Re-Ward or reprimand? – Contentious responses to muralising Ward Theatre ceiling

Re-Ward or reprimand? – Contentious responses to muralising Ward Theatre ceiling

For centuries, the Sistine Chapel has remained a leading example of timeless art, representing the religious histories associated with Christianity. As The Ward Theatre undergoes its latest renovation, one can suppose the decision to have artist Chalik Campbell muralise the auditorium’s ceiling with the essence or facades of Jamaica’s theatrical and historic figures was motivated by the reportedly enchanting work of Michelangelo.

However, long-time advocates for restoring the theatre to its original glory, have come out of the woodwork, claiming that a mural on the auditorium’s ceiling may modernise the space meant to stand as a national, historic monument.

“Old can meet the new, but the old cannot be destroyed and damaged. Be aware – the Ward is the only place in Jamaica that comes close to an opera house,” executive director of Music Unites Jamaica Foundation, Rosina Christina Moder, told The Sunday Gleaner.

“The Ward is the only place in Jamaica which has an orchestra pit. We need a place for the orchestra to play. However, this pit is still small. I’m hoping in the course of restoration it can be expanded,” Moder continued. Her suggestion, to make a change without compromising the auditorium’s design, is to cut one or two rows from the audience floor, opening the pit to accommodate more musicians.

“The Ward is the Grand Thame of theatre in Jamaica, as a building. We want to see it come back to its old glory, because it is a national heritage site, and Jamaica doesn’t have many national architectural sites. People of Jamaica should have an architectural treasure, a design from the early 1900s. It’s for architecture students,” she continued.

“To put murals doesn’t mean going against what was there before. I think that there is nothing wrong, and it could be appropriate to decorate it to be current and relate to the theatre as we know it in Jamaica today. But it should be done within the framework of the architecture of the building,” Pat Stanigar told The Sunday Gleaner.

PREVIOUS RESTORATION WORK

Stanigar is an architect who has twice worked to restore the theatre. In the 1970s alongside Eric Coverley, Louise Bennett-Coverley and Henry Fowler, Stanigar revealed that his restorative work included decoratively painting the lobby’s ceiling.

“It was very colourful. I think it’s good to have an artistic person make their input. It wouldn’t be appropriate to paint the ceiling of the auditorium,” he continued. Instead, the seasoned architect suggested a painter may paint framed panels against the side walls of the auditorium.

“[The Ward] is declared a national monument under the Jamaica National Trust Act, so that anything done should be done with the approval of the Heritage Trust, and I trust them to make sure things are done properly,” the architect said. The response of the National Gallery to the contract is contiguous to Stanigar’s, reading: “At this time the National Gallery does not have any knowledge of the artist selected for this project. The Ward Theatre is listed as a historic building and a national treasure that belongs to the people of Jamaica. In order for such work to be done, approvals must be granted from the relevant authorities.”

Moder relayed the story of a church in Dresden (Frauenkirche), which had been bombed in World War II.

“Stones and artefacts were kept and today you can see that church as it was hundreds of years ago.”

As that church currently stands as a historical monument, a replica of centuries past which attracts visitors from around the world, Moder wishes the same treatment be offered to The Ward.

“We are aiming and endorsing the wish that Kingston shall become a cultural destination, because it’s also declared by UNESCO as a Creative City of Music,” the career musician continued.

Approximately five years ago, Music Unites Jamaica Foundation launched the Re-Ward Project.

“Part of our passion, our mission and our belief is to see The Ward being restored to its old glory.”

In 2013, the Re-Ward Project hosted a concert staged on the outside of the theatre. In 2014 and 2015, local arts festival, Kingston On The Edge, hosted concerts of their own.

“There was a big community project to clean the inside – kids and parents from Trench Town came and helped – and those who helped went free to the concert,” Moder recalled.

[email protected]

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/entertainment/20180401/re-ward-or-reprimand-contentious-responses-muralising-ward-theatre

Letters to the Editor – April 1, 2018

Letters to the Editor – April 1, 2018

DEAR EDITOR:

Seeing is believing!

