Feed on
Posts
Comments

Emma Gross ’15 reviews “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom,”  the directorial debut of Emilie Pass ’15 and Gabe Gordon ’15, which ran Thursday October 25 through Saturday, October 27, 2012.

Photo courtesy of Cara Sunberg ’15.

While I have attended plenty of horror movies that caused viewers to gasp out loud, cover their eyes, and grab onto their friends’ wrists, before this past weekend I had never attended a play that managed to evoke this same level of fear. Second Stage’s production of Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom achieved this effect. The play’s ability to induce outward horror from its viewers points to the success of its co-directors, actors, and creative team.

Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, written by Jennifer Haley, ran Thursday October 25 through Saturday October 27. The play was part of Second Stage’s fall 2012 season. For those not familiar with Second Stage, it is Wesleyan’s student-run, volunteer theater organization. Second Stage produces works that are entirely designed, directed, and performed by students.

“Emilie and I first read Neighborhood 3 in our Intro to Playwriting course freshman year,” Gordon said. “Throughout the semester we studied a lot of great works, but Neighborhood 3 stood out as a special piece of writing. It is not well known, nor is it by a well known writer, but we both fell in love with it.

Neighborhood 3 tells the story of a tightly regulated suburban subdivision in which parents find their teenagers addicted to a violent online video game. As the story unfolds it is revealed that the game is not strictly virtual, but manifests itself in reality with horrific consequences.

“The play is about familial relationships in a world of suburban pain,” Pass said. “Though it contains topical jokes about the internet and video game culture, the text is also a commentary on the timeless issue of how family members relate to one another. It exposes the nuclear family and its values in a way that shows how this model can be pretty messed up.”

Neighborhood 3 is laced with dark humor and filled with moments of deep suspense and terror; it is the perfect pre-Halloween story. In one scene, the stage goes dark just as a gothic teenage girl aims a fatal blow at her father with a golf club.

“The play is a thoroughly exciting and engaging text,” Gordon said. “When I first read it, I remember visualizing how it could come to life on stage. I thought maybe this meant I should direct it and make that happen.”

In the spring of 2012, Pass and Gordon committed to co-directing Neighborhood 3 and assembled a production team including Paul McCallion ‘15 as stage manager, Cara Sunberg ’15 as set designer, Anders Dohlman ’15 as master carpenter, Rachel Leicher ’15 as lighting designer, Gabe Beaudoin ’15 and Eriq Robinson ’15 as sound designers, and Joe Gonzalez ’15 as costume designer.

Second Stage approved their application before the year’s end, and in early September Eva Ravenal ’15, Mark Popinchalk ’13, Tess Jonas, ’15, and Noah Masur ’15 were cast as the show’s four actors.

“Though Emilie and I had directed a bit in high school, this was really our first significant directorial experience,” said Gordon. “An added challenge was that the majority of our team was not involved in Second Stage and had little to no theater background. The entire process of creating this production was a learning experience for everyone involved.”

Neighborhood 3 was staged in the Patricelli ’92 theater. “The space allowed the play to come to life,” said Pass. “Cara and Anders did a fantastic job making the set as visually engaging as the dialogue on stage.”

Audience members were seated on either side of the stage, which was composed of a series of platform steps outlined with identical cutouts of white houses. As the plot unfolded and suspense increased, the actors gradually migrated up the steps toward the top and final platform.

“Cara collaborated with Rachel, the lighting designer, to create a house shaped projection screen at the head of the theater,” Pass said. Actors posed behind the screen during the robotic, video game style narration between scenes. The characters’ blackened silhouettes added a visual dimension that helped blur the line between reality and virtual gaming world.

“I cannot stress how exceptional our creative team was,” Gordon said. “And in addition, how lucky we were to find such extraordinarily talented actors.”

The four actors faced the challenge of portraying a different character in every scene.  Ravenal, Popinchalk, Jonas and Masur’s ability to alter their body language, speaking voices, and emotions to convincingly assume various roles was remarkable.  To effectively transition from a drunken housewife to a fearful mother, or from a frightened boy whose cat has been murdered to the murderer himself requires smart and skillful acting.

Neighborhood 3 sold out Friday and Saturday night, even after seats were added. The evening I attended the performance people left the theater claiming they were afraid to walk home alone.

