CAFE DES ARTISTESan original piece by the Cast based on the works of Charles Mee, Richard Foreman, and their own experiences.
Sundown Collaborative Theatre
Director - Tashina Richardson
Assistant Director - George Ferrie
Stage Manager - Jenny Fitzgerald
Props/Set Dressing Designer - Irvin Moreno
Producing Member - Robert Linder
Dance - Jerome Beck, George Ferrie
Music - Michael Stewart-Price, Brittany Willis
Visual - Lindsey Hall, Danielle Trudeau
Writing - Mandy Rausch, Aaron Sanchez
Reviewed Performance: 11/11/2011
Reviewed by Clyde Berry, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
A reviewer should contrast what it was supposed to be (in this incarnation) and what it was at performance. While seemingly simple, sometimes a piece makes you step out of your traditional space for a moment. Such was my first experience at the Sundown Collaborate Theatre in Denton.
In researching the company, they desire to produce "holistic pieces of art that evolve from a collaborative process."
In this case, the piece is about the creation of artistic pieces. Think of it like a "Title of Show" ? a piece about itself. What is intriguing and ultimately successful about this work is that the process is part of the art itself, and the performance experience is a visceral one, hence the first person.
To understand and appreciate the piece, you have to engage more as an audience member than as a mere observer. Watching Caf? Des Artistes puts me in my analytical headspace, which as a word person, and an artistic person was right up my alley. The one act performance captivates through its visual, visceral, and auditory elements, by constantly engaging the audience to re-evaluate their definition of what art is and should be.
The cast, who created the piece from text lifted from Charles Mee and Richard Foreman, consists of four types of artists who represent the mediums of Dance, Music, Visual Arts, and Writing. The piece requires each artist to perform in all of the various mediums, which is why I say the process is part of the art. While admirable and ambitious, it succeeds as much as it struggles. Folks who are not dancers were pushing their boundaries, those who were not singers were not the best at it ? still the point was exploration, and in that it succeeds and no one should be faulted for trying things outside their normal skill set.
Through the various mediums and the metaphorical dialogue of Mee and Foreman, we see how art is created within each domain. By staging in an intimate, in the round setting, the emotions created from this intimacy are quite powerful. We feel the floor shake, feel the tension in the air, and do not have the protection of the proscenium nor distance.
The couples argue, bicker, flirt, and provoke or inspire each other to create, all the while debating the nature and purpose of art. At times, the full cast comes together to discuss things as a whole. Conversations cross groups and scenes, as do movement exercises and songs.
My favorite section was the group discussion on why art fails and how it makes artists feel. The communal discussion was something that most performers or artists have done late at night after a show and a few strong beverages. It was hard not to join in.
While the plot may be simple, the performance is certainly not. In the minimal space Richardson has done an excellent job of moving folks around, creating a variety of looks, and keeping the pacing fast and interesting without being predictable. There are even variations in light that are simple and effective.
The space (a dance studio) has each of the four walls adorned with pictures of the various medium that is staged there.
If you are looking for a philosophical experience that will pull you in, this is the show for you. Don't worry about the specifics, just buy a beer, take a seat, and let the experience wash over you. The performance begins from the moment you walk in, and the experience will stay with you long after you leave.
Sundown Collaborative Theatre
Through November 20, 2011
Green Space Arts Collective, 529 Malone, Denton, TX 76201
Shows start at 8pm.
General Admission is $10.00 / Students & Seniors: $8.00 Group prices are also available?contact Sundown for more info. Cash or check preferred; a 50 cent charge will be added to credit card purchases. Tickets will be sold one half hour at the venue before the performance. If you'd like to reserve tickets, or pay in advance, please call 940-220-9302 or email: box office at sundowntheatre dot org