Mission

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MISSION

The Ritual Theatre creates original, site-specific, transformational

theatre for diverse inter-generational audiences. Our performances offer space for the growth of authentic community, and seek to restore our much-needed connection with ritual and with place. Through site specific plays, installation-performances and other multidisciplinary work, we hope to nurture the inspired potential within each of us, and to deeply celebrate the cycles of love, loss

& renewal that make us human.

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Theatre, Liminality & Transformation

We believe that the ritual function of theatre is a necessary part of evolving a more healthy, sane, loving, and just society. 

Theatre is education. Theatre is healing.  Theatre is transformation. Theatre can build community, and help us remake society in our true likeness. And we believe that hidden underneath our collective amnesia, we all have a desire to feel more deeply connected through ritual spaces.

So it is that we cultivate containers in which the liminal might be tempted to happen. We invite this through technologies of theatre, storytelling & dance - as humans have for countless ages - with humility and with hope that that same ancient and much-needed magic might grace our offerings and our lives. Ultimately this alchemy happens inside each of us, as well as between us within a permeable space that is created as much by the actors as by the audience.

 

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What is Ritual?

A ritual is as an offering by an individual or group to the larger Universe, with the conscious intention to connect to our original state of interconnectedness or inter-being.  

 

Through ritual, we link the micro to the macrocosm - the experience or story of the isolated individual to that of the Collective. We re-member that the work of living a human life is both a solitary & shared effort.

 

We also make space for paradox: the sacred & profane, the ugly & the beautiful, impermanence & eternity, the wide expanse of human emotion & longing.  And in liberating our deepest desires and our most profound aches, we encourage others to do the same.

The Ritual Theatre continues a lineage of remembrance inspired by South Indian traditions which honor theatre, dance & music along with all forms of art-making as aspects - that when seamlessly woven together, produce what we call "a whole work of art". While artists  in India did and still do specialize in specific disciplines, it is categorically impossible to separate "theatre" from "dance",  "performance" or "ritual". Instead, these are each recognized as aspects of a unified expression; any given form being a synthesis  of these into its own particular language. 

The concept of these disciplines being separate entities is not only foreign but unnatural to pre-colonial traditions around the Globe. In South India, the term for all ritual arts is "arts of the land" (nāden kāla), meaning that they sprang from and exist in relationship with the land and its people as part of a whole way of life.  From their origins, ritual theatre forms took place site-specifically within sacred groves, agricultural fields, cemetaries and temples and in relation to the spirits of the land or to one's ancestors. To have art & culture of one's own is to "play" ("kāla") in relationship with the rich textures of nature, place & peoples over a long period of time - one in which culture/art evolves, as our interdependent relationships deepen. 

Decolonizing theatre in the West also calls for a profound honoring of the ritual performance traditions of  People of Color of the Global Majority without trying to appropriate them as yet another mode of unconscious extraction. As a WOC-founded company, and the first to coin the term "ritual theatre", we celebrate the work of BIPOC artists & performers, while also encouraging all of us to carry out the necessary work of ancestral healing & recovery.

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Decolonizing Theatre

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Reclaiming a Village Way of Life

Our ultimate intention in creating ritual theatre is to help reclaim "a village way of life" - one in which the arts are fundamental to the creation & maintenance of an authentic culture of place. In order to do this, we must first redefine what constitutes theatre, who makes it, who goes to see it, and why. 

 

In pre-colonial traditions, artists were regarded as sacred ambassadors of the Divine. The entire village (from babies to the elderly) would go out to see/ hear/ experience annual ritual theatre which occurred in cyclic relationship to the sun, moon & stars. For both artists & audiences, the arts were a practice of re-membering their relationship as part of a greater Whole. Artists were sustained through patronage models embedded in

the fabric of society, rendering performances free to all.


In contrast to this, in the industrialized, capitalized world, artists find themselves marginalized, as the arts themselves are regarded as an accessory rather than as an intrinsic part of life. Theatre is most often the providence of the elite - those who can afford (time & money) to go out and see/consume it.

These are two starkly different paradigms:

One, self-arising & regenerative. The other, colonized & extractive.

Our work is to reclaim the former.

Photos: Theatre of Freedom '14, The Lift '15, The Promenade '14, Endure '14, Rites of Passage: 20/20 Vision '21, A Lot to Ask '16
Credit: Eric Limon, Sam Backhaus, Peggy Braun, Peggy Reeves, Jeanny Tsai, Emma Rotherberg-Ware