The Flying Monkey

Excerpts from this discussion are being reprinted in Ruby Slippers Theatre's annual publication, The Flying Monkey, at the discretion of Guest Editor Adrienne Wong.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Introduction to Tanya Marquardt

Hello All,

Find below my bio and Adrienne, if you need a picture I can send one via email if you like.

An introduction.

I am Tanya Marquardt, theatre artist, female, living in Vancouver. I was born in Regina Sask., but moved every year or so because my father was a travelling vacumn cleaner salesman. I went to school at SFU, and graduated in 2002.

Personal things about me: I love chocolate, but hate chocolate icing. I refuse to eat cake, but I'll eat pie. I know how to ride horses and I'm left handed. I love the ocean, and particularily the feeling of the wind when I'm standing near the ocean.

Professional things about me: I create collective creations and also creations based on text that I have written. I've worked with companies such as The Leaky Heaven Circus and radix, as well as my own company Chrysalis Theatre, which recently closed my third play, Liminal.

What I think about Audience: Very excited to start dialoging, because in a lot of ways I am unclear about my feelings / identifications with audience.

I thought perhaps my companies mandate may articulate how I want to affect or effect my audience, and the techniques I am curious about, at least right now:

Chrysalis creates theatre through poetry, music and performance art. The artists gather according to the work, which is original, physical and collaborative.

We want your dreams to come to life before your eyes.

Chrysalis aims to put oddities onstage for us to decipher, creating spaces so out of joint that we have no choice but to question the living world around us. Attempts at constructing this world have led to the exploration of radical staging techniques, dance, rewriting of classical and modern text, clown, found set and costume materials, noise music, and gender bending.

Maybe this is too much information, or maybe it isn't enough. Looking forward to hearing from all you folks out there,

Tanya Marquardt
Creator & Performer


Tanya Marquardt
Creator, Performer & Artistic Director – Chrysalis Theatre

Tanya is the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre. Some acting credits include: SexMachine (radix Theatre), Genie (Theatre Replacement), and Ziggurat (The Leaky Heaven Circus). Her play Nocturne opened NextFest 2003 in Edmonton Alberta. Tanya assistant directed Boca del Lupo's Hold Your Head Tight with Sherry J. Yoon, Come & Go with Craig Hall, Liminal for Chrysalis Theatre and Birthday Boy: A Nativity with The Leaky Heaven Circus. She also assisted The Leaky Heaven with King Llyr, for which she shared a Jesse Richardson Award for Best Ensemble. Tanya is writing a site specific piece that takes place in a Beauty Parlor.


At December 18, 2004 at 4:41 PM, Blogger Adrienne said...

Re: Liminal

In this production, there were no seats for the audience. We lined up outside the performance space before the show, and then were separated into two lines: girls and boys. The performance started in the lobby and continued in the performance space, where we were asked to line up along the wall. And then we formed a semi-circle... and then we were allowed to roam free. My experience of that was an awkward sense of not belonging anywhere, of not knowing where to go or what to do. I really had to look out for myself, for my own experience. In the end I "hooked up" with another audience member (also a friend) and we stuck together for the remainder of the performance.

Tell me how you came to this staging choice and what experience you were trying to give to the audience.

At December 21, 2004 at 8:13 PM, Blogger Tanya Marquardt said...

The staging was created because of the title "Liminal" (an in-between state) and the Q: How does one create a Liminal space?

I had done some research on this last year when I was workshopping the script, and went out with a few artists looking for liminal space in the city. We would walk for a bit (liminal in and of itself), find a few spots and with a video camera on we would inhabit that space, noting how we felt when we were 'liminal' or what constituted that space as liminal when we found it, (or didn't...)

With that research in mind I wanted to create a liminal experience within the confines of Video In (I was very lucky to know I had Video In as a space well before the production, I don't know how this question would of worked in a more conventional space). So I would go to VI and just hang out. I napped there once, I did some yoga, sat on the chairs etc.