“I was extremely pleased with the final product and so proud to be part of the production,” Gordon said. “Putting on Neighborhood 3 was an incredible experience, and goes to show that you don’t need to be a theater person to be involved with theater at Wesleyan. If you are creative and passionate about a project you can make anything happen.”

Pass agreed, “It was an incredibly rewarding learning experience,” she said. “It underscores the notion that some of the best learning at Wesleyan is done outside the classroom.”

Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert, which took place on Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27, 2012 featuring two original works by Lindsay Kosasa ’13 and Kelsey Siegel ’13.

Kelsey Siegel’s piece, “Dynamical Systems” explored the intersection between dance and mathematics. Posts connected by strings were used as a visual prop and reference point throughout the dance. In the beginning of the dance, the posts were clustered in the center, and the dancers moved them apart to form a rectangle that framed the stage. The idea of space then was a crucial component of the dance; how the dancers seemed to be constrained by the space they were in, how they physically moved through space, and how they interacted with each other through space. The dancers also seemed to interact with the music, which was a combination of drums, violin, and spoken word, that fit the theme and mood of the dance as it progressed. The dancing itself was marked by stillness and pauses, which had the effect of making each individual dancer’s movement profound and with heightened effect. At times, the dancers would break out of the enclosed space confined by the posts and their connecting strings, and slam against the walls of the dance studio, as if impacted by momentum. The ending of the piece consisted of an explosion of energy in which the dancers moved the previously ordered posts into a jumbled chaos in the corner of the stage. The connecting posts, representing a system of equations, symbolized the constraints of logical thinking. This type of thinking, as the dance suggested, can have the effect of trapping one within a way of thinking, but true reality depends on experience. Thus, in order to experience the world, one must break out of the constraints of logic.

Lindsay Kosasa’s work, “Navigable Möbius,” explored the context of postwar Japan. The backdrop was a video projection, which began with footage of clear, moving water. However, food coloring and debris were slowly added, so that they swirled around and piled up, muddying the previously pure water. To this backdrop, the dancers were dressed in white and with hair in high buns, and moved with fluid, organic, and rounded movements. They often rolled on the floor and over each other, as if in a sort of fetal, protected innocence. In the end, the dancers moved slowly together, expressionless, and in a trance-like state to music that sounded angelic. This seemed to suggest that purity, innocence, and inner peace were maintained despite the figurative backdrop of a postwar state and the literal backdrop of raining debris. Water continued to course through the muddied debris, but it was not enough to clear up the destruction. Throughout the dance, there was a consistent theme of layers and texture. This texture was evident in the continuous accumulation of color and particles being added in the water footage, and in the movement of the dancers, as their story progressed in a linear fashion. This dance ultimately explored movement in a historical context with emphasis on the ideas of resilience and innocence.

Both works demonstrated the creativity and artistic talent of these seniors and how dance is a collaborative process between choreographer and dancers. The dance concert also highlighted how dance can form a powerful intersection with other academic subjects.

Rebecca Seidel ’15 sits down with Lana Wilson ’05, curator of the “Performance Now” film series, presented in conjunction with the Zilkha Gallery exhibition focusing on performance art (on display through December 9, 2012).

The Performance Now exhibition at the Zilkha Gallery merits multiple visits – there’s just so much to experience and absorb.  Performance art naturally exists only in the moment it is created, but this exhibit does an excellent job of immortalizing the performances it displays.   Curated by Roselee Goldberg, Performance Now will be on view until December 9, so you still have time to head over and browse the exhibit yourself.

Meryl Streep in Laurie Simmons’s “The Music of Regret” (2005)

To further enhance your appreciation of performance art, the exhibition extends into a three-part film series at the Powell Family Cinema.  The first set of films – two films featuring French conceptual dance – were screened on September 20.  The next set, featuring films by Danish artist Jesper Just, will be screened this Thursday, October 25.  The final group of films, showcasing recent works by Daria Martin and Laurie Simmons, will air on November 15.  Admission to these films is free.

I got a chance to interview Lana Wilson, the curator of this film series, about what viewers should expect from the screenings.  Lana, a 2005 Wesleyan graduate, had a lot to say about her film selections for Performance Now. She gives some helpful context for the French films that aired in September – films that offered quite a memorable experience for viewers, as you know if you were there. Above all, Lana is excited to air the remaining installments of the series.  She will be at the cinema to introduce the Jesper Just films this Thursday. You can read our discussion below:

Why did you select the films that you did?  What about them made them especially relevant to the Performance Now exhibition?

