September 2011

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September 2011

The Last Word:

Garden Magic with Paper, First Act at Scenofest

Christopher Hoyt

Our group used this studio to build all of our paper design, costumes, and puppets. Each of these elements was created in the essence of our individual experience in the garden.

Photos/Christopher Hoyt

The Scenofest Six Acts project that was part of the Prague Quadrennial was six different performances in various parts of the city with various materials. I had the opportunity to be part of the First Act that was directed by Pavel Stourac. Our group consisted of 25 students from around the world. Our task was to create a performance based on the Franciscan Garden and our material was paper. Pavel gave us our first task back in May, which was make creations out of paper that we could use in our performance. Everyone began sketching and researching then posting it all on the Facebook page. This was how we began our collaboration.

The Birdman costume/puppet was designed as a response to the various people that walk in and out the garden every day. The actor wears the bird puppet contraption and is constantly pestered by the birds which created in the end created a clown like creature that interacted with the audience.

The paper flower costume /puppet was one of the more beautiful moments of the piece. This is how the paper flower looked at the beginning of the performance. After a series of difficult attempts to "bloom" the flower finally explodes and reveals a beautiful girl. She then dances and goofs around with the audience.

Our group, shown here working, created all the songs and music for the performance. The sound played throughout the performance and it created a very eerie undertone to the piece.

We were all perfect strangers the first morning that we met in the garden in Prague. Introductions happened quickly, and we instantly began working on the piece. Pavel directed us to walk around the garden, take it in, research the different areas, and begin to sketch out ideas. After a period of time, we met and discussed our discoveries. Toward the end of the day we went to the Scenofest headquarters to work in the studio which would be our home for the upcoming days.

When we arrived at the studio every kind of paper you could imagine was waiting for us along with all kinds of tape and tools. We began to bring our sketches to life on the first day! This is how it went over the next three days. We would sketch then have a group meeting where Pavel would select which sketches we would bring to life. Once he selected, we broke off into groups and collaborated how to bring the sketch to life. It was a completely organic and unselfish way to work, and it was exhilarating!  

On the afternoon of the second day in the studio, we split up into two groups: one that would sing and one that would create percussion out of paper. The singing group created songs and sounds that we rehearsed for a few hours. Most of us were all designers with some performing experience, so singing was a challenge, and it took a lot of courage. We sounded great, and the percussion came together excellently. We then recorded all of the work on a small pocket recorder. This sound became the underscore of the performance.

The third morning was the first time we rehearsed as performers. Pavel led warm up exercises, and we played various games to get us connected to each other in the performer sense. At noon, we moved back to the garden, and the Scenofest crew moved all of our paper creations for us to a studio that was next to the garden. When we arrived at the garden, Pavel began to explain to us his vision for the performance. He selected from the wide array of the paper costumes, puppets, and sculptures we had. We worked a long day rehearsing with the paper all over the garden finishing up around midnight the day before the performance.

The day of the performance, there was an electric feeling in the air, and everyone was really excited to be part of this amazing experience. During the day, the tech crew was running lighting and sound cable, and setting up lights and sound all over the garden. By the time we arrived, the garden had transformed into a magical space where the simple paper creatures brought the area to life. When the performance started, the audience size was much bigger than we anticipated which was interesting because it was a traveling performance around the garden. It was an amazing artistic experience and a huge success!

As a designer and performer, I was incredibly honored to be part of this kind of experience. The collaboration of the director, Scenofest, and the students was seamless and beautiful. I hope that American students in the future will take advantage of this at PQ ’15.

Watch the First Act on YouTube. Visit the Scenofest website. Visit my blog at