Did you know around Warren’s Courthouse Square is a beautifully restored hotel, six restaurants, two bars and now a brewery? There are four parks, the library, the historical society museum, a bicycle shop, comic book store, spa, barber shop, clothing stores, coffee / donut shop, smoothie shop, an art gallery, art studios, jewelry stores, tattoo / art studio, historic Millionaires Row, the Amphitheater and soon a restored Robins Theatre!

Thirty-four people live on the square including lawyers, business owners, contractors, developers, a poet, artists, a chef and others. Downtown Warren is a state-recognized entertainment district and very safe. Don’t take my word for it; ask the police department located one block away.

Downtown Warren owes its resurgence to the investment of millions of private dollars and is reinforced by thousands of hours of work by a small, dedicated band of volunteers (who neither seek nor receive recognition) focused on improving and maintaining what some call “the front porch of your city (county too).” Some moved here, others moved back and some are lifelong residents. These volunteers are responsible for all the lights and Christmas decorations around courthouse square (purchase, installation, removal and storage). They are responsible for spring cleanups every year. They plant and hang flowers, prune trees, pick up garbage, decorate Dave Grohl Alley, act as ambassadors to downtown visitors, install bike racks and string lighting. They are working to restore the Courthouse Square fountain. The naysayers’ song is being drowned out by the chorus of doers.

But while Warren city government used taxpayer money to pay over $234,000 in legal bills for a company with which it had no contract to do so, they have not repaired the light posts on the square, stopped the flooding of basements in downtown businesses, repaired the wooden structures rotting off city hall, provided adequate trash receptacles or properly removed snow from the square.

For three years, several businesses have petitioned the city for a well-regulated open container law, already approved by the state, that would provide a great entertainment venue and an economic boost to the downtown. It would cost the city nothing to enact. They have done nothing.

So maybe you aren’t the do-nothing type and you would like to participate in this resurgence? There are several ways. You could take a walk downtown, spend a couple of bucks and inspect the huge progress made or volunteer for a clean-up day (more to come on this). Or simply tell your elected officials via email, phone, in person or with your vote what you think of their priorities.

Thanks to all who have invested and volunteered.

Warren is coming back. Are you in?

PAUL CLOUSER

Warren

Arm teachers, really?

DEAR EDITOR:

So Trump wants to arm teachers. Since the weapon of choice by these school shooters are assault weapons, then the teachers must be supplied with a weapon of equal caliber to confront the shooter.

Why stop there? Why not arm teachers with a grenade launcher? Sure there will be collateral damage of others being killed, but we don’t care about that. We have the collateral damage already of our kids being killed by allowing such weapons like the AR-15 to be in civilian hands.

Ban Assault weapons for civilian ownership. That is all that is needed now.

LEIF DAMSTOFT

Warren

Just say ‘No’ to arming teachers

DEAR EDITOR:

The school shooting tragedies in recent years have everyone trying to come up with workable solutions. All kinds of ideas are coming forward. The suggestion that I find most disturbing is the arming of classroom teachers with guns.

I believe such a move would be a mistake. I have been a classroom teacher for 47 years and I cannot believe that teachers with guns will make our classroom safer.

Do people really believe that the students will not know which teachers are armed? Give me a break. Will the armed teachers be wearing armored vests like the police and school resource officers wear? Shouldn’t these teachers have the same protections as the trained officers?

What if the school is on lockdown and an armed intruder is in the building? Would an armed teacher leave his or her first-graders in the room alone while he or she pursues the intruder? How are these scared little kids going to react to being left alone? I think we all know.

It makes more sense to have trained resource officers in each building. They should be on duty the entire school day. They should circulate through the building and show the students that they are there to protect them. Metal detectors are another possibility. There should be locked entrance doors and a speaker system to allow entry.

I realize that resource officers and metal detectors are a major expense. Partnering with local government and possibly seeking public and private grants could help financially.

