Three Shows That Have Helped Me Through Fall 2019, PART 1: "INHERITANCE: A LITANY," "FALLING & LOVING"
featuring the artistry of: Janis Brenner, Anne Bogart, SITI Company, Elizabeth Streb/STREB EXTREME ACTION, Charles Mee
Moving around in the world today, it’s difficult not to feel like one of those tiny, metallic balls in an arcade game — whacked.
How are you, by the way?
Traveling on your own steam, or propelled by others’ comments, and crises? Walloped by the latest, craziest breaking news, or ready for a fistfight?
Well, this fall dance season three particular shows have given me the strength to deal with the daily barrage of 2019. The creators of these experiences need to be called out for their bravery, compassion, and artistry: Janis Brenner, Elizabeth Streb, the artists of STREB EXTREME ACTION, Anne Bogart, Charles Mee, SITI Company, and Stefanie Batten Bland with Company SBB.
Each of their distinctive performances acknowledges that despite varied hues, backgrounds, and pronouns, we are commonly wrenched by love, loss, anger, and uncertainty. In fact, we need one another to get through life's morass.
These stellar artists remind us that facing reality with open-hearted courage is certainly worth the risk.
Hashtags: #nowmorethaneverweneedgoodart , #hereitis
Janis Brenner in
Inheritance: A Litany
Concept, Direction, Text, Choreography, Vocals, and Performance : Janis Brenner
Lighting: Mitchell Bogard
Sound: Lawrence Schober with music composed by Jerome Begin and excerpts of The Mind Stuff Variations re-arranged
Special Appearance by: Aaron Selissen
September 19th and Sept 28th, 2019
A United Solo Theatre Festival 2019 "Best Of" Performance
Janis Brenner’s Inheritance: A Litany is a solo show, yet from the very minute the lights come up, and the soundtrack of little Janis, Mel (her father), and Sandy (her mom) switches on, we too are on stage.
It’s Hanukkah. We’re singing, lighting candles, chanting prayers. Unwrapping gifts, we giggle as the paper falls to the floor: a ballet barre for a good girl, a tie for dad.
We're now part of a family that talks together... well, mostly, except when they interrupt one another, or become exasperated.
“My three daughters are nuts.”
“Dad is crazy”
“Mom is out of her mind!”
Whatever the conversation, or tone, it’s obvious love lives here. It ripples through Brenner’s every action. It resounds in the marvelous recordings of her parents — two exemplary citizens.
We hear of playing Barbie Dolls and getting in trouble with neighbors. We listen in on the facts-of-life conversation with Janis’ mother. “No that can’t be true,” squeals, the younger Brenner, “That's never going to happen to me, don’t tell me things like that again!”
We admire the character of a father who as a young soldier wrangled in a foxhole during the Battle of the Bulge, and appreciate a mother’s humor about her famous dancing daughter. “Take a five-year-old to dance class, and this is what happens.”
Our hearts hurt as Brenner watches her parents fade. “Mom, are you in there?” she whispers, talking to the shell of the once spry matriarch.
Brenner confronts her family’s charms and indignities with poignancy, humor, and tenderness.
In the space of one hour this petite woman brings together her formidable creative and performance talents to remind us of the magnitude of love’s fleeting gifts, and how we mustn’t take their preciousness for granted.
FALLING & LOVING
Co-directed by Anne Bogart/SITI Company &
Elizabeth Streb/ STREB EXTREME ACTION
Adapted from the plays of Charles Mee
SITI Company: Akiko Aizawa, Will Bond, Leon Ingulstrud, Ellen Lauren, Barney O’Hanlon, Stephen Duff Webber
STREB EXTREME ACTION: Kairis Daniels, Luciany Germán, Chance Hill, Julia Karis, Brigitte Manga, Fabio Tavares
Premiered at Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ on September 24-29th, 2019
Boy meets girl; boy meets boy; two girls meet one boy, and some dreamers pass one another never meeting at all. They go out, get enchanted, get married (or not). They’re blissful, and then they can't stand looking at one another in the morning.
What were we thinking trying to make a go of this? Relationships suck (or are wonderful). And even as we contemplate their inanities, other crises pop up to throw us off course. What can one do but dive in, and hope for the best?
And “diving in” is exactly what the players of SITI Company and STREB EXTREME ACTION do in the new production FALLING & LOVING. Directed by creative geniuses Anne Bogart and Elizabeth Streb, both companies observe, question, feel, fly, and flop themselves passionately into Charles Mee's poetry (and each other).
They speak of the vagaries of love: “…the only way I can keep you is by making you feel anxious…”
They talk of loss: “…you wait by her hospital bed, hoping she will wake up again, just so you can say you are sorry, and then she dies.”
They hate: “And this is why women want to shoot men on sight.”
They love: “I could live with you forever in the woods and that would be a life.”
“Shall we take a walk in the woods.”
It’s spine-tingly fun to watch these artists cross disciplines. The SITI actors drop themselves to the floor, not always naturally, and the STREB EXTREME ACTION tribe juggles words with unfamiliar poise. Their adventurous imperfections unlock unpredictable alchemy that breaks down our daily armor. Sitting watching the antics and observations of the characters in this play, I find the cares of my day disappear.
I’m particularly enamored by Ellen Lauren’s full-throttle approach. The harder she falls, the more fascinating she becomes. This woman could play “Eleanor of Aquitaine” while inhabiting Lucille Ball’s zany comedy, and I would believe her.
The FALLING & LOVING universe, dreamt up by Streb, is brightly-colored, fanciful, and dangerous: part romper room, part boxing ring. Ever-present bowling balls swing in the air threatening to thwack the stages’ citizens. Colorful buckets spit flour and goop from the sky as conversations and connections are made and broken.
After a time the stage becomes so covered in slop the artists can’t stand up without slipping. Through the blizzard of gunk, something seems oddly familiar. How many of us have walked out the door only to feel “slimed,” wondering if we can make it through our daily chores, not to mention the news cycle? Forget about the pleasures or even the vagaries of love, who has the time? Can the world get any crazier??
Then Charles Mee, through Stephen Duff Webber, reminds us of the apocalyptic vision of millenarians. These doomsayers sold their possessions and fled to the mountains, awaiting the world's inevitable demise.
“…and they waited and waited…what they saw finally was that after the world comes to an end, life goes on.”
Life cannot be stopped, no matter what is done to screw it up.
What a powerful thought.
But what shall we do while we’re wading in the thick of it?
Bogart and Streb suggest we DANCE. Approach life with abandon, spunk, and humor, and don't forget to add some glitter to the muck. Shall we dare, with our actions and words —extreme and otherwise— make this unhinged, imperfect, messy world sparkle?