I selected these films to accompany the Performance Now exhibition because I think they represent a very small sample of some of the most exciting performance films made by artists in the last decade. These screenings include both filmed documentation of performances, and films that have a lot to do with live performance, but are specifically made for the camera, because I think that both types of work are important. It’s a film series, but it’s about live performance, so I wanted to include samples of different places in the spectrum between the two.

All of the work being shown is also by artists who have been a part of the Performa biennials, including the first-ever Performa Commission (Jesper Just’s True Love Is Yet to Come, from 2005). But the artists themselves all come out of slightly different contexts – Jerome Bel and Boris Charmatz are choreographers, for example, while Laurie Simmons is a photographer and visual artist.

What kind of viewing experience should we expect from the upcoming two screenings? Anything to look out for in particular?

I was so thrilled to have the chance to program films for the one of the beautiful screens in Wesleyan’s Center for Film Studies. I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity by showcasing works that are visually gorgeous, and made at a scale that would make sense to show in a large cinema, rather than on small monitors in a gallery. I also wanted the programs to be made for the audience to sit through from start to finish, with their attention fully engaged. So none of these screenings are dry conceptual events – each program is visually lush and – at least in my opinion! – will be very exciting to watch on a big screen.

The two French films screened on September 20 differed aesthetically in some pretty stark ways.  Do you think there are any common threads between them?

It’s true – both of those films are very different aesthetically. But they are both made by choreographers who come–in very different ways – out of traditions of the Judson Dance Theater, and both artists are now seen as key figures in the wave of “conceptual choreography” that emerged in France in the 1990s.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Judson Dance Theater was a loose coalition of artists, choreographers, and musicians who had a series of performances at New York’s Judson Church in the early 1960s that radically broke with the conventions of concert dance. The dances created by this group, which would later be called “post-modern,” reduced the medium to its most essential elements, discarding drama and expressionism in favor of pedestrian movement, repetitive structures, and improvisation, and rejecting the notion of the artist or performer as virtuoso in favor of what they thought of as more “democratic” dance.

In contrast, the performance documentation of Bel’s Veronique Doisneau, 2004, reduces aesthetic concerns to a bare minimum, instead throwing its concept into high relief. In September 2004, Paris Opera Ballet dancer Veronique Doisneau, age forty-one, is about to retire after over twenty years of dancing in the background as a member of the corps de ballet. On the final night of her career, she at long last appears alone on stage, in front of an enormous audience in the Paris Opera House. Dressed in rehearsal clothes, and wearing a headset microphone, Doisneau calmly tells the story of her life in dance—her low-ranking position in the hierarchy of the ballet company, the injury that almost ruined her career when she was twenty, even the amount of her monthly wages. She then performs excerpts from several pieces, including a variation from La Bayadere, with no music other than her own soft singing and counting; a segment from the lead role in Giselle, a part that Doisneau says she wishes she could have danced (earlier, she speculates, “I don’t think I was talented enough”); and a portion of the corps de ballet part from Swan Lake, in which Doisneau stands perfectly motionless in various poses while the stars dance in center stage. Watching Doisneau perform her life’s history as a dancer, with all its attendant joy and frustration, shows the audience things they had never noticed before. Like the work of the Judson artists, it reveals the assumptions underlying dance, bringing them into the open to re-construct them in an entirely new way. It is one of my favorite performances of all time.

Boris Charmatz & Dimitri Chamblas–“Les Disparates” (1994)

In France in the 1990s, a wave of new choreographers emerged that was both reacting to the highly theatrical French dance of the 1980s, and inspired by Judson. Les Disparates, from 1994, is a film directed by Cesar Vayssie that two young French choreographers, Boris Charmatz and Dimitri Chamblas, collaborated on right after becoming the teenage sensations of the French dance scene with A Bras le Corps (1993), a duet that has a real thrilling physicality to it. In Les Disparates, a man (Charmatz) dances in four different locations as the film jumps between them all, using his movement to explore the possibilities for fragmenting time and space through editing. Shot in the rainy landscape of Sienne, a city in the north of France, the film leaps from bar to boathouse and back again–it’s very much a dance made for the camera. The choreography suggests the influence of Judson member Steve Paxton’s weight and flow-based contact improvisation techniques, while the film’s crisp compositions and elegant visual motifs—highlighting patches of saturated red and blue within the industrial scenery, for example—resemble contemporary European art cinema.

