“Small Metal Objects turns the notion of theater and the everyday inside out. It is a pure, open-hearted, complex and breathtaking production . . . a unique meditation on human worth.” —Sydney Morning Herald
In their own words, the directors of Australia’s Back to Back Theatre create “locally devised, globally relevant and significant theater.” This ambition plays out in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in a show where two men who normally escape notice—seemingly mentally disabled and possibly homeless—play inadvertent but pivotal roles in the lives of two ambitious executives. The last performance in the Walker Art Cetner’s five-part In:Site/Out series and presented in conjunction with the summerlong celebration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s 20th anniversary, Small Metal Objects unfolds outside before an audience wired with headphones on Thursday–Friday, June 5–6, at 7 pm and Saturday, June 7, at 1 and 7 pm.
Back to Back Theatre, an ensemble of actors with mental disabilities, strives to nudge and subvert audiences into seeing beauty that is otherwise hidden. In Small Metal Objects the company explores ways that respect is withheld from the disabled, the unemployed, and others deemed unproductive by society. Set against the backdrop of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Small Metal Objects expands the theatrical frame with the unpredictability of public space while bringing stark relief to the notion that everything has its price. Contains some mature subject matter.
Formed in 1987, Back to Back has created over 27 original works for theater and eight short films including high-profile collaborations with Circus Oz (Freak Show, 1994), Melbourne Workers Theatre (Road Movie, 1996), Handspan Visual Theatre (Minds Eye, 1996), and Arena Theatre Company (Peter Pan, 1997).
Since 1999, Back to Back has concentrated on self-devised work with the ensemble at the creative core, producing Mental (1999), Dog Farm (2000), Soft (2002), and Small Metal Objects (2005).
In 2000 Back to Back was the subject of a SBS documentary, Out of our Minds, directed by then board member David Carlin while Mental was performed at the Sydney Paralympics Cultural Festival. The following year Back to Back made Porn Star, a digital short film adapted by Bruce Gladwin and Rhian Hinkley from one of the Dog Farm stories. Porn Star screened at film festivals in Germany and Canada and in 2003 won the Adrian Clarke Development Award at the Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival.
Soft was Back to Back’s first work to be premiered at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 2002, where it jointly won the Age Critics’ Award for Creative Excellence. It subsequently was the only work written in Australia nominated for the 2002 Helpmann Awards for Best Play.
In 2003 Soft toured to the Zurich International Theatre Festival and Hamburg’s Laokoon Festival while Cow, one of the Dog Farm stories, was performed at Hannover’s Long Night of the Churches and the London International Festival of Theatre. The experimental performance project, Pod, also had its first presentation in Hannover to coincide with the Cow tour. Soft’s sound and set design also won wide acclaim for its human rationale in technological experimentation and innovation.
In 2004 Back to Back began work on Small Metal Objects and Dumb, as well as development of the Pod model at Night School in Geelong and the Awakenings Festival in Horsham. Small Metal Objects premiered the following year at the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
As well as creating professional theater works, Back to Back concurrently runs a community theater workshop program with the components Summer School and Theatre of Speed. Theatre of Speed has collaborated on two community theater productions, Fishman (2001) and Inside the Angel House (2003), both directed by Marcia Ferguson. In 2004 Theatre of Speed also made a dance video, Theatre of Speed vs. BOZ’n’HOK, with a group of choreographers and director Rhian Hinkley that screened at the 2005 Edinburgh International Film Festival.
In 2005 Back to Back continued the creative development of Dumb and a new work, Bedroom, continued the Pod residencies in Ballarat and Colac, developed another short film with Theatre of Speed and premiered their new work, Minotaur, in Geelong.
Back to Back Ensemble Statement
“We’re people who do shows. We’re all quite short, but each one is a little bit taller than the one before.
We’re agile and work professionally as a theater company.
There are other things we do as well . . . warm ups, research, trips to Melbourne, lots of meetings, and time off when we need it.
Sometimes we have noodles for lunch.
The artistic director’s name is Bruce and he makes us laugh. He gets on the table, pretends he’s a dog, and then turns into a robot. He tells us to put down our noodles.
We love people.
We believe in angels, shows, and Brittney Spears.
Hugs all around.”
Tickets to Back to Back Theatre’s Small Metal Objects are $22 ($18 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.