One of the very best parts of my current job, working as the Director of Development at Pig Iron Theatre Company, is getting to be a close observer of the students at the Pig Iron School, directed by Quinn Bauriedel. In an interesting partnership with the University of the Arts, the students are earning a Graduate Certificate or an MFA in Devised Performance.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to see them perform cabaret at La Peg, their culminating performances (called Dares) at UArts, a New York performance at Dixon Place, numerous public showings at the Pig Iron studios, and various drafts during Friday showings, also at Pig Iron. It took me a while to sort out who was who since I most often saw them in character and in crazy costumes, but I came to get a sense of their individual voices and talents, as makers and performers, and feel enormously grateful to have been a witness to their work this semester. I’m impressed with their courage and originality, their boldness and brightness. I can’t wait to see what they do next. Congratulations, Pig Iron graduates!!
I’ve seen so much interesting, exciting work recently that I feel like I could make a solid year-end list, but it’s still early April! An abundance of riches.
I’ve been thinking about relationships in the dance field, and the ties that bind us together. I never met Carrie Wood, a lighting designer who passed away recently, but news of her death moved me because I know that she mattered to people I love and admire. I think there’s something about relationships in this line of work, and it’s wrapped up in embodiment, and so I was fascinated by how this theme was picked up in some recent work. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen three performances in Philadelphia that highlighted relationships between two makers, and each of them blew me away.
Show No Show was a collaboration between Gabrielle Revlock and Sasha Frolov, performed at FringeArts in Philadelphia. Gabi is based on the East Coast in the US and Sasha is based in Russia. The two met at a residency in the Catskills, and much of the energy came from their differences. Cultural differences seemed evident even when there was no speech, but it was clear there were layers of similarities as well–a delight in playfulness, a shared sense of humor, a willingness to be intimate with each other. I sat in front of a couple who were laughing in delight for much of the show, and adding their own soft narration; somehow it was another pleasureable element of the experience, rather than a distraction. I had the sense that I could write dozens of pages about the hour in the theater and still not cover it all.
On March 12, I was fortunate to get to observe an ‘informance’ led by former Trisha Brown dancers Lisa Kraus and Eva Karczag. I’ve loved several events that I’ve gotten to see as part of the year-long Trisha Brown retrospective that Lisa has put together. I’ve gotten a sense of the artist and how it felt to be a part of her work. At the informance at Temple’s Conwell Theater, Lisa and Eva talked and danced, demonstrated and disagreed (gently). It’s been so satisfying to hear how the work felt/feels from a dancer’s perspective, inside of the thing. Some words and quotes that stood out to me: “fun, funny, exciting”, Lisa exclaiming, “it’s just so fun!”, her work being like a book in a language that not everyone could read, that TB wanted everything to look like it was being discovered in the moment, that it’s about being alive. The relationship between these two women who had danced together in the company and obviously had a deep rapport, developed over many years, was so beautiful.
And last weekend, I found myself happily nestled in the warm brown space of Mascher to see Jumatatu Poe and Shannon Murphy’s work in Rhythm and Race. The two have run idiosynCrazy productions for a number of years. Rhythm and Race included two works by each choreographer, and one collaborative piece, titled Jumannon Purphy or All Work and No Money, which explored their history as friends and collaborators. This piece helped the split bill feel cohesive, and enabled the feel of a conversation between the five works on the program. I was mesmerized for much of the show, particularly in Shannon’s work for five dancers, Feet Amass, and in Jumatatu’s duet with Jermone Donte Beacham, Let ‘im Move You: This is a Success. The structure these two long-time collaborators put forward seems a promising one to me, in which new voices are welcomed, even as history is honored.
I wrote about seeing Joy Mariama Smith perform at the Community Education Center in West Philly and the piece was selected as a finalist for the New Art Writing Challenge Contest, sponsored by The St. Claire and the artblog. Yay!
You can read my thoughts here and Joy will be performing another iteration of the work at AUX in Philadelphia on June 18 at 8pm. Details here, just scroll down towards the middle.
As a person working in the field of live performances, I’m always interested in the differences between what it feels like in the space and what it feels like to watch through a screen. The Superscript conference underway at the Walker Art Center is available via a live stream online and will also be archived, but here’s what it feels like for one body in the room.
There are 300 red seats in the theater. The light are at half-mast, high enough that I can see my notes, low enough that the projected images on the stage are visible. There are some shadows at the back you could hide in if you wanted to. Some people take notes in little notebooks, lots of people are on their laptops or phones. I’m sitting behind Hrag; I watch him take a picture of the panel and then I see it show up on a Twitter feed on a laptop two rows in front of me.
The people around me include: a sweet youngster who just graduated from college and his mom told him about the conference; a woman wearing a beautiful full-body pink ensemble, including hot pink high tops; a Minneapolis writer/curator whose work I’ve admired online. The mood feels warm, supportive. There are no Pollyannas here, but there’s a refreshing lack of doom-and-gloom.
I’m 35 and I don’t feel young or old at this gathering. There’s maybe 250 of us. Probably more women than men. I’m white and most of the other faces I see, in the audience and on the panels, are also white. It’s hard to see who has the microphone when people are asking questions, and so they are anonymous voices.
Sebastian Joe’s down the road has the most delectable oreo ice cream, but kinda terrible coffee (which I have nonetheless bought two days in a row. Have also spilled it on myself for two days in a row.) The burrito bar is not free.