PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: Artistic Director Susan Tsu was appointed to lead FROM THE EDGE — USITT / USA / PQ 2011 National Exhibition — because she was interested in uncovering the socio-political themes facing performance makers in the USA over the past 4 years. She then selected like-minded curators Chris Barreca (scenery), Linda Cho (costumes), Allen Hahn (lighting) and Don Tindall (sound) to join her in this quest. Randy Gener, a well‐respected editor and writer for American Theatre Magazine, was asked to become the curatorial advisor. Scene Designer Bill Bloodgood was asked to design the exhibition space. Entitled FROM THE EDGE , the US Exhibit not only refers to the brave and dangerous edge of creation but also refers to our country on edge.
Three years in the making, 360 submissions were culled down to 37 pieces for inclusion which includes six companies that the curators wish to give special recognition: Builder’s Association, Cornerstone Theater, Ping Chong and Company, SITI Company, Theatre de la Jeune Lune and The Wooster Group. Additionally, August Wilson and Ellen Stewart are given tribute for their life’s work and inestimable contributions to the American theatre.
The USITT/USA curatorial team for the National Exhibit to the Prague Quadrennial has been in search of unique viewpoints reflective of those issues consuming Americans today: issues of identity, healing and obsessions with death and loss after 9/11 and hurricane Katrina; the pull of conscience inevitable when engaged in war; anger directed toward the obliviousness of many to the destruction of our planet; rising political polarities (and ambiguities) in reaction to the first African-American president to be elected; tensions relative to race and gender; anxieties about technology; the role of religion in society; challenges of the differently-abled and finally, a nod to Americans at play, while eating, and in while re‐envisioning classic work and performance as we know it.
Know that there exist within the exhibit many ways of interpreting the work therein. For instance: This Beautiful City, which may seem at first to be critical of religion, is really neutral. Surrender is both critical of war and meant to sensitize the public with a soldier’s experience, however horrific. Hell House can be taken as both a support and a critique of the religious right.
The following productions address the following issues:
RACE & IDENTITY/GENDER:
The America Play (black Lincoln w/ pennies in eyes-large scale photo at entrance); The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (photos and model on ladder, rooster cut out); Fondly do we Hope….Fervently do we Pray (Bill T. Jones dance) Americana Kamikaze (front wall, cut out girl and photos) The Closest Farthest Away (relationship of US/Cuba) Arias with a Twist (devil puppets and full‐scale cut-‐out of Joey Arias at front) American Idiot (model and photos at front)
HEALING/OBSESSIONS WITH DEATH AND LOSS/9-‐11/ Katrina: Healing:
Cocktail (red panda) Waiting for Godot (in Harlem and New Orleans-‐ Katrina) 9/11 related: Losing Something (naked women as babies, sock monkey) Screen Test (video by Rob Roth) Love Unpunished (staircases—9/11) WAR: Beyond the Mirror (Bond Street & Exile Theatre of Afghanistan) Surrender (video, audience trained & given Army issue: boots/uniforms/guns) Appomattox (model with dead horses) The Poor Itch (set w/3 arches and people inside them) Pat Oleszko’s WarUSaurus and Miss-‐ Ills on top of exhibit
OBLIVIOUSNESS TO PLANET/Politics of Eating:
Milk-N-Honey (model with projections) The Seven Deadly Sins--Gluttany (Hershey’s Kiss, chicken leg costume in pix)
SEE/CHANGE performance by Pat Oleszko GreenPiece:
Walking Talking Topairy performance by Pat Oleszko
OBAMA REFERENCES: Black Lincoln phenomenon:
The America Play (large scale photo at entrance) -‐Appomattox (model with dead horses hanging -‐ Fondly do we Hope…Fervently do we Pray (BillT.Jones) Most interviewees mention how his presidency has affected them
ANXIETIES ABOUT TECHNOLOGY:
Continuous City (video & opening/closing tv moniters) Fatebook (video and big letters saying FATE)
ROLE OF RELIGION IN SOCIETY/FUNDAMENTALIST EFFECTS OF RELIGION:
Aida (set with marble lobby, all costumes look alike) This Beautiful City (OMG image) Passion Play (fish in air, Queen Eliz/Hitler/Reagan) Hell House (Columbine/abortion/Aids)
GOVERNMENT’S INFLUENCE ON SOCIETAL MORES:
Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (photos in war section) American Idiot (model and photos front exhibit) Appomattox (model w/ upside-‐down horses hanging) Apollo (3 models on 9/11 towers table) The Adventures of White Man performance by Paul Zaloom
CHALLENGES OF THE DIFFERENTLY ABLED:
The Wiz (Tin Man in wheelchair) Inside/Out (people sitting in semi circle w/ trees behind)
AMERICANS AT PLAY:
