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article imageArtist showcases 'living art' at Toronto festival with 'Habit' Special

By Melissa Hayes     Jun 11, 2011 in Entertainment
Toronto - Berlin-based artist David Levine is fusing conventional theatre with gallery art in his new work, "Habit," as part of Toronto's annual Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity.
Staging its world premiere at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), the free event features the ongoing performances of three actors, as they inhabit a roofless 700-square-foot, fully functioning ranch house—equipped with electricity, running water, and cable television.
Visitors can drop by and peer through oversized windows, or from above, as the typically 90-minute play loops, and spontaneously changes based on the actors’ tone and delivery of a set dialogue. A live video feed of the eight-hour piece can also be seen from a separate viewing room.
“I wanted to try and create an environment that would feel as creative as a rehearsal over and over again, where you’d still have something interesting to watch if you were an audience,” said director and creator Levine.
“The whole thing is about liveness, so the script has actually been engineered to let actors make these decisions in the moment. The only thing they can’t do is deviate from the dialogue.”
Penned by playwright Jason Grote, “Habit” was initially workshopped at New York’s Watermill Center in 2010, and then featured at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) earlier this year, before coming to Toronto. The piece is commissioned by Luminato and MASS MoCA.
The set—which includes a living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and “chill-out room”—envisioned by scenic designer and artist Marsha Ginsberg, took about two weeks to fully install on the second floor of OCAD’s Great Hall.
“What’s kind of complicated about the project, is conceptually, it sits between theatre and art installation, so the construction of the piece also sort of sits between real construction and theatre construction,” said Ginsberg, whose design required a variety of professionals, including sheet rockers.
The performance, which strives to offer the collision of the two genres, initiates a move away from the restrictions of orthodox theatre.
“When you’re going to a regular theatre with two hundred, three hundred seats, everybody’s stationary, they can’t move around, they have to see everything from a certain angle,” said Toronto-based actor Abraham Asto, one of two performers who switch off on the role of “Doug.”
“In a show like this, because [the audience] can move around, and through that maneuvering, they can see a different perspective of the same image, it gives them a new interpretation of it. So anybody who comes to see this can gain a whole new perspective of theatre.”
Tosha Dorion, also of Toronto, who takes turns playing “Viv,” said she hopes viewers pick up on the sense of voyeurism the play tends to give off.
“I hope, that when people watch it, they kind of feel like maybe they shouldn’t be watching—because it could be in someone’s house, or a private moment.”
Levine said he wants people to take advantage of the accessibility of the piece's unique structure.
“I like the idea of people coming and leaving. I like theatre that doesn’t make life hard for you, that you can drop in on and you can leave, and you can come back to, and see something different.”
“Habit” will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 10 – 11, and 13 – 19 at OCAD.
Levine will also appear at Gallery TPW on June 16 to speak to the public about his work.
More about david levine, Luminato festival, Theatre, Art, Ocad
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