San Francisco's Flyaway Productions Announces the New York Premiere of THE WAIT ROOM
San Francisco's Flyaway Productions is announcing the New York premiere of THE WAIT ROOM, a site-specific dance honoring women with incarcerated loved ones.
Choreography is by Jo Kreiter, recipient of a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Four performances, September 20-22, in an outdoor site next to Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. (Transportation will be provided from and returning to Manhattan for critics).
Engaging the ideas of waiting and weighting, The Wait Room blends oral history, dance, music and public art in an exploration of the physical, psychic and emotional burdens of prison for women with incarcerated loved ones.
Flyaway Productions has commissioned longtime company collaborators, set designer Sean Riley and composer Pamela Z, to participate in the creation of the work. Riley has designed and constructed a mobile set which will travel with the company from the Bay Area to an outdoor site next to Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
The Sing Sing Prison Museum, in partnership with Bethany Arts Center, is presenting this East Coast premiere. Composer Pamela Z has translated the oral histories of several women with families fractured by incarceration into a score informing the choreography of Flyaway Artistic Director Jo Kreiter. Additional collaborators include lighting designer Jack Beuttler and costume designer Jamielyn Duggan. The project was derived in partnership with Oakland-based Essie Justice Group, an organization of women taking on the injustices of mass incarceration.
"One in four women and nearly one in two black women in the U.S. has at one point had a family member in prison," said Kreiter. "I am one of these women." Continued Kreiter:
"The Wait Room is the most personal work I've undertaken since founding Flyaway Productions in 1996. The piece is designed to invoke the balancing act women must pull off as wives and mothers and daughters. The set engages instability as a metaphor for women's lives under secondary incarceration. With the aid of Essie Justice Group, The Wait Room will frame the conversation around women not just as passive victims of incarceration by proximity, but as women whose collusion is called upon by the very system that is destabilizing their lives.
"I have a partner who was incarcerated, and I have lived the last eight years wedged between the fracture of incarceration and the hopefulness of dance making. It is not an exaggeration to say that as I have endured the financial and emotional weight of bail, pre-trial, electronic monitoring, sentencing, penitentiary placement across the country, tangles with child protective services and now the peculiar limitations of re-entry and probation, dance has saved my life. It has kept my body aloft when the prison industrial complex has done everything it knows to drag me down.
"I have gained vastly new dimensions of lived knowledge and empathy for the other America - the one that goes unspoken in polite middle class, white culture, the one that tilts its whole being toward waiting in parking lots outside cold buildings and razor wire frames built up in the middle of nowhere. I want to use my artistic prowess to intervene against this American incarceration system. Its usefulness is null. Its continuity is racist, counterproductive to national health and blatantly cruel."
The first choreographer to be named a Rauschenberg Foundation Artist-as-Activist Fellow, Kreiter has received significant funding to develop The Wait Room and take it on the road. Before its presentation next to Sing Sing Correctional Facility in September, The Wait Room premiered in April in San Francisco and was repeated in Richmond, California, May 17 and 18, in partnership with the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. The event took place inside the "Iron Triangle," in an empty lot across from the Center. The Rauschenberg Foundation will also support the creation of a dance film by award-winning filmmaker Austin Forbord to be distributed via Essie Justice Group and its national partners.
Kreiter is planning to develop two additional large-scale public art performances addressing the devastating effects of mass incarceration. Meet Us Quickly with Your Mercy, a residency project with MoAD, Bend the Arc and Prison Renaissance, is slated to premiere in 2020. The following year, Flyaway Productions will mount a new dance inspired by restorative justice. These three works, beginning with The Wait Room, are titled The Decarceration Trilogy: Dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex One Dance at a Time.
Flyaway Productions specializes in the art of placemaking. Founded in 1996 by Jo Kreiter, Flyaway Productions is an apparatus-based dance company that explores the range and power of female physicality and advances social issues in the public realm. The company uses the artistry of spinning, flying and suspension to engage political issues. Flyaway creates dances on both architectural and fabricated steel objects, with dancers suspended anywhere from two to 100 feet off the ground. Flyaway has a long history of transforming oral history into public art, articulating the experiences of unseen women. Flyaway has developed nationally recognized expertise in creating site-specific performance including: Mission Wall Dances, The Live Billboard Project, The Ballad of Polly Ann, Niagara Falling, Multiple Mary and Invisible Jane, Needles to Thread, Grace and Delia are Gone, and Tender (n.): A Person Who Takes Charge. Flyaway's site-specific works are free to the public, engaging a wide audience that otherwise might never attend a professional dance performance. Through its GIRLFLY program, Flyaway provides artist-as-activist training for low-income girls that stimulates awareness of the physical body and of the social framework that undervalues women and girls.
The Sing Sing Prison Museum will be the extraordinary location where the complex and compelling stories of incarceration are shared on the grounds of America's most historic active prison, Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Through its exhibitions, collections and programs, Sing Sing Prison Museum will provide a forum for the examination of historic and contemporary issues in the criminal justice system, and their social, political and cultural impact. A site of self-reflection and learning, the Museum will challenge all of us to imagine a more equitable criminal justice system and to take action toward building a more just society. Sing Sing Prison Museum is slated to open in 2025.
Essie Justice Group is an Oakland, California-based organization of women with incarcerated loved ones taking on the rampant injustices created by mass incarceration. Their award-winning "Healing to Advocacy Model" brings women together to heal, build collective power and drive social change. The organization is building a membership of fierce advocates for race and gender justice - including Black and Latinx women, formerly and currently incarcerated women, transwomen and gender non- conforming people. Through Essie, they are empowered, and they lead, taking on campaigns, supporting their peers, participating in actions and partnering with a national community of activists and advocates to build a more compassionate and just society.
Photo Credit: RJ Muna