Real-time composition is the process of improvising composition, that is, composing in real-time in front of an audience. The essence of improvisation is being present in the moment and in the development of events one by one. On the other hand, the essence of composition is viewing the whole that is created by combining elements. The two seem to contradict each other. Ruth Zaporah, creator of the Action Theater methodology offers a way to bring the two together by improvising as if you’re walking backwards, “You can see where you’ve been, but you can’t see where you’re going. But what you see does affect where you’re going” (The Improvisation of Presence, Ruth Zaporah). Interestingly enough, this matches the way in which the Aymara people of the Andes and the Tuva People of Siberia conceptualize time: the past is in front of us, where we can see it, and the future is behind us, where we can’t see it. Any intention of composing our lives can only be put into practice in real time, because we’ll never get the chance to make adjustments once we see the finished whole. Perhaps we can start making our way through life backwards like the Aymara and the Tuvans.



María Ferrara




In live arts the product of the work that has been done in advance needs to materialize at a pre-set moment. We may have worked conscientiously and be confident but this kind of work has a certain degree of instability, because it needs to be made on a certain “now” that may not offer the best circumstances. Everything that happened beforehand was preparation and needs to bloom when the cue “now!” comes. Worrying about the outcome pulls our attention out of “now” and into the future and can be overwhelming. If we stay in the present, “now” gets broken down into lots of minute “nows” which follow one another seamlessly. “Now” can create pressure, and “now” can relieve it.


María Ferrara