Do you have a favorite film out of the entire series, and if so, what is it?

This is a tough one. Jesper Just’s It Will All End in Tears will be spectacular on the big screen – let’s just say that there are some amazing special effects. And for Meryl Streep fans, that actress is a star of Laurie Simmons’s The Music of Regret (2005), where she has an unforgettable turn singing a duet with a ventriloquist dummy. Too hard to choose!

The Films of Jesper Just

Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 7pm
Powell Family Cinema, Center for Film Studies
Introduced by Performa Film and Dance Curator
Lana Wilson ’05 with reception to follow.
FREE!

Other Worlds: Daria Martin and Laurie Simmons

Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7pm
Powell Family Cinema, Center for Film Studies
FREE!

Michael Darer ’15 takes on “Voices of Afghanistan,” a CFA concert hosted last Friday, September 28 in Crowell Concert Hall.

It’s very easy to take the power and ubiquity of Western music for granted. For many of us, it’s the only music we hear. When we turn on the radio, the television, when we go to the theater, the majority of the music we encounter stems from our corner of the world. Of course, this is an incredibly blinkered view and even those who find themselves beholden to it are often aware of its influence and limiting power. Even so and despite the vast opening of the world which the digital age promised to herald in, we still find ourselves immersed in the familiar.

I know that I myself am guilty of this in spades. Anyone who took an hour to explore my iPod or my computer’s music library would be hard pressed to find anything that couldn’t be, in some way, categorized as Western, European, Anglicized or something along those lines. Even the most “foreign” music that most of us encounter is filtered through a lens describable in the aforementioned terms. Hell, we’re at a place where Vampire Weekend’s use of “African” music in their own compositions is seen as groundbreaking, despite the distinctly westernized feel of the end result.

This past Friday, the Wesleyan CFA made an attempt to expand our musical horizons, as Crowell Concert Hall paid host to a magnificent performance dubbed, Voices of Afghanistan.

Voices graced its audience with a twelve song set by some of the most renowned Afghan musicians in the country, including vocalist Ustad Farida Mahwash, of whom the New York Times wrote: “[her] beautifully expressive voice retains remarkable range, flexibility, and soul-searing intensity. And her spirit continues to soar.” Accompanying Mahwash were Homayoun Sakhi, a critically acclaimed rubab (a lute-like string instrument and the national instrument of Afghanistan) player and the Sakhi ensemble. Together, the group lit up the evening with an ethereal and potent set of intricately woven songs, which both entranced and educated listeners.

When I entered Crowell that evening, I had absolutely no background on Afghan music, whatsoever. In the past, I’d heard bits and pieces of different music from the general region but I’d never been given much information on those snippets and certainly didn’t have the chance to sit down and analyze any of them.

According to the group’s website, which has been incredibly helpful in giving me background on their stylistic rooting, much Afghan music is based on a dialogue of questions and answers, known as sawol-jawab. Though not limited to music, the concept has found itself deeply ingrained in much of the work that the Voices ensemble does.  Suggesting that only the most thoughtful questions can truly find answers, sawol-jawab, creates an incredibly complex lyrical and thematic foundation within many pieces of Afghan music.

The result, as displayed on Friday, is nothing short of breathtaking. Each of the pieces played possessed a unique rhythm and texture, a wholly distinct relationship between the instruments and vocals, as well as an individualized relationship between the instruments themselves.

Many, if not most, of the songs rested on Homayoun Sakhi’s rubab, which provided the pieces with a galloping energy, its twang both earthy and electric. Throughout each and every piece Sakhi displayed an incredible sensibility for the passions of his fellow musicians, surging and backing off in volume at various points so that the sounds of other instruments might poke through to deepen and expand the disposition of the music.

The most arresting feature of the music, however, came from the vocals as provided by Mahwash. Whereas a great deal of music tends to segregate vocals from instruments, this was not the case with Voices. Mahwash’s crisp lyrical voice swooped and dove alongside the cascading strings, weaving amongst the different sounds until it seemed like just another instrument. Despite my inability to understand the language, Mahwash pulled me in like few singers I’ve witnessed. Her voice itself seemed to be the meaning of the lyrics, a visceral poetry that transcended whatever literal meaning her words conveyed.  As it wound its way around the jack-rabbiting melodies, I felt as though I was within the music, surrounded by the labyrinthine compositions, as they exploded outwards from the instruments.

