The beginnings of Liminal Archives was presented at the New Ohio Theater as part of the 28th annual Obie Award-winning Ice Factory Festival (June 30 – August 14), which returned with live performances this year. The immersive theatrical production highlights the ongoing pandemic from various artists around the world, offering intense glimpses of quarantine isolation.

We spoke to the production directors of the Al Límite collective, Leah Bachar, Monica Hunken and Dennis Yueh-Yeh Li about the inspiration behind the show and why it’s so important to be told right now.

How did the idea for this show come about?

Dennis Yueh-Yeh Li: A year ago, as the whole world entered one of humanity’s most difficult times with the COVID-19 pandemic, Al Límite gathered online to celebrate Passover, an important ritual that the members of Al Límite have lived through the years of working with The Living Theater. It was not a normal Passover. Instead, we read the adapted writing of the Haggadah by our mentor, Judith Malina, with the great mission of BNVAR (Belle Révolution Anarchiste Non Violente), in the hope of being re-enlightened in order to better understand how a theatrical collective can move forward with creation in a non-hierarchical structure. We still don’t know how this mission evolved in ourselves and in our society, but we do know that this little seed was sown in each of us, and we have been striving to nurture it ever since.

At the start of the pandemic, we wanted to create a similar ritual that could be continued and remind us that we are all in the same boat, and always will be, together. With the ultimate goal of staging a live performance, we started by inviting friends and artists from around the world to reflect on this particular moment in history through writing. What does this moment mean? Is it the end of something, the continuation of something, or the beginning of something? We have collected an abundance of creative writing that then evolved into an entirely new writing allowing us to see how the pandemic has affected lifestyles. After that, we continued our invitation and brought our friends and artists together artistically, based on our main mission to decolonize the body while building community resilience through art and performance, to document and archive how communities use artistic collaboration as a tool for survival during the pandemic. that’s how Liminal Archives began, an ongoing artistic documentation of humanity throughout the pandemic.

How did you choose these particular artists to work with? What stands out?

Lea Bachar: Due to our large creative community, we often find the artists we work with in other projects we may be involved in, connections through friends and a process we like to call “magic casting” (a term often used during our time at The Living Theater) where those who end up in production are there because the time and the circumstances were right. We don’t organize traditional castings or auditions, but rather leave it to the timing to determine who will be present and involved in any iteration of a project.

The cast we worked with Liminal Archives was a powerful mix of colleagues and former artists and there had already been a synergy established after working together before. After collaborating on a few previous performances, this cast decided to continue working with each other and developed a strong bond that grows with each performance.

This particular cast is also a group of directors, performers, dancers, writers, visual artists and activists in their own right. Their ability to handle a variety of creative outlets, coupled with their passion for social justice, made them a perfect choice for the subject of isolation that Liminal Archives the chords and empathic abilities they contain allowed them to connect with audiences in an authentic way, especially after the theater doors were closed for almost a year and a half.

We believe that everyone we work with always has an open door policy to come and go, they may be involved in one project but not another, and once you’ve been part of an Al production. Límite, you are welcome anytime in the future. This is something we learned working with Judith Malina at the Living Theater, and this way of working creates a rich and diverse community of artists and performers who find their way back to a production when they feel the time has come and the stars align.

What was the thought process to make this show immersive and engage the audience? Why was this important for the series?

Monica Dudárov Hunken: Since Liminal Archives explores the realm of isolation, fear and grief that many of us experienced and still experience during the pandemic, it was important for us to create a show that dissolved boundaries and gave audiences intimate access to the worlds we have created. While in the height of isolation, inundated with information about faraway countries devastated by the virus, it was easy to disassociate ourselves and we want to bridge that distance by bringing together stories, words and images of immigrant artists and an international community in the same space.

We envisioned a sort of “peep show” aesthetic in which each artist invites audience members to peek into an enclosed space, listening to stories or watching solo performances that are vulnerable, personal. , real and interactive, but the public can only attend for 4 minutes. exactly before moving on to the next box. There is just enough time for an idea to be transmitted, a gift to be exchanged, a moment to breathe together. We have chosen to keep the audience moving so that they have the chance to take a unique trip in small groups of four together, actively engaged throughout, never able to stagnate or remain passive. The collective repeats these micro-performances 12 times a night and the repetition is a strong ritual in itself. It is not a one-way street. The audience is also invited to come forward for us with simple yes or no answers, proposing a message for an international radio show, letting their hands touch, writing the name of a lost loved one, being human with the collective. We are interested in creating vibrant and beautiful theater, but we are more interested in creating possibilities for transformation, human connection and healing.

What do you hope the public will leave with after this experience?

Lea Bachar: We hope the audience will move away from Liminal Archives with a sense of liberation. We don’t expect to process and properly deal with a year and a half of isolation, uprisings and world change in 45 minutes, but we are at least trying to start to understand what we have all been through collectively, on to globally and redirect that energy to a world of new possibilities. We know that for many this was the first time they had returned to a theater since the start of the pandemic, and we hope the experience of being together again in a space allocated for creative purposes reminds us all. that coming together is a powerful action. That we are always there for each other, no matter what, and that we recognize and honor the stories and experiences that each has had over the past year and a half.

During the show, it was stated that this platform is to continue at a later date. Can you tell us something about what’s to come?

Monica Dudárov Hunken: We posted our first collective video response to the Liminal Archives exactly one year ago from the day we opened the show at the New Ohio Theater. The project began as an open source platform, offering a cultural exchange where international artists could collaborate together during a lockdown and mass uprisings, and it has brought together more than 40 works of art, including music, digital art and theater. We have these prompts online, “This is the end of …, this is the continuation of …, and this is the beginning of”. available for anyone to respond to and now we’ve put together a wall full of scribbled messages from audience members after they exit the show to add to this growing virtual document. We will continue to make these texts available to artists around the world to inspire them to create new works, to affirm each other’s experiences and realities, to leave our grief, our anger, our dreams and collective desires become seeds to stimulate the imagination and envision our future selves, our future world.

We hope to use this show as a workshop model to collaborate and build more micro-worlds with other artists around the world, continue to evolve the show and bring it to other countries as soon as it is possible to do it safely.

(Photo courtesy of Erik McGregor)