Featured Long Durational Work

Life and Times (2009 — Ongoing), Nature Theatre of Oklahoma

Duration: Predicted Eight Years

Text by Nature Theater of Oklahoma and Karina Vahitova
Cover photograph by Reinhard Werner

"Life and Times" (2009 — Ongoing) is a planned ten-episode project created by Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. The ongoing development of the theatre performance started when director Pavol Liška asked company member Kristin Worrall one simple question: “Can you tell me your life story?” Worrall proceeded to respond in great detail through 16 hours of recorded phone conversations which were then transcribed. Music and choreography was added and the production was created.

Nature Theatre of Oklahoma performing Episode 1 of “Life and Times” at Burgtheater Vienna in 2010. Photograph by Reinhard Werner

"Life and Times" is divided into ten episodes, each episode corresponding to a separate phone call. “Episode 1” starts with birth and goes to age eight. “Episode 2” depicts roughly ages 8 to 14. “Episode 3” and “Episode 4” tell the story of Worall’s life from ages 14 to 18. Although the directors Pavol Liška and Kelly Copper do edit some of the material (such as changing some of the names), they have committed to presenting the transcribed story as is. They explain that although the production is based around just one person’s life, her life is relatable enough so as to be anyone’s story. Each episode is about two hours long and, in many cases, the theatre has performed one episode after another for hours at a time.  

The company challenges their performers by giving each episode a different formal structure. For “Episode 1,” they work within the form of music/opera, for “Episode 2” they work with dance, and for “Episodes 3 & 4” they take on theatre and the genre of locked-room murder mystery. “Episodes 4.5 and 5” explore drawing, painting, animated film, and book arts. Currently, the 14 members of the company have produced and performed five of the ten episodes of “Life and Times.” From October to November of 2012, the collective was was in residency at Mousonturm in Germany, where they performed “Episodes 2, 3 and 4” consecutively, each for 11 hours per day. The expected year for the completion of the project is 2017.

Kelly Copper and Pavol Liška met at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire (US) before moving to New York. For the last 15 years they have been weaving a theatre form deliciously tinged with eccentricity that attempts to enchant daily life. At least to sing it, since very much like certain French films of the 1960s and 1970s, they use everyday words decorated with the flowers of musical rhetoric. Discussing from morning to night, acting, occasionally giving theatre courses in Europe, the couple works constantly but remains elusive. Do they do theatre, song, choreographies, performances? In fact, they luckily do all of them. Pavol Liška, who arrived in the United States from Slovakia when he was 18 years old, transmitted a very Mittel Europa taste for strangeness and irony to his company, founded in 2003. Its name comes from Central Europe: Nature Theater of Oklahoma, the troupe, as promising as it is mysterious, in Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel Amerika. For the last five years, Kelly Copper, Pavol Liška and the Nature Theater of Oklahoma have been coming to Europe on a regular basis where their shows, No Dice, Romeo and Juliet and now the first two episodes of Life and Times are attracting growing interest. Their website can be found here.