Primate Cinema Workshop: How to Act like an Animal

May 4, 2008 at 2:00 pm to 5:00 pmMay 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

This workshop is offered through The Public School, and you can sign up for it at

A performance workshop exploring primate communication and social organization leading to a videotaped nature documentary, part of the Primate Cinema series. Participants will watch video clips of animal behavior in the wild and in cinema, learn about primatology, and engage in physical theater techniques and improvisation.

Meeting 1: Sunday May 4, 2-5 PM,
Meeting 2: Monday, May 5, 6-9 PM,
Two-four other meetings in May to be determined on May 4 meeting.
Live performance/shoot: May 24
Screening of completed video: June 11-22 at TELIC
Participants need not attend all meetings, but commitment is important.

Rachel Mayeri, artist and media studies professor, is organizing the workshop as part of her research and video production at TELIC. Deborah Forster is a cognitive scientist who has worked with primates at the San Diego Zoo, and has studied wild baboons in Kenya. Alyssa Ravenwood is a physical theater director, performer, and mask-maker. Biographies of workshop leaders are below.

With video clips of wildlife documentaries and Hollywood movies, we will explore media representations of human and nonhuman primate “nature.” Forster will discuss how primates and other animals perform social organization and communication, covering a range of perspectives from behavioral ecology and sociology to cognitive science. Ravenwood will show how commedia dell’ arte and other theatrical traditions have found animals a source of inspiration for personality and movement. Performers will explore animal behavior and society through warm-ups, group exercises, and improvisational games.

Participants will expand acting and social skills by learning about animal behavior. This is a rare chance to be involved in an interdisciplinary project creating dialogue around art, science and politics. Exploring alternative social organization could lead to world peace…or at least to comedy. Participants will be festooned with food and a DVD of the completed project. And you get to act like monkeys.

TELIC Arts Exchange (Field Station Hollywood for the month of May), 975 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, CA 90012;
Map and directions

How to Participate:
Free, open to everyone, performance experience is a plus.
RSVP Rachel.Mayeri -at- gmail -dot- com if you are interested in participating and come to the first meeting.
Workshop will be videotaped and used as part of completed nature documentary.

Deborah Forster
Trained in behavioral ecology and cognitive science at UCSD, Forster spent many years studying wild baboons in Kenya and worked with other primates at the San Diego Zoo. She has done design-context research and organizational development consulting at Nissan Design America. She is currently teaching cognitive science to architects at Woodbury University in San Diego, and is contributing to a studio course led by Teddy Cruz at Harvard Graduate School of Design, to build housing in Nicaragua.

Alyssa Ravenwood
An award winning physical theatre director, performer and mask designer. Artistic Director of the new Los Angeles mask troupe, Ravenwood Performance Group. A graduate of the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre. She also studied Clowning with Sue Morrison at the Canadian Clown Institute and Commedia with Ole Brekke of The Denmark Commedia School.

Rachel Mayeri
Los Angeles-based artist working at the intersection of science and art, her videos, installations, and writing projects explore scientific representation in topics ranging from the history of special effects to the human animal. Shown at Los Angeles Filmforum, ZKM in Karlsruhe, and P.S.1/MoMA in New York, Mayeri is a guest curator of the Museum of Jurassic Technology and Associate Professor of Media Studies at Harvey Mudd College.