FROM THE BOOKLET OF THE PLAY
Barbara Pia Jenič
About Gibran, the sensuous
It seems that authors such as Gibran have always been a part of my life, as they shaped and reinforced my world view and perception of existential questions. I started questioning myself about the meaning of life when I was very young, even before I reached puberty. I’ve been passionate about theatre since I was fifteen, but twenty years ago I entered the universe of the sensorial theatre. Sensorial theatre introduced me to the new dimensions of story-telling and creating. However, multi-sensory representation is not really a new thing in theatre.
“The beginnings of Western theatre in ancient Greek festivals like the Eleusinian mysteries (in modern times considered the prototype of the modern Gesamtkunstwerk) were suffused with intense aromas of all kinds: including fruit, floral, grain, and animal offerings; blood and burning animal flesh; wine, honey, and oil libations; and the burning of incense and other material in sacred fires (Burkert 1985). In our times, the use of incense in Catholic churches constitutes a diminished survival of the ritual use of smell in religious performances. scented theatre programs and perfume fountains were only two of the nineteenth-century olfactory devices in Western theatres (Haill 1987), but during most of the twentieth century, the “fourth wall conventions of realism generally divided the spectator from the mainstream stage and permitted only sight and sound to cross its divide.”
Sally Banes: Olfactory performances; The senses in performance, edited by Sally Banes and Andre Lepecki, Routledge 2007 New York and London
Some solitary experiments of conceptual integration of fragrances, textures and touch into theatre shows in the previous century can be traced to Scheckner, Marinetti and Grotowski, however these were individual experiments, overridden by realism, which was predominant in theatre at the time. Sensorial theatre along with consistent use of all the senses was introduced in Europe by Enrique Vargas, a Columbian director, with whom I collaborated as a performer for eight years while I worked in the Spanish theatre, in more than 300 replays of several shows. I established Senzorium in order to continue developing sensorial poetics and enabling research and development of multy-sensory art in Slovenia.
Sensorial theatre actively involves the audience into the performance and uses language only when it is more important than silence. In Gibran’s The Prophet the words are the main storytelling instrument. Every sentence in the book is thoroughly thought out and every word is carefully selected. Poetry is very close to sensorial language with its refined meaning, especially when the words are rare and carefully selected. The sensorial approach, stemming from elements of the Eleusinian mysteries (ancient forms of multi-sensory interactive events), uses fragrances as the essential storytelling tools. Sensorial approaches enable a multifaceted and a multi-dimensional experience, which – at least I hope so – brings fragments of that heritage and a pinch of the magic potion.
Gibran is a poet, whose thought rose above all religions and beliefs, he got in touch with wisdom that floats in our collective unconscious, which is according to C. G. Jung a part of a process called individuation. He introduces one thought in several ways, from different perspectives, using different metaphors. This thought can thus enter through the perception filter of a larger group of people with different experiences, as we can only see and hear those things that are part of our cognitive maps. We’re able to recognize, understand and notice only those things that we have experienced in life. Our attention is selective and stunted by perception filters. That is why some sentences slip past us as if they have never been uttered. Words that are familiar to us are also efficient, as they immediately invoke images, thoughts, memories – because the word resounds with the experience.
For the performance I chose those texts that immediately managed to address me persuasively as an artist by invoking images. I try to rely on the archetypal language rather than on the intellectual or performative approach, which is more ubiquitous nowadays. Gibran’s text is in fact a type of a Bible as it carries deep meanings, reflected in different forms. We use the language of symbols and archetypes because it addresses our subconscious, which is the key to sentience and consequently their better understanding.
I wish that we could experience Gibran’s words on a sensory level. The fragrances in the show open the way to the invisible dimension of the story. In some parts they are replenishing it, while in other they introduce a counterpoint of the plot by revealing new dimensions of the reality. We have to take time for fragrances, we have to indulge in them. The sense of smell has a direct access to our limbic system, so it has a stronger impact on our emotions than hearing and other senses. However, sound also affects our emotions, our bodies and our memories, so for this project I invited musicians, who resuscitate the tradition of the spiritual cultural heritage.
Gibran’s wisdoms are like prayers, striving for the higher purpose of existence and perception of life. In the past this role in communities was carried out by priests and shamans. Because religion does not have a strong role in the West anymore, new spiritual practices have been flourishing. However, these practices have been mushrooming in the last years, so it is quite difficult for the unexperienced eye to find real authenticity and quality among them. This is why art is in my opinion the best or – at least for me – the most familiar way to deliver higher knowledge.
Gibran’s The Prophet is the Bible for the present time. Since my Bible is the art, I asked him to come among us and speak out from the stage with all the senses. To stay as close as possible to the common tradition, in the language of images, archetypes, fragrances, textures and sounds, so we can rise above all religions, cultures and spiritual practices and unite in the simple meaning of being/essence.
English translation Miso Micic