The bottom line is we want as safe an environment as we can provide for our youth. Teachers are responsible for teaching, not acting like police officers.

I realize there are other issues such as mental health and gun possession to consider. They certainly need to be addressed. But as far as what happens inside our schools, I strongly encourage school officials to avoid having their teachers carry guns. It is not in the best interest or safety of our kids.

LARRY DUEBER

Warren

The real question: Why?

DEAR EDITOR:

If this country hopes to stop school shootings we need to get serious about determining why they happen, start asking the hard questions and intelligently respond to the terrible answers.

Does anyone really believe that Nikolas Cruz shot his former classmates in Parkland, Fla., solely because he possessed an AR15 rifle?

Those perpetuating this national furor over gun control would have you believe just that. Is there any criminal investigation taking place into the Parkland, Fla., shootings? If so, one of the prime questions to be answered would be Cruz’ motive for taking the lives of those seventeen people. What drove him to kill those particular seventeen people? Is Cruz simply a “bad person” who was motivated to kill because he bought an AR15 style rifle? If so, why not just walk out of the gun store and start killing? Has anyone asked him?

Truth be known, Cruz targeted that school for some reason. He may not have targeted those specific 17 people, but he wanted to hurt that school that hurt him to the core. He wanted revenge. Cruz didn’t just wake up one morning and decide, since he already had an AR15 rifle, “Hey, today is a great day to go shoot up the school.”

If we want to prevent this from happening again, we must determine why.

We get so wrapped up in the grief, anger and the gun that we learn nothing of the why. Columbine was a lifetime ago, and we still blame the means, not the why.

We all went to high school. Ask the students. They know why.

MICHAEL POPADAK

Bazetta

Don’t forget meaning of Easter Sunday

DEAR EDITOR:

Beautiful colors and fragrances of flowers fill the air. The sky is a vibrant blue. Birds are chirping a welcoming song as spring is ushered in. The trees are blossoming and awakening from a long winter’s nap. The grass is turning from a snow white color to a welcoming springtime green. The air smells so fresh and new.

Some people have been anticipating the holiest of holidays, Easter. Some rushed to stores to buy special apparel for today. They may not have been to church all year long, but for some reason they have to go on that day to display their wares. Easter dinners will be cooled and shared with those we love. Easter egg hunts will abound. Easter baskets will be given to our children and grandchildren.

I hope it is not forgotten that centuries ago, an innocent man who was taken by night was tried and convicted for a crime that he did not commit. Yet, he said not a mumbling word.

I hope it is not forgotten that centuries ago, there was an innocent man who was beaten all night long until his flesh was pulled away and some could even see almost every bone in his body. His body was scarred, and beaten so badly that he was unrecognizable. Yet, he said not a mumbling word.

I hope it is not forgotten that centuries ago there was a innocent man who carried an old rugged Cross upon his back through crowds of people who jeered at him, spat upon him, cursed him, threw stones at him, whipped him unceasingly and yet, he said, not a mumbling word.

I hope it is not forgotten centuries ago there was a man who had that old rugged Cross upon his back and carried it to Calvary. He was nailed to the Cross that he carried as he carries our sins to this day. He was taunted, he was whipped, he was tortured in ways unimaginable, for us. He bore all of the sins of the world, for us. Yet, he said only these words to his father, “Forgive them … for they know not what they do.”

He died for us to save us from our sins. And he was resurrected in three days and showed that there is life after death and triumph over sin and evil in this world.

I hope that Jesus Christ is not forgotten about on this Easter day. He gave the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life so that we may live.

JENNIFER Y. WILLIAMS

Warren

Minority rules

DEAR EDITOR:

Each day the ACLU and the bleeding-heart liberals find new ways to frustrate and irritate the majority of American people.

The worst case is their attempt to remove God from the American landscape. One example is making school prayer illegal.

