This week we take Elijah in the Wadi into rehearsal, and I’m excited to move this work out of the studio and up on its feet. I’m fortunate to have a tremendous artistic team working with me, and I want to recognize the substantial impact that these exceptional collaborative artists have in the development of my work. Their vast cumulative experience, insights, generosity and willingness to explore new terrain with unbounding excitement boosts my spirit and brings so much more to the final work.
They hold me accountable; they see different things that clarify the vision; and they are all creative, solution-oriented explorers:
Pearce Bunting – Elijah;
Jim Peitzman – projection design and dramaturg;
Candy Kuehn – costumes and digital illustrations;
Randall Davidson – cello;
Mike Grogan – lighting design; and
Tim Donahue – sound mix and performance.
For these rehearsals I have an opportunity to return to two places that have been formative in my creative development: the Ritz Theatre, and the Playwrights’ Center. My artistic calling and experience reside in the convergence of all performance elements, and in the integration of new technology with traditional elements.
I worked for eight years in the dance theatre world with Myron Johnson, choreographer and artistic director for his dance theatre company Ballet of the Dolls. I learned a lot about building narratives without words in a theatrical context during my time there.
In addition to working together to build the company, and develop the Ritz Theatre as a performance venue, we created shows together (The Red Shoes, Sleeping Beauty, Enchanted Night). Our first production of The Red Shoes was produced in the raw Ritz Theatre , which at that time was a dilapidated blight of a building. No water, no electricity, no bathrooms, no stage. We brought in all of that, and more, and created a magical performance, even with the rain seeping into the building during the week of 9/11/01.
Returning to the Ritz Theatre to rehearse Elijah in the Wadi takes me back to this old stomping ground, reminding me of what I learned in those years.
My time working at the Playwrights’ Center had a related focus for me, this time in the realm of theater in general, and specifically in the development of new work. I hadn’t spent a great deal of time in the world of traditional theater, and I had an opportunity at the Playwrights’ Center to be engaged in that world in a unique way. Here as well, I was able to enrich my creative perspective and experience in ways that helped to bring many creative elements together for me. We are working in the theater at the Playwrights’ Center this week, and it feels like returning to another of my old stomping grounds to do an artist residency, while building into the process a constant reminder of what I learned during my time there.
So returning to the Ritz Theatre and the Playwrights’ Center to prepare Elijah in the Wadi for performance keeps me faithful to my artistic vision. As Elijah said just this afternoon, “How do you know where you need to go if you don’t look back at where you’ve been? But what’s the point of looking back if you’re not intending to go forward?”
As the prophet Elijah’s story depicts, he doesn’t die; he is carried off in a whirlwind. In Elijah in the Wadi the whirlwind is a time portal through which Elijah travels to visit and engage with the world throughout time. He appears at the Passover Seder to mark the change from looking back at history to looking towards the future; he appears at the Sabbath Havdalah, marking the transformation from Sabbath as we endeavor to carry our best selves into the coming week; he is present at circumcisions; and he returns at key moments as a witness and harbinger of things to come.
In Elijah in the Wadi we step inside of Elijah’s being, alone in the desert. We see what he sees; hear what he hears; and experience what he experiences.
And remember – It’s a festival of new work! Please come to see my show, and check out the work of the other three artists in the festival: Penelope Free, Melissa Birch and Megan Mayer.
Elijah in the Wadi – the Seed of Conflict at the Right Here Showcase
April 8-9-10, 2016, performances at 7:30 and 9:00pm
The Illusion Theater, at The Cowles Center: http://www.illusiontheater.org/events
TICKETS ADVANCE RESERVATIONS:
Admission is through a Suggested Donation of $10-$30.
PRESS CONTACT: Artistic Producer Paul Herwig