“I wanted to create a story out of nothing, and then follow the improvisational spirit,” explained Professor of Theater and Dance Wendy Woodson, the director of the project.
The plot centers around two female characters’ ambiguous relationship. It is unclear whether they are sisters, twins or anything definite. The two encounter a series of interesting characters as the piece progresses.
The story is told through dance, acting, video images and live and recorded music. Woodson’s original script underwent many changes after collaborating with students as well as colleagues. The performers are either professionals or Five-College students; most of the student performers are enrolled in Woodson’s Theater and Dance 33: “From Idea to Performance.” The students’ input also played an important role in molding the piece, creating a unique result.
Woodson traces the roots of the project back to her experiences teaching improvisation-oriented classes with former Professor of Theater and Dance Leslie Katz and Professor of Music Lew Spratlan. These classes garnered heavy student interest, which inspired her to think about improvisation even more.
She said that she wanted to create something where the audience would have to “make a lot of connections.” She was also fascinated by several mythic figures who went “underground” at the advent of Christianity, and incorporated them into the script.
Woodson stressed that the storyline is flexible and fast-paced, as the stage is constantly filled with motion. The performance itself is composed of fluid transitions to and from the various art forms.
On the basis of the scene I saw performed in dress rehearsal, Woodson’s estimate sounds accurate. The two leads were discussing a problem with the ensemble in the background. The ensemble began picking up pieces of the conversation, acting first as an echoing chorus and then translating the words into dance movements.
I found the mix of media to be one of the most appealing aspects of the production. I was especially intrigued by the mystical quality of the lighting and set design, which enhanced the piece’s surrealism and was impressive in its own right.