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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Standing solo

With the same fervent passion for the art form of theatre and dance, Masters of Fine Arts graduating students Amy Louise Cole, Anne Reeder, Brett Duggan and James Marchbanks will enter one stage with four unique solo performance pieces in Solo Explorations. This week, MUSE previews the four performances.

Amy Louise Cole: Music, While Drowning

Inspired by an interest in German theatre and its expressionist movement, Amy Louise Cole presents a performance piece that conveys the same abstract shapes, images and motifs that transcended norms of the art world in the 1920s.

Music, While Drowning, inspired by German poet Egon Schiele’s poem of the same title, plays with elements of physicality that are bold and abstract. Combining these literary pieces and the aesthetics of the Cabaret and Vaudeville era, Cole takes the audience through the spiritual awakening of a woman’s journey.

Cole’s ambition is to translate these images from various German poems and playwrights onto the contemporary actor’s body.

“My character is definitely on a journey,” Cole said. “This piece takes place in dreamtime – a dream world. My character is going through an internal journey with her past and grappling with the things that brought her to where she’s at.”

Despite the heavy themes and motifs that appear in Cole’s piece, her performance is characterized by the antithesis of emotions between her own life and the character she herself plays.

“It’s really tragic, and she’s going through a large amount of grief,” Cole said. “Ironically, I came to this piece so in love. So in some ways, it’s being able to explore this through a really naked way and to fully understand how it feels.”

Anne Reeder: Cigarettes and Milk

Anne Reeder performance piece Cigarettes and Milk explores the concepts of control and chaos. Prompted by an internal struggle to find control as a performer and in daily life, Reeder juxtaposes the two contrasting ideas.

“It did stem somewhat from my own need for control in my daily life and as a performer,” Reeder said. “And I then took what I thought was the opposite of control, which was chaos, and thought I could form an interesting piece from those two ideas. I then thought of the image of the “perfect ’50s housewife” as a fantastic image of a woman who demonstrates outer control, but experiences inner chaos.”

Reeder’s piece is inspired by Rudolf von Laban, a Hungarian modern dancer and movement theoretician active during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Reeder will utilize the Laban movement technique to show her character’s struggle of control and chaos.

“My piece falls into the genre of physical theater or performance art,” Reeder said. “It is not a dance piece, but is a piece of theater that revolves around the use of the actor’s body and movement.”

As with the rest of the MFA students, Reeder self-devised, directed and designed her own piece.

“I have loved the collaboration with my colleagues in the program and have gained a new understanding and passion for devising my own work,” Reeder said.

Brett Duggan: Black Out: A Dark Comedy

With a more narrative aspect than the previous performances, Brett Duggan’s Black Out: A Dark Comedy is a play about transformation. Duggan will be playing a character named Will, as well as up to eight other characters.

“It’s a story about a guy named Will who writes musicals and he drinks a lot,” Duggan said. “On his way researching alcoholics, he discovers famous alcoholics that he’s never heard of and through that he starts to reflect on his own drinking. What people will expect to see is the character going through a series of transformation and him meeting other dipsomaniacs.”

Combined with two original songs including a rock n’ roll number and the intimate nature of the performance space, Duggan’s piece seeks to draw in the audience. As Duggan says, the performance piece is meant to be “informative but very entertaining.”

Brett Duggan, who has performed in other theatre department productions such as The Seagull and Oklahoma!, says this piece is something unlike anything he has done before.

“I’ve been in six shows here at UC Davis now, and this time, I’m trying to do something different than all the plays I’ve done before. [This performance] is more open – everything I’m doing is a little more open, warmer and more vulnerable.”

James Marchbanks: The Art of Everyday Life

James Marchbanks’ The Art of Everyday Life is a piece that breaks the barrier between the performer and the audience. However, there is an element of ambiguity that Marchbanks wants to leave the audience with and for them to figure out for themselves when they watch the performance.

“The piece also has elements of a performance art ‘lecture’, playfully alluding to the academic environment,” said Bella Merlin, chair of the acting program. “Jim’s performance is quirky and playful, often elliptical and subtle, leaving the audience asking questions about the presumptions we make when we watch other people – on stage and off.”

Marchbanks will be creating a unique environment on stage.

“[In] this performance, what I’m trying to demonstrate is hard to explain and not easily spoken,” Marchbanks said. “Have an open mind; it’s something you’ve never seen before.”

Solo Explorations will be held this Friday and Saturday, Apr. 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. in the Wright Hall Arena Theater (Main Theater). Admission is free. However, seats are limited to 50 seats, so make sure to come early!

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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