Monday, January 21, 2019

Out There 2019: Kaneza Schaal's JACK &

Every year I visit the Walker Art Center's annual Out There series... 

Kaneza Schaal: Jack &. Photo: Christopher Myers.

And every year I leave with a plethora of exciting new ideas about performance art.

The avant garde festival can be really intimidating for those who don't see a lot of theater or prefer explicitly traditional forms of performance, but that's exactly why I find it valuable. As much as I love the usual circuit of theaters and companies I frequent, I find that January (aka the season of resolutions and incipient goal setting) is such a great time to refresh my perspective and re-set my expectations of the shows I'm going to see throughout the year. I'm really grateful the Walker puts this on annually and I encourage you to check out their programming!

This year kicked off with the return of Rabih Mroue, who I wrote about on his first Out There performance in 2016 (click here to see my thoughts). Intriguingly, the kickoff was offered as a free of charge reception as part of the monthly Target Free Museum nights, which take place every Thursday (and are a must-do if you haven't been - what better way to see an internationally renowned museum than for FREE?).

The first show I attended was last weekend's performance called JACK &, created by Kaneza Schaal and starring Cornell Alston. It was a three part show with completely different feelings to each portion. The first was a dynamic monologue that helped get the audience into the appropriate perspective and context to understand the overall performance. The second part was a witty, innocent parody of a 1950s comedy sitcom, reminiscent of an I Love Lucy sketch (but blacker). The third portion moved straight into the modern art period, with a completely silent (other than an eclectic mix DJ'd by Rucyl Frison) performance made of eerie costumed dance in front of a projection of a goldfish in a bowl. The dance somehow managed to be energetic yet wistful, carrying some of the energy and sinister-with-a-smile feeling from This is America.

JACK & as a whole had the flavor of an Americana you never see, telling the story of black people through what are thought of as white artistic mediums in one of the most stereotypically white venues of all: an elite art museum. The very presence of the actors on stage felt radical, like a breath of fresh artistic air, and the lyrical patois of the monologue (which fed into the kitschy sitcom feel of the second part) moved us lyrically and seamlessly through what otherwise might have felt like a very disjointed effort. The cast on-stage (composed of Cornell Alston, Rucyl Frison, Modesto Flako Jimenez and Stacey Karen Robinson) worked as a cohesive unit with wit and presence; I'd be interested to see the fresh approach their chemistry could take on more established scripts as well.

The annual Out There festival is one of the most affordable season tickets you can get in the Twin Cities and will give you an innovative, unusual artistic experience you won't find anywhere else. For ore information on this festival (which runs on weekends throughout January) or to buy tickets, click on this link. Make sure to keep following the blog throughout the month to see my coverage of the upcoming performances!

For a roundup of past Out There performances I've covered, see the following: 

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