|Photo by Eric Melzer |
This weekend, Live Action Set opens a new production, Basic North: a performance in three directions
, at the Southern Theater
. The show uses mask work, clowning, and dance as it follows three interweaving yet separate pieces that deal with honesty and being honest onstage.
At first, the company was planning on producing only one piece developed
by Dario Tangelson. According to Joanna Harmon, LAS's executive
director (who is also performing in the show), they conducted workshops
over the course of several months, practicing Tangelson's techniques.
"It was very process oriented," she says.
For "Without Wax," Tangelson wanted to create a state of being that was really open and honest. In the workshops with LAS, he worked with the performers on a technique that he had developed in recent years that starts from the concept of the neutral mask. The neutral mask was invented by French mime, actor, and performance instructor Jacques Lecoq as a way to facilitate openness in a performer. Tangelson has taken the concept and sought to recreate its effects without using a mask itself.
When performing in this way, the actors can't use mannerisms. "Stuff that comes across is really weird. It's not robotic at all; it's open and full and present," Tangelson says.
|Photo by Bill Cameron|
"I came up with the idea that if you take all the pretense out of a person, they are present," he says. "Whatever they tell you about their lives is super interesting." In developing the concept, the performers would take something as simple as their morning routine when they are getting their bag ready to go to work. The piece was created by looking at the basic routines of the six performers in the show, with extra situations added later like going to a restaurant and going to a party.
"Without Wax" is Tangelson's attempt to say, "Let's just come up with it." He's challenged LAS to not have a product. "It's more of an experience and less about a show," he says.
While "Without Wax" was being developed, LAS artistic director Noah Bremer decided that he wanted to create some of his own clown work, with the idea that he would perform it as a compliment to Tangelson's piece.
|Photo by Bill Cameron|
"Part of it was that I selfishly wanted to explore clown more in performance because I haven't done that since I've been back," Bremer says (he spent some time touring with Cirque de Soleil recently). "I wanted an opportunity to explore in that realm."
While Tangelson piece was originally going to be performed alone, Bremer suggested that they have two different elements. That also seemed incomplete, so LAS talked to Emily King and Ryan Underbakke about doing a third dance piece, "Start Select," with all three works exploring honesty in some way.
Bremer's piece, "Quiet Heart," is "about exploring one's heart and one's mind," he says. He doesn't speak, per se, but only sings and expresses his imagination in other ways. "I talk about how we as individuals communicate differently," he says. "If you have patience and compassion, you can hear something new."
Developing the three different chapters of the show at first seemed very easy, but as the company went through the process of putting them together, they ran into each of the works subservient to the others. "Now we're in the best place, where each piece is interwoven, but allows for the others to exist fully in each moment," says Bremer.
Each of the three sections have their own set of rules. "It's been a challenge to put them together and find how they mutually benefit each other," Harmon says. The guiding principal for the whole show is the idea of "basic north," or the standard set of goals, principals, and ideas that drive us forward. "There's not an end goal. It's certain principals that guide us."
The show doesn't have a traditional narrative. Rather, it's much more about the experience, and the state of being of a certain energy the performers attempt to give to the audience. "I liken it more to dance," Harmon says. "Dance doesn't necessarily have a narrative. There's an ebb and flow of energy that pushes it forward, with contrast and juxtapositions and music."
"It's a really bold show," Harmon says. "I've never in my life been more focused. I do what I am doing onstage wholeheartedly. It's such a different way than we normally perform."
IF YOU GO:
Basic North: a performance in three directions
Saturday, June 30 through Sunday July 8
Preview performances on June 28-29
8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays
1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN