New Paper: WHAT IS SATELLITES?

What is SATELLITES?

By Mike Czuba

 VANESSA: He said he loved me but he moved with disgust. If you say the word love does it mean as much as feeling it? He was a satellite, floating around me, sending and receiving information, never touching the ground…

This paper is being created to discuss the (De)Construction, the Content and the Intent of  SATELLITES by Dancing Monkey Laboratories. The paper will not contain any standard academic quotes or peer reviewed citations, as all academic papers are mini-manifestoes from their authors; I am simply removing the tweed jacket and getting to the point. The legitimacy of this work is backed up by two degrees, multiple exploratory productions and two decades of sub-conscience research. I’m not interested in my theories being reviewed and/or legitimized by another’s thinking and, as you will see, what you think of my work is of little importance. What is important is how my work affects you.

SATELLITES is a picture; a captured image; cinema; documentary; a dance; movement; music; sound; a confession; but mostly the work is an apology to our big dumb hearts. Hearts that are incapable of keeping up with our modern digital world, the erosion of empathy and the anonymity that analogue never afforded us. Know this: before you dismiss this as the rantings of an old man who first fell in love before the advent of answering machines, I invite you to think again. Progress does not mean ‘good,’ change does not mean ‘bad.’ Time moves forward, but you have the choice to make it move fast or slow. A moment can last for hours and be remembered as just a brief exchange. You can slow Time down by listening; seeing; looking; hearing; touching. You can speed it up by only thinking and talking of what is to come. No matter your age, sex, religion and so on, the constant within Time is our hearts, primaly programmed and continuously beating. SATELLITES was created to explore these themes and ideas: Before – After – Now.

Let us now break down the elements beginning with (De)Construction. SATELLITES cannot be called a play, nor a ‘Night Play’ although it shares many of its Nocturlogical[1] elements. Calling it a multi/inter/poly disciplinary work is too vague as that can include a thousand different elements. We could call it Hip Hop Theatre if we believe KRS-One in The Gospel of Hip Hop[2] when he cites Alonzo Westbrook’s Hip Hoptionary. The quote reads in part that Hip Hop is “a way of expression in dance, music and word/song.” SATELLITES is an expression of dance, music and word, but it is and is not Hip Hop Theatre at its core, sharing multiple elements but not fitting properly into the box. This brings about a larger more troubling question of What is (T)heatre? Is it only the live act of storytelling? Is a songwriter singing a song about the hardships of life in narrative form considered (T)heatre? Is (T)heater determined by the room the performance takes place in? Is it simply a marketing label?

SATELLITES is “a way of expression in dance, music and word” which takes on the guise of (T)heatre but then moves past it into something that no longer needs a name because it will no longer be owned by its creators and will become the property of each individual audience member to attach to their own memories and spirit. The (de)construction of the work is in weaving three seemingly separate elements into one unified wave of energy.[3] I use the word ‘seemingly’ because the words, music and dance were not created separately but in the full awareness of and inclusion of the other elements. Each element is refined and compressed and in some cases re-shaped so that it fits delicately with(in)[4] the others. On their own they have beauty and power and clear intent, together they merge to create a unique language that can be consciously or sub-consciously understood by a divergent audience made up of individuals, never a mass. The actors only speak into microphones to ground (root[5]) them, to ‘remove’ the bodies of the characters, leaving only their voices (knowing full well that the voice IS the body). The dancers do not speak, removing their voices, to fully inhabit the movement (the being) of the characters. The music leads and follows, acting as subtext and truth at the same time. Each element supports and then balances–giving control away and taking it back as we do in real life. We are never the centre of everything all the time, the universe would not allow it. We live our lives with(in) a series of moments comprised of lead and follow, lead and follow–

That is the (de)construction of SATELLITES.

Now let us look into the Content. (T)heatre has traditionally taken “real life” and compressed it into something fantastical, or “greater than” our everyday lives. It asks, or sometimes demands that, the audience lose themselves in the spectacle or the heightened drama to find the connections along the way. Brecht wrote about dismantling this and used production techniques to keep the audience in the moment, but his plays, his content, was still heightened and/or fantastical. (T)heatre usually tries to connect to its audience by offering situations and characters that are removed, sometimes far removed, from the individual audience member. This practice forces the audience to use comparison to empathize with the characters on stage and as a side effect ‘comparison’ causes the audience to either look up or look down at a character, to either judge themselves lesser than or greater than the characters. Immediately this creates a distance and leaves negative after-effects as judgment in any form only hides the truth by creating a false reality based on a false system of values. This also separates the audience from the message by a certain degree: “Glad that wasn’t me” or “I could never be that good” and so on; none of those is any kind of message and can be easily dismissed or forgotten once the performance is over.

MARK: We have subtext, we have text, but is there over-text? Subtext is implicit, text is explicit, then over-text, like the satellite, is complicit and complicit is criminal.

