Tannis Kowalchuk and Sarah Dey Hirshan in 'The Uncanny Appearance of Sherlock Holmes'
NACL THEATRE PO BOX 33 110 HIGHLAND LAKE RD HIGHLAND LAkE, NY USA. 12743 PH: 845 557 0694 FX: 845 557 0393 EMAIL US directions


EXILIO: My Life as Bolaño / EXILE: Mi Vida Como Bolaño is a devised theatre performance created collaboratively by artists from the US, Mexico, and Canada. The collaborators are: NACL Theatre‚Äôs Tannis Kowalchuk and Brett Keyser; Mexico City-based director Lydia Margules of Museo Deseo Escena, producer Zazil Sevrin Luna; Mexican designer, Flavia Hevia; and Canadian director, Ker Wells from Toronto. The artists will explore, both through content and process of creation, themes of exile, identity, and nationality. Primary sources will be the life and writing of author Roberto Bolano, American Sacred Harp singing, and the historical events of the year 1968 as a reflection of our current political climate. We will perform in Spanish and English.

In February, 2010 the collaborators met in Mexico City for an in-depth exploration and exchange of our creative practices. We worked in the studio theatre at Universidad Claustro de Sor Juana to develop a mutual working method and begin to generate ideas and material for the performance's structure and dramaturgy. Funding from Canada Council and the Independence Foundation is supporting this first phase. In the winter of 2011 rehearsals and performances took place at The University of Guadalajara/Teatro Experimnetal.


Roberto Bolaño's life and work are rich sources for a project that will bring together artists from three North American countries to consider the relationship between national and individual identity, and to examine exile as a state, a perspective, a choice, a curse and a blessing. We will explore the tension between art and action, and art as action, on the individual, social, and political levels. We are artists with unique personal and political histories, from countries with deep historical ties but with very distinct approaches and relationships to government, class, and race. Together we are engaging with the work of a provocative and passionate writer, and asking what is it that speaks to us--what strikes for each of us the first chord of identification? And to what effect? What action is taken, what is created? As artists practicing in theatre, a form that faces its own historically unprecedented identity crisis, we must question the intent and effect of our actions. Are we merely shouting (or whispering) as the larger culture moves inexorably and indifferently from live to virtual performance?


Roberto Bolaño was born in Chile in 1953, moved to Mexico City in 1968, and spent much of the rest of his life as an exile and wanderer. In his early Mexico City years, he was a self-styled artistic and political revolutionary, an outsider and co-founder of the Infrarealist literary movement. Later in life Bolaño wrote powerfully about the essential and defining exile of any artist, describing characters, often modeled on himself, who struggle to take action--to move and act beyond the defining fact of their exile.

Sacred Harp Singing is an American popular music tradition dating to the late 18th century. A fusion of Anglo-Celtic folk music with medieval and baroque European church compositions, the form flourished in the southeastern and northeastern US as spiritual and recreational practice. Sacred Harp is a culturally unique American form of vocal expression and the emphasis on unusual harmonies and the notably democratic, inclusive intent in the act of singing will make this technique both a powerful tool for our collaboration and a major musical element in the production.

1968, the year that the young Roberto Bolaño moved to Mexico City, was a year of notable unrest, anger, and optimism in North America and around the world. In Mexico it was the year of the infamous Tlatelolco Massacre; in the US, the year of the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. In the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election, there were widespread comparisons of the current social and political climate to the zeitgeist of 1968--to a time which allowed for the consideration (if not the conviction) that fundamental political and social change were possible (if not desirable). But 1968 was also the year in which many began to doubt whether such change was possible. In the months that have passed since the 2008 election, similar questions are emerging with renewed intensity. These are volatile and uncertain times, and times of great potential. We see EXILIO: My Life as Bolaño as a step into that potential.


The lead artists are all experienced practitioners who have been making devised and ensemble theatre for many years. Methods of creating the performance will include actor-generated improvisation, scene composition, singing and song composition, and layering physical scores with found and original text. We will collaborate with Canada-based Mexican designer, Flavia Hevia on scenic and lighting design. Beyond these techniques lies our mutual desire and drive to be challenged, to encounter new collaborators and audiences, and to engage in these, our prime years as creators and performers, in a project that will require all of our experience, discipline and generosity.

(go back to the top)

Brett Keyser rehearsing 'Exilio: My Life as Bolaño' The group during a break from rehearsing 'Exilio: My Life as Bolaño' Tannis Kowalchuk during the creation of 'Exilio: My Life as Bolaño'