If one child or his parent is offended by his classmates’ love of the Lord and their desire to pray, this one lone objector shuts down an entire school’s right to honor God. If that isn’t the majority rule and about as un-American as it gets, I do not understand the foundation upon which our Republic was formed.

From God to Chief Wahoo, minority rule is forging a new, dangerous path for America. Let us not forget Nazi Germany embraced minority rule too.

LARRY SHIVELY

Niles

Recognize those continuing the fight

DEAR EDITOR:

As we continue to face an opioid issue of epidemic proportion in our community and throughout Ohio, I want to acknowledge the good work that is being done by individuals on the front lines of this fight.

With the message “Bringing Help, Bringing Hope; Thank You,” communities across Ohio are holding a series of appreciation activities for front-line workers who are fighting the opioid epidemic and helping individuals to recover. Mental health and recovery boards are the designated “County Hub” charged with reducing opiate abuse throughout Ohio. We appreciate all individuals, families and professionals on the front lines of this fight in our community. We want to express our gratitude to the countless number of individuals who spend their days working tirelessly, in an often thankless role, to help save lives.

We are all impacted by addiction and this epidemic, and it’s going to take every part of our community to develop a solution to this problem. On behalf of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, we pledge to continue to bring hope to our community and build understanding that treatment works and people recover.

JOHN WILSON

President

Mental Health and Recovery Board

https://www.tribtoday.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/2018/04/letters-to-the-editor-april-1-2018/

Eliza R. Snow Evening of Honors rewards the Harris and Nelson Family

Eliza R. Snow Evening of Honors rewards the Harris and Nelson Family

REXBURG — The Eliza R. Snow Evening of Honors was held March 23 at Brigham Young University-Idaho to honor Robert and Kathleen Nelson and Roger and Gwyn Harris for their significant contributions to the community and BYU-Idaho in music, art and dance.

The event was put on by the Eliza R. Snow Society. This society helps students reach their potential in the areas of art, dance, music and theatre. Donations are used for scholarships, instruments and additional specialized equipment.

The two long-time married couples were awarded during the event held inside the Taylor Chapel that evening.

On receiving this honor, Gwyn Harris thanked Rick’s College/BYU-Idaho for sponsoring programs such as the Eliza R. Snow Society.

“One of the things that I am most grateful for is the arts and for the children in the home, that it has been a wonderful language of the spirit and it has been so much easier to teach the gospel through the arts with our family,” said Mrs. Harris. “It’s been a wonderful bond for them as we’ve participated and danced in the kitchen.”

Mr. and Mrs. Harris have contributed much to the community. Together, they received the Idaho Governor’s Award for the Arts for their community “Support the Arts.”

In addition to teaching theatre at BYU-Idaho, Mr. Harris worked for years on helping maintain and restore The Rexburg Tabernacle and the Romance Theatre. Mrs. Harris organized the Rexburg Tabernacle Orchestra along with getting the city to sponsor it.

An elegant dinner was served at the beginning of the evening. The night included a harp performance, a scene from “Man of La Mancha,” by the BYU-Idaho Theatre department, musical numbers performed by the Nelson and Harris families and much more.

Kathleen and Robert Nelson were also honored for their contributions to the community.

Mr. Nelson taught in the college theatre department and helped bring the new round turning stage table to Ricks College. Mrs. Nelson was a studio teacher for 45 years and helped direct plays with her husband.

“It is my position that theatre is family and in our house, family was theatre,” said honoree Kathleen Nelson.

Kathleen spoke on behalf of her husband. She talked about the close friendship her husband shared with Roger Harris.

“There is a great bond forever between our families, and especially Bob and Roger. They would do anything for each other,” Mrs. Nelson said.

Drawn out set designs created by Bob and Roger layered the tables at the event. Mrs. Nelson said that Roger designed almost every show that Robert directed.

Mr. Harris said that many emotions traveled to his mind during the evening. For 30 years, he was able to work with Mr. Nelson at Ricks College.