SATELLITES is more concerned with sharing than comparing. Uniting character, text, sound and movement with the audience on an equal footing. Our everyday lives are filled with our own drama, some possibly more dramatic than others, but within our own lives and within our own perspectives, we all have our own drama. This is why the text is ordinary, the characters are ordinary and the costumes are ordinary (yes, the dance, soundtrack and lighting might not normally be considered ordinary, but I will argue that it all depends on what language you are speaking). The words are those in which everyone says and thinks–every now and then there is a flourish of poetry, but I believe we all think in poetry at times. The situation is one we can all relate to–that of a heart filled with love that is also broken.

The content of SATELLITES was created so that the audience can see and hear themselves–not some compilation of selves. The content was built to offer the ordinary, everyday drama of a wounded heart. This offering permits the audience to not feel greater or lesser but the same, to let them (us) maybe feel less alone in a new world that asks us to hold on to our phones more than a hand or a memory; a reaffirmation that you are not alone with your thoughts, you are not alone with your crazy, not alone with your depression and you are not alone in the world. There is power in acknowledging the ordinary, there is strength in the ordinary and you can build a foundation on ordinary. If you build a foundation on greatness, where is left to go? All you’ll be left with is a really great basement and nothing else. The content is an honest sharing, from heart to heart. No one will ask you to compare your life or feelings with what is on the stage, only to share in the acknowledgement of our universal crazy.[6]

The (In)tent[7] of SATELLITES is not to deliver some deep, socially relevant message or to teach a lesson but to acknowledge. An (in)clusive acknowledgement void of self-gratification and not in a self-congratulatory way to reaffirm you’re a good person. You are a good person, let’s move on. The (in)clusive (in)tent is to allow the (in)dividual audience members to acknowledge a confusion and an uncerta(in)ty that they might not be permitted to admit (in) day-to-day survival mode. The (in)clusive (in)tent is to br(in)g you (in)side the world of SATELLITES to share a secret. The secret of the text, the secret of the dance, the secret of the music and those secrets we keep deep, deep down. The audience does not need to admit to anyth(in)g but (in) the dark of the theatre, they can open a door with(in) themselves and let go of those feel(in)gs of lonel(in)ess and the self-(in)flicted distance at which we keep the outside world. To acknowledge as an (in)dividual with(in) a group, mostly made up of strangers, the biggest secret we hold onto so tightly; that we’re a mess, and we’re all a mess, everyone of us. As Mark says: “You know those people in your life that are super-optimists? Silver lining, everything happens for a reason, what doesn’t kill you… You know who I’m talking about. Yeah, well, they’re either delusional, medicated or have a disability of some kind.”  Beware those who ‘seem’ well grounded or ‘seem’ too happy. Be(in)g can be a simple activity, but with(in) that simplicity is a complexity that acknowledges the universe as someth(in)g we will never understand. So to reduce be(in)g to a catch phrase is simply another form of judgment.

SATELLITES is not a solution, it is not advice, nor an (in)sight. Each performance is a liv(in)g th(in)g, altered by the mood and life of the performers and the energy of the audience, so no s(in)gle ‘message’ would work anyway. Just as the form of SATELLITES cannot be named, so to its (in)tent cannot be identified (in) a one-size-fits-all synopsis. But what can happen, and I believe this is where the power of the performance rests, is that each (in)dividual audience member will take their own experiences and layer them with(in) the text, dance and music to share and acknowledge and to ease-off on their own self-judgment so that we can admit (at times pa(in)fully so) that we are not alone, we are not satellites.

What is SATELLITES? You tell me.


[1] As all philosophies were at one point made-up and then named, we can agree that dismissing Nocturology as a made-up philosophy would be short-sighted.  (More on Nocturology here).

[2] Contemporary (T)heatre can learn a lot from Hip Hop as it is a ‘new’ art form, it speaks to the ‘Now.’ Just as Hip Hop ‘samples’ from the past to create itself, it is not reliant upon it. Hip Hop uses samples as a base, then re-interprets them into something unique and original. It does not ‘cover’ the past but (re)constructs it into its own vision and message. Because it is not trying to (re)create something from ‘Before,’ Hip Hop – as modern (T)heatre must – roots itself in a constantly changing present, adapting itself with every new generation. (T)heatre needs to learn how to sample and not cover.

[3] To engage an audience on three different planes: intellectually by text, physically by dance and emotionally by music. I called this interdisciplinary design a ‘structural triangle,’ which can be rotated and viewed from multiple perspectives depending on the venue and audience but also structure that will always complement the demands of each discipline—theatre, dance and music.

[4] (in) = sharing. More on this later.

[5] See footnote #2.

[6] How many times have you reduced yourself in comparison (judgment) to someone else as an excuse to not do something? How many times have you elevated yourself in judgment (comparison) of another?

[7] (in) = sharing. (in) = connection. (in) = the knocking on a closed door and the answering of a closed door being knocked upon. (in) = being present within a moment and not being a witness out of Time. (in) = a heart that while broken, can repair itself.

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