What is Asterion?

Asterion is a complex series of theatrical events in the form of a labyrinth. First and foremost, it is an experience, a journey of individual self-discovery that transcends the boundaries of conventional theatre and challenges the expectations of the traveler.
The story is told not only with words but also with images, sounds, tastes, touches and textures. Asterion is a multi-disciplinary artistic endeavour, incorporating the contributions of gardeners and landscape architects, builders, and sculptors; artists of all kinds working together to create unique environments within the labyrinth. It is part museum, part fairground, part gallery and part concert. It is part fun house and part game, part quest and part contemplation. It isdesigned as a transformative journey to be experienced by one person at a time. As the participant moves through the labyrinth, her experience will be shaped by encounters with actors and by an active engagement with the surroundings. As the lines between spectator and performer become blurred the individual begins to shape her own experience of the labyrinth.
Asterion is part of a larger body of work collectively known as the Patria Cycle, created by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer and being realized as a research project by Jerrard Smith, professor and scenographer, University of Guelph.
Asterion is an attempt to blur the boundaries between action, and the environment that supports or in fact shapes the action. The solitary participant in this dramatic quest is required to develop his/her own narrative by interacting with the surrounding space and the occasional live performer. Scenography should by now be able to address time, space, performance and narrative on a number of levels by providing an immersive journey for the ambulatory spectator that might utilize any of these parameters in a multitude of combinations.

Time is malleable. It can be stretched or contracted, be at the front of our awareness and of great import, or forgotten and of no consequence. Two identical rooms, by the nature of the scenographic intervention applied to them can cause the person crossing that space to perceive the passage of time quite differently. This has narrative implications as well as practical. I am noting here that there is no third party to observe the interaction of performer and space and in fact the spectator role will in time have transmuted to that of performer by the process of actively engaging with the environment.
So by not conforming to Peter Brook’s definition of what makes theatre, and by not trying to broaden the world of performance unnecessarily, I am leaving the question of what Asterion is open for the time being. By combining time and space and having the participant negotiate the space in their own time, there will be a confusion of role expectations of which the participant may or may not be aware (and this is probably just fine). So if the one moving through the space isboth performer and audience, it must be the space that creates the tension that will drive the narrative and keep the person motivated to continue.
Now in doing that, there are options in how the narrative bits and pieces are presented and poles from help to hinder to provide an appropriate mix of comfort and apprehension. Given that we are using an architecture that is in some cases not exactly suitable to the story, we do not want the shape to distract. Rather we wish to distort the shape and disorient the participant.
In fact the disorientation of the person moving through the space should help them to put aside the need to be in control of knowing where they are in relation to the world they have left and so to increase the anticipation of the next encounter.

The invisible artist who devises the spatial configuration is also a performer in this game and the relationship between the artist and the space that has been created probably creates a character that the participant may wish to confront in some way. (ok, what does the designer want me to think/do/feel here?) If we wish to establish and maintain the immersive nature of the journey, we will want to discourage this sort of thinking. Again, distraction and disorientation will hopefully bring the participant back to grappling with the immediate demons.
From a research point of view, each small question, each problem and each each set of possibilities provide fuel for the exploration of theatrical space which forms the rationale for the research initiative