To the Academy: A Lecture-Demonstration by Third Space Performance Lab

Performing Arts - Theater | March 13 | 5:30-7 p.m. |  Bancroft Studio (2401 Bancroft)

 Shanti Pillai; Marc Gomes, Third Space Performance Lab

 Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, Asian American Studies, Institute for South Asia Studies, Institute of International Studies Faculty Working Group on Gender and the Transpacific, Department of Gender and Women's Studies, Center for Race and Gender, Department of History of Art, Townsend Center for the Humanities

Two performers of unusual talents rehearse how they will delight and confound a group of earnest scholars. Intent on conjuring the colonial object of inquiry who refuses to cooperate and the privileged angst of the postcolonial, diasporic intellectual, the performers grapple—literally—with the gendered, raced, and sexual assumptions that construct knowledge. Multiple performance codes intersect and collide with Kafka’s “A Report for an Academy” and the Natyashastra as the collaborators slip and slide across the boundaries of theatre and “reality.”

Third Space Performance Lab is a collaborative project between Indo-American dancer-performer Shanti Pillai and Guyanese-Canadian actor Marc Gomes. We come from different theatrical backgrounds and together stake our claim for the overwhelming importance of humor and beauty. Our base is Los Angeles.

Our work lives between experimental performance, installation, and popular media. We instigate questions of gender, nationality, and hybridity through images of ethnic ambiguity and by juxtaposing unexpected points of cultural reference. We blur the boundaries between performance and audience and play with the distinctions between actor and character. Our bodies are the central focus of what we do and speak in multiple theatrical languages. We draw from Brecht, Grotowski, hatha yoga, Schechner’s Rasaboxes, and Stanislavski. Our own writing mingles with texts from others. Embodying theoretical discourse is an integral part of our process. We are informed by scholarship and in turn, our performances seek both to delight and to provoke reflection.

Shanti Pillai is an artist, scholar, and writer. She is a bharatanatyam dancer trained by the great T. Balasaraswati’s two senior disciples, Nandini Ramani of Chennai and Priyamvada Sankar of Montreal. She performed with the Frente de Danza Independiente in Ecuador from 1991-1994, and worked for extensive periods in Cuba from 2006-2014, collaborating with dancers and actors and creating and performing in original works, including a multicultural version of Shakuntala. Her writing has appeared in The Drama Review, Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies, Women and Performance, the Dance Research Journal, Trialog, and the blog of the Michigan Quarterly. In 2017 she received a Fulbright Research Award for her project about women artists’ contributions to contemporary performance in India across the genres of theater, dance, digital media, and performance art. Shanti holds a BA in Anthropology and International Relations from Stanford University (1989), an MA in Asian Studies from the University of California at Berkeley (1990), and a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University (2005). She is currently Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts at California State University at Long Beach, USA.

Marc Gomes is an actor, writer, and teacher. He has acted in notable Canadian productions of As You Like It, A Slow Dance On the Killing Ground, Edmond, A Taste of Honey, The Gayden Chronicles, Sweet like Suga and the North American premiere of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Emperor. He has starred in several television series including, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven; Sue Thomas: FBeye; Commander in Chief; and Lightning Force. In 2009 he was awarded a UNIDO Cinematic & Entrepreneurial Motivation Award for his screenplay adaptation of the Caribbean classic, Corentyne Thunder by Edgar Mittelholzer. He holds an MFA in Acting Pedagogy from California State University at Long Beach. He is currently Assistant Professor of Theatre at Ithaca College, USA.

 All Audiences, 510-642-9925