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 five 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 in the Walker’s Burnet Gallery 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.
Art on Call
Listen to interviews and comments from the artists about their Out There performances. Call 612.374.8200 or visit newmedia.walkerart.org/aoc.
Inside Out There
Again this year, Out There includes a unique interactive series on the stage of the McGuire Theater, Inside Out There, which offers an opportunity to get the inside story from visiting Out There artists and to participate in classes and workshops with them. Events take place at 11 am each Saturday. To reserve a spot, call 612.375.7600. Admission is $6 ($4 Walker members) for individual events or $20 ($12) for the series of four.
Out There and Then Some . . .
for free with the artists every opening night at a gathering held in 20.21 Restaurant & Bar by Wolfgang Puck after each performance.
with the artists at a post-show Friday discussion.
from the artists every Saturday morning at an Inside Out There workshop.
New Out There Festival Discount Pass
Experience all four shows for only $50 with the discount pass (a savings of 40% or $30).
A complete listing of Out There performances follows.
OUT THERE 2009
Unless otherwise noted, all performance take place in the Walker’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater.
Tickets and information: 612.375.7600 or walkerart.org/tickets
National Theater of the United States of America
Thursday–Saturday, January 8–10, 8 pm
“One of the most exciting and eccentric young theater companies in town.” —New York Times
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 United States of America 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 Walker archivist Jill Vuchetich, choreographer Karen Sherman, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, and a live brass band—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.
Copresented with the National Performance Network (NPN). Commissioned by the Walker Art Center with support provided by the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support provided by Nor Hall and Roger Hale and The McKnight Foundation.
Chautauqua! Sneak Peek
Saturday, January 10, 3 pm Free
Mill City Museum, 704 South Second Street, Minneapolis
Experimental theater takes center stage in this brief excerpt from Chautauqua!, which incorporates Minnesota’s milling history into the performance. Stay afterwards for a Q&A and light refreshments. Copresented by the Minnesota Historical Society at Mill City Museum.
Inside Out There: National Theater of the United States of America
Saturday, January 10, 11 am
$6 ($4 Walker members)
NTUSA leads participants through an accelerated, stripped-down version of its own closely guarded, collaborative, make-a-play technology to create a five-minute piece.
Five Days in March
Thursday–Saturday, January 15–17, 8 pm
“Set against the backdrop of the U.S. launching attacks on Iraq, this poignant and intimate production emphasizes the confusion of an isolated younger generation.” —Time Out Singapore
This quirky and darkly humorous work recounts the daily lives of four adolescents in Tokyo’s trendy neighborhoods 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.
Inside Out There: Toshiki Okada/chelfitsch
Saturday, January 17, 11 am
$6 ($4 Walker members)
Toshiki Okada guides participants as they draw on unconscious physical movements to create conscious choreography. Attending Five Days in March before the workshop is highly encouraged.
UK Performance Now!
Thursday, January 22, 9 pm
Friday–Saturday, January 23–24, 7 & 9:30 pm
Meet in the Walker’s Cargill Lounge
“By the time the show comes to its quietly explosive conclusion, one finds that Crouch and Ringham have, like theatrical pickpockets, insinuated their way into one’s thoughts and feelings.” —Daily Telegraph, UK
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 Burnet Gallery 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. Support provided by the British Council.
Inside Out There: Tim Crouch
Saturday, January 24, 11 am
$6 ($4 Walker members)
Tim Crouch’s work is unusual in its attention to the audience. In this workshop, No Audience No Echo, he will use practical exercises and discussion to explore the role of the spectators in the creation of text and performance. Suitable for actors, directors, writers, and students.
Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company
Thursday–Saturday, January 29–31, 8 pm
“Her slyly subversive drama ambushes its audience with an earnest and surprisingly moving Christian church service that might be the most unlikely provocation produced in years.” —New York Times
Playwright/director Young Jean Lee, whose Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven was the sold-out hit of Out There 2007, 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).
Copresented with the National Performance Network (NPN). CHURCH is an NPN Creation Fund Project commissioned by the Walker Art Center in partnership with the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe and the NPN. Support provided by the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support provided by Leni and David Moore, Jr./The Moore Family Fund for the Arts of The Minneapolis Foundation.
CHURCH-related Gallery Tour
Thursday, January 29, 7 pm (free with event ticket)
Meet in the Bazinet Garden Lobby.
Inside Out There: Young Jean Lee
Saturday, January 31, 11 am
$6 ($4 Walker members)
Young Jean Lee shares useful (and unusual) perspectives on breaking writers’ block. Experienced writers and occasional dabblers should come prepared to write.
Tickets to Out There 2009 performances are $18 ($15 Walker members) Thursdays; $20 ($16) Fridays–Saturdays. Out There ticket package: $50 for all four performances. Contact walkerart.org/tickets or 612.375.7600.