Theatre has always been an evolving and dynamic form of self expression. It is meant to push boundaries and raise questions. It no longer includes just acting and singing; it now can encompass a wide variety of other performance acts. The MFA (Master of Fine Arts) thesis shows put on by Davis grad students in the Department of Theatre and Dance is a great example of this. In this year’s MFA
Thesis Choreographies showcase, MFA candidates Kevin O’Conner and Folawole will perform original works that explore the themes of community and play.
The choreographers both come from very diverse backgrounds. Folawole is an international solo artist and choreographer who has studied at the San Francisco Ballet and has received the prestigious Djerassi Fellowship. Additionally, he teaches dance throughout the Bay Area. Kevin O’Conner has worked for the past 10 years in a variety of performance arts: improvising, dancing, choreographing and circus arts. In his current work he uses these things to study the ecological body.
Folawole and O’Conner have created separate distinct pieces for the show with their own interpretations of the themes.
Folawole’s piece is called “Light Phases.” Folawole will have four pieces that study the concepts of joy, listening, light and trust. He also incorporates many different types of performance media into the play.
“‘Light Phases’ is a play with light,” Folawole says. “Trust that night and day always have light. Shall we keep moving? Nothing was ever lost, nothing can ever be taken. Look at what wakes us up, what takes us to sleep. Let us play.”
In the first phase Folawole will work with the light installations that artist Chris Fraser made for the stage. Folawole uses two dance forms in his performance. He will perform a hip-hop piece with music mixed by DJ Quest. The second piece will be a ballet where he works with violinist Emily Palen, whom he first met when he saw her perform on a street corner in San Francisco.
Finally, the last piece is theatre-inspired and will include performance artists Afi Ayanna, Mirism Wolodarski and li-Hui Chua. The common thread throughout the four sections is the fashion created by designers Gabriel Russo and Ashley McKay.
Kevin O’Conner’s piece is slightly different; it is titled “Dis/connect.” The work is a collaboration between dancers, circus artists, performance artists and vocal improvisers. Part of it is choreographed while the rest will be improvised.
“The piece explores the idea of a place. Not fixed entities but porous places. Places and processes,” O’Conner said. “This piece offers space for an interchange with one another, performer and audience, the Mondavi center and its surrounding ecology.”
A major aspect of O’Conner’s performance relies on audience participation. It needed audience participation in building the set. Additionally, there will be many circus artists performing in the air, which is something rarely seen at UC Davis.
“I want the audience to feel like they contributed something to creating the piece,” said O’Conner.
Additionally O’Conner taught two family-friendly circus acts workshops on Feb. 5.
“I wanted to activate the performance space I will use by having people of all ages come in to the Mondavi Center and try out some of the circus apparatuses they will see in my show,” O’Conner said.
“The workshop was a giant success as one of the first events for the UC Davis Institute for exploration in theater, dance and performance. Hopefully this initial workshop will lead to more events where the community can actively participate in at the Mondavi Center.”
“I think students should take time out of their schedule to see this show since the MFA candidates have worked really hard on the pieces,” said Alison Sundstrom, a junior dramatic arts and English major.
The performances will start today and run until February 26 at the Mondavi Center’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre. From today to Saturday and Feb. 23 to 25 the show is at 8 p.m. and on Sunday and Feb. 26 it will be at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17-19 general admission and $12-14 for students, children and seniors.
PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.