“Bob Nelson and I are attached at the hip,” said Mr. Harris. “We were the best of friends and for all of those 30 years, I don’t think we’ve ever had a cross word said to each other. He was a great man and still is and that’s one of the things I have to look forward to is seeing him again.”

https://www.rexburgstandardjournal.com/news/idaho/eliza-r-snow-evening-of-honors-rewards-the-harris-and/article_802ffc32-a617-5ebc-80d9-f71d8f7b1cf1.html

19:04Ex-Spy Case ‘Great Piece of Political Theatre’ to Distract From Brexit – Scholar

19:04Ex-Spy Case ‘Great Piece of Political Theatre’ to Distract From Brexit – Scholar

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the recent decision by nearly two dozen European to kick out Russian diplomats on Friday, expelling over 50 diplomats from 18 embassies in Moscow. Earlier, these countries, the US and Australia joined the UK in expelling over a hundred Russian diplomats over the Skripal affair.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Dr. Roberts said he was somewhat disappointed by Moscow’s tit-for-tat response, even if it was understandable. 

Sputnik: What do you think the likely reaction to the Russian reciprocal actions will be?

Geoffrey Roberts: I wouldn’t expect anything more to [occur] post this development. What generally happens when you have diplomats being expelled is that after a few weeks or months they are replaced by others. So on the quiet, the diplomatic corps in the different countries will be replenished. Because of the bad relations between the United States and Russia and Britain and Russia, that may not happen in the case of those two countries.

Sputnik: What do you make of the Russian response, particularly toward the UK, in giving the UK a month, rather than a week, to decide who goes? Is that a bit softer than the UK’s reaction?

Geoffrey Roberts: The UK specifically expelled 23 Russian diplomatic personnel. My understanding is that what is happening in Moscow is that the Russian Foreign Ministry has said that they want the British Embassy in Moscow reduced down to the same level as the Russian Embassy in London, which might actually mean that more British diplomats have to leave Moscow. So I wouldn’t interpret it as being a softer move in any way.

I was hopeful that Russia wouldn’t elect for tit-for-tat expulsions. I was hoping that they might moderate their position a bit, and maybe treat some of the countries a bit differently. But it appears that the Russian Foreign Ministry has decided to expel an equivalent number of foreign diplomats from Moscow.

© Sputnik/ Natalia Seliverstova
The Russian Foreign Ministry building.

Sputnik: You say that you hope that Russia wouldn’t take a mirrored response, but on the other hand, if Russia is denying that they had anything to do with the Skripal case, wouldn’t that almost be like admitting that they were involved?

Geoffrey Roberts: The Russian response is perfectly logical and perfectly reasonable. The only thing I’ll say is, so what happened was that the British government accused Russia of poisoning these two people in Salisbury. They made accusations before an investigation had been completed, before the evidence had been presented – a clear kind of rush to judgement.

They took this action in expelling Russian diplomats, and then they went to their Western allies and asked them for support. But if you look at it, the only British ally that’s really given equivalent support is the United States. But actually that action has got a lot more to do with Russiagate, and has very little to do with what’s happening in the British case.

So the response of Britain’s EU allies and other Western allies was actually not as much as one might have expected, if there were a true conviction that the Skripals were poisoned as part of a Russian state operation in Britain. In that context, maybe, the Russian Foreign Ministry might [have moderated] its response to these expulsions.

© REUTERS/ Peter Nicholls
A police officer stands guard outside of the home of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury, Britain

Sputnik: What is your take on why all of this action was taken prior to the completion of an investigation?

Geoffrey Roberts: This percipient British action has tainted the whole investigation; it has politicized what should have been a police investigation. So whatever comes out of this investigation, there is forever going to be the suspicion hanging over it that the conclusions are politically driven conclusions.

As to why this has happened, I think there are two main points here. Firstly, it’s a great piece of political theater. It’s a great piece of misdirection – a great distraction from the whole problem of Brexit. Theresa May and Boris Johnson are much more in their comfort zone of denouncing Putin and denouncing Russia than they are dealing with the thorny problems of the Brexit negotiations. It’s a politically driven distraction from the whole issue of Brexit.

