Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Exquisite Improvisation of Dream States

O Sleep - an improvised opera and work in progress directed by Theresa Wong @ The Headlands Center for the Arts, Marin Headlands, Sausalito, CA
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Performaners: Theresa Wong, Ellen Fullman, Kanoko Nishi, Dohee Lee, Luciano Chessa, Michael Carter, Shayna Dunkleman, Heike Liss
Alice Wu: costumes

Structured along the stages of sleep, O Sleep features a range of dream-state inspired improvisations, movement and creative staging. At times, one could be tempted to close the eyes and drift along with the percussive textures.

O Sleep has its visual highlights as well. The projected video of a curtain by an open window onto a sheer curtain suspended in the middle of the room by a wire was striking. Theresa Wong stood behind this projected image with another performer standing behind her as their vocals twisted within one another's critical band. One of many moments that left an indelible visual and aural impression.

At one particular sleep stage, the room itself became an instrument as performers worked within the low light, exploring the sounds of frictions along the walls, floor and windows of the old gymnasium at the Marin Headlands. The dance-like kinetic motion of the performers, the vibrations that nearly engulf the observer and the spatial dynamic of this moment captured the essence and mystery of sleep in a uniquely familiar and unsettling manner.

Occupying the core of the stage and sound of O Sleep was the droning and harmonically dynamic sounds of Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument. Stretched along the entire length of the gymnasium with wires tuned to just intervals, Fullman walked forward and backward with fists full of strings like a human bow. Coaxing a room-sized, tamboura-esque sound. The addition of percussion, drums, voice, koto and electronics filled out the dreams of this work.

O Sleep incorporates the instruments and performers into a cohesive whole. Musicians move with the grace of dancers. The staging realizes the corporeality of performance and drama as part of a cohesive whole. Improvisation allows the collective ears to focus upon the realization of sleep states. The result is fantastic. As a work "in progress," O Sleep holds enormous potential.

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