The Field is an organization whose stated purpose is "to support the work of all artists, regardless of level of development or aesthetic viewpoint." They purposely do not "curate" the development of the artists or work it presents, and encourages the audience's response to help the artist shape the piece being presented. This is the antithesis of presenting, for example, a play with a strong authorial or directorial perspective, and is fraught with risk for an unsuspecting audience. However, based on a small sample of the Field's presentation in December called The Performance Zone, there are lots of seedlings around who are responding to the Field's care.
The pieces under consideration here are Womenkind's Women on the Fringe, five solo theater works in progress written and performed by Anne Pasquale, Passion, Emma Palzere, Gayle Stahlhuth, and Jill Dalton; Full Circle, a dance piece choreographed by Maureen Glennon; and super.love, excerpts from a work in progress choreographed and performed by Lisa T. Lunkmoss.
Womenkind's Women on the Fringe began with Anne Pasquale's story of directing an after-school theater production of Snow White -- in Harlem. It is more than a comedy of errors though, as she realizes she is out of her depth, and her efforts to find equilibrium as a children's party host. There was Passion's tale of a black girl who has a vision of Mary on a Bedford-Stuyvesant stoop, and how she believes it will change her life. Emma Palzere told of her college friend Amy, killed in a New Year's "celebration" in New Orleans. Gayle Stahlhuth described the newsletter that keeps a disbanded wartime squadron connected, and gave a bittersweet dance of the courtship of her parents. Jill Dalton recounted an audition for a fighting role where she told of her own tough childhood as the daughter of a career Army soldier. All of these stories were related on a bare stage with a stool and props, with minimal but effective lighting effects. The pieces are reflections on the relationships between daughters and parents, and each was affecting. These women were more than good storytellers, they were good actors.
Maureen Glennon's Full Circle was a dance piece with text written by her that starts with the words "It begins with a breath." This dance/rumination on breath, movement, energy and life was fairly unsubtle, but it was energetic and evocative. The dancers were breathing heavily by the end, both from exertion and theme, giving truth to the final "It ends with that last breath."
Lisa T. Lunkmoss performed parts one, two and five of her piece super.love. She began with birth and the body unfolding, moved on to lithe, flowing movements mixed with twitchy, colt-like unsure standing, and concluded with self confident, sweeping movements. Lunkmoss is an extremely accomplished dancer, who also uses the force of her personality to put her dance across. Both Glennon's and Lunkmoss's dance performances were played on the same unadorned stage as the solo women's pieces, with as much success.
After the performance, there was a discussion between the audience and the performers -- I hope these women will pay only as much attention as needed to how the audience thinks their pieces should be developed. While there is many a slip 'twixt the work in progress and the finished piece, it is reassuring that the Field's motto is "art grows here." Based on these samples, it certainly seems to.
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Copyright 1997 David Mackler