Monday, September 24, 2012

Letting It All Hang Out: Walker Art Center's "Out There" festival opens with a revealing performance


Walker Art Center's annual theater program certainly has an approrpriate title.
The annual celebration of the avante garde, Out There, opened for the 23rd year on Thursday with the Walker-commissioned Untitled Feminist Show from Young Jean Lee, a rising star from New York City.
And it was certainly out there.
The most striking part about Untitled Feminist Show, of course, is that it is a silent production performed completely in the nude, which Lee explained as the only way to "de-objectify" the all-female cast. The fact that it had no words, no lyrics, no lines, just moving flesh, certainly made it unique as well.


The nudity and silence combined to create an almost eerie effect and a show that is nearly impossible to describe. Is it a pseudo-Hindi ballet critiquing traditional women? Is it a farce that tries to disrupt womens' stereotypes and create shock value? Or is it simply a bunch of talented women having a good time at their audience’s expense?
Lee mostly succeeds in her goal of anonymity via naturism, and there are some beautifully choreographed moments in the show. The storylines were creative and engaging, although all of them needed a little more polish.
Untitled Feminist Show features three “stories” loosely tied together with choreographed interludes. The first story is a play on traditional fairy tales, featuring witches, hunchmen and pink umbrellas; the second mildly mocks traditional women’s roles, turning ordinary housekeeping tasks such as grocery shopping and toothbrushing into seductive come-ons; and the third sets the performers in a more mystical realm.
The performers all come from diverse artistic backgrounds in New York City, ranging from burlesque performers to writers to dancers/choreographers. This eclectic vocational mix provided a clear difference in their movement and choice of storytelling, and the variation worked. It felt that a range of emotion and experience was truly being felt by the performers and conveyed to the audience.
Untitled Feminist Show was a solid opening for Out There and certainly whet the appetite for the upcoming performances. If you’re daring enough, you’ll find that it’s an excellent way to step out of your comfort zone and wander into the bowels of live performance that are often left unexplored.
+ The Walker Art Center’s Out There series continues through Saturday, Jan. 28. For show times and ticket information visit walkerart.org.