Then I went home and thought about the audience and how I wanted to create a liminal experience for them through the space and what that might feel and look like. I had a few incarnations. At one point I was going to have the audience enter the space to find stacks of 5 chairs evenly spaced throughout VI in the hopes that they would create they're own seating arrangement, but no.

In the end, I wanted the audience to find and create they're own configerations. I did some research into liminality and archetecture and one of the components was the creation of space where people could congregate and create there own spacial relationships.

Using this as a source I decided that there would be no chairs and that the audience would enter into a space that was somehow out of joint, odd. I decided I wanted the set to be like a prom (Musician / DJ in the corner who improved live music and some decorations) and something from the inside of a house. I settled on lamps that would be evenly dispersed throughout the space, and choreography that would also move throughout the space without regard for where the audience would be, thinking that by doing this the audience would have to move in order to see and could make the decision to watch or not watch according to they're own dispositions.

The idea for seperating the boys from the girls and having Miranda (who played a high school dance supervisor) happened in the room. Every week we had a test audience in to see the creations that were occuring with the text, and to get feedback. Most audiences went straight against the walls. We wanted them to move out into the space and separate from they're partners / friends. So we blocked some of the actions against one wall and made Miranda a sort of ringleader, moving the folks, jumbling them up and then letting them roam.

The separation of the boys from the girls was something that we came up with in conjunction with her character, but that she paired people up and separated others was an attempt to seperate people from their friends and hopefully have them meet and pair with people they didn't necassarily know. Or have them be by themselves.

My intentions with the configeration was to try and make people feel confused, a little out of sorts but not so much so that they didn't couldn't get some meaning out of the work. I wanted them to feel wierded out, disjointed, but have moments of clarity.

You know, like high school...

Does that make any sense?

At December 23, 2004 at 8:12 AM, Blogger Darren O'Donnell said...

hey tanya,

can you tell me more about the content of the show? you referred to one of the actor's character. was this mostly a narrative piece, a dance piece? did your efforts to induce liminality (is that a real word?) include anything in the content of the work. was there avenues for participation other than moving around the space?

At December 23, 2004 at 10:56 PM, Blogger Tanya Marquardt said...


"did your efforts to induce liminality (is that a real word?) include anything in the content of the work."

Yes, liminality is a real word, used in many fields, such as anthropology, archetecture, theatre, Butoh, dance and history.

It was first coined by an anthropologist named Victor Turner. His interest was mostly in the small remote cultures in Africa, specifically there ritual forms and functions. He was interested in the form that ritual takes and its social / spiritual function in society. He was also interested to see if the rituals of these remote cultures were mirrored in Western Society.

According to Turner, a ritual had three parts, a initiation, a liminal or in between state, and a reintegration into society as a transformed being. The initiation was usually a stripping down of identity, be it sexual, political or social. In doing this the people involved became 'neutral', without identity. This was done through things like nakedness, isolation from the rest of the society etc.

Then a liminal state was possible. This state is refered to as an in between place, a place of stillpoint, where you are no longer the person you were or the person you were to become. This could be done again through isolation, or ritualistic drugs, or a difficult physical task meant to put you in an altered state etc. Turner believed that in this state a person could see all the workings and structures of the society s/he lived as an observer and not a participant. In this way the person could see the inconsistencies of his / her life, the workings of the community and the meaning and purpose of that community without being involved in it.

By percieving identity and the community in this state the person could then reintergrate transformed and changed by their experience. They could make healthy choices regarding they're newly percieved function in the society they lived in.

Turner belived there were only two places one could achieve this state in the Western World, namely religion / spirituality and in the arts. Because liminality calls for a complete restructuring of the individual, Turner believed that the main reason it wasn't prevalent in Western Society was the advent of capitalism and the facist / industralized state. Worker bees don't work when they question the very fibre of that society and they're function in it because they see the hypocracy of that society. Turner belived that the Western World's goal was to illiminate liminality as much as possible, hence a moving away from community and ritual and a encouragement of state sanctioned religion and individualism.