The group’s website explains to readers that Afghanistan “is home to a stunning array of musical genres. Each is distinct, yet they all share a vibrancy and depth indicative of their importance in the larger fabric of society.” Over the years, the site reveals, these various genres have intermixed, classical pooling into folk song, and traded an increasing number of motifs and techniques. When listening to Voices, this is not hard to believe. The beauty of the music filling Crowell that night was not simply it’s overarching sound, but rather, the underpinnings beneath each grand note, the feeling that below every superficial sonic gesture were thousands upon thousands of cogs in one great musical machine, that as the compositions pushed forward they did so naturally, hundreds of symphonic organs pulsing and prodding, each an individual contributing to the showcase on display.

The true wonder of the music that I heard on Friday was that each piece existed simultaneously as one solid experience and as the sum of many smaller movements, sounds, and sensations, working together. While seeming deceptively simple, each song seemed to cover immense ground and touch on more than seemed possible given only six musicians.

Even for those who may not have been as wildly enthusiastic as I was about the show, I would posit that something, even if it was just one thing, of interest poked it’s head out of that music to grab the attention of each listener. I would guess that each and every audience member found something in that music that they hadn’t seen or heard or felt before, didn’t have access to in their familiar musical repertoire. And if I’m right about that, even if I’m wrong about everything else I felt about this music, then I think Voices of Afghanistan can be called a resounding success.

Katherine Clifford ’14 provides us with a preview of “visible,” a dance piece presented this Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.

Jawole Wllla Jo Zillar and Nora Chipaumire’s piece “visible” will be performed at Wesleyan this Saturday, at 8pm in the CFA Theater. The two choreographers were on campus on Monday, October 1st to speak to a group of students and dance and arts faculty to preview their work over a lunch and discussion. During this talk, the artists spoke about their backgrounds in dance, their collaboration, and what “visible” is about. The conversation illuminated several important themes central to their work, sparking excitement to see the creative outcome and movement behind their ideas and stories.

Both Jawole and Nora were attracted to the idea of “advocacy through dance.” Nora, from Zimbabwe, a graduate of University of Zimbabwe’s School of Law as well as of Mills College (in CA) where she studied dance, drew a parallel between dance and the law. She spoke about how through dance, one can get “immediate advocacy,” whereas in the legal world, “it takes longer to get immediate impact.” This immediate impact is due to the physicality of dance; Nora remarked, “The power of dance is that we’re physically doing it. It has a way of changing the person who connects to it.” It is also a way to change oneself. She discussed how she “felt compelled to explore her inner landscape:” her roots in Zimbabwe, during her time at Mills College, which she described as “amazing dance, but so American.”

Jawole founded the company Urban Bush Women in 1984, under the theme of using “cultural expression as a catalyst for social change.” She spoke of the influence of the Black Arts Movement during her college years, which she said was instrumental in “dismantling the hierarchy of what dance form was supposed to be.” She was thus interested in the idea of advocating for a dance based on personal experience, a dance that dealt with “pedestrian movement,” and one that was truer to her African American identity.

Thus, both Jawole and Nora were interested in making a distinction between white, “American” dance and a dance influenced by their own cultures and identities. This translates to the central theme behind “visible” of the idea of migration and how that relates to identity and visibility. Both artists spoke of the idea of romanticizing a place and how that can be problematic. Nora discussed her story of immigrating to America from Zimbabwe and her imagined future based on the myths of America as a land of “milk and honey” and as a place of true democracy. In the U.S., Nora struggled with the idea of how she could be visible in this new place, and the difference between an identity as African versus as African American.

Jawole discussed the influence of jazz on her work, where everyone can have a distinct voice. This translated into an attempt to “bring in the mother tongue of all the dancers [in her company] and to learn to communicate in order to find each other.” In fact, the cast performing on Saturday is very international, with artists from Burkina Faso, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Holand, Japan, and Washington D.C. Most of the dancers thus have different migration experiences to New York. These dancers are united by the idea of shifting identity upon entering a new place, and by their different experiences as compared to romanticized myths. The combining of these migration stories and experiences of identity and visibility of the dancers and choreographers combine to form the piece “visible,” the exploration of these experiences through dance. As Nora elegantly said, “It isn’t possible to separate who you are from what you dance.”

