Attack Theatre’s twenty-third seasons opens with Some Assembly Required, an engaging hybrid composed of dance, music, and visual art. Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza engaged the audience to embrace the creative process, think outside the box, and explore individual choices that lead to the development and premiere of a new work of art.
Normally a review would be giving you a short synopsis of the story. In this case, the synopsis is largely irrelevant. The ultimate performance we saw on opening night will never be repeated. Some Assembly Required gets much of its narrative from the venue, the art within and you the audience. Different locations, different visual stimulation and a different audience input will yield a unique piece of art different from every other performance past and future.
For this creation, about fifty of us have gathered at Contemporary Craft gallery in the Strip District. (Other gatherings will be here and at UnSmoke Systems Artspace in Braddock.) We sit on benches, a few random chairs, the floor or stand in a circular configuration as de la Reza and Kope lay out our collective assignments. The directors, two musicians, and four dancers have created a skeleton, a framework, for the dance composition that we are encouraged to collectively work on developing. After watching and listening to the core framework, we move across the gallery to examine and dissect a piece of artwork. This one is a sculpture of a woman’s head. Just above the nose, the sculpture transitions to what might be a cityscape. We are asked our impression of the sculpture; what is it, what does it mean? What could it represent? Kope takes copious notes as del la Reza leads the discussion. After a few minutes, we are asked to return to the open space where we first saw the dancers. Now the creative juices begin to flow. Kope’s notes from our thoughts about the sculpture encourage the four dancers and two musicians to spontaneously improvise a dance segment around our impressions that ultimately will be fit into the skeleton or base dance sequences. This is the fascinating part as steps, moves, and sounds are created by the performers on the fly. We, the audience, are given a unique opportunity to peer into creative minds at work. As the ideas are processed into segments, the transitions to make them fit seamlessly as they are worked through by the ensemble.
We will repeat this process again, in a different part of the gallery, this time by evaluating and discussing a large painting that calls to mind a neighborhood in disarray, perhaps after an encounter with an earthquake or hurricane. After we analyze and dissect the painting, the dancers and musicians under Kope’s guidance begin to improvise and create music and dance that conveys our thoughts about the visuals we see in the painting. This segment is more musically focused, as the percussionist and cellist get a chance to interpret the new ideas with their gifts of sound.
We again return to our original space and watch as these additions are made to the skeleton, flushing out the overall piece, fine-tuning the transitions, smoothing out the rough edges. Finally, we settle in for a performance of the finished piece; from beginning to end. Clearly, there is improvisation going on. There are pieces of the skeleton still there but the work has been transformed into something almost completely different.
This last segment is the most compelling. We have gotten to know a bit about the talents, and the creative gifts that the ensemble has brought to the gathering. The final performance is as much about watching them dance and play music, interacting and emoting. We are blessed to be able to observe their talented minds work as they pull the piece together in real time. They seemed to enjoy sharing the finished work as much as we enjoyed the journey.
Before you go, I urge you to visit Some Assembly Required at https://www.attacktheatre.com/attend/date-range-2/some-assembly-required-2017 Be sure to scroll down to the performer’s bios. Note both the breadth and depth of creative tools each brings to the process as well as their previous work together. They, Kope and de la Reza truly work as a collaborative ensemble, each adding character, and perspective to the original skeleton. The final work is a sum of the talents and inspiration of each gifted ensemble member. Dancers Kaitlin Dann, Sonja Gable, Dane Toney, and Anthony Williams along with Percussionist Ian Green and Cellist Simon Cummings convey the joy of creative expression.
Some Assembly Required is a unique opportunity to explore the creative process and learn how individual artists contribute to the creation of a work of art. An added plus, the audience contributes to the process.
Performances of Attack Theatre’s production of Some Assembly Required can be seen at Contemporary Craft in the Strip District on Friday, September 22nd at 7:00 pm and at UnSmoke Systems Artspace in Braddock on Saturday the 23rd at 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
All performances are “pay what moves you,” which means audiences pay as much or whatever they can to see and support the show.