Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Do You Dada? Hmmmm...I know some people who do

Photos: Michael Brownlee

As a concept couched in its historical context, I understand Dada. I admire it. I remember the first time I ever went to New York, The Whitney Museum had a wonderful breathtaking exhibit of Dadaist Art. Readymades, Duchamp Sculpture, Max Ernst pre-surrealism, Photo montages of Ball, Tzara, Duchamp, and many others.

I found dada to be liberating. I was tired of middle class conservative mind sets. I was tired of the predictability of the well made form and artistolean dramaturgy. I wanted to be disturbed to be shaken to my core. I wanted new forms or at the very least a wider variety then I was getting in my Theatre History Classes. I was filled with heady pleasure about what dada was what it could do. I wanted to be instrumental in the resurgence of this freeing approach. Viva la dada!!!!

And then I had my first beer...(that's a metaphor)

After I left college, the shine on the apple didn't last long. Perhaps 2 years and then I was ready to do something else. Where once I found freedom, instead I found nonsense. Where once I saw answers, I instead saw only a lack of commitment to even the idea of questioning.

I thought that dada in the end was more or less metaphorical training wheels upon artistic expression of dissent, something that the all riders had once used, but only the most petulant held unto.

Why then are you involved in a dada show? The answer is not simple or easy. My response is fragmented...

Jen Ellison performing the "Two of Us"

Even when I worried about the "out" dada might enable a dadaist, I knew that these people weren't trying to take it. They were trying to push themselves into something special something unique, it wasn't pretentious, it was wonderful. It was wonderful because of them.

The knowledge that the artists involved want to share with the audience, want to give them something unlike anything they have experienced before. Despite what you may think about the intent of a dadaist (at least a WNEP dadaist) They are not challenging for the mere thrill or feeling superior. It is out of love...tough love maybe. Out of desire for something different something seriously different (different is good)

What is Dada? An important question. An invitation. The audience will decide.

There is alot of wonderful performance and material and execution on stage at the Chicago Cultural Center. I don't want to market the show. That isn't my job. I will tell you why I think you should see the show. Because despite the challenge to conventional comprehension there is truth and wonderment and sublimity. There is virtuosity in the performance. There is well earned blood sweat and tears. These people are pouring their hearts and bodies into the work, and it is truly spectacular to see. This is, in the best sense of the phrase, a night of theater that you'll never forget (ok maybe I am marketing it).

I remember issuing a challenge at one of the very first meetings we had as an ensemble, a challenge that affected my popularity at the beginning at least. How does a dada show take a real chance? How does the dadaist risk themselves? How does a dadaist transcend the safety net that is dada? It wasn't up to me to answer that question? It was up to Don and Jen and any of the others who cared to listen to my questions.

I think they have succeeded in doing so. I am fiercely proud of this cast as I am of Don and Jen for being able to honor and perpetuate the best things about WNEP dada thus far, while at the same time push themselves towards an expression of WNEP Dada unlike anything I've seen them do thus far.

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