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BWW Interview: Megan J. Minturn of MJM DANCE in a Sneak Preview

MJM Dance, under the artistic direction of Megan J. Minturn, is a New York City based company that fuses movement with intention and creativity as a means to express, speak, and reveal. On April 13 and 14, 2017, the company will have its world premiere (and first evening length work) of their latest dance entitled Monopoly: The Landlord's Game at the Mark Morris Dance Center located at 3 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. Based on the ever popular classic board game Monopoly and its little known founder, Lizzie Magie, this piece seeks to consider the injustices of for-profit prisons, poorly paid work, and inadequate housing caused by our current "game board rules."

I had the lovely opportunity to speak with Ms. Minturn about her upcoming performance.

1. What inspired you to create this piece?

I read an article in the New York Times on a book review about Monopoly's little known history and its unrecognized creator. I was shocked to learn that the celebrated designer (Charles Darrow) was not in fact the creator! As a choreographer, I feel that dance possesses the power to reveal and unearth truths in important ways; dance is also my chosen language as a mover and choreographer. My work often considers the contributions of women, whether that be in the dance Shirtwaist Six, which considers the Shirtwaist Factory Fire, or the writings of Hannah Arendt in my piece iNocuous. This story peaked my interest and inspired me to consider both the story of Lizzie Magie, as a feminist trailblazer, as well as the ills caused by our current monopoly rules.

2. What about Lizzie Magie and/or the game resonated with you?

Lizzie Magie's sense of resilience, humor and intelligence resonated with my desire to recognize the contributions of women throughout history. She created patents, self-published her games and work, and was an artist. As a female dancer and choreographer I work to create possibilities and opportunities while also considering the difficulties my family, friends, community and country face. This was hugely inspirational.

3. How do you feel the game of Monopoly and your dance relate to society today?

In the past two decades we have seen an unprecedented concentration of wealth. I'm reminded of Gandhi's words that "poverty is the worst form of violence." There is real poverty, and therefore real violence being inflicted as a result of our economic policies and practices. This occurred prior to our government's current administration and now laws are being enacted to exacerbate that.

One section of this performance also considers for-profit prisons. After the election of the new president, stock in for-profit prisons rose. Imprisoning people is a way to take money from the state and pass it to private corporations. Additionally, in considering Lizzie Magie's work and how for years the game of Monopoly lists a man as the creator rather than her, as a company we spoke of how this continues today.

4. What do you hope people will take away with them when they leave the performance?

When people leave, I hope they have a renewed sense of purpose in working to change the rules of our current game. I hope they are energized by the resilience of Lizzie Magie and feel encouraged to join the work for economic justice.

5. What was your creative process like, especially since this is your first evening length piece?

I started this piece by doing a lot of reading and researching. I wanted to learn more about the history of the game and about Lizzie's life. I also read the newspaper daily, through the lens of Monopoly. Then, a year ago in partnership with the dancers, as investigators and choreographers of MJM Dance, we started to improvise about Lizzie Magie's writings and experience. As a company we played Monopoly with dice, but with dancers as the playing pieces.

Collaboration has been an essential part of realizing this piece, from the skilled and generous production managers at Mark Morris Dance Center; to my choreographic mentors Joya Powell, Catherine Gallant, and Maira Duarte providing feedback; our composer, Evan Joseph, creating original music that will be performed live; Ann McCormack and the Groovin' performers providing voiceovers in the music; Jeff Schultz capturing beautiful moments in photography; Dara Ross as the puppet designer; Jennifer Linn Wilcox for designing the beautiful lights; to the rehearsals where dancers Kelli Chapman, Leah Antonellis, Chie Kurokawa, and Beverly Lopez helping devise the piece.

Throughout this process, I have been filled with a deep sense of gratitude to be able to work with so many talented artists.

Monopoly: The Landlord's Game will premiere at the Mark Morris Dance Center on Thursday and Friday, April 13-14, 2017 at 7:30pm. For tickets and more information, please visit www.meganminturn.com.

Photo Credit: Jeff Schultz



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