THEATER REVIEW | Black Label Movement’s “Wreck” dances through disaster at the Guthrie Theater

A group of survivors in a sunken vessel at the bottom of the sea huddle in the only compartment left that has trapped air to breathe. How do they face their inevitable demise? How does each grapple with their emotions as a group and as individuals just wanting to survive?Wreck, choreographed by Carl Flink and performed by his ensemble Black Label Movement, was presented at the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio, with the opening on Friday, July 11th. The work included original music by Minnesota composer Mary Ellen Childs. As the title implies, Wreck took the violence, obsession and fear of a disaster and channeled it into the aesthetics of an intended theater-dance work.The story told by the theater side of the ‘theater-dance’ equation could be realized in different scenarios from the Titanic to the Edmund Fitzgerald to the USS Thresher. Continue Reading

ARTS REVIEW | Trisha Brown Dance Company leave a legacy with “Proscenium Works” at the Walker Art Center

The final tour of the Trisha Brown Dance Company certainly had a feeling of finality. Proscenium Works 1979-2011 is a boxed set containing three retrospective dance pieces and Brown’s latest work, “I’m going to toss my arms—if you catch them they’re yours” which actually premiered in 2011. She has since announced her retirement from choreography with the company, assuming the title of Founding Artistic Director and Choreographer.Proscenium Works was presented at the Walker Art Center from March 12th through March 15th. Opportunities to dig deeper into the legacy of Trisha Brown and her dance company included post-performance talks and a master class for advanced dancers and choreographers.Though legacy trumped experimentation in this retrospective program, it was still refreshing to see the revolutionary aesthetics of the Judson Dance Theatre and Happenings of the 1960s carried into the 21st century. The restaging of Trisha Brown’s legacy works is accomplished without loss of dynamism with the help of associate artistic directors Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas. Continue Reading

What Minnesota learned from Leah Cooper’s “The Veteran’s Play Project”

In the early sixties, the Living Theatre convinced the audience of Jack Gelber’s The Connection that the performance was played by actual heroin addicts. The conceit stunned the sensibilities of the middle-class audience. It was not considered appropriate that they should listen to persons who were so far outside the social mainstream.In contemporary society, American military veterans find themselves similarly cut-off from the mainstream, suffering the identity crises and psychological pathologies resulting from social voicelessness and invisibility. With the support of Mixed Blood Theatre, Leah Cooper and her Footprints theatre organization has attempted to raise the missing narratives of Minnesota vets to a new level of consciousness.  When Cooper approached a group of Minnesota military veterans about creating a theater work about the issues they faced, she was met with both interest and cynicism. Most vets felt they lived a story that was not yet fully told. However, some wondered if the production Cooper proposed would get to the truth or would it be like what they called those crappy movies.Interestingly, many vets did not like The Hurt Locker and  its portrayal of soldiers in the war zone and returning home. They pointed to Jarhead as more realistic. Cooper and her cast of The Veteran’s Play Project, the goal of the production was not of epic proportions. However, they did want to fulfill a fervent wish: that Minnesota’s military vets be viewed by the general public with a little more empathy and understanding as human beings. Thus, the age­-old question raises its hydra-like head. What is more important in art, product or process? Is artistic expression, not facilitated by professionalism, automatically more authentic? Does a director of a socially conscious play have to choose between verité and virtuosity?  At a time in the distant past, theatre was a sacred ritual that defined a community. The participants could make an intense and meaningful connection with the society-at-large. They expressed themselves with words and emotions that were raw and unmediated. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “An Illiad” at the Guthrie Theater: Homer, up close and personal

In Athens, Greece, circa 450 BCE, the blind poet Homer was bigger than the Beatles. His The Iliad and The Odyssey put him on the level of John, Paul, Luke, and Matthew in terms of laying the literary foundation of a civilization’s religious beliefs. Dramatizations of Homer’s work are always a challenge in the modern day and I can only imagine a theater approaching Homer with fear and trepidation. Director Benjamin McGovern rises to this challenge in the Guthrie Theater production of An Illiad.An Iliad harks back to Homer’s role as an ancient vagabond storyteller. Stephen Yoakam’s solo performance is an enthralling theatrical experience. Continue Reading