'DaDa Trans iT' brings international experimental theater to Tempe

“DaDa Trans iT,” an experimental theater piece based on the literary and artistic Dada movement, will play at the Empty Space theatre in Tempe March 20. The performances, presented by Arizona State University, are scheduled for 6 and 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Dada movement was launched in Europe in 1916. Members of the movement, also known as Dadaists, rejected contemporary conventions of art and philosophy. Instead, they used thought-provoking, nonconformist performances to nudge mainstream society toward self-awareness.

Aristita Albacan is the theater director of “DaDa Trans iT,” and the director of studies and lecturer in Theatre and Performance at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. She says her Romanian roots helped her interpret and adapt the tenets of the Dada movement for the performance.

“‘DaDa Trans iT’ is an experiment that aims to combine textual, visual and other resources from the historical Dada movement with contemporary ones such as video clips, poetry and visual arts,” Albacan says. “Through remixing and improvisational strategies that involve audience participation, we hope to revive Dada in the 21st century to merge artistic expression with our daily lives.”

Ileana Orlich, project director of “DaDa Trans iT” and professor of Romanian, English and comparative literature at ASU, says Dadaism is the Romanian avant-garde movement that influenced world-changers such as Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin and Irish novelist and poet James Joyce.

“The historical time during which Tristan Tzara founded the Dada movement in Zurich coincided with the dismantling of Tsarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire before that,” Orlich says. “Tzara’s words in the Dadaist manifesto resonated among political exiles such as Lenin and Joyce at the time of World War I in 1915 Zurich.”

The name Dada itself has multiple meanings and was selected for its multilingual, childlike and nonsensical implications. According to Albacan, a mix of definitions taken from Tristan Tzara, Francis Picabia, Hugo Ball and Kurt Schwitters (all pillars of the Dada movement) are used through out the production. These include:

• a virgin microbe

• an anonymous society for the exploration of ideas

• a rapidly changing and interesting chameleon

• a word for a hobbyhorse, a children's nurse and a double affirmative in Russian and Romanian.

Albacan says the performance is an unusual, playful and engaging experience.

“We live in a Dada, chaotic world and need a sense of humor to acknowledge that,” Albacan says. “In the performance, we try to show this reality in a playful and imaginative way, all the while respecting the iconoclastic and radical spirit that made the Dada movement famous nearly a century ago.”

The performances are hosted by Arizona State University’s Romanian Studies in the School of International Letters and Cultures, and the Central European Cultural Collaborative in the Department of English. The event’s major sponsors are ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Herberger School of Theatre and Film, the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, and the School of Letters and Sciences. Special thanks go to the ASU Institute for Humanities Research, Jewish Studies and Regents’ Professor David Foster.

Albacan will also hold an international theatre workshop, “Activating Spectatorship: DaDa as Performative Resource,” 1:30-2:45 p.m., March 19, in room 103 inside George M. Bateman Physical Sciences Center on the Tempe campus.

The Empty Space theatre is located at 970 E University Drive (northeast corner of University Drive and Rural Road) in Tempe.