Since Turner created the term and its meaning, it has been integrating into artistic practices and theroetical practices.

Butoh dance is one clear example, the body and the costuming in the form refered to as a 'dead' body, a body revoid of race, class, sex or structure. Butoh applies liminality to time. One of the functions of a liminal state is to stretch out time so that action is never finished or begun, remaining in a state of in between ness. Hence the long movement sequences and the white body paint.

Other artists that are often refered to as practicing liminality: Pina Bauch, Richard Foreman, David Lynch, Robert Wilson. Philosophers include Foucault, Deluze & Guittare (spelling?), and it has also moved into the realm of archecture and design.

In thinking about what happens in a transitional state, I was immediatley drawn to this term and its meanings. That's why I had the audience moving around the way I did, I wanted them to create they're own space depending on the action and also be somewhat confused and disoriented, another effect of liminality.

Early on in the workshopping process we took a video camera and went roaming the streets of Vancouver looking for Liminal space and how one inhabits them. Its everywhere, and although when you experience limality it may seem timeless, it usually happens quite quickly. You may walk down an alley, sit in a park, we found train tracks that led off into nowhere, doorways, park benches, odd little crevaces of buildings, or bridges.

So then I knew that I wanted to create this experience for my audience. Knowing that I couldn't sustain a liminal state for 45 minutes, I opted for moments of liminality and then moments of structure, hence the wrangler. Adienne's comment of feeling a bit confused at times was exactly the state I was trying to create with the piece and the audience participation.

That's a mouthful, I hope it makes sense...

"was there avenues for participation other than moving around the space?"

Yes, the characters moved in and around them ,asked them to dance, made them dance with strangers, and paired them up with strangers.

"can you tell me more about the content of the show? you referred to one of the actor's character. was this mostly a narrative piece, a dance piece?"

It wasn't narrative, it was more of a rumination. I was thinking a lot about transformation a few years ago, and what happened before one transformed, the state that a person is in right before transformation and not before or after it. Like a moment of stillpoint. I wondered if I could create an experience like this, where one experienced this moment of transition, refered to as a liminal state.

I workshopped the piece early on with a choreographer. We would explore liminality in the body and then I would write and these writings were later edited into the final piece. It wasn't narrative as much as poetic, and the structure was non-linear. It was sourced in my personal experiences as a young woman before womanhood, and some where literal, like losing my virginity, and some were more abstract, like me recounting dreams. I tried to source experiences I felt were liminal in some way, transitions into another mode of being.

Because the nature of the piece was exploring the conjunction between states, the final outcome wasn't necassarily dance or theatre, or performance art. Everyone that saw it had a different interpretation of what the piece was, which was one of its goals. If I had to give it a term I would say it was an interdisiplinary collaboration.

I collaborated for three weeks with a noise artist, two actors and myself. We all trained physically together, and created alot of the noise samples used in the piece collectively, although the sound artist and I ended up creating the final product because I know nothing about computers and he did. The musician performed live onstage as both a musician and a performer, and the main speaker, refered to as 'the girl' spoke the majority of the text. The woman I refered to in the last email was a kind of wrangler, although if anyone had a character she definetly did.

Because it was a rumination about liminality and girlhood I set the space as a prom, but I wanted the space to seem out of joint, and so there were no chairs and people could roam at certain parts and at other parts the wrangler would ask them to stand in a certain configeration. Scattered throughout the space were lamps that the performers turned on and off. So it was like two sets layered on top of one another.

Even me explaining it sounds liminal. Ok, what happened was: people came to the show and waited in a waiting area. There was no preshow music or anything, just a waiting area with a few chairs.

