WHAT IS SITE-SPECIFIC THEATRE?
Site-specific theatre is a performance which overtly uses the properties,
qualities, and meanings found at/on a given site, be it a landscape, a
city, a building or a room. This form of theatre emphasizes particular
images, stories, and events that reveal the complex relationship between
ourselves and our physical environment.
It is the goal of this project to devise a site-specific performance using the building founded as The Weyburn Mental Hospital in 1921 as the site. This project will use non-functioning areas of the hospital (found space) as the starting point for a devised work that is specific to and inseparable from the site itself. Site-specific performance is a complex overlay of historical and contemporary detail that seeks to create an open, innovative and evolving work that combines the myth, memory and dream embedded in the host building. While the nature of site-specific performance is neither narrative nor linear, it uses the material traces in the site to explore the actualities of a dense history. The traces or fragments determine the direction of the performance which takes an open-ended, ambiguous form, reflective of the multiple meaning and valences that the building provides. The building itself takes focus and provides an archaeological or forensic site of investigation.
Although entirely contingent on the development process, the performance will largely constitute a multi-layered exploration of the site and will be, for actors and spectators alike, an act of walking, looking and excavating - a stripping away of layers to reveal the interpenetration of space, place, culture and history. The performance will unlock histories of mental health, steps and missteps in medical approaches and the less tangible, but pervasive, legends that surround the building. The performance will engage social, economic and political interests of several interlocking communities. Focusing on centrality and marginality, it will braid together local and global issues.
In many ways, the material site of the Weyburn Institute speaks for itself. The architecture and monumentality of the building is not mute on notions of utopianism and modernity; it is a graphic articulation of an edenic social project driven by paternalistic systems of governance. The building's deterioration and decay frame the discourse differently. Is it a monolithic marker of a failed project of modernism? Such an ulterior reading suggests binaries of self-expression/institutionalization, self-determination/control that were the immediate concerns of the "inmates" and reflect the concurrent emergent issues that define the post-modern period.