How to Stage Your Own

"Surveillance Camera Theater"

In 10 Easy-to-Follow Steps!

1. Find out exactly where the surveillance cameras are. If you haven't seen any as you've walked around your town or city, check the archives of the local newspaper for announcements of installations of closed-circuit TV systems. Surveillance cameras can be: A) operated in public places by the police or other "public" authorities; B) operated in public places by private authorities; C) operated in private by private authorities; or D) operated in private by public authorities. (To date, the SCP have performed in front of A and B, but not in front of C and D.)

2. Unless you live in the United Kingdom, it is unlikely that you'll ever be able to get a copy of the surveillance footage in which you appear, so forget about it, and concentrate on using your own cameras to document your performances. Be advised that this means having "an extra person," that is, someone other than the performers to shoot the film or video. (In the UK, citizens may request copies of CCTV footage under the Data Protection Act, which went into effect in October 2000. If you obtain such footage, use it to publicize your performance(s). See Step #9.)

3. Map the exact location of the cameras you've located in Step #1 and incorporate this information into your flyers (see Step #7).

4. Plan out as best you can the "play" you are going to perform. The action or message of this play should be clear, intelligible and relevant. Short is good; shorter is better. (Most SCP plays are around two minutes long.)

Your play can be original material or it can be an adaptation of someone else's work. (If it's the latter, choose a work that is as widely known and easily recognized as possible.) Your play doesn't have to concern surveillance cameras. But if it does, you'll have less to explain to people. If your play doesn't explicitly concern surveillance cameras, you'll have more to explain. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, for it gives you an opportunity to say that you're using the cameras as if they were part of your own TV station and that your play is your idea of "must see TV," or you can say that you're giving the police officers and security guards who watch the cameras something really interesting to watch.

Don't know exactly what you want to perform? Come up with the location of your performance first, and then think what play would go over best in that particular place. Know what you want to perform? Then perform it in a place that best fits the subject matter.

Don't forget that the cameras don't pick up sound. This means that your performance will be silent. All characters, settings and action must be able to be conveyed by pantomime, costuming, scenery, words and/or pictures on poster boards, etc. etc. Get the poster boards in the discard bin of an art supplies store, and use big black magic markers to form the words and draw the images. Sketch out everything in pencil twice: first on a sketch pad and then on the board itself. When you're satisfied that you've gotten it right on the board, go over the pencil lines with magic marker.

5. How many people do you need to perform? You'll need at least two, not including your photographer/video person: one to hand out flyers, one to perform. Three people is good: two performers and one flyer-person. If you can get four or more people involved, more power to you. You're rollin' full on when you've got four or five performers, two flyer handlers and two photo or videographers!

6. Schedule your performance for a memorable day: the anniversary of an important historical event, an annual ritual (paying taxes, voting, worshipping Santa), or the day something important is happening elsewhere. If possible, match the time, place and subject matter of your play as best you can.

7. Prepare an informational flyer that will be handed-out while the performance is going on. The flyer should explain who you are and why you're performing in that particular location and, if you're rollin' full on, why you're performing on that particular day. Include the map you made in Step #3. Attribute your action and flyer to a group with a catchy name, even if one doesn't exist. Use the name "Surveillance Camera Players" if you can't come up with anything better.

8. When you finally perform your play, perform it over and over again for a total of 30 to 60 minutes. Marvel at how much fun this kind of protest is!

Before, during and after your performance, don't be afraid of the police or security guards. If someone threatens to call the police, let them, and continue with the performance. If and when the police come, approach them or let them come to you confident in the knowledge that you're doing nothing illegal. If and when the cops ask/order you to stop and leave the vicinity, do so, especially if you've been at it for a while and have made contact with and given flyers to a good number of people. Hit it and quit it! Your quarrel isn't with the police, but with the people who employ the police. Only get arrested (disobey an order to disperse) when you want to get arrested.

9. Write up the performance and publish it in a zine, on a Web site, or as a photocopied pamphlet that includes your original flyer, the map and whatever photographs you have from the performance.

10. Go back to Steps #1 or #4, and start again.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998

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