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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Original visions teem, flow and team on stage in Appleton

Critic At Large

‘Into a Void, Out from the Light – A Dance-Theatre Collage’

Production poster.

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV)

I am dreaming.

Thirteen figures keep appearing and fading from sight.

They are young females and males.

They wear the same style clothing, in variations of pastels – a pant-robe over a V-neck undershirt that matches each individual’s color scheme. From top down: shoulder straps like on bib overalls, a wrap at the midsection that ties at the front and flared pant legs that reach the floor. Everyone is barefoot.

The unisex outfit flows with motion, which is continuous.

The 13 figures dance but not necessarily as dancers. They dance in the manner that every move is choreographed. The 13 are in motion as an ensemble or in groups or individually. Motion ebbs and flows and twists and turns and rolls and jump-ropes and glides and crawls and pushes and presses and embraces for pretty much an hour and a half.

This is a long dream.

Sometimes the dream comes with words.

Some words are personal thoughts or those expressing the human experience.

Some words are observations, like the wonders of the hand for all it does in so many ways, over and over.

Some words are poetic, including a consideration of loss.

Some words are of a recipe, said first in English and then repeated in Turkish.

Some words start with profundity but soon meld into mush. A treatise of philosopher Marshall McLuhan is read, with the reader having her mouth stuffed with marshmallows – mushing the words – by a figure who becomes a barking dog that eventually reads the treatise and says the famous phrase, “The medium is the message.”

While this is happening, the motion continues. Two landscapes are in the field of vision. One: Static. This is a set of screens, three above and three on the floor. From left, the top three are a wide type of burlap in a 4×6-ish-foot screen, a plain white screen and a screen with an off-white vertical geometric pattern. The screens on the floor repeat the materials of the screens above, with each screen having all the patterns but in varying sequences. Two: Mobile. Large screens on rollers – the screens repeating the basic patterns of the hanging screens with the burlap look now reddish tan. The rolling screens signify change – though in dreams you never know for sure.

Sometimes a scene takes place on a beach, with people playing Frisbee or riding a tricycle or pushing a carriage with a little dog or whatever beachy thing. There is music, the pop tune, “Hot Fun in the Summertime.”

Sometimes music is folky or bluesy/jazzy or melancholy.

Sometimes, sound is of something, like the beach. Sometimes, sound is for sound’s sake, like a solo routine with a young male creating variations with a hand-held microphone. Included is a clunk on the floor, a rub-a-dub-dub over his head where he has short hair and the really exciting whoop, whoop, whoop, WHOOP, WHOOP of spinning the microphone around his head faster and faster.

This is some dream.

All 13 figures gather for the first walk on the moon. Heard are a few words from Houston but mostly Neil Armstrong as he describes stepping down the ladder and commenting on the fine dust on the moon’s surface inches beneath his boots and then his immortal, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The dream visits four figures who are gathered around a fifth figure lying on his back. Hands of the four touch the fifth, as if trying to empower that body. A sixth figure arrives, lifting the arms of each of the four figures arm by arm, hand by hand. While this is happening, all the other figures create a flowing image with arms spread reminiscent of crosses. Eventually, all the hands are removed from the figure lying on his back as if mortal coils have been freed.

Throughout the dream, the figures move in coordinated patterns, always knowing what the next move is, the next place is, the next space to create is, the next words to be spoken are. The figures have done this many, many times before, though this time it is for my dream.

At times, a single figure speaks of personal experiences. In her hands is a wood walking stick, about five feet long. She moves the stick in choreographed sequences as she tells of having come from New York City on her first trip on airplane “to a land only known for cheese and beer.” She smiles. She thanks her mentors, whose handiwork is infused into everything around her.

The dream takes place in Stansbury Theatre of Lawrence University.

In the lobby is a board that describes what is in my dream: “Bookended with avant-garde plays by Timothy X. Troy (of the theater faculty), this highly collaborative semi-devised theatrical wonder will put choreographers in league with stage designers to raise an ensemble of elemental theatre makers to fuse the alchemy of movement, sound and light.”

The dream is an experience like no other anywhere, and it will never happen again like it is happening this weekend.

The dream ends happily with grooving music and male voice singing “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good, I’m feeling good.”

Friday night, the “land known only known for cheese and beer” figure is last to leave the stage with a joyful little skip, having been part of a dreamscape way beyond cheese and beer.

***

Program

“Into a Void, Out from the Light – A Dance-Theatre Collage”

Creative: “The Devisers” – Flora Aubin (“Senior Experience”), Karin Kopischke, Monica Rodero, Austin Rose, Daniel Schuchart, Aaron Sherkow, Samantha L. Torres (“Senior Experience”), Timothy X. Troy, Illyana Yates (“Senior Experience”) and The Company

The Company: Yildiz Altin, Max Altman, Flora Aubin, Sesha Bell, Carly Beyer, Taylor Blackson, Thomas Dubnicka, Layne Eklund, Nora Robinson, Ethan Schaner, Frankie Sobel, Samantha L. Torres, Alec Welhouse

The Production

“Into a Void,” by Timothy X. Troy

  1. A start and an ending
  2. Through the town
  3. A hand
  4. A being of light
  5. In the sand

“Butterflies” (Samantha L. Torres)

“Landscape with Suns and Night Book Page,” by Tomas Transtromer

“Flora in the Garden”

“One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop (Flora Aubin)

“What the Map Maker Ought to Know,” by Kei Miller

“A Dream of Colony,” by Eavan Boland

“Airplane” (Samantha L. Torres)

Sound Scape for photo of “Child in the Doorway” (Illyana Yates)

“Hello, Marshmallow McLuhan!”

“In My Fathers House,” by George Barlow

“Yildiz’ Turkish Recipe”

“Dr. Dempsky (Samantha L. Torres)

“Light Streams In,” by Tomas Transtromer

“Out from the Light,” by Timothy X. Troy

  1. The end of the beginning
  2. Around the house
  3. The wrinkle on the moon
  4. A duet
  5. In the grass

Running time: 85 minutes (no intermission)

Remaining performances: 8 p.m. Nov. 1; 3 and 8 p.m. Nov. 2

Info: lawrence.edu/conservatory/box_office

***

THE VENUE: The 445-seat Stansbury Theatre is located in the Lawrence University Music-Drama Center at 420 E. College Ave. The center was dedicated June 5, 1959. Frank C. Shattuck Associates of Neenah designed the $1.4 million building, and construction was by the Oscar Boldt Construction Company. Spare of adornment, the theater is a functional rectangle with a proscenium stage, plain walls, acoustic clouds on the high ceiling and, below the stage in front, an orchestra pit. The walls are gray. The floor is creamish-colored concrete, with fabric carpeting in the four aisles. The seats are of laminated wood backs, wooden arms and small-check red fabric seating areas. The stage is about three feet above the seating area, with the orchestra pit adding a distance from the front row to the actor-performance space. The auditorium floor slopes upward from the stage area, with the ceiling sloping downward, creating a hybrid megaphone-type effect.

THE PERSON: Mary Stansbury was an 1859 Lawrence graduate and one of Lawrence’s first female trustees. Mary A. Phinney Stansbury, born in Vernon Centre, New York, came to Appleton in 1853 and entered the preparatory department of Lawrence Institute. During her lifetime, she taught at Lawrence for short periods. “The Path of Years” is a published volume of her poetry from 1907. Search the Internet, and you can find her poem, “How He Saved St. Michael’s,” in collected poem publications and a manual on elocution. An endowment by Mary Stansbury is credited with helping build the theater.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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