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Uncensored street theater gets wired at coffee shops

The seeds of revolutionary theater have undoubtedly taken root in a local coffee shop as performance art becomes Albuquerque's mainstage drama.

"Temporality, A Desert Fugue Over Water Rites," presented by the performance group q-Staff, is now playing at R.B. Winning Coffee Co. After the last coffee grounds are emptied from the earns, q-Staff's five actors and two house managers remove the tables and chairs from the establishment's south sitting room and transform it into a performance space.

"Most of the performers work here," said coffee shop owner Rob Winning, explaining why his coffee shop was chosen for the staging of "Temporality." "But, naturally, I think this is a good place for them to do it."

Like most voice and movement pieces, "Temporality" - which was written and directed by R.B. Winning's barista Rick Van Schouwen - sets the atmosphere of the coffee shop as otherworldly when five characters meet "center stage" and begin singing and gibbering in strange tongues.

Fascinating props are used in a symbolic portrayal of human interaction. One of these is a cylinder with a handle that, when tilted slightly, produces a sound similar to ominous thunder. Other gadgets have been creatively rigged to produce similar mind-twisting effects, but their surprises will be left uncovered for you to discover on your own.

Years ago, an audience sitting in a coffee shop for a show of this nature might have been taken completely off-guard if a character entered in his underwear and suit-jacket, or if a nude character bathed herself in the corner. But these are the perks of completely uncensored, unpublished performance pieces designed for coffee shops and small theaters such as the Tricklock Company - formerly the Riverside Theatre Company - that can hardly be found on large stages.

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The theater movement in Albuquerque, specifically in the University area, can be compared to the thÇatre de la foire (the theater in the street) in Paris at the end of the 18th century, when the theatrical buraucracy La ComÇdie Franáaise was responsible for censoring all stage works to be performed for the nobility and making sure they adhered to the strict sylistic guidelines of La ComÇdie Franáaise.

As members of the class under the nobility, le tiers Çtat, were unable to see these pieces, they created their own and performed them in the street or wherever there was room for an audience. Eventually, when the prescribed pieces of the buraucracy no longer matched the tastes of the larger French public and La ComÇdie Franáaise was abolished, le thÇatre de la foire flourished and paved the way for modern realist theater, just in time for the French Revolution. Now, American theater has taken to the coffee shops in the same spirit of free art.

Many UNM students feel that times of unsettling politics force artists out of the woodwork, and with the state of national affairs in their present condition, we may be in for further explosions of new artforms.

"Temporality" will be playing Friday through Sunday at R.B. Winning Coffee Co., 111 Harvard Dr. SE, at 8:30 p.m. As space is limited, calling the coffee shop at 266-0000 in advance to make reservations is highly recommended. Get there at 8 p.m., and you'll have time to mingle.

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