Friday, March 9, 2012

LITERARY CORNER: SAME RIVER by Strike Anywhere Ensemble

Literary Corner is a series on the blog by Civilians' Literary Associate EllaRose Chary that focuses on investigative theater projects going on around the city, the country, and the world. As the institute for investigative theater, The Civilians is excited to connect with other groups working in this genre. If you're doing an investigative theater project, feel free to keep us in the loop by emailing: 

SAME RIVER is an "improvised inter-disciplinary performance based on interviews" that is about the controversy over and reality of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking". (Don't know much about fracking? Watch this awesome video!)  Created by the Strike Anywhere ensemble, SAME RIVER was playing February 23rd - March 3rd at the Irondale Center (home of The Civilians' production of IN THE FOOTPRINT in 2010) just down the street from The Civilians main office. Investigative theater in our own backyard? Obviously, I had to check it out. And, I wasn't the only one - several members of The Civilians family made up a strong contingent of the audience the night I went.

Something really cool about this performance was that it intentionally merged theatrical performance and visual art. Before one entered the part of the theater where the performance took place, there was an art installation created by participants in Strike Anywhere's residency at Brooklyn High School for the Arts, as well as art developed in a community art-making day that happened on February 11. In addition to the visual art component before the performance, there was also a striking visual element in the performance which featured a beautiful waterfall backdrop. SAME RIVER mixes dance, music, and improv to tell a story about characters based on people the ensemble interviewed.

Strike Anywhere used the investigative method to create this piece, having spent 10 days in residence in the Catskills interviewing local community members about drinking water and fracking. However, there is a sense of continued investigation associated with their particular method, as they intend to incorporate interviews from local community members into performances at different venues in areas where fracking is taking place or being considered. It's really interesting to think about the investigative method being applied in this way when the subject of investigation is an ongoing event. This is a way in which investigative theater might distinguish itself from documentary theater, as the investigation continues even after a certain moment has been documented.

As always, it's exciting to see the many different ways that theater artists find to incorporate investigation into their work, and SAME RIVER is a great example of how interviews can be the basis for a piece that still incorporates many levels of more abstract artistry.Visit Strike Anywhere's site to learn more about SAME RIVER.

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