The second point is that this action fits into this kind of ongoing narrative which is prevalent in Western countries that you have this malevolent international actor in the form of Russia and the Putin regime, which is breaking all the rules, is a transgressor, is aggressive, is expansionist. So it’s part of that story, and that’s the way it’s being presented – as the latest violation by Russia of international order.

The problem with that anti-Russian, anti-Putin narrative, in my point of view, is that it’s false in all its particulars. This latest case, the Skripal poisoning affair, is probably one of the most egregious episodes or expressions of this false anti-Russia, anti-Putin narrative.

The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Jeoffrey Roberts are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201803301063076908-geoffrey-roberts-take-on-skripal-case/

Immersive, interactive ‘Performance Park’ is unlike anything else in Austin theater

Immersive, interactive ‘Performance Park’ is unlike anything else in Austin theater

Bonnie Cullum, producing artistic director of the Vortex Theatre, calls the company’s newest endeavor, “Performance Park,” “a once-in- a-lifetime, extraordinary piece — unlike anything else we have ever made or experienced.”

As it turns out, this is not just hyperbole. “Performance Park” is a totally unique experience in Austin theater, a community event that bursts past the boundaries of the Vortex’s stage to dominate its entire complex and create a must-visit destination.

But what, exactly, is “Performance Park”?

The Queen of Cups (Jennifer Coy Jennings, left) and the Queen of Wands (Annie Kim Hedrick, right) guide two visitors to the Vortex’s “Performance Park.” Contributed by Errich Petersen

Ultimately, it’s many things. It’s the culmination of the Vortex’s “30 Years of Truth and Thunder,” celebrating the company’s 30th season. It’s an eight-week festival so that patrons of the Butterfly Bar and Patrizi’s food truck become more aware that there’s also a dynamic theater at the Vortex complex. And it’s an immersive combination of games, scavenger hunts, interactive theater and sing-alongs within a carnivalesque atmosphere that relates a timely narrative of matriarchal empowerment.

Listen to Cullum, who conceived and directed the entire piece, describe it: “A complex hybrid of interactive game, original musical, art installation, and magical divination, ‘Performance Park’s’ immersive scavenger hunt features the major arcana of the tarot. Like an amusement park, national park, or museum, we explore as much or as little as we wish. We choose our own adventure! As we work together to disrupt hierarchies of power and restore balance, we engage in a once-in-a-lifetime world.”

It is, indeed, easy to lose oneself in the world of “Performance Park.” Upon arrival, audience members — called “citizens,” to help differentiate those participating from people present for food or drinks but not part of the games — are greeted by the Fool, who sends them on a quest to seek wisdom. Each citizen chooses a tarot suit at random and is introduced to the queen of that suit, who will aid them on their quest throughout the evening.

However, before getting their tarot suit, all citizens must don a suit of another kind — a mask and costume. This tiny gesture goes a long way toward creating a sense of immersive involvement. Immediately, participants feel like they are in a different world from the people around them who are not costumed, and through this mask they are given a bit of protection from their vulnerabilities.

Trey Deason portrays the Devil in the Chariot’s Lounge at the Vortex’s “Performance Park.” Contributed by Errich Petersen

Indeed, “Performance Park” demands a lot of vulnerability from its audience. Participation is required, and if the thought of that terrifies you, then you may want to come for a bite to eat and simply observe as an outsider rather than a citizen. But if you want to lose yourself in a magical carnival, made up of exploration and a personal philosophical journey couched in metaphorical games and quests, then it is truly something to experience.

Be prepared, though, to surrender to the fact that you won’t be able to experience everything. At least not in one visit. “Because so many things are happening at once, it may take more than one time to experience all 28 characters and solve the game,” Cullum says. It is certainly possible, though, to enjoy the overarching story in just one visit, a story that features a power-mad emperor growing increasingly erratic and demanding loyalty from every citizen he encounters.

