Autoteatro is a term coined by the artists above in 2007 for Rotozaza's 'Etiquette' to distinguish it from other audio-led performance at the time which was often for single participants.
In Autoteatro, audience members perform the piece themselves, for each other. Participants are given instruction via audio, visual cues or text for what to do or say. By simply following these instructions an event begins to unfold. One moment you may be watching or witnessing the other(s) performing, not unlike a normal audience experience. The next you may be doing or saying something which in turn creates a moment of performance to be witnessed by the other(s). Not to be confused with gaming (or ‘game show’-like improvisation), Autoteatro does not require audience members to be clever or inventive, neither does it necessarily set up instances of competition.
It’s also possible to define it as:
- functioning automatically: once started, there are no actors or other human involvment or labour during the work other than the participants engagement. An Autoteatro work exists as a fixed, often pre-recorded 'trigger' for a performance embodied only by those taking part. As well as sometimes allowing for Showing Without Going, being automated means it's usually possible to run the work on loop for large audiences over longer periods, and to multiply the number of simultaneous performances in different places.
- having no 'audience' beyond the participants themselves. This creates a levelling of what would otherwise be unequal power dynamics giving rise to the usual horror of theatrical participation. There's no director or rehearsed actor who knows how things 'should be going'; no-one sitting in the dark making judgements about those performing. You know that the other person or people are discovering everything with you. Sharing risk often allows us to take more risk.
This connection explores the difference between reading a play script, and a live performance where the reading out loud *is* the event - where people's efforts and the risks involved in getting involved are the point of the event: these may be referenced within the content (eg OK OK) or not (Your Words in my Mouth), but the fact is that the gap between the reader and that of the person whose words they are incorporating is never fully closed. The unrehearsed participant can never be a fully transparent 'servant' of the text.