Photo: Kaspar Wimberley (Part 1: The call centre)

An experimental theatre project by Susanne Kudielka & Kaspar Wimberley

The starting point for COLD CALLS was an investigation into the texts that are used in call centres to improve the efficiency (profitability) of a company or client. The sales representatives working within these establishments could be described as real-life actors, working with a script that is performed 100’s of times a day and trained to come across as naturally as possible; individuals who are skilled at making us believe in their authenticity.

Playing on the parallels and differences between the theatre and a call centre, we ask the question, ‘What happens when we take actors and telesales representatives out of their traditional context and place them within that of the other?’ How might this affect the way we perceive an actor’s profession, their status, function and position within society? What is the relationship or connection between the art of theatre and the art of persuasion?

COLD CALLS was presented in two parts.

‘Cold calls part 1’ was the creation of a temporary call centre that employed five actors to read classical plays over the telephone, to an unsuspecting audience scattered throughout the city. The actors introduced themselves, stated their profession, and tried to convince their audience-of-one to listen to their play (product) for as long as possible. Although the actor was no longer face to face with their audience, the relationship was more direct and intimate. Conventional rules of theatrical engagement no longer applied.

While individuals chose to accept or reject an actor’s offer on the telephone, the activity within the call centre served as a durational performance in itself; A performance of a performance. A small audience was granted access to the call centre where they could observe the proceedings, coming and going as they wish. Within this space text became layered and open to chance, creating new juxtapositions and unexpected dynamics, as the actors kept trying to complete the script.

The experiment was an intervention that subverts the expectations of a call centre, blurs the boundaries between reality and theatre, and questions the position of art within society.

‘Cold calls part 2’ brought together five call centre agents to present a performance on stage. For the first time they performed a script to an audience that they could see. Face to face. For the first time they entertained an audience who came explicitly to listen to them, and who may even choose to applaud their presence. The author Wolfram Lotz was asked to write the script, and the focus of the performance was placed on the context in which this script was being read. The evening followed the expected conventions that we associate with the theatre.

Project web site (German): www.cold-calls-projekt.de

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Photos by Felix Sauter and Susanne Kudielka

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