PS 122 Presents Emily Johnson and Catalyst's THEN A CUNNING VOICE AND A NIGHT WE SPEND GAZING AT STARS
Performance Space 122 presents the world premiere of Emily Johnson/Catalyst's large-scale performance gathering Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars. The work weaves together stories and performance with the exchange of ideas, the sharing of food, and the endurance of spending a night together outside under the stars and sky. Taking place at Randall's Island Park, beginning at dusk and continuing until after sunrise, Then a Cunning Voice... invites audience members into a multilayered, participatory work that focuses attention on the space we share and on envisioning the future.
Emily Johnson creates multidisciplinary projects that involve large groups of people and communities in the process from beginning to end. Johnson has developed a long relationship with Performance Space 122, most recently with Niicugni (2013) and Umyuangvigkaq (2017), a durational community conversation engaging questions at the core of Then a Cunning Voice... In this work, Johnson asks: "What do you want for your well-being? For the well-being of your chosen friends and family? For your neighborhood? For your town, city, reserve, tribal nation, world?"
Throughout the night the audience will be guided through a series of richly crafted events-part ritual, part lyrical adventure-created by Johnson in collaboration with performers Tania Isaac and 12-year-old Georgia Lucas, who also performed in Johnson's work SHORE. The performance will begin with an opening ceremony and a group walk that arrives at the shores of the East River and unfolds on 4,000 square feet of quilts. Designed by textile artist Maggie Thompson, each quilt has been hand-made by volunteers at community sewing bees around the U.S. and in Taiwan and Australia over the last three years. The quilts serve as audience seating, performance area, resting area, and "home" for the duration. Inscribed with answers to the questions above, the quilts hold the visions and intentions of hundreds. Then a Cunning Voice... is directed by Obie Award-winning writer/director Ain Gordon. Lighting design is by Lenore Doxsee.
A multiyear, multicity project, Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars is an experiment in public engagement and futurity. It includes in equal measure: making quilts, performance, storytelling, dance, song, and community discussion. It serves as a much-needed space for connection between people near and far, between youth and elders, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and between urban and rural experiences, with an emphasis on engaged citizenship.
Tickets for Then a Cunning Voice... are $50 (includes supper, breakfast, and snacks) and are available online at www.ps122.org/then-a-cunning-voice. Advance ticket sales only. Ticket buyers will receive information about the performance gathering, including a map, protocols, and other logistics, in advance of the event. Duration: 10-12 hours.
In 2018-19, Then a Cunning Voice.... will be presented in Chicago, San Francisco, and Melbourne, Australia.
About the Creative Team
Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work. Originally from Alaska, she is of Yup'ik decent and spent several years in Minneapolis before moving to New York City in 2015. Since 1998 she has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment-interacting with a place's architecture, history, and role in community. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, Johnson is the recipient of a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) and a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award. Her work is supported by Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, Creative Capital, Map Fund, a Joyce Award, the McKnight Foundation, and The Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts. Johnson was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota 2013-2014 and an inaugural 2014 Fellow at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency. Johnson's written work has been published and commissioned by Dance Research Journal (University of Cambridge Press); SFMOMA; Transmotion Journal, University of Kent; Movement Research Journal; Pew Center for Arts and Heritage; and the recently published compilation, Imagined Theaters (Routledge), by Daniel Sack. With her collaborators she recently completed a trilogy of works: The Thank-you Bar, (2009), Niicugni (2012), and SHORE (2014). www.catalystdance.com.
An electric and commanding performer, Tania Isaac has been a member of David Dorfman Dance, Rennie Harris Puremovement, and Urban Bush Women. Isaac's own work fuses choreography with personal documentary and social commentary and grapples with identity, postcolonial issues, feminism, and juxtapositions of cultural influences, resulting in dances that are elegant and dramatic, yet highly accessible. Her publications exploring the spectrum of contemporary dance range from essays/commentary on functional mechanics to comparative literary esthetics in performance. Her current work is an exploration of creative method she calls the "Open Notebook"-a way of turning a room into a laboratory of investigation and participation in multiple forms. Isaac is an assistant teaching professor at Drexel University, a 2011 Pew Fellow, and a 2012 MacDowell Fellow.
Georgia Lucas was born in Monterey, CA, in 2005. She has lived all over the country and currently lives in Newark, NJ. She performed with Emily Johnson in SHORE at New York Live Arts in April 2015. As part of SHORE, she also did poetry readings at Two Bridges Neighborhood Council on the Lower East Side in New York City. In addition to playing piano and dancing, her interests are computer animation, drawing, science, astronomy, and Star Wars. She is excited to be a part of Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars.
