Theater from Albuquerque to Armenia
by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, January 6, 2011
Winter is cold and dark and sleepy. It turns people into marshmallow-shaped hermits, wrapping and zipping themselves into enough layers to survive brief intervals of the outside world before retreating back into their slightly warmer caves. But for three weeks in January, the Revolutions International Theatre Festival brings a load of light and warmth.
If you’re a regular Albuquerque theatergoer, you know all about Revolutions. Tricklock Company has been putting on the festival for 11 years, bringing outstanding performances from around the world to the city and cultivating a sense of cultural exchange that’s rarely matched here the rest of the year.
Perhaps the neatest thing about Revolutions is that it doesn’t just cater to one type of theater. Comedy and drama appear in equal measure—as do nonverbal physical theater, puppetry, cerebral experimental pieces, clowning and stand-up. This year, we’re presented with clowns from a parallel universe, an eco-activist’s struggle with her convictions and her actions, and daydreaming maids. If that doesn’t strike your fancy there’s also a multimedia hip-hop experience, a collection of stories examining fatherhood, a tale of post-Katrina survival and a look at Philadelphia’s killing epidemic of 2008.
Tricklock Co-Artistic Director Kevin Elder says the company’s mission when recruiting shows is simple: Find great theater. Tricklock likes to navigate its own original shows through a combination of styles, so finding diversity in the performances it brings here comes naturally. Tricklock—and Tricklock’s other co-artistic director and the curator for Revolutions, Summer Olsson (disclosure: Olsson contributes as an Alibi freelance music writer)—also favors shows that offer social or political commentary. This year, Elder says this is especially true. “I think it’s been a part of what Summer’s really interested in,” he says, “finding shows that are not just entertaining but that have an important impact.”
That impact’s been felt throughout the city and state. Even in the midst of the recession, Elder says individual donations to the company have actually increased, which has helped make up for waning government support. It means we don’t have to worry about losing one of the city’s best festivals any time soon.
One of the shows Elder is most excited about this year is The Maids, performed by Theater 8 from Yerevan, Armenia (it’s the first time an Armenian company has participated in Revolutions). The two titular maids conceive fantastical daydreams while their mistress is out, which gradually turn into nightmares as they toy with roles of domination and submission. This play, based on a script of the same name by Jean Genet, doesn’t use spoken language, relying instead on wildly imaginative and translatable physicality.
Waste Her was one of my favorite performances of 2010. Tricklock’s Juli Hendren wrote and stars in the one-woman show, directed by Summer Olsson. It follows the choices made by a young activist entranced by eco-terrorism. The show is heartbreaking and human, taking an act that is seemingly unfathomable and making the audience understand exactly why it is not. Hendren is an astounding performer, switching between a multitude of characters with ease, grace and a formidable presence. She weaves an arresting, dark and beautiful tale.
Urban Verbs mixes the words of Hakim Bellamy and Carlos Contreras with the sounds of DJ Diles, the sights of Mark Archuleta and the direction of Chicago’s Idris Goodwin. Billed as “a bridge for commercial rap lovers and poetry purists alike,” it digs at the roots of hip-hop and community.
“Magical realist Latino voodoo aesthetic”—that’s what you’ll find when you sit down with The Cone of Uncertainty, a story about Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans performance artist Jose Torres-Tama examines the cultural context of his city before and after the storm, calling attention to federal negligence, displacement and prejudice through personal stories and video.
Lullabies for My Father is the newest original work to come out of Tricklock. Conceived of and directed by Elder and created with company members Olsson, Dodie Montgomery, Alex Knight and Hannah Kauffmann, it employs “verbatim theater,” taking a collection of interviews with people in the community and shaping them into a work that explores both the light and dark sides of fatherhood. A work in progress, Elder hopes to use feedback from this round of performances to get the show ready to tour by the summer.
Hometown boys The Pajama Men (disclosure: I am dating a member of the group) give the first preview performance of their newest work, In the Middle of No One. Also listed as a work in progress, the show follows a heartsick space traveler and a group of “friends of scientists” as they sail around the world. The description of the show is also completely subject to change. Once the show is finished this spring, The Pajama Men will tour it in Australia, the U.K., South Africa, Canada and lord knows where else.
Philadelphia found itself in the middle of a homicide spree in the summer of 2008. In Killadelphia, Sean Christopher Lewis presents a grisly view of the time through interviews with Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Graterford inmates incarcerated for murder, revealing truths about urban centers across the country.
From Toronto, Canada, comes Mump and Smoot, masters of clowning. In Something, they live on a parallel-universe planet called Ummo (where they worship a god named Ummo and speak Ummonian), frolicking in the dark depths of their world. Don’t miss this fantastically absurd show. (Beware: This one isn’t for kids.)