Af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion

Theater Grottesco’s The Mo­ment of YES! at the Santa Fe Play­house

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Jen­nifer Levin

IN theater im­pro­vi­sa­tion and warm-up games like Ac­cept­ing and Yes Let’s, say­ing “yes” is a way to pro­pel a story into ac­tion. It en­hances the give-and-take be­tween per­form­ers by cre­at­ing mo­ments that al­low for move­ment. For its new pro­duc­tion, open­ing Thurs­day, May 21, at the Santa Fe Play­house, Theater Grottesco si­mul­ta­ne­ously ex­plodes and re­fines this very spe­cific idea of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in The Mo­ment of YES!

“Af­ter we broke it down, com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­came a se­ries of propo­si­tions that are an­swered with ei­ther an ac­cep­tance or re­jec­tion,” said Theater Grottesco’s found­ing artis­tic direc­tor, John Flax. “If there’s ac­cep­tance, it moves to the next step, and it can keep go­ing un­til it ac­tu­ally builds cul­tures and civ­i­liza­tions and so­ci­eties, rules, and games. This show is re­ally an amal­gam of the­atri­cal styles that, as we put them to­gether, we are able to take the con­structs from the world of dance and the world of theater and blend them to­gether to cre­ate a new form.”

Kent Kirk­patrick, an artis­tic as­so­ciate at Grottesco, is co-di­rect­ing the show with Flax. He ex­plained that, as a com­pany, Grottesco con­cen­trates on what is called de­vised theater or en­sem­ble-cre­ated theater in black-box spa­ces or bare stages. “We don’t start with a script. We start with ac­tors in a room, talk­ing and com­ing up with the lit­tle ideas that are the core, and then get­ting up on our feet and play­ing and stum­bling around un­til we start to find things.”

Flax co-founded Grottesco in Paris in 1983 and moved the com­pany to Santa Fe in 1996 af­ter tour­ing here sev­eral times. Though Grottesco has one of the larger op­er­at­ing bud­gets among lo­cal theater com­pa­nies, it has al­ways been a strug­gle to keep fi­nanc­ing in or­der, Flax said. Com­pany mem­bers used to dream of build­ing or con­vert­ing their own black­box theater in town, but they have largely aban­doned that vi­sion and rented a re­hearsal space in the new theater dis­trict form­ing off Ru­fina Street and Henry Lynch Road on the south side. Teatro Paraguas, the Santa Fe Play­house, and Theater­work all rent space in the area, and Wise Fool New Mex­ico isn’t far away. The groups reg­u­larly bor­row cos­tumes, sets, and ac­tors from one an­other, and their team­work is about to be­come of­fi­cial as part of a new col­lab­o­ra­tive arts-mar­ket­ing pro­gram, funded by the Santa Fe Arts Com­mis­sion. The “Santa Fe Theater Brand” is a web­site, now un­der con­struc­tion, that will be a on­estop guide to all live theater in the city. “The prob­lem is still that no­body owns their own space. It’s less ex­pen­sive out here than down­town, but it’s still not cheap, so ev­ery­one is leas­ing or rent­ing,” Flax said. “When you see some­one own­ing a space, that’s when you know they’re re­ally long term.”

The Mo­ment of YES! fea­tures Danielle Red­dick, who has per­formed with Stomp and ap­peared lo­cally in Ironweed Pro­duc­tion’s Good Peo­ple in 2014. It also has so­prano and ac­tor Tara Khozein, who grew up in Santa Fe and grad­u­ated from Jac­ques Le­coq’s theater school in Paris, where she stud­ied phys­i­cal theater, as did her co-per­former and fel­low Santa Fe na­tive Apollo Garcia, a cir­cus artist who has ap­peared in sev­eral re­cent lo­cal pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing Wise Fool New Mex­ico’s The Cir­cus of Lost Dreams and

Foster with the Santa Fe Per­form­ing Arts Adult Res­i­dent Com­pany. The fourth cast mem­ber is Eric Ku­pers, co-artis­tic direc­tor of the Dan­de­lion Dancethe­ater in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia. The cast did an early pre­view per­for­mance at Dan­de­lion to great ap­plause and laugh­ter, es­pe­cially from chil­dren, who ap­pre­ci­ated the way the ex­ag­ger­ated fa­cial ex­pres­sions, rem­i­nis­cent of com­me­dia dell’arte, and non­ver­bal lan­guage of dance car­ried the seven brief sto­ries that make up the show.

The sto­ries divide the new pro­duc­tion into three sec­tions: “dis­cov­ery,” “cre­at­ing cul­ture,” and “so­ci­ety” or “the game of life.” Kirk­patrick said that the “con­ceit is that we start with noth­ing­ness, and the ac­tors come on and are dis­cov­er­ing this place and each other.”

“The ex­plo­ration is a very ex­cit­ing process,” Flax said. “We’re do­ing some sto­ry­telling, but since sto­ry­telling has be­come very popular, we wanted to make our sto­ries some­thing else. So we bor­rowed from tragedy and put a [Greek] cho­rus to­gether with the sim­ple, in­ti­mate sto­ries, some of which are from the ac­tors’ child­hoods.” The cho­rus sur­rounds the sto­ry­teller as wit­ness and col­lec­tive un­con­scious.

“We’re not go­ing for the pre­tense of theater, but the re­al­ity of peo­ple in space in a room right now,” Kirk­patrick said. “When the ac­tors come in, they’re in pres­ence with the au­di­ence, with each other.” Though there are set story points they must reach, there are many times the ac­tors im­pro­vise. “They’re dis­cov­er­ing and cre­at­ing and re­act­ing to each other in real time. So there’s a sur­prise for them and maybe an el­e­ment of dan­ger and ex­cite­ment. Au­di­ences can sense that. You can see some­thing that’s re­ally re­hearsed, and it may be well done, but it also might be bor­ing be­cause it’s hap­pened so many times be­fore. We’re try­ing to do some­thing that’s fresh and alive in the mo­ment.”

Apollo Garcia (up­side down) and Eric Ku­pers

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