Don’t miss this provoking and culturally rich performance this Saturday, October 6th.

Michael Darer ’15 reflects on his experiences at an Eclectic concert presented by R. Stevie Moore, on Saturday, September 22.

I couldn’t help but feel out of place, walking up the steps to Eclectic that Saturday night, the only one of my friends unversed in just who or what R. Stevie Moore, actually was. When I had prodded them around the table during dinner at Usdan, they had urged me to just wait, that they wouldn’t be able to explain. Occasionally, someone would throw out a generalized description, usually orbiting around some variation of “father of lo-fi music” but on the whole, my inquiries did me no good. We can’t explain him, they told me, sharing smiles almost conspiratorially between assurances that I would in fact enjoy myself.

In retrospect, they were right to announce their inability to make sense of what we would be seeing and hearing later that night. Any description they would have given would probably have seemed wholly incongruent with the end product and any accurate rendering of the man or his music would have ended with only deeper confusion on my part. In some ways, this is all very unfortunate, considering that I now find myself here in a similar position, self-tasked with painting a picture of an experience so weird and transcendent and disconcertingly beautiful that to actually present it accurately would entail a neutering and a draining of those in-the-moment energies that made the affair so, if you’ll pardon the seeming hyperbole, magical.

As one totally uneducated about R. Stevie Moore until very recently, I would feel awkward lecturing about the man’s background or oeuvre with any sort of expert’s confidence. In truth, all one really needs to know is that Moore is known both for how prolific he is (having released numerous albums through labels in addition to over 400 cassettes and CD-R albums independently) and how genre spanning his music tends to be. He’s dabbled in lo-fi and punk, power pop and spoken word, jazz, new wave, experimental rock. In many ways, it would appear that Moore’s music defies the concept of genre, that any successful attempts to pinpoint the trappings of a specific musical culture within his output are purely incidental.

When I got to Eclectic that Saturday night (late enough to miss the opener, early enough to still get soaked by rain on the trip over), the atmosphere into which I entered was absolutely otherworldly. The entire house, including those areas not in use, was permeated by an oddly charged calm, like a coiled spring was nestled beneath each and every molecule of air. Weaving throughout the space were trills of guitar, which seemed to move between the audience members. On the stage stood the man himself, clad in pajamas and looking like Santa Claus after a particularly rough weekend. Oddly enough, the first thing that came to my mind was Ethan Hawke’s description of Walt Whitman in ‘Dead Poets Society’: “a sweaty toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain”.

On either side of Moore were two other musicians, whose clothes would be incrementally shed throughout the remainder of the performance. The trio seemed weirdly distant from one another and somewhat detached from the world beyond their small stage.

The music that they made over the next few hours was some of the strangest and most wonderful that I’ve heard in a long time, ricocheting back and forth between ethereal and prayerful strands of melody that hung out in the air like newborn birds, vulnerable, petite, in danger of being swallowed up by the stirring vigor of the sweaty crowd and raging forests of sonic bedlam, where individual notes dissolved in a hungry aural clamor which tore around the room in bouncing, clawing strides.

Every so often Moore would interrupt himself to say something, most of which was indecipherable. At one point he seemed to complain about the quality of the house’s PA system (confirmed by the Wesleying blog article on the event) before praising the crowd. While to the musicians these may have seemed like digressions, for me, they were no different than any other portion of the performance, bits of coarse sonic expression spit out for the audience to absorb into our own mass of noise. Every bit of sound that left that plinth on which the band stood seemed so indisputably organic, so fundamental and essential to myself and every other person standing near me, that even when I had no idea what was being sang, said or done (which was often, considering the bustle), I felt like I had known it would happen before it did, as though it were just some magnificently externalized somatic process, splayed out in exquisitely tinted tones for my befuddled enjoyment.

And Moore must have felt something like this as well, for it was not long before any trappings of a standard show were abolished. R. Stevie at one point found himself wandering over to play the Eclectic piano and, right before the show was broken up by Public Safety officers, stumbled out into the crowd for no apparent reason.