The wrangler would come in, and she looked like a 1950's high school chaparone. She separated the boys from the girls and gave a talk about the rules of the dance while doing an odd movement score. I did this because I wanted to separate the audience members from whoever they came with, and also to endow them as teenagers at a prom. For me being a teenager was the closest I have ever experienced to a long term liminal state, which is why I sourced that time in my life.

The people were led into a large room where there was 50' music playing, and the wrangler paired strangers together and spread them throughout the space. I did this in the hopes that the audience would create they're own space instead of marking out where they should sit or what they should look at, as well as taking them out of they're normal audience arrangement or expectations.

The music turned into noise samples and then the audience was left in complete darkness for a while. This noise music continued throughout the piece, and a lot of it was improvised. The girl entered through a closet door and began moving throughout the space slowly. There was no front, meaning that the audience often had to move in order to see the action, or they could also go and look at the set or what the musician was doing.

The girl was ruminating about her experiences, her prom, her prom dress, dreams, occurances. It wasn't linear. There were movement pieces, alot of poetic text and spaces where the musician was the central focus.

There were times when the girl would interact directly with the audience, at one point she asked an audience member to dance with her. She moved through the audience, and her movement was more choreography than blocking. Her basic action was to turn all the lamps on and then turn them all off again while recounting these ruminations.

At the end of the piece she paired people off, the musician called for the last dance of the evening, all the lights went out and a disco ball came on, and we all danced to the song "goodnight sweetheart" by the Spaniels. The girl and the musician danced.

Not sure if that makes any sense. I could send you the final draft of the text as it might be clearer, although the wrangler's text was created in the room, and I don't have that text anymore. But if you send me your email at I'll send the text to you if you want to read it.

At December 24, 2004 at 5:27 AM, Blogger Darren O'Donnell said...

hey tanya,

thanks for all that. the stuff on ritual and liminality was especially interesting - it connected with a couple of recent trips i took. if you're a fan of liminal spaces and wiping your identity off the map you should smoke some salvia. it's a member of the sage family, it's totally legal, i'm sure the headshops in vancouver sell it. i would recommend a generous pinch of the 20X version. (it's enhanced with extract so you don't have to smoke a whole pile of leaves to get off). the high lasts 10 minutes but is really intense - you can forget that you smoked it, you can forget who you are, you can time travel. it's bizarre and not necessarily fun, in fact, the first time i did it it was terrifying. you should always have a sitter with you because you might want to run screaming into the streets. but, trust me, it's worth it. more info at: i recommend reading the user guide on that site before you try it.

At December 24, 2004 at 5:50 AM, Blogger Darren O'Donnell said...

more thoughts:

for me, i lose interest (theoretically speaking since i didn't see your show) when you start talking about the prom, the 50s chaperone, the seperating of everyone into groups and the girl talking about her prom. all this pretending makes me feel uncomfortable. i wonder why it's necessary. i'm more interested in trying to figure out ways for performers to just be themselves, for the audience to just be themselves, for there to be no need to represent anything - framing devices that don't resort to character, or pretend situations (the prom), or coercive conventions (the chaperone). i'm looking for situations that are straight-up with the audience, or at least look like they are straight-up, there can be trickery and pretend but not on the order of more traditional approaches to fabricating character or situation. also looking for verbal participation, to induce discussion of some sort where the audience doesn't have to buy into other realities, where there is no need to suspend disbelief.

At December 24, 2004 at 9:45 AM, Blogger Tanya Marquardt said...


thinking more about your last post, will respond later. But on the salvia note, i'm one step ahead of you. Hey, I live on West Coast, of course I've smoked it.(haha)

At December 24, 2004 at 1:55 PM, Blogger Darren O'Donnell said...

what was your salvia experience like?

At December 24, 2004 at 3:46 PM, Blogger Tanya Marquardt said...


The experience was anti-climatic. I didn't feel completley safe and so I got sort of a rush and that was it. I'd like to try it again in a situation where I feel safer about letting go. I'm sure I will someday.

Merry ho-ho and all that blah blah.


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