December 6 – December 16, 2012
Opening Reception: 7 p.m. Thursday, December 6, 2012
FROM THE EDGE: PERFORMANCE DESIGN IN THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA is a one-of-a-kind installation of photographs and work processes from 37 politically compelling productions from across the country. Commissioned and sponsored by USITT, “From the Edge” represented the United States at last year’s Prague Quadrennial, the world celebration of performance design and theatre architecture held every four years in Prague since 1967. This showing in New York will highlight USITT’s continuing efforts to document and foreground performance design in America, and introduce this exhibit to a new audience.
“From the Edge” spotlights the country’s boldest performance works and edgiest design processes from performance-makers and young ensembles, all of whom are largely new to the world stage. These innovative productions were selected from 360 submissions by artistic director Susan Tsu and curators Chris Barecca, Linda Cho, Don Tindall, and Allen Hahn. Randy Gener, an editor/critic and co-producer of the La MaMa La Galleria exhibit, acted as curatorial advisor during the selection process. Tsu conceived of the socio-political theme in order to identify theatre companies tackling the issues consuming Americans today including war, ecology, political polarities, race, gender, and religion.
Presented with additional support from Carnegie-Mellon University, “From the Edge” richly exemplifies the visceral blurring of performance and theater. Rock musicals, live-art events, irreverent performance art, devised theater, digital theater, immersive environments, site-determined works and genre-defying works have stretched traditional definitions and pushed the limits of performance design as imagined in the U.S.
The period in consideration, 2007 to 2011, was also a deeply politicized environment for U.S. artists, who responded in complex ways to societal and political concerns. The exhibit reflects a political angle. ”From the Edge” spotlights how U.S. theatermakers wrestled with core American values during the intense unraveling of the Aught Decade, a period that coincided with a painful economic recession and a dramatic presidential transition in the White House.
Among the featured works are Tony-award winning designer Kevin Adams’ ground-breaking lighting and Christine Jones’s arresting scenery for the Broadway show “American Idiot,” Paul Chan’s “Waiting for Godot” set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, and scenes from “Hell House,” a New York take on the Evangelical Christian “haunted houses” that aim to scare teens with depictions of pregnant cheerleaders and gay men dying of AIDS. Also on view are director/designer Nancy Keystone’s fantasia on rocket history “Apollo” and her arresting production of Suzan-Lori Parks’s “The America Play,” Rob Roth’s “Screen Test,” Neil Patel’s set for “This Beautiful City” by The Civilians, Brian Sidney Bembridge’s wrestling stage for “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” and Basil Twist’s “Arias with a Twist.”
Special recognition is given to companies considered to be founders of innovative and political theatre. Tribute is also given to American theater greats August Wilson and Ellen Stewart.
Originally displayed in an environmental design of a garage designed by William Bloodgood of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the U.S. pavilion reflected the workspace of seminal performance groups such as the Wooster Group and La MaMa E.T.C. The outer walls were defaced with graffiti, while the interior was furnished with sawhorses and makeshift furniture, and splashed with paint in the frenzy of creativity. Jutting out on the roof’s edge was a fanged dinosaur-type monster engorging the figure of Uncle Sam, a playful inflatable structure by performance artist Pat Oleszko entitled “WarUSaurus.” A model will represent the exhibit structure.
The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) — the national organization for design, production, and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry — has organized and sponsored the American participation in the PQ since the USA began participating in 1975. “From the Edge” is the 10th exhibit representing America in this singular world event dedicated to design for performance.
Founded in 1984, La MaMa La Galleria is a nonprofit gallery committed to nurturing artistic experimentation. As an extension of the internationally acclaimed La Mama E.T.C., La Galleria encourages an active dialogue between the visual arts, new media, performance, curatorial, literary and educational projects.
The La Galleria exhibit, located at 6 East 1st Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue, will be on display Wednesday through Sunday between 1 and 7:30 p.m.