Leaving with the rest of the crowd, I felt as though I was taking a bit of the performance with me back to my dorm, while, at the same time, I was struck by the realization that what I had experience could only ever exist in a place and moment that had since dissolved. Certainly, the most meaningful things, especially those rooted in art embody similar qualities: an ephemeral truth that somehow strives to survive beyond the boundaries of its prescribed universe. For as long as I can, I intend to nurse this experience as best I can, even though I know it will eventually fade away. In life and in music, I can’t think of a better thing to feel.

Emma Gross ’15 reflects on her experiences at Anonymous Ensemble’s Saturday performance of LIEBE LOVE AMOUR!

Here is what I knew prior to experiencing Anonymous Ensemble’s LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! First, that audience participation was an integral part of the production, and second, that the content of LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! might be about love.

What I did not realize was that ninety minutes after taking my seat in the CFA Theater, I would be up on stage participating in the marriage ceremony of a towering 1920’s German cinema star.

LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! is a one act, multimedia spectacular. It is cited as a “theatricalized live film,” a description that does not do justice to the show’s truly novel construction.

On Saturday, September 22, I along with dozens of other students, professors, and non-university associated community members filed into the theater. We took our seats opposite the stark set. A single red curtain ran the length of the stage, with a large movie screen off center, to the right.

When the lights dimmed, a compilation of early black and white, silent 20th century footage played across the screen. This montage culminated in a shot of a woman styled in signature 1920’s clothing, hair and makeup. Suddenly, the actress turned and addressed the audience. She introduced herself as Hilda and explained that she lived in Germany and was about to experience her thirty-third birthday. As Hilda spoke, the previously opaque curtain became transparent. It revealed a figure standing against a green screen performing for a camera set up on a tripod. When the woman onstage gestured, the actress on screen did the same. The words I assumed were prerecorded and emerging from the film world, were in fact spoken live on stage.

What ensued was an epic, hilariously dramatic love story, twisted with bizarre details, cliché moments, and break out musical numbers. This narrative was presented to the audience in a most innovative fashion.

Hilda’s scenes were recorded in front of the green screen and simultaneously projected for the audience. Her live footage was combined with film clips belonging to 20th century Austrian director Erich Von Stroheim. His footage was intercut with Hilda’s dialogue, creating the illusion that she was speaking to and interacting with Stroheim’s actors. Two live, on stage performers dubbed over the silent footage, providing the voiceover for these characters. These two actors also created sound effects using various tools and instruments in the style of an old school radio production.

LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! grants the audience the opportunity to witness the live creation of both an onstage play and a projected film. Our attention continuously alternated from the onstage action, to the film that simultaneously came together on screen.

As if this mode of storytelling was not complicated enough, audience participation added a dimension of unpredictability to the show’s narrative.

While the onstage action and film projection continued, a fourth performer equipped with a microphone, ventured into the audience. He called on individuals to respond to Hilda’s questions, give her advice, and provide story details. This interactive element not only kept the audience on its toes, but also heightened the comedic aspect of the performance. Viewers’ were hysterical as their friends, professors, and relatives were put on the spot to contribute to the show’s ridiculous narrative.

The performers fully took advantage of their power to turn the audience’s vulnerability into entertainment. At one point in the show, a student was brought onstage and told he was to play opposite Hilda in her audition for a movie. The film’s director, played by one of the performers standing along side the green screen, informed Hilda that their scene needed to end in a kiss.

In this moment, everyone around me shifted to the edge of his or her seat. Uncomfortable laughter rang throughout the theater, signaling our nervous excitement about how the scene would unfold.

The finale of the production elevated audience participation to the next level. At the end of the play, the red curtain was drawn, opening up the stage. Hilda suddenly emerged, towering on stilts and professed her love for us, her viewers. She invited everyone up on stage to partake in the marriage ceremony uniting herself and the audience.

Hundreds of seats emptied, and people of all ages gathered on stage. We circled around Hilda, recited vows and then celebrated with festive music, dancing, champagne and wedding cake. It was the most unusual and delicious ending to a theater production I have ever experienced.

Following the show, I was eager to read more about Anonymous Ensemble’s work and manifesto. Their online statement reads, “We are the new generation of Stage and Screen. At the nexus of film and theater, AnEn’s work draws from and then propels itself beyond both genres. AnEn accepts the pervasive power of the Screen in our current times but demands that the screen be transfigured by the unpredictable, the human, the never-to-be-repeated possibilities of the Stage. AnEn creates audience-based work and considers the audience to be the co-creators of each event.”

