Matt Tavianini: Boxtales - Santa Barbara, CA U.S.A.

Photo:
David Bazemore

Movement Artist:
Matt Tavianini

Company:
BOXTALES

Website:
 www.boxtales.org

Artist Statement/Philosophy/Mission Statement:
BOXTALES’ mission is to bring myths and folktales from around the world to young audiences using masks, movement, music, and storytelling.
Our aim is to fire imaginations, inspire creativity, strengthen cultural pride, encourage tolerance, and engage people of all ages in the excitement and immediacy of live performance.
Short Artist/Company Bio:
Artistically, storytelling in its traditional form is central to the underlying philosophy of our work and our brand of theatre. Our past work draws on oral traditions from around the world and our production of The Odyssey maintains the voice and figure of the bard, mixing storytelling with dramatization to create this exciting new hybridic style.
When creating a new production, the core company members work together to choose a theme. Once we establish a theme, the existing text is researched and explored by the core company, the director, and the writer. We review many different translations of the work, and ultimately decide which parts of the story will be staged. We choose these sections based on theatricality, theme, plot, music and design potential, and, most importantly, level of personal inspiration. At this point, we move into a research, design, and writing process that sometimes involves a year of meetings and brainstorming sessions. During this time, the core-company, director, and writer collaborate to adapt the various texts into a working script, and decide which actors will play what characters and which characters will need masks. We then apply movement and musical improvisation to each story or episode. The last weeks of the process involve making final technical decisions and gearing up for the opening. We attempt to make the show clearer and better each time we perform it. So in a sense, our shows are always and forever works in progress.
For many of our productions, we employ circus arts such as acrobatics, trapeze, aerial silk, Lyra, stilt-walking, prop manipulation, acrobatic yoga, and bungee-jumping, as well as more traditional devices such as masks, mime, dance, and traditional oral storytelling. Most of our productions require training in the particular traditions and practices of the culture we are exploring.
One defining characteristic of Boxtales’ work is our level of dramaturgical rigor. We have been studying cultural anthropology for decades as well as Jungian symbol interpretation. Applying these bodies of knowledge to our process of creating new work allows our company to go far beyond the normal level of dramaturgy commonly found in traditional theatre and bring a deeper level of potency to the material. Further, we are deeply committed to training our core members. In that our work is a hybrid of multicultural forms, we train in different acting and movement disciplines from all over the world. Either bringing master teachers such as Hungarian movement theatre icon Eva Magyar, or the originator of Acro-Yoga, Jenny Sauer-Klein to work with the company here at home, or traveling abroad to study with master teachers such as world famous clown and movement theatre director Sigfrido Aguilar of Mexico, or our recent trip to India to a train with master teachers, BOXTALES continues our training in order to bring the higher levels of intimacy and expression into our work. Please click here for a documentary of Theatre Mitu’s 2009 South India Artist Intensive, attended by BOXTALES company members Michael Andrews and Jeff Mills.
Our goal is to create a laminated theatrical experience where the story is told verbally, visually, musically, and kinesthetically. We resist being literal or simply “acting out” the stories. We find that our audiences can understand the complex metaphors and symbology of these great tales when we use creative storytelling devices that inspire them to use their own imaginations.

Describe some of your achievements over the course of the last five years:
BOXTALES has created 6 original pieces and one in-school residency in the last 5 years. They are:
2004/05 The Odyssey - Original stage production directed by Peter Lackner. Masks by Ann Chevrefils. Light Design Jon Retsky.
2005/06 Got Homer - Heroic Tales from Greek Mythology. Directed by company member Jeff Mills. Masks by Ann Chevrefils.
2007 Iron John - Directed by company members Michael Andrews and Matt Tavianini.
2008 The Ages - An intergenerational in-school residency project directed by company members Michael Andrews and Matt Tavianini.
2010 OM: An Indian Tale of Good and Evil and the associated outreach show Prince Rama and the Monkey King, based on the East Indian poem The Ramayana.
Silly Rabbit: Tricksters are for Kids, Trickster Tales from Around the World

What do you hope to gain from the experience of participating in this festival?
We would like to establish a connection with the other artists and hopefully connect on a collaborative level
so that there could possibly be some national if not international exchange between artists. We also are interested in learning about new movement genres and try to incorporate some aspects from different movement forms into our own work. We are interested in discussing the future of movement theatre and dance and what lies ahead for all artists in trying to sustain this vital work.

Have you participated in other festivals or showcases?
Yes we have participated in the following festivals:
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Carmel Performing Arts Festival, Carmel, CA
Ojai Storytelling Festival, Ojai, CA
The Flying Leap Storytelling Festival, Solvang, CA
Segundo Festival International Teatro del Humor la Matraka,
Hermosillo, Mexico

If so – what were elements you enjoyed and what areas do you think could have been improved on?
We really enjoyed meeting other artists and discussing the ways in which artists use theatre, movement, and storytelling in the creation of pieces. We were disappointed in the small time spent on artist introductions and the structure of the festivals to facilitate artist connection. Also, the small financial compensation that was available in some of the festivals.
 
What BOXTALES will be bringing to the Festival
BOXTALES is hard at work producing a new work specifically for the Festival.

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