Fire Island (happenings on this barrier island…) Arias with a Twist (fantasy world of Joey Arias & Basil Twist) The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (wrestling)
THE HAND OF THE ARTIST:
bobrauschenbergamerica (American flag set by SITI) The Day on Which a Man Dies ( Jackson Pollack installation by side entrance)
RE‐ENVISIONING CLASSIC WORK:
Desire Under the Elms (model with house in air. On 9/11 towers table.) Aida (model with marble/fountain/back by control booth)
This Beautiful City (The Civilians) Beyond the Mirror (Bond Street Theatre) attraction (Cornerstone Theatre) The Closest Farthest Away (Project Por Amor) Inside/Out (Ping Chong and Company)
PUSHING THE EDGES OF HOW WE DEFINE PERFORMANCE/THEATRE:
Grub (dance with pigs-‐ picture on front ladder) Streb Extreme Action/ Wild Blue Yonder (back wall by Aida) ArcAttack (video only-‐ Tesla coils/guy conducting electricity)
Builder’s Association: For being at the forefront of creating “live movies” that mesh the worlds of cyberspace, theatre and cinema. Its techno-‐fabulous productions signal through the flames with messages for our hyper-‐mediated world. They exploit the choric possibilities of digital technology. They emphasize the slippages between the real and virtual. Based on real-life stories, they analyze and critique the dislocating existential impact of virtual bodies, cloud computing and social networking i n our physical world. They illuminate our present-‐day disquietude by exploiting new digital means and media of transmission.
Cornerstone Theater: For embracing and digging deep into small rural towns and multiethnic communities in Los Angeles (as well as other parts of the U.S.A.) — and insisting on a multilingual, community-‐specific approach to designing provocative new plays and site-‐specific adaptations of classics. In its recent cycles on faith, hunger and justice, this company has generated unique stories from within those communities that have literally moved people to social action and raised political awareness. This ensemble believes in a consensus-based design when it s members collaborate with local citizens and community members. It also makes a point of returning to the American communities it has worked with to discover if the ir quality of life has improved long after the group has moved on to the next production.
Ping Chong and Company: For smashing stereotypes and uncovering secret American histories through a formalistic design driven by the cumulative power of shared stories. Since its founding in 1975, the tremendous tapestries of documentary and fictional lives it has created sit gracefully and with humor at the intersection of race, history, culture and technology. The company models the focus on social issues as central to theare-‐making. Almost ritualistic in aesthetics, it integrates social justice and issues of tolerance and inclusion with cutting-‐edge visual design and concepts.
SITI Company: For never failing to re-define and celebrate the very essence of how we became who are as Americans. How? By recognizing the power of international cultural exchange and collaboration. By designing a series of large-‐spirited, performance-‐oriented plays that enact the spiritual and artistic worlds of Orson Welles, Leonard Bernstein, Joseph Cornell, Normal Rockwell, Robert Rauschenberg and other giants of American culture. And by showing us that theatre, at a time of great crises, offers alternate social models of how people might work together: Can we get along in this room? How might our voices meld together to reveal our common humanity?
Theatre de la Jeune Lune: For decades of creating and producing visually rich, physically-‐based design work despite the financial hardships which eventually caused this Minneapolis-‐based company to close — a loss that is felt deeply in the American theatre. In the great wilderness of America’s nontraditional theatre, this unique company explored ways of reinventing an agile, nomadic, entrepreneurial, yet non-‐hierarchical artist-‐based theatre.
The Wooster Group: For this ensemble’s brilliant and multi-track strategy of layering innovative production design and diverse elements of film, video and new media to create dynamic stage works that fire up the synapses of the brain. Famous for its conceptually complex retellings of major dramas (by Shakespeare, Racine and Tennessee Williams), this classic avant-garde troupe — one of America’s original performing garages — has inspired so many U.S. ensembles to push the envelope because of its artistic integrity and its singular vision through the years. It has encouraged younger artists to achieve the sort of freedom in staging that goes beyond a need for “realism” in search of truth.
For The Pittsburgh Cycle and his immeasurable contribution to the American canon of African American plays.
For founding La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, her international reach, and nurturing decades of extraordinary artists, playwrights, directors and designers.