Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Breaking Free: Trisha Denton's Orkestrika's Box

Orkestrika in her music box.

This Sunday I attended one of the six performances of Orkestriska’s Box at the Black Box Theatre in Burlington. Trisha’s Denton creation lasts just one hour: her silent actors move to an original score by local musician Randal Pierce, while the music box dancer Orketriska looks on from a human-scale music box, a box which protects her from aging and from the elements, a box in which she performs the same routine day after day. The story is mythical in its simple charm and while the story drives the plot of this short tale, the magic of the work arrives from such details as the stop-motion animation depicting the dancer’s nightly dreams, the exquisite lighting, playful costumes, the soft and steady voice of Denton narrating Orketriska’s daily routine… wake, oil and perfume, house cleaning, stretching, scales….and then, tired, she sits to watch out her window.

The pitch-perfect acting of each scene offered a cabaret-like playfulness: the experience of listening to the music and watching the silent acting engages—I think—a different part of the mind and body. When we stop relying on the language of dialogue or narration, of the voice, we listen from a different place; perhaps a more magical, through the looking glass, sort of place, a place where one becomes engaged as more than witness or watcher (the eye of the gaze).
 
the actors of the world with Ork watching from her box
 

This is perhaps what I found most interesting post performance (because I was fully engaged for that one enchanted hour). For years people have been playing around with the idea of theater that engages the audience, that breaks the, I believe it’s called fourth wall. I find such attempts to engage the audience slightly trivial in that they mostly come from a noncommittal place—here, folks, get involved, they offer but the audience is never prepared for this or really actually able to engage and as quickly as the wall drops, it is replaced and we return to passive watcher. And, by the way, I’m fine with passive watcher. I realize that during movies I am identifying with characters and living vicariously through them. But, as a grown up, or maybe as an artist, I think of story more in terms of how I can steal it for my own art or reject it so as to render it not my competition.

Art like Orkestrika’s Box in Burlington, I wrote to Denton, makes me feel like I am right where I’m supposed to be in the world. At times, I admit, living in this smallish-town, I feel like I am made to watch one big fish in a little pond after the next, tossing off performances and art that lacks heart and risks nothing. But when I am given a gift such as Orkestrika’s Box, I am again reminded of the wealth of talent in my community along with the possibilities and potential that exists here for all of us.

 I am also reminded of how hard we must work to manifest those delicate dreams that come to us ever so slightly in the wee hours or odd gardens, here and there we catch a glimpse of our muse… but to harness our visions we, as Denton well knows, must expose ourselves, must risk the elements, must eat heartily of the table of creation, and work our mother-fucking asses off… that we might break down the walls of our safe and static beauty and create.
Stay tuned.... I am currently in the process of interviewing Trish Denton about this performance and her work as an artist.
Orkestrika breaking free

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