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4Chambers

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jody Oberfelder
May 24, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director, Concept, Choreographer .

What is your show about?
4CHAMBERS is a sensorial journey into the human heart.

Are there boundaries as to what kind of theatre you will take part in?
I don't like to think of myself bound by one category. My goal is to engage audiences, whatever form it takes. Once I get going on a project I try not to worry whether it’s a definable category. Often I'll begin with a simple idea, which will lead to tangential concepts, and then the art-making will take over. As 4Chambers is about the heart, I researched, read everything I could understand (there’s a lot of medical language that is meant for specialists) interviewed neuroscientists and cardiologists and even cardiac psychiatrist. When a friend/colleague of mine had a heart attack, it affected me as a person, and somehow infused this work. Research is also personal. I have a heart, so I suppose I could say: “It takes one to know one.” This piece felt all in my head for a while till we were told we could do the piece in an historical officers’ houses on Governors Island. The audience (12 members at time) travel to four chambers with arteries and veins connecting. The piece feels real now that it’s sited. But such a different animal than my past work, it’s a little scary. It's actually better for me to take risks. Otherwise I'll put myself in a box and say "I'm a choreographer." or "I'm a filmmaker" or "I'm a director" or "I'm a writer." This particular piece is a mash up of several forms. I suppose if I was to name the level of communication, I’d say to physicalize and feel, would be equally paired with thinking and processing intellectually. We're living in a time where information is at our fingertips. To distill and present something for audiences that zing with something real has no boundaries. No two people will have the same experience. So, pushing boundaries, my own, and crossing over to suggest that audiences give up their preconceptions of what is theater, is what I'm after. What matters to me is creating the right forms that command attention, participation, and engagement, without being didactic, or repeating a formula.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this spring that...?
has a front porch and a back porch.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
This piece is one big collaboration. Each performer is unique. One dancer, Jake, did a back flip for his audition five years ago, and we've create together a range of projects since, ranging from Dido & Aeneas, to Soldier's Tale, to a fun piece that puns on movement ideas called "Approaching Climax”—the other dancers are pretty new to me this year, they all have this interesting combo of internal connections and external pop. These dancers are versatile, and all athletes. But more they are complex emotionally, which is important in this piece. Edward Einhorn, an actor, has a special part in this work—we met at a party, and I told him about this part I was dreaming up, and he was game. On the visual team, Jason Bahling and I made a film called 4Chambers that seeded the work. He’s a fantastic editor, cameraperson—recommended to me by Nel Shelby. I have made dance films before, but Jason helped me to realize larger concepts of screen ideas. (Jake Witlen was part of this process too—he just got a job at the Schaübuhne in Berlin as Director of Video). I don’t want to give too much away. The lighting designer, Kathy Kaufmann, and I have done many projects together the last 15 years. Same deal, the person I’d worked with before, Sue Poulin, couldn’t light my show and passed the gig on. Kathy does more than just throw light on things. She asks challenging questions. And then there is my husband collaborator, Juergen Riehm, who designed the set. We met on the streets of New York. It’s hard to have a dinner conversation without talking about the piece these days, which can be good and bad. And the composers: Andy Akiho (saw a piece of his with Ethel), Matt Mcbane (met at my cast party for THROB –at Abrons Arts Center last year. He came with one of Andy’s musicians—he gave me a CD I didn’t listen to for a while and when I finally downloaded it and had it on while warming up in the studio, there was a cool resonance with this piece. Richard Einhorn, (no relation to Edward) and I have worked together before—a long time ago. We got together again via Facebook page, how that friends of friends thing works. Jonathan Melville Pratt was recommended to me by one of my dancers who had just seen Camille Brown’s work. I checked out his website, got in touch and we just dove headlong into the process.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Jennifer Lawrence?
Ang Lee

If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
I'd pay performers and collaborators way more than I'm able to now. I'd have a more 'European' rehearsal schedule, with longer hours, more time to develop and reflect.