“As we wrote and shaped ‘Performance Park’ last year,” Cullum says, “we watched the unraveling of protections for the wild, the erosion of human rights, the acceptance of racist and exclusionary values, and so much more in the alarmingly rapid decay of our democracy. The Emperor’s inappropriate use of power was directly shaped by the ‘lock her up’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ horrors that we were experiencing on a daily basis. ‘Performance Park’ rose up as a call for justice and balance. It raises the voices of resistance as a troubled American regime fundamentally challenges feminist, racial, environmental and artistic identities and principles.”

There is another, quieter story to “Performance Park,” though, and that’s embodied in each citizen’s individual quest for wisdom and love. This is the game aspect of the piece, featuring 28 performers at various locations across the grounds, each of whom works to create an individual experience for every citizen.

Clearly, such an endeavor took an immense amount of effort and planning. Cullum describes this lengthy process, crediting her collaborators along the way:

“Last summer, with my notes and ideas, I teamed up with Sarah Saltwick, Lorella Loftus and Teresa Cruz to hammer out the mythology of ‘Performance Park’ and write scenes, monologues and lyrics that created the initial foundation of the script. Lorella and Sarah wrote most of the non-improvised text spoken in the show. Over several months, I compiled and tweaked the material into an initial outline for all of the areas and a rough timeline of how it would unfold. I had to create a way that time and space intersect in the story as it unfolds all around the park and plan how the games would be woven into it.

“In November and December, we had workshops to explore the material and finalize the casting. We began rehearsals in January and developed the scenes and material for each area of the park in small groups. Toni Bravo added the movement vocabulary. Chad Salvata, David DeMaris and Sergio R. Samayoa created original music. Tyler Mabry wrote songs with lyrics. We devised additional material. We had a few full ensemble rehearsals, but honestly, lack of rehearsal space for such a large group was challenging. As it came together in March, we finally worked as a full ensemble around the whole compound.”

Melissa Vogt portrays Baba Yaga, and Tiffany Nicely-Williams is the Empress in the Vortex’s “Performance Park.” Contributed by Errich Petersen

A large part of this was enabled by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, allowing Cullum and her collaborators to fully create and explore the vision that initially came to her, quite literally, in a dream.

This dreamlike atmosphere has remained a part of “Performance Park” through to the final product. Each citizen’s quest features moments of collaborative fun and frenzy alongside moments of quiet contemplation and serious philosophical questioning. Within this giant puzzle of a game, framed inside the larger narrative of the arcana, are instances of emotional connection that can move one to tears of sorrow or laughter.

“Performance Park” is large; it contains multitudes.

Though certainly unique to Austin, the production is not entirely sui generis. Much of its concept seems inspired by “Sleep No More,” the site-specific work of immersive theater that’s been running in New York for over half a decade now, and there’s more than a little bit of LARP-ing (live action roleplaying) to the experience, as well.

Nor is “Performance Park” flawless. Early performances have, as one might expect, encountered a few technical snags, including long wait times for specific experiences as well as confusion over some elements of the game. And to experience the entire story, both the macro-narrative and the personalized micro-journey, takes the entire evening, which can run quite late into the night.

All of these are small complaints amidst a splendor of play, in multiple senses of that word.

“Performance Park” is a piece of magic — the metaphorical magic of the tarot deck, the philosophical magic of self-discovery, and, most importantly, the very real magic of the stage brought out beyond the confines of a theater’s four walls.

Future events in Austin theater will be be measured against the magic of this moment.

“PERFORMANCE PARK”
When: Various times Thursday-Sunday through May 12
Where: 2307 Manor Road
Cost: $15-$35
Information: 512-478-5282, vortexrep.org

https://www.austin360.com/entertainment/arts–theater/immersive-interactive-performance-park-unlike-anything-else-austin-theater/IbPBf6D7AaRxzorv6llhkO/

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