Peak Performances Announces 2018-2019 Season
Peak Performances, having just concluded a groundbreaking, highly acclaimed season of works by women, announces its 2018-2019 season, providing renegade artists from around the globe with abundant resources and the state-of-the-art platform that is Montclair State University's Alexander Kasser Theater, to obliterate conventions of both the stage and society. Just as often as they transcend the boundaries between artistic forms, many of these artists seek to thematically break down the borders that foment violent national identities and form the blueprints of oppression. The programming this season embraces the versatility of performance through a convergence of forms-including dance, circus, theatre, and music-displaying the stage's vast potential for searing social commentary.The organization has named choreographer and director Faye Driscoll as the 2018-2019 recipient of its vital PeARL (Performing Arts Research Laboratory) residency, and in the 2018-2019 season, she will present three unclassifiable works that propose politically transformative ideas by playfully reimagining the formalities of performance. All performances take place at Alexander Kasser Theater (1 Normal Ave, Montclair, NJ 07043).
"This season's artists passionately resist convention," says Peak Performances Executive Director Jedediah Wheeler. "We're spotlighting artists who are all renegades refusing boundaries and rules in the creation of something entirely new. Faye Driscoll is a game changer and the perfect artist for Peak Performances and the PeARL residency. Driscoll creates work that challenges one's esthetic equilibrium. Each painstakingly crafted piece is an elevated experience that disorients the senses, and leads one to smile broadly with a freshness that tantalizes the imagination."
In more than twelve weeks on campus over the course of the 2018-2019 season, Driscoll will receive funding, space, and the expertise of a first-rate production staff, while she engages with Montclair State students and faculty through embedded opportunities such as discussions, lectures, workshops, and open rehearsals. For the first time, she will stage Thank You for Coming: Attendance (2014) and Thank You for Coming: Play (2016) together, October 4-7, 2018, including performances, on October 6 and 7, of the two works in a combined program. These humorous, exuberant performances turn the constructed relationship between the audience and performer into its own fluid medium, bringing them together in the co-creation of a new reality. In addition to providing performance fees and critical production support, Peak Performances has commissioned Driscoll to create the third installment in the series, Thank You for Coming: Space, which will make its world premiere at the Alexander Kasser Theater April 11-14.
The season's dance programming includes another performance belonging to an accomplished trilogy of works: Liz Gerring Dance Company's field (October 18-21), commissioned by Peak Performances. This work of movement, sound, and light marks the third collaboration between choreographer Liz Gerring, composer Michael J. Schumacher, and designer Robert Wierzel made for the Alexander Kasser Theater-following 2013's glacier and 2015's horizon. Here, Gerring, whose work the New York Times describes as "warmly modernist: scientific but also passionately and infectiously in love with movement," leads dancers to test the limits of their bodies within a bold audio installation by Schumacher that dots the theater with sound-generating objects, interwoven with textured lighting from Wierzel.Choreographer and performance artist Ann Carlson, whose works are "considered, detailed, and grand in their seeming simplicity" (The New York Times),and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company offer their collaboration, Elizabeth, the dance, March 28-31, 2019. This performance, which premiered at the dance company's home in Salt Lake City (where Carlson once studied under the company's co-founders), sees personal and public histories through the lens of embodiment, desire, and delight.
Marrugeku, the company comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians dedicated to "working together to develop new dance languages that are restless, transformative and unwavering," comes to Peak Performances with Cut the Sky, November 15-18. This "expressive and visceral...lament in poem, song, dance, and drama" (The Guardian) envisions a world transformed by climate change, and centers around the people further marginalized by its impact. Acclaimed circus artist Raphaëlle Boitel returns to Peak Performances with When Angels Fall, whichlikewise depicts a natural world ravaged by humankind's perpetuation of environmental harm, February 9-17, 2019. Described by Boitel as a "dystopia at the crossroads of circus, dance, theater and cinema," When Angels Fall pushes the boundaries of her circus training, layering film and original music into the presentation of breathtaking acrobatics in a genre-defying conception of a mechanized future stripped of nature. Gandini Juggling, a company at the vanguard of contemporary circus, performs their Pina Bausch-inspired Smashed, "a show in which the tensions between mind and body, concentration and distraction, surface blandness and hidden emotion, mathematical patterns and chaos often threaten to explode, and do in a finale...as terrifyingly vicious as it is funny" (The Guardian), December 13-16.
The provocative, maverick Italian theatre director Romeo Castellucci returns to Peak Performances with his production Democracy in America (May 9-12, 2019), thematically based on the famed text by Alexis de Toqueville. Employing the "sophisticated visuals, often deafening soundscapes, and daring directorial coups" (The New York Times) for which he has been hailed, Castellucci excavates the themes of the 1835 text on the successes and dangers (like tyranny of the majority) of American representative democracy. He places Toqueville's ideas within the narrative context of tragedy-nodding to the Greek form that arose alongside the first recorded democracy. Returning to the religious roots of American democracy and centering his work around two puritan farmers, Castellucci's latest examines the ambiguous relationship between common interest and individual ambition, and the co-option and subjugation of whole groups in the perceived service of another's God.
This season's music programming likewise probes notions of nationhood, and the injustices that often accompany its creation and rigidly drawn borders. Hatuey: Memory of Fire, an Afro-Cuban-Klezmer opera with music by Klezmatics trumpeter Frank London and libretto by Elise Thoron, directed by Mary Birnbaum, arrives at Peak Performances in a production from Music-Theater Group (September 14-23), following a Spanish-language version of the work in Cuba by Opera de la Calle. Based on an 87-year-old epic Yiddish poem by Oscar Pinis-a Ukranian Jew who fled to Cuba-Hatuey's narrativemoves between the world in which Oscar lives (amidst a group of revolutionaries in Havana in 1931) and 1511 (the setting of his poem-when Taíno chief Hatuey came to Eastern Cuba from Hispaniola to warn Cuban natives of impending Spanish invasion, and fight upon colonists' arrival). On September 29, the celebrated chamber choir The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally, performs The National Anthems, in which composer Caroline Shaw's 2016 study on displacement and immigration and Ted Hearne's exploration of the language of sexual violence is balanced with composer David Lang's meditation on the nature of national anthems. Lang notes, after having brought together nearly 100 translations of national anthems for his piece, "within almost every anthem is a bloody, war-like, tragic core, in which we cover up our deep feats of losing our freedoms with waves of aggression and bravado." Like much of the work this season, Lang's composition offers a timely exposition of the violence of national fervor.
Tickets for all performances are affordably priced at $30 and will be available as of July 1, 2018, at www.peakperfs.org and 973.655.5112. The Alexander Kasser Theater is located at 1 Normal Ave in Montclair, New Jersey.