Maggie Thompson (Fond Du Lac Ojibwe), received her BFA in textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2013. She is a working textile artist and designer based in Minneapolis and is an emerging curator of contemporary Native art at the Two Rivers Gallery in Minneapolis. As a textile designer she works with an intuitive hand to bridge multiple cultures gathered from her own life experiences. Deriving inspiration from the history of her Ojibwe heritage she explores family history as well as themes and subject matter of the broader Native American experience. She utilizes a variety of weaving and knitting techniques, printed fabrics, and assemblage works as a way to contain memory, and reflect and convey difficult subject matter regarding identity. In college she used the opportunity to dig deeper into the notions of her identity by focusing on issues of cultural appropriation and Native authenticity through the rigid ideas of blood quantum and stereotyping. In doing so she is able to rebuild her textured past and explore the history of her people through making.
Ain Gordon is a three-time Obie Award-winning writer/director/actor, a two-time NYFA recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting. Gordon's work has been seen in New York City at BAM Next Wave Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, Soho Rep., The Public Theater, 651 ARTS, Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, Performance Space 122, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and HERE Arts Center; and at the Mark Taper Forum (CA), the George Street Playhouse (NJ), Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT), Krannert Center (IL), Painted Bride Arts Center (PA), MASS MoCA, the Baltimore Museum of Art (MD), DiverseWorks (TX), Jacob's Pillow (MA), among other venues. Gordon's 2003 work Art Life & Show-Biz; A Non-Fiction Play" is published in Palgrave Macmillan's Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage. Gordon also wrote for NBC's Will & Grace. His work has received supported from the NEA, NYSCA, AT&T, MAP Fund, A.R.T./NY, Mellon Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Greenwall Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art, and NPN, among many others. Gordon is a former "Embedded Artist" at the Historic Society of Pennsylvania, former core writer of the Playwright's Center (MN), was the inaugural visiting artist at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (PA), and a 2014 Artist-In-Residence at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He is cofounder of the Urban Memory Project and has been codirector of the Pick Up Performance Co. since 1992.
Lenore Doxsee (1965-2017) was a lighting designer for theater, opera, and dance. She was the Resident Lighting Designer and Associate Artistic Director for Target Margin Theater. She designed in many New York Theaters including New York City Opera, La MaMa, HERE Arts Center, New York Live Arts, and The Kitchen. Regionally and abroad, she designed for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Glimmerglass Opera, La Jolla Playhouse, Centre Pompidou, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Spoleto Festival USA, and many others. She created the lighting and visual design for John Jasperse's Remains and Within Between, lighting for Miguel Gutierrez' Age & Beauty Parts 1, 2 & 3, and set and lighting for Target Margin's Drunken With What. Doxsee received two Bessie Awards for her designs for dances by Gutierrez. She taught design at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama.
About Performance Space 122
Performance Space 122 (PS122) provides incomparable experiences for audiences by presenting and commissioning artists whose work challenges boundaries of live performance. PS122 is dedicated to supporting the creative risks taken by artists from diverse genres, cultures, and perspectives. PS 122 is an innovative local, national, and international leader in contemporary performance.
For over three decades, Performance Space 122 has been a center for contemporary performance and an active member of New York City's cultural community. Under the curatorial vision of its newly appointed Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka, PS122's programs re-establish the value of live performance, providing singular experiences for audiences that inspire critical thinking, and sustain the creative process for artists throughout their career.
About the Randall's Island Park Alliance
The Randall's Island Park Alliance (RIPA), founded in 1992, is a public-private partnership with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. Celebrating 25 years as the dedicated steward of Randall's Island Park, the Alliance working with the City and local communities to sustain, maintain, develop, and program the Park to support the well-being of all New Yorkers. The Park offers miles of waterfront pathways, 20 acres of natural areas and wetlands, an urban farm, a track and field stadium, a golf center, a 20-court tennis center and dozens of new playing fields, as well as the Harlem River Event Site.
Emily Johnson/Catalyst's Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars is supported by a National Dance Project Touring Award from the New England Foundation for the Arts, MAP Fund, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The world premiere is presented by Performance Space 122 with support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Legislature.
Development support for Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars was made possible through residencies at Push Festival (Vancouver, BC), Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (Tallahassee, FL), and a Forecast Public Art/RARE Residency (Richfield, MN). Development support for activities at Williams College are supported by the Mellon Foundation.
For more information about Performance Space 122, visit www.ps122.org.
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