The roar of the city, the peace of the garden

Scrap's "Tide' at Fringe Festival

3 minute read
Will these characters ever be able to leave this space?’ (Photo: Karl Seifert.)
Will these characters ever be able to leave this space?’ (Photo: Karl Seifert.)

"How can we be sane when we are destroying that which sustains us?"

This question, printed on the program cover, feels momentous as I read it before entering the performance ground for Tide, the newest work from Scrap Performance Group that debuted in this year's Philly Fringe Festival. It's nearly 8 p.m. on a Friday evening and I'm standing in the lobby of Isaiah Zagar's Magic Garden on South Street. Having passed this venue a number of times, I wonder: How have I managed to live in Philadelphia for nearly four years without entering this labyrinth of color and reflection?

The performance begins with an introduction by Myra Bazell, recounting Scrap's 15 years as a dance theater company dedicated to psychologically intricate and emotionally raw performance. Bazell sees Tide as a reflection of a world in which humans have disconnected from the natural environment. Since Tide is now in its second phase of creation, it's something of a treasure hunt for the performers and the audience alike.

Lost objects of urban life

The space is stunning. Mirrors and trash and lost objects of urban life seem to have come here to be re-imagined by Zagar's magic. L.E.D. lights are hidden throughout the space in bottles and other small crevices. The roar of city life just outside the gates adds texture to the sound environment. Zagar's Magic Garden becomes a portal into the past, linking the present to what no longer exists.

Much like these objects, the performers too carry a substantial amount of nostalgia into the space. Their monologues, spoken mostly in past tense, conjure feelings of a world before the tide hit. At times the performers are little children at play, at others they're enraged and riding the cusp of insanity.

For the dancers, this garden is their shelter. They've hidden little objects throughout the space to personalize it and make it their own. The performers play their roles, floating between both tour guides of the space and refugees. They move the audience throughout various stations, telling us to take care of each other and to move with caution. We're asked to witness the second scene of the dance three times from three separate locations, allowing a new piece of the map to be revealed.

Like some iconic wave

The performers include Marie Brown, Lindsey Browning, John Luna, Shannon Murphy, Sara Kamara Yassky and Kat Livingston, who notably captivates the space with clear diction and detail. Her performance appears genuine and personal.

For this piece, Scrap has used an array of music, including The Foundry (Steve Brand, M. Bentley, and Archipelago), Toni Childs, 101 String Orchestra, Bowery Electric, This Mortal Coil, Love and Rockets, Guy Lombardo and Moby.

The final scene, filled with Bazell's signature lifts and spirals, is highly engaging. The choreography rises and falls, much like some iconic wave. It's unclear if these characters will ever be able to leave the space. Perhaps they're not real at all— just ghosts or reflections of us implanted into the space floating inside a kind of mosaic purgatory. Tide will premiere in its final stage as a part of the 2009 Live Arts Festival.

What, When, Where

Tide. Choreographed by Myra Bazell. Presented by Scrap Performance Group, September 10-13, 2008 at Zagar’s Magic Garden, 1020 South St. (215) 917-3367 or

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