When I saw this tweet this week I was intrigued. I wrote about Not I recently but a play that lasts 12 hours? I got researching. It is the first time I have heard of the Nature Theater of Oklahoma and their work, Life and Times. I started to read the reviews for the show (which is not yet finished – it will be 24 hours long when it is complete) and they were uniformly rapturous – usually getting 5 stars – The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Telegraph – and so on. So what is it all about?
Well essentially it is a suburban American life story told in 10 episodes (1 to 5 have been completed so far). It is the brainchild of Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska, the team behind the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, which has been gathering kudos, commissions and cultural awards all over the world. They specialise in collecting the raw material of life, its conversations and events, and conveying them straight to the stage. Verbatim theatre in its essence
Sixteen hours of telephone conversations will eventually form 10 episodes to make 24 hours encompassing the whole of a young life. The chats used as raw material for the piece are all collected from Kristin Worrall, a performer and musician who works with the company and were promoted by the question, Can you tell me your life story? You can read about the whole, totally fascinating process here in an article entitled ‘Theatre is awkward, weird and dirty’: Nature Theatre of Oklahoma head this way.
There is some more great information here.
Caden Manson wrote on the Contemporary Performance Network
The Life and Times draws its source from the minutely detailed narrative that Kristin Worrall, a member of the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, transmitted by phone to Kelly Copper and Pavol Liška. For 16 hours, this 34-year-old American answered their questions, recounting her very ordinary life, from the cradle to the present day to them. From birth to the age of seven, then from eight to 14, from the most trivial to the most striking memories, episodes 1 and 2 probes her childhood and early adolescence in a cosy American suburb.
It is the period for first times, first emotions, first pain, first rebellion: the period in which molehills seem like mountains. This daily life obviously has something to tell us. We share it in one way or another. It concerns us but, the victims of habit, we no longer see it. Kelly Copper and Pavol Liška’s idea consists in fact in giving this banality a literary, aesthetic and emotional value: the phone conversation was therefore transcribed word for word, without any cuts or corrections, including the “huhs” and “ums”, the “you knows” as well as digressions, slips of the tongue and pat expressions. Set to music and sung in the image of a musical, rigorously choreographed following a totally Soviet inspiration, the conversation turns out to be a genuine dramatic chronicle. Funny, intelligent, fetishist, hypnotic through their repetitive loops, the first two episodes of Life and Times, among the 10 that the cycle will have, which can be seen consecutively or separately, have the virtue of establishing an almost inseparable relationship between the actors and the spectators. Anyone can become dependent on them, in the same way as we can become dependent on an American TV series that goes into the thousand and one details of daily life. But here we also discover all the magic of theatre: regulated with virtuosity, the acting of the fabulous actor-singers constantly challenges the spectators who identify with this bittersweet apprenticeship of life.