What is particularly pertinent about LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! is that the lead role of Hilda is played by Wesleyan graduate Jessica Weinstein. Weinstein created the persona of Tall Hilda in 2002, the year of her graduation. She assisted in the construction of Anonymous Ensemble’s two productions that focus on the relationship between Hilda and her audience, Wanderlust that premiered in 2007 and LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! which opened in 2012.

During the show I was seated in an audience largely consisting of students who are majoring in theater, taking theater classes, and or working on theater projects. I could sense my peers’ excitement watching Weinstein perform, knowing that just ten years earlier, she had been in their shoes.

LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! was a remarkable experience. It certainly granted me a new perspective on the range of storytelling formats available through the synthesis of live theater, film, and audience participation.

A promotional video by the talented Yeran Zhou ’14.

Liebe Love Amour!

Katherine Clifford ’14 shares her experiences with ZOOM, a piece by New York dance troupe ZviDance that made its Connecticut Premiere at the CFA Theater, last Friday, September 14.

ZviDance, a New York City-based dance company directed by Zvi Gotheiner, kicked off Wesleyan’s Center for the Art’s Performing Arts Series this weekend, September 14th and 15th, with its integrative and captivating piece, ZOOM.

This was the only performance I’ve been to where I could overtly use my cell phone during the performance, without feeling rude about texting. In fact, the audience members were urged to participate in the performance by taking cell phone pictures of the dancers and texting them to the number projected on the screen. These pictures were then integrated into the piece by being posted on the screen behind the dancers in a type of multi-media live-feed. There were also moments when the audience could text the dancers on stage. The texting conversations were projected on the screen as the dancer typed witty replies to text messages with his computer. At one point, the dancers even called the cell phones of several audience members who had submitted texts and invited them to come dance with them on stage.

The use of cell phones can often be a distraction and cause disengagement with one’s present surroundings. However, this piece was interesting, because using one’s phone actually allowed one to be engaged with the artistic and creative process. By texting photos and seeing my own photo projected on the screen, I felt like I was contributing to the performance, even if only in a minimal way. This was different than the typical mode of silently watching a performance in front of me; instead, a more participatory role was open to me as an audience member.

Through this backdrop of integrative media, there was brilliant dancing by seven company members, linking movement to various themes of technology and communication. According to Zvi Goetheiner in the pre-performance talk, the dancers were asked to improvise on different kinds of theoretical environments in constructing the piece; such as moving through a magnetic field, moving through cyberspace, and reflecting on the body as an extension of machine. This piece was “modern” in multiple sense of the term: in the style of dance and fluidity of the movement, in terms of integrating modern culture through the themes of technology and communication, and through the industrial-sounding, rhythmic beats of the music.

This deliberate incorporation of texting, technology, and media served the purpose of exposing the question of how technology affects communication and how modern relationships are transformed through texting and social networking. The last duet of the performance, for example, was about missed connection, and failed communication through texting. However, Zvi Gotheiner said in his pre-performance talk that this was not a commentary on whether technology and social networking makes us more or less connected than before. Instead, the goal was to reflect, rather than to judge, and to let the audience take away whatever message they want.

During the Q&A following the performance, an audience member brought up the point that she felt comfortable texting the dancers from the safety of her seat, but when she was called up to the stage, she felt uncomfortable. One of the dancers replied by noting that texting and social networking creates boundaries and barriers that we can hide behind, but it becomes scary to engage in real life. We are thus protected behind our phones, the internet, and digital information, but actual human contact can be frightening. The exploration of modes and quality of communication through movement and interaction with the audience was thus effective in stirring dialogue about these important themes impacting our modern time.

Want to know what arts events are happening on campus? Are you involved in arts events and want to get the word out about them? Are you creative and want an outlet for that awesome expression? Or maybe you want to offer up your fresh take on what’s happening on this very creative campus.

The Creative Campus website was created collaboratively with Wesleyan students, artists, and staff. It is intended for anyone who wants to know what is going on with creative life on this vibrant and inspirational campus. It is a way of aggregating and collecting the creative life on campus, across disciplines, passions, departments, and student groups.

And speaking of student groups, Creative Campus will have a table at the Student Activities Fair tomorrow, Friday September 14, from 2-5pm! Come check us out to find out how you can get involved, to promote your student group through Creative Campus, or just to say hi. Hope to see you there!

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Log in