Federico Restrepo

Tonya Ridgley

written by: Mike Gorman
conceived by: Mike Gorman & Federico Restrepo
director: Simon Hammerstein
choreography, puppet design and construction: Federico Restrepo
set design: Patrick Siviglia
lighting design: Charlie Morrison
sound design: Tim Shellenbaum
performers: Mike Gorman, Jerry Thundercloud McDonald, Federico Restrepo, Elektra Yao, Amanda Boggs, Francine Margolis, Raphael Barragan, Yaniv Rokah and Babs O
photography: Bridget Besaw Gorman

performance schedule:
May 30th - June 9th, 2002
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
The Annex Theatre

"Counting Coup" by Mike Gorman aims to demonstrate the creative process through which heroes emerge in sports and athletics aspire to the level of epic art. With dance puppetry, soccer choreography, original live music and Mohawk Indian shamanic ritual, it portrays a dreaming soccer player's journey into the past and the realm of myth as he seeks to discover a way to lead his team to victory in a championship game. The production features dance-puppetry and choreography of Federico Restrepo, the shamanic rituals of Mohawk Indian singer/storyteller Jerry Thundercloud McDonald and a soccer playing chorus. It is directed by Simon Hammerstein and composed by Tonya Ridgely and Joshua Eden. It opens the night preceding the first day of this year's World Cup Competition.

The connection between primitive rituals like those of Sioux Indian warriors and the ritual imagination of the modern athlete are dramatized through music, dance, spoken word, puppetry, video projection and athletics. Ultimately, "Counting Coup" hopes to identify the cultural conduit through which heroes emerge in sports and athletics aspire to the level of epic art.

At the heart of "Counting Coup" is the metaphorical exploration of an imagined "nutmeg" by the dreaming player. The term refers to putting the ball between a defender's legs at a critical point in a championship game, and is seen as a modern-day equivalent of the heroic, awe-inspiring act of "counting coup" by a Sioux Indian Warrior--touching an enemy warrior in battle with a coup stick. Seen in the context of our Native American past, the nutmeg--a seemingly nonsensical, but consummately skillful act--takes on symbolic power in that it sacrifices the individual glory of scoring a goal for the greater purpose of winning the game, just as a warrior's coup sacrifices the killing of an individual enemy warrior for the greater purpose of winning the war by striking fear into the hearts of the opposing tribe and inspiring his own tribe to a higher level of courage.

The project grew out of discussions Joshua Eden, Federico Restrepo and Mike Gorman had during their La MaMa collaborations on Gorman's play, "UltraLight," and Ellen Stewart's opera, "The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter." Gorman has been a regional All-American soccer player and was recently (fall 2001) nominated for induction into the Clark University Athletic Hall of Fame. He had received The Russ Granger Award as Clark University's Scholar Athlete. Prior to Clark, Mike attended Cobleskill Junior College (S.U.N.Y.), where he was an All-Region player and Academic All-American, as well as being voted the Most Valuable Player of his team for two consecutive years.

"Counting Coup" is a divergence from the styles of Gorman's plays to-date, many of which are typically set in an imaginary community inspired by his home town of Vinalhaven, ME, and represent a fusion of American Folk and postmodernism, which beguile with delightfully engaging dialogue and the madcap passions of colorful local types. La MaMa produced Gorman's first NY production, the comedy "Biffing Mussels," in 1994. This was followed by a several comedies, "Chores, or The Big Man in the Orange Rubber Rain Suit," "A Funny Old Bird" and "Single Action Shotgun," and a more serious family drama, "Ultra Light."

Citing Brazil's team, which draws fluidly from its country's music, dance and other indigenous art forms to create a unique style of play, Gorman submits that the American team must find a way to tap into our country's own unique forms and expressions of art. "Counting Coup" hopes to inspire awareness that the ability of an athlete to use his or her imagination distinguishes the champion from the person who is blessed solely with athletic gifts. Soccer, known as "the beautiful game," requires an artistic as well as athletic ability in its teams and players; thus it summons a capacity for artistic appreciation in its audience. "Counting Coup" also draws from the example of the American Women's team--the defending Women's World Cup champion--as an example of competitive as well as creative success. Philosophically, it is hoped that "Counting Coup," and other creative performances like it involving athletics, may help establish a truer balance of the male and female sides of the American sports psyche.

Federico Restrepo, a member of La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory, also heads a troupe known as Loco 7 Federico Restrepo Dance-Theater. His own productions create epic fantasies using life-sized puppets, giant marionettes, acrobatic movement and pranks such as riding a unicycle up a vertical wall. He has created and performed six original pieces at La MaMa which had subsequent tours throughout the world over the past seventeen years; one of these was produced by the Jim Henson Foundation's International Festival of Puppet Theater. He has also designed puppets for a variety of other La MaMa productions, including Ellen Stewart's "Seven Against Thebes" and "Draupadi."

Restrepo has written, "As a Colombian, I am very concerned by what we are losing naturally and culturally through a lack of understanding and connection to our native, primitive culture and believe that only by coming back to nature can we find a solution to restore the loss. Most of my own dance works have focused on historical events and their impact on Colombian culture since the Conquest, and I look forward to creating a performance from "Counting Coup," with its imaginative connection of a modern athlete to his country's native culture, by which all Americans can contemplate our Pre-Columbian past as a source of inspiration for solving the problems and meeting the challenges of the future."

Director Simon Hammerstein has directed at the Flea Theater, Soho Rep, The Gloucester Stage Co., Joe's Pub, The Pantheon Theater, The Interlude Theater, E.S.T. and many others. He has just been accepted to the Lincoln Center Theater Director's Lab and is making his La MaMa debut.

Jerry Thundercloud McDonald is a traditional performing artist of the Mohawk Nation and Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. He is a Native American storyteller, singer, dancer, choreographer, and actor and is a member of the Performers Guild of Montreal. He is the founder of the traditional singing society, Peacemakers Drum, and has performed with the Mohawk Singers and Dancers throughout the United States and Canada. Dance Theater of Harlem has invited him to perform in the ballet-play Song for a Dead Warrior, presented at New York's City Center and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He instructed actor Pierce Brosnan in Native American dance for Richard Attenborough's film, "Grey Owl," and prepared Jesse Borego for his war dance scene in Francis Ford Coppola's TV film, "Tehcumseh."

Mike Gorman
Joshua Eden
2002 page