MFA students, director recall ‘unique, exhilarating experience’ in Bulgaria
Naoko Maeshiba, professor and director of Towson University’s MFA in theatre, says audiences had never seen anything like it. She’s referring to “Post-Everything,” the avant-garde production a Bulgarian artist and six MFA students in theatre arts brought to last month’s International Theatre Festival “Varna Summer” in Bulgaria. The annual event takes place in Varna, a picturesque Black Sea resort, to showcase the work of artists from Bulgaria and around the world.
Robyn Quick, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, characterized their two-week visit as “embodying President Schatzel’s priority of expanding TU’s national and international reputation in arts and communication. The students had an amazing opportunity to share their work and learn from artists from across the globe.”
Developed and staged in collaboration with renowned scenographer Venelin Shurelov and his partner, costume designer Elica Georgieva, “Post-Everything” was inspired by an article about post-humanism.
“We wanted to explore the idea of the “tech-hybrid human,” said Rebekah Lane, a member of the troupe that also included fellow MFA students Kevin Becker, Corey Hennessey, Rachel Thomas-Levy, Sarah Bourne and Zach Trebino.
The festival’s program promoted “Post-Everything” as a “theatrical/visual/psychic/scientific investigation of origin, meaning, significance and human longing in a post-everything society where the boundaries between human and machine have been erased.”
Through the collaboration with Philip Arnoult and Center for the International Development (CITD), Shurelov traveled to TU twice during the 2015-16 academic year. He worked with the students over a period of four months to develop vivid scenography and performance about how the characters fit into their worlds.
Student Kevin Becker says Varna audiences were free to “come in, experience ‘Post-Everything’ and interact with the characters, then leave after 20 minutes or so.” More often, he adds, people chose to stay for the entire two-hour performance.
Maeshiba recalls rave reviews from festival-goers who’d seen the show.
“People kept telling me what a wonderful, unique experience it was,” she said.
In addition to taking one of the roles, Maeshiba performed a short solo piece of her own in collaboration with Shuralov and Georgieva.
TU gained added exposure in the festival’s worldwide marketing effort. An arresting image depicting Sarah Bourne in “Post-Everything” costume seemed to be everywhere.
Becker echoes Maeshiba’s view that “The Varna festival enables students to grow as artists and human beings through their relationships with people from other cultures.”
“This trip exposed me to the international community I was a part of—but didn’t realize it,” Becker admitted.