Chelfitsch, Five Days in March, May 2007, Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris, Photo: Thomas Bremond.

Community, Spirituality, and Cultural History in Contemporary Peformance

Young Jean Lee, Church, Photo: Ryan Jensen.

Tim Crouch and Hannah Ringham, Photo: Chris Dorley Brown.

Chelfitsch, Five Days in March, May 2007, Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris, Photo: Thomas Bremond.

Tim Crouch, The Heart by Jan Prophet, Photo: Steve Payne.

 

Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis
612-375-7600
Out There 21
January 8-31, 2009

As is fitting for a series that has always brought provocative, exhilarating, unexpected theatrical experiences to the Twin Cities, the Walker Art Center’s Out There celebrates its 21st season January 8–31 with four ensembles whose breathtaking combinations of movement, media, theater, and physical drama are helping point the way to the future of live performance art.

“Questions of community, spirituality, and cultural history seem to have captured the attention of innovators in American theater recently,” says Philip Bither, the Walker’s William and Nadine McGuire Senior Curator of Performing Arts. “At the same time, Out There has always been a barometer of what’s on artists’ minds and where performance is heading.”

As quintessentially American phenomena, the Chautauqua and the evangelical church service have many things in common. Still, it’s surprising that they have directly inspired two cutting-edge theater works being performed in this year’s Out There series. Chautauqua!, from the National Theater of the United States of America (Thursday-Saturday, January 8-10), and Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company’s CHURCH (Thursday-Saturday, January 29-31) were both created as Walker commissions and open and close this year’s annual festival of alternative, genre-defying performance.

In keeping with 20 years of Out There performances, there’s a strong element of unpredictability with Chautauqua! and CHURCH. Both are new commissions, which means “you’re not buying off the shelf,” Bither says, but rather “investing in a future idea because you believe in the potential of the artist and the idea — and we’re asking the audience to believe, too.”

Out There 2009 also showcases new international work — Japanese director / playwright Toshiki Okada and his company chelfitsch in Five Days in March, (Thursday-Saturday, January 15-17), a darkly humorous work about the daily lives of four adolescents in Tokyo’s trendy neighborhoods of Shibuya and Roppongi during the first days of the U.S.-Iraq war in 2003. The remaining Out There performance of the season, Tim Crouch’s England, (Thursday-Saturday, January 22-24), launches the UK Performance Now! series that surveys the rich and diverse “live art” scene in England and Wales. Minimalist and mesmerizing, England is performed by two “guides” (Crouch and actress Hannah Ringham) who disregard the distinction between audience and actor, theater and life, telling the tale of an England of a different kind.

National Theater
of the USA,
Chautauqua!, Performance
(Walker Commission)

Step right this way for a festive night celebrating the Chautauqua Circuit (1874-1935), a wildly popular national network of traveling lecturers, performing artists, and entertainers. The National Theater of the USA transforms the McGuire Theater into the Chautauqua “big-top” experience as it mixes music, dance, debates, scientific experiments, circus arts, vaudeville, and feats of strength that were the hallmark of the circuit. All the while, this highly inventive New York City collective, joined by local luminaries, investigates and reinvents a distinctly American form of art and entertainment while posing questions about community, capitalism, and “high” and “low” culture. Note: contains nudity.

8 p.m., January 8, 2009, McGuire Theater
8 p.m., January 9, 2009, McGuire Theater
8 p.m., January 10, 2009, McGuire Theater

Toshiki Okada / chelfitsch,
Five Days in March,
Theater

This quirky and darkly humorous work recounts the daily lives of four adolescents in Tokyo’s trendy suburbs of Shibuya and Roppongi during the first five days of the U.S.-Iraq war in 2003. Their colloquial language is real enough, but it allows for a curious dislocation between their words and actions. In the dark spaces between the natural and the surreal, director Toshiki Okada juxtaposes reality with altered time, intimate human stories with the ominous event of a war at its inception. In Japanese with English surtitles.

8 p.m., January 15, 2009, McGuire Theater
8 p.m., January 16, 2009, McGuire Theater

Tim Crouch,
England,
Theater / Performance

The charming playwright /actor Tim Crouch wants to meet you. He’s heard about you and has important things to tell you. His is a tale of England, but it’s about an empire of a different kind. Minimalist and mesmerizing, England is performed in the Walker’s galleries by two “guides” (Crouch and actress Hannah Ringham) who disregard the distinction between audience and actor, theater and life. This tour through space and across borders—from an art gallery to a jam factory, from Edinburgh to Osaka—is a journey to the end of the world. Score by award-winning sound designer Dan Jones.Very limited seating.

9 p.m., January 22, 2009, Walker Gallery
7 p.m., January 23, 2009, Walker Gallery
9:30 p.m., January 23, 2009, Walker Gallery
7 p.m., January 24, 2009, Walker Gallery
9:30 p.m., January 24, 2009, Walker Gallery

Young Jean Lee's
Theater Company,
CHURCH,
Written and Directed
by Young Jean Lee,
Theater
(Walker Commission)

Playwright /director Young Jean Lee, whose Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven was the sold-out hit of Out There 19, returns with her most stirring and potentially disturbing work. Even as Church’s charismatic and left-leaning central preacher defies traditionally held Christian assumptions, he conveys a passionate message about religion having the power to transform lives, backed up by three female ministers. Hear the word and feel the power as the preaching, dance, and a full gospel choir deliver “a work so enjoyable, so intricate, and so thought-provoking [that] it’s only appropriate to give thanks and praise.” (New York Sun).

8 p.m., January 29, 2009, McGuire Theater
8 p.m., January 30, 8:00 pm, McGuire Theater
8 p.m., January 31, 8:00 pm, McGuire Theater

National Theater of the USA, Chautauqua!, Photos: Bushwick Starr.

 

Young Jean Lee, Photo: James M. Lee.