Fronterafest `98 Reviews

Dress Me Blue/Window Me Sky

photograph by Brett Brookshire

The Weather Channels

Created and performed by Emily Ball Cicchini and Kristen Johnson

What a way to kick off the Fest! Cicchini and Johnson, clad in yellow rain slickers, flitted across the stage, waving umbrellas and dancing about weather, loss, and spontaneity on the first night, first slot, of the 1998 event. While the piece had some rough edges and about lasted five minutes too long, there was a definite emotional arc that encompassed both hilarity and grief. Cicchini's deadpan expressions and Johnson's angular movement raised both laughter and empathy in the house, a sure indication of what was to come for the next four weeks. - A.M.

The Puppet Show, a Work in Progress
Choreographed and performed by Deborah Hay

Standing alone onstage, her back and palms pressed against a wall, her face a mask of tangled emotions - anticipation, anxiety, hope, regret - accomplished dance artist Hay proved that, while her new work may not have been fully developed, her stage presence was. She made a compelling figure, of poise, dignity, strength still capable of being swayed by doubt, wearing the experience of a life lived in her face, her carriage, her gestures. Moving ever so slowly, carefully manipulating her "puppets," a toy heart and a top, and making them appear to manipulate her while passionate Italian songs played in the background, Hay seemed to be playing out for us a life of heart and head in tension, a life of tangled emotions. - R.F.

It's an Alien Thing...
Written and performed by Sarah Ing, music by Tim Westbrook

In all honesty, I made quite a spectacle of myself during the opening few minutes of this piece. Westbrook's, to put it loosely, interpretation of the theme to 2001 sounded like a bad high school band and left those around me wondering if I had finally lost all sense of reality as I laughed like a madwoman on nitrous. Ing's monologue should have been a letdown after my brief bout with hysteria, but, instead, it was an equally amusing ode to alien abduction. The ending didn't quite gel with the rest of Ing's hysterical lines, but it provided a welcome respite from my maniacal giggles and gave the muscles in my belly a chance to recover. - A.M.

Dress Me Blue/Window Me Sky
Created by Lisa D'Amour and Katie Pearl, with Julia Edwards, Julie Foster, Mary LaMotte

It's all a matter of perspective. Comprehending someone else's state of mind or heart isn't so hard when you take that person's point of view, see through her eyes. That was the gist of this site-specific "tour," set in an unoccupied store space in Hyde Park Marketplace. A shy, halting D'Amour led participants around the site, using visual aids - a display of optical illusions, a giant canvas eye, a space for tracing outlines of one's feet onto paper - to discuss how our eye and brain process information while she related a tale of personal loss. D'Amour's lyrical language, her solicitous manner, and her and Pearl's simple yet effective theatricality took us inside another person's loss, made it visible, in one of the most deeply affecting works of this Fest. - R.F.

Written and performed by Chris Wells, directed by Bridget Carpenter

The Statue of Liberty has left her island and is trapped in a road movie gone lounge act while she wanders the countryside, singing songs and teaching lessons. Along the way, she encounters a gay man with a mean streak, an earnest young girl trapped in a drill team dilemma, and a shell-shocked veteran from Arizona. Wells' energy was infectious and his joy seemed to bound off the stage. Carpenter's sharp direction could barely contain the ebullient performer, which created a delicate balance of rough and polished edges and a wonderfully textured performance. Whether twirling his baton or wrapped in an American flag, the gleam in Wells' eyes told us how much liberty he's found in these delightful stories. - A.M.

The Delilah Moment
Written by Phil West, directed by Adam Zehner, with Jay Sefton, Katharine De Vos, Gregory James Michniak

Three chairs. Three sides. Three lives. West's short play about a relationship's end was mystical, full of clipped lines that implied pages of subtext. This production proved that you can deliver complex thoughts with a simple setting, as long as you have talented actors who believe an almost empty stage is completely full of tenuously balanced emotions. Zehner's direction used spare movement to highlight the tensions in West's script, wasting no energy on heavy concepts or light line readings, increasing the power behind the words. - A.M.

photograph by BrettBrookshire

An Evening of Songs With Grisha Coleman

It's impossible to ignore the sheer polish and presence of Coleman, an amazingly gifted performer who hypnotized the audience with her songs, her cello