of all I would say: do these kind of projects! It is really interesting, fun and informative. You learn a lot from others and in that way you keep your focus broad and you keep developing. 

Also important is to stay close to yourself by making artistic decisions, especially in the beginning of a project you should be too busy with what the public will think about it. If you make something from a certain passion or interest this will also be interesting for the public. 

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