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Kate Watson-Wallace’s ‘Store’ at Live Arts FestivalBY: Jonathan M. Stein 09.08.2009
Kate Watson-Wallace’s “anonymous bodies” troupe brought its audience to an abandoned Rite-Aid pharmacy, now transformed into a set for a shopping network’s infomercial. The choreographed tight, manic rhythmic dancing contrasted tellingly with the surrounding consumer chaos.
Store. anonymous bodies, choreographed by Kate Watson-Wallace. Live Arts Festival production through September 9, 2009 at former Rite-Aid store, 4237 Walnut St. 215.413.1318 or www.livearts-fringe.org/details.cfm?id=6857.
A gospel for consumersJONATHAN M. STEIN
Kate Watson-Wallace’s “anonymous bodies” troupe brought its audience to an abandoned Rite-Aid pharmacy on the 4200 block of Walnut Street, now transformed into a set for a shopping network’s infomercial. Actually, it looked more like the aftermath of a hurricane’s passage through a cavernous thrift shop: Hundreds of pieces of clothing were strewn across a central area surrounded by the audience. From this mass of textiles the performers emerged, as if this was a re-write of Genesis, with man’s creation emanating from consumer goods.
In contrast to less traditional sites Watson-Wallace has used in prior Festival works (like last year’s Car and House in 2006), the more fixed central space in Store gives her an opportunity to exhibit her considerable movement chops, setting her precision-timed undulating, funky movements on her talented crew of fellow performers: Makoto Hirano, Jaamil Kosoko, Lorin Lyle, John Luna and Heather Murphy.
(Luna deserves the festival’s Stakhanovite Dancer Award for performing both in Brian Sanders’s extremely demanding Urban Scuba and, a very short time later, in Store, without missing a beat in a cartwheel or contact improv carry in the latter.)
The set allowed for a considerable amount of play from Heather Murphy, who applied multiple layers of clothing to her small frame, then gleefully engaged in floor rolls in textile, to synchronized tosses of clothing in the air that added a scenic lunacy to the set. The choreographed tight, manic rhythmic dancing contrasted tellingly with the surrounding consumer chaos.
Other devices— the use of multiple TV monitors and video, and occasional lame text (”Own it, love it, remove it”)— lacked the impact of the work’s dance movement components. A passive audience left the space feeling both surfeited and emptied, no doubt grateful that the only commercial retail establishments open at that late hour were the bars.
And noted across the Live Arts Festival: An art marketing audience gimmick imposed on Live Arts events this year, reportedly at the brilliant instigation of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, is the presence of large electronic screen monitors for audience members exiting to text in votes on their cell phones in a poll grading the performance in one-word evaluations— a kind of Tweet poll. It’s a rather dumb effort at audience engagement, and the money could have been better used to pay performers more decent wages or provide free tickets to performing artists. The Wilma Theater had the good sense to say no to the inclusion of this poll for its two Festival shows, Operetta and Mortal Engine.♦
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