Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier

choreographed & directed by: Tamar Rogoff
performers: Jennifer Chang, Billy Clark, Onni Johnson, Rob Laqui, Paulo Pimentel, Abigail Raminsky
featuring the voices of: Anfelt Albertson, Ron Brown, Jaime Concepcion, John Mc Carthy, Tom Rivera
music: Ralph Denzer
video: Harvey Wang
audio editing: Daisy Wright
set: Sam Tresler
costumes: Elizabeth Bourgeois
lighting: David Ferri
assistant to director: Chris Wild
graphic design: Sabrina L. Taylor
photographs: Harvey Wang

Performance Schedule:
January 3rd - 20th, 2001
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
Annex Theatre
New York Times Review
January 9, 2002
Village Voice Review
January 22, 2002

Three years before the present war in West Central Asia, Tamar Rogoff was searching out a part of her father she never knew by researching World War II. Major Bernard Rogoff, a mild, unsoldierly sort who wrote passionate, erotic and lyrical love letters to his wife, served as a medical officer throughout the desperate Burma campaign against Japan. Tamar remembered him as unable to communicate his affection, yet his correspondence from the front revealed a demonstrative man whose passion was hidden from his children. Can you recapture part of your father by knowing the experience of other war veterans? "Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier" says yes, through an artistic experiment that propelled Rogoff, a noted choreographer, into a bold performance work based on materials from her father and interviews with patients of a New York veteran's hospital who were being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The piece is not inspired by current events, but it may be the most provocative reflection on "war is hell" that we are likely to see in American theaters during the Afghan firefight. The piece contains a provocative statement on denial. Bernard Rogoff never revealed the depth of his experience, but from an early age, Tamar intuited her father's deep secrets relating to war. She now relates that "humor and music became my father's mechanisms for denial," and that growing up, she got show tunes and war mixed up. "Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier" has a documentary layer interspersed with elements of this "denial"--our Hollywood tales, our fashions and our romance of war--which is in turn interspersed with autobiography. Her father's diaries, love letters and story are told by narrator/daughter figure played by guest artist Onni Johnson, a member of La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory. Rogoff plays off scenes of denial and documentary awareness against each other, shifting the focus back and forth between layers of text, dance and listening, with fashion shows, movies and music pitted against the vets' remembrances. Periodically, she absents each element in a siphoning-off process that leaves the audience in total darkness, listening to words that no writer could write and no actor could speak. Before there was a diagnosis of PTSD, Major Rogoff and his generation of WWII veterans came home, went to work and earned a living with the assumption that they were normal and the war was behind them. After Vietnam, returning soldiers became more vocal about their feelings upon returning from combat. No longer silent, they openly bore the evidence of war's toll. Vietnam rage is now as much an artifact of our culture as WWII nostalgia, and Tamar Rogoff's piece reveals that the common experience of soldiering is much closer to that voiced by the more recent generation of vets. Rogoff explains, "Looking to increase my awareness of 'war is hell' as an understatement, I went to the ravaged victims themselves for their personal accounts of war's devastations for our sound track. Paranoia and mistrust could have stopped this project, but the vets discovered that I was N.O.K--next of kin--and they took our performance company in as family throughout the interview process." Five performers of Tamar Rogoff Performance Projects--Abigail Rasminsky, Billy Clark, Jennifer Chang, Rob Laqui, and Paulo Pimentel--were "buddied" with five veterans with PTSD. The performers developed intense listening skills and formed remarkably solid bonds with the vets over eight months. They recorded interviews on tape and stored them even more deeply in their own consciousnesses. In "Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier," each performs as witness to his or her buddies' emotional history. The words of five WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans became the heart of the piece, along with letters of Rogoff's father. Other veterans, including those from the Gulf War, informed the piece in various ways. Rogoff and her performers were with their "buddies" at the conclusion of this summer, when the attacks of 9/11 ushered in the military operation in Afghanistan. Bonds were strengthened as they watched the vets deal with extraordinary fears and flashbacks. As the impact of the attack settled in, Rogoff and her company found that their own fears were heightened as well. Original sound design and music by Ralph Denzer is interspersed with the text, which consists of a weaving of the material of the interviews that the company made, her father's diary and love letters to her mother from Burma, and Rogoff's writings, scenes and dances arising out of the lengthy rehearsal period with the company. Harvey Wang gives face to the voices through portraits on video. Daisy Wright, who has collaborated on making films with Rogoff, edited the interviews. Bessie Award-winner David Ferri designed the lights. Liz Bourgeois designed the costumes. Tamar Rogoff is a choreographer, director, filmmaker, and teacher. She is well-known for her large scale, community-based, site-specific work, as well as for her performances in more traditional venues. Amongst these have been P.S. 122, Danspace Project at St. Marks Church, Dance Theater Workshop. She has choreographed extensively in Eastern Europe for the last decade. Her films have been shown at the Walter Reade Theater and Anthology Film Archives, as well as at the Hamptons International Film Festival and festivals throughout the world. Tamar has taught at New York University's Experimental Theatre Wing and is presently teaching at P.S. 122. She has received multiple choreographer's fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and from New York Foundation for the Arts. She founded her own non-profit producing company, Tamar Rogoff Performance Projects, in 1998, and has received grants from the Harkness Foundation for Dance, Trust for Mutual Understanding, ArtsLink, and the Suitcase Fund. Rogoff's choreography has been funded by diverse sources, ranging from the Rockefeller Foundation/MAP Fund and Dancing in the Streets, to the Arts Partners Program of Association of Performing Arts Presenters, through Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia. She has been affiliated for many years with GOH Productions.

New York Times Review
January 9, 2002
by Jennifer Dunning

Getting Acquainted With Dad via Snippets of War

Tamar Rogoff never quite knew her beloved but distant father, Bernard Rogoff, a doctor who had been a medical officer in the Burma campaign during World War II. Seeking to understand her father better after his death 16 years ago, Ms. Rogoff explored the wartime life he chronicled in a diary and in passionate, funny letters he wrote to his wife. Alive in those letters, Rogoff remains otherwise largely elusive in "Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier," a haunting, poignant theater and dance piece. But that, perhaps, is the point. Ms. Rogoff and her dancers extended her exploration through historical research and through interviews (and friendships) with a total of five veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Spare, eloquent and observant, the veterans' reminiscences and observations about war are included, through their taped voices, in the production. The faces of Anfelt Albertsen, Ron Brown, Jaime E. Concepcion, John J. McCarthy and Thomas Rivera were not projected onto a back screen at the end, as planned, because of a technical problem on Saturday. But the men are as vivid and memorable as are Ms. Rogoff's memories of her father. Their comments give a profoundly human dimension to war. The performing is first rate. The guest actress Onni Johnson radiates perplexed, yearning tenderness in the role of Ms. Rogoff. The five dancers — Jennifer Chang, Billy Clark, Rob Laqui, Paulo Pimentel and Abigail Rasminsky — are lithe movers and subtle actors. But the most impressive aspect of "Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier" is Ms. Rogoff's rich, seamless braiding of time shifts and characters with movement, speech, music and video. Ms. Rogoff understands, blessedly, how much more effective it is to show than to tell. She makes the point that war is a hell not just of death and destruction but of everyday struggles to stay alive and intact emotionally. But there is not a moment's rant or overt message-making here. Ralph Denzer composed the piece's perfectly textured aural landscape. The evocative lighting was by David Ferri and the video by Harvey Wang, with costumes by Elizabeth Bourgeois and a set by Sam Tresler. "Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier" is running through Jan. 20 at La MaMa, 74A East Fourth Street, in the East Village.
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Village Voice Review
January 22, 2002
by Deborah Jowitt


Tamar Rogoff's rich and unusual pieces delve into other worlds that resonate with her own. For Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier (at La MaMa through January 20), she and her six performers spent eight months interviewing five veterans of three wars who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, bonding with them, and improvising on themes that arose. Rogoff came to the project through her father, a medical officer during World War II—a charming, witty doctor who nevertheless rarely touched his adoring daughter. The hair-raising taped memories of the veterans (Anfelt Albertsen, Ron Brown, Jaime Concepcion, John McCarthy, and Tom Rivera) mingle with Rogoff's childhood memories. Speaking as Tamar, Onni Johnson reads extracts from Bernard Rogoff's journals and letters written to his wife while he was slogging through Burma. Interwoven are fierce marches, a satiric scene on the set of a war film, and a fashion show pushing the military look.

If you think a piece built on so many words might be literal or message laden, you don't know Rogoff. With Ralph Denzer (composer), David Ferri (lighting), Elizabeth Bourgeois (costumes), Sam Tresler (set), Maxine Kern (dramaturge), and powerful performers, she constructs a montage that gradually, obliquely closes in on your heart.

Jennifer Chang, Billy Clark, Rob Laqui, Paulo Pimentel, and Abigail Rasminsky dance solos when each one's soldier-buddy speaks. Occasionally word and gesture coincide (like "airplane" and outspread arms), but more often the finely chosen movements serve as restrained underlining to what we hear. At the end, the veterans' barely moving faces appear, one by one, on a screen at the back, seeming to listen to what "their" dancers tell them. "I hope" says Clark to Brown, "my dance was good enough."

It takes a long time for one crucial fact to sink in: Bernard Rogoff, who wrote such beautiful, hopeful, passionate, and erotic letters to his wife, was also forever altered by his wartime experience. And Rogoff/Johnson, with her inexplicable insomnia, asks, "Whose system did I inherit—yours or the war's?" Finally, a picture of young Major Rogoff grows until he fills the screen—distant and unbearably close, understood 16 years after his death.

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