Imminence

The Annex

February 15 - March 2, 2008
Wednesday - Saturday 7:30pm
Sunday 2:30pm & 7:30pm
*Opens Friday 2/15

Tickets $18

The Talking Band
Written and directed by Paul Zimet
Electronic music by Peter Gordon
Acoustic music by Ellen Maddow
Video by Kit Fitzgerald
Choreography by Hilary Easton




The cast features William Badgett, David Brooks, Kim Gambino, Lula Graves, Kristine Lee, Ellen Maddow, Greg Manley, Steven Rattazzi, Tina Shepard, and the Tony Award nominated Amelia Campbell.

IMMINENCE follows three generations of a family in an exploration of time, and how it shapes our lives from the smallest human instant to the massive geotectonic cycles of the earth.  Following the death of her mother, Simone takes her twenty year old daughter, on a cross-country car trip to visit her parents’ first home in Coney Island.  The narrative shifts between the past and present, not only through the generations of Simone’s family, but also through the much longer scale of geological time.   Fleeting moments of human interaction – an awkward wedding, a deathbed vigil, an unlikely romance between the family doctor and an eccentric friend - cross paths with the slow, relentless time of the earth itself.

Through the prism of theater, dance, video, electronic and acoustic music, time slows, stops, bends and unravels. Kit Fitzgerald’s blend of live and recorded video, in conjunction with Peter Gordon’s electronic, amplified music capture the range and might of the inexorable forces of nature. The intimacy of human time is captured in the live acoustic music of Ellen Maddow and the choreography of Hilary Easton.

Paul Zimet is the Artistic Director of the Talking Band.  Music-theater works that he has written and directed include: Belize, The Parrot, Star Messengers, Bitterroot, Party Time, Black Milk Quartet, These works have premiered in New York City at La MaMa, E.T.C., The Flea Theater, and PS 122, and have toured in the United States, Italy, Canada, Chile, and Moscow.    Paul received a 2003 Village Voice OBIE Award for his direction of The Talking Band production of Painted Snake in a Painted Chair, and also three OBIE Awards for his work with the Open Theater and the Winter Project, both directed by Joseph Chaikin.

Peter Gordon’s work is noted for its original blend of lyricism, wit and drama. Gordon first gained attention in the late 1970s with the Love of Life Orchestra – one of the first “downtown” composer-driven ensembles, frequently featured at La Mama. Working with electronics as well as instruments and voice, Gordon has composed for numerous theater and performance works, earning him the Obie Award and the Bessie Award. Works with the Talking Band include Party Time, Bitterroot and The Necklace.  His ongoing collaboration with Kit Fitzgerald has included Passion of Passion, and Spectacolo (both at La MaMa) and The Return of the Native (at BAM/Next Wave). Other past projects include scores for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company, Alvin Ailey, Donald Byrd, Mario Martone and Richard Foreman; the opera The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin (with Lawrence Sacharow and Constance Congdon, at La MaMa); the opera The Society Architect Ponders the Golden Gate Bridge with Lawrence Weiner, Berlin/Oper Bonn); and he created orchestrations for Michael Tilson Thomas’ Thomashefsky Project at Zankel Hall. Gordon’s work for film and television can be heard in Joe Versus the Volcano, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Desparate Housewives and Déja Vu.

Ellen Maddow is a founding member of the Talking Band, and has composed for and performed in most of its works.  Works that she has written include, Delicious Rivers, Painted Snake In A Painted Chair- for which she received a 2003 OBIE Award- Tilt, Brown Dog is Dead, and Fern and Rose.  Ellen has also written the text and music for five pieces about the avant-garde housewife, Betty Suffer.  She has written the scores for Belize, Star Messengers, Black Milk, The Plumber's Helper, New Cities  (all produced by The Talking Band), The Parrot (co-produced with The Flea Theatre) 1969 Terminal 1996  (directed by Joseph Chaikin) and Home/Wire Walking for Risa Jaraslow and Dancers. She was a member of the Open Theater and has performed with Otrabanda Company.  Ellen received the 1999 Frederick Loewe Award in Musical Theater (along with librettist, Paul Zimet).

Kit Fitzgerald is an artist/director working in video and new media. Her works include live performance, video art, animation, dramatic film and documentaries. They are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and have been exhibited twice in the Whitney Biennale. Her live performances have premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Hetmusiktheater (Amsterdam) and LaMaMa E.T.C. Her collaborations have included the Talking Band (Party Time); composers Peter Gordon, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Max Roach, Poet Seiku Sundiata; and choreographers Donald Byrd, Bill T. Jones, and Bebe Miller. Her dramatic work, The Deadman produced by the North Netherlands Theater, won 2nd prize at the Riccione Film, Theatre and Television Festival. Her hi-definition video Painted Melodies, won 1st prize at the Electronic Cinema Festival in Montreaux, and was shown in the New York and Tokyo Film Festivals.  She has eared grants form the Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, the Japan Foundation, and the NHK Foundation of Japan. Ms. Fitzgerald teaches New Media at Concordia College in Bronxville.

Hilary Easton, a native New Yorker, has had her choreography presented since 1992 at venues including American Dance Festival, The Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, Dance Theater Workshop, PS 122, The Center for Contemporary Arts of Santa Fe, Women and Their Work, The University of Texas, Bennington College, Central Park Summerstage, The Yard, and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors. Ms. Easton has taught at colleges and universities including Princeton University, Connecticut College, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, and the University of Montana. She holds an MFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

Design for IMMINENCE is by the OBIE Award winning team of Nic Ularu (Sets), Carol Mullins (Lights) and Kiki Smith (Costumes). 

Generations Shake and Shift as Time Maintains Its March

by Claudia La Rocco
The New York Times

Countless plays have used earthquakes as metaphors for emotional disturbances and ruptures. Not to be outdone by its predecessors, “Imminence” features a set, designed by Nic Ularu, that actually rumbles and splits down the middle, the jagged chasm between its two hemispheres periodically widening as the action unfolds. Feelings: they’re strong stuff.

Countless plays have used earthquakes as metaphors for emotional disturbances and ruptures. Not to be outdone by its predecessors, “Imminence” features a set, designed by Nic Ularu, that actually rumbles and splits down the middle, the jagged chasm between its two hemispheres periodically widening as the action unfolds. Feelings: they’re strong stuff.

As the script hopscotches between time periods and events, the work jumps from one artistic element to another, including video, dance sections and live music. It’s all a bit too busy, frankly, but nestled among the activity are those quiet moments: Kit Fitzgerald’s lingering video close-up of a clown’s sad blue eye from a colorful Coney Island mural, or the choreographer Hilary Easton’s awkward tango of seduction for two tentative, unlikely lovers.

Ms. Fitzgerald’s evocative camerawork is consistently strong; she manages the too-rare theatrical trick of augmenting the live performances without upstaging them.

At one point a husband clambers onto the edge of his wife’s deathbed, overcome by the imminence of loss and clinging to what little remains of their life. In the next room his 20-year-old granddaughter waits, her pretty face marred by the not-quite-believable, self-centered sadness of the young. On the video screen behind the stage, Ms. Fitzgerald presents an unadorned shot of that face. Nothing rumbles or shakes, but something, certainly, is breaking apart.

nytheatre.com Review

by Martin Denton

When I read in a press release for a new show something like

Imminence follows three generations of a family in an exploration of time, and how it shapes our lives from the smallest human instant to the massive geotectonic cycles of the earth.

all kinds of defenses pop up in my skeptical theatre reviewer's mind. But I went to see The Talking Band's new show Imminence anyway, and if you love theatre that's adventurous and stimulating and profound at that indefinable and ineffable gut level, then you should too. Eschewing traditional narrative, genre, and structure, this multimedia play with music uncovers and explores all manner of astonishing aspects of the nature of time and human beings' puny place within it. It genuinely inspires awe and wonder.

Imminence is about Lilly and Victor, a married couple, and their children Rory and Simone, and Rory's daughter Sophie (who marries Timothy) and Simone's daughter Phoebe. (During the play we also meet Rory's wife Fay, Lilly's physician Dr. Coolhaus, and a friend of Timothy's named Martha.) The narrative is the opposite of linear—it's fragmented, out-of-sequence, and like much of life its details are often sketchy or unsupplied, leaving us to fill in the missing gaps. Most of it happens at certain key periods in the family's history: during Simone and Rory's childhood, at Sophie and Timothy's wedding, during a cross-country trip that Simone and Phoebe are taking (they're heading to Coney Island, childhood home of Simone's parents). Very quickly in the play it becomes clear that Lilly has died, leaving Victor alone and unprepared for his aloneness.

But the play isn't just about isolation or its complement, connection. As the piece unfolds—in short scenes, snatches of song, vignettes underscored by a percussive chorus, monologues, video sequences, dances and choreographed movement segments, you name it—its nature as a meditation on our ephemeralness and our singularity not only moves into focus but deepens and expands. The play's themes pull us in and engulf us. It reminded me of Our Town, except it feels less like watching it and more like living in it.

Extraordinary things happen in Imminence: the sun shines at night in one memorable sequence, and the ocean surrounding Coney Island disappears in another. Martha, who never meets Lilly (she becomes acquainted with Dr. Coolhaus at Sophie and Timothy's wedding), speaks at Lilly's funeral (a breathtaking and oddly appropriate eulogy). And there are earthquakes...

But mostly what happens in Imminence is the very very ordinary, and that's where the piece derives its remarkable power. Writer/director Paul Zimet puts the simplest of moments—a family meal, a sudden downpour, a man awakening during the night to go to the bathroom—under a spotlight and then under a microscope, the better for us to understand them. Momentous events are juxtaposed with the most mundane, so that a young woman's future might be decided by playing a game of scissors/paper/stone with her mother and a lasting and possible life-changing friendship can begin with a random seating at a wedding reception. Nothing is vital; everything is vital.

Zimet and his collaborators—composers Ellen Maddow and Peter Gordon, videographer Kit Fitzgerald, choreographer Hilary Easton, and designers Nic Ularu, Carol Mullins, Kiki Smith, and Tim Schellenbaum—frame this wildly meandering yet introspective meditation in brilliantly theatrical terms, so that Imminence always engages and delights as it challenges and teases. (The sequence on the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster, for example, is spectacular.) And the ten-member ensemble of performers who act, sing, and dance the piece are sublime. Steven Rattazzi's Dr. Coolhaus and Ellen Maddow's Martha are especially memorable, capturing great truths in small, subtle moments on stage. Amelia Campbell (Simone), David Brooks (Rory), Kim Gambino (Fay), and Lula Graves (Phoebe) form a startlingly organic family unit despite the physical and emotional distances that separate their characters, while Tina Shepard's Lilly and Will Badgett's Victor show us what happens when an insoluble bond is forced to dissolve. Kristine Lee (Sophie) and Gregory Manley (Timothy) have less to do, but are nevertheless invaluable supporting the piece.

Like time, Imminence is finally impossible to pin down—it's not just this sort of theatre piece or that sort of performance art, but rather a stunning and profound amalgamation of lots of disciplines and media that opens up a window into something fundamental that we seldom look at. Its soul is immense. I was gratified and grateful to experience it.

 

 

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