Theatre Mirror Reviews - "An Atlas of Change"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"An Atlas of Change"

Based on the work of Adrienne Rich

Text Director Andrea Assof
Movement Director Stephen T. Clapp
Stage Manager Shari Krauss
Lighting& Set Design Mike Abdow
Lighting Assistant Maggie Moore
Body Paint Design Elissa Matsveda


Love..........................Tina Farrell
War..........................Ben Lambert
Motherhood............Oona Flaherty
Independence.....Stephen T. Clapp
Poetry......................Andrea Assof

"If in this sleep I speak
It's with a voice no longer personal
(I want to say with voices)"
Those words, like all the words in this thoroughly prepared yet spontaneously improvised words-and-movement piece, are by Adrienne Rich, spoken by five young people while they whirl and pause and confront and intertwine in a continuous kaleidoscope of impressions and evocations that defy description. Movement is fluid, intense, interactive, never exactly dance, and yet before long the poems act as melodic accompaniment until which is commenting on which or inspiring which becomes irrelevant.

The Other Theatre is committed more to process than production, and this piece is the result of months of workshops, experimentation, and cooperative input. Stephen T. Clapp started with a movement workshop, first finding out what kinds of movements each different body was comfortable with --- and perhaps stretching those possibilities --- in situations where any one person's movements triggered spontaneous movements from everyone else to compliment or contrast or complete the patterns. Then Andrea Assaf added workshops involved with speaking words and in similar fashion responding spontaneously to what was said.

Eventually, the group settled on the works of Adrienne Rich as text because they provided relevant contemporary material that rewarded deep study and covered a wide ranging emotional territory. Each of the five participants became the Voice (i.e. memorized) a series of poems specifically concerning Love (Tina Farrell) ,War (Ben Lambert), Motherhood (Oona Flaherty), Independence (Stephen T. Clapp), and Poetry (Andrea Assof).

But, like the workshops, the aim was not to pre-set a series of poems in specific order, but for each participant to "respond" to the situation with an appropriate poem spontaneously. In performance it looks easier than it sounds. The open awareness of every one of these five participants welds them, on the wide dance space, into one fluidly interacting whole, and their concentration sparks similar concentration from the audience. Entrance and exit figures were pre-set, and a "road-map" of ideas to be touched dictate a form, within which everyone responds in whatever ways feel appropriate. . Even the lighting for each evening is "improvised" by Mike Abdow.

And the audience is free to respond as well, to move with flow of words and ideas.

"What we see we see
And seeing is changing."

( a k a larry stark)

"An Atlas of Change" (till 26 July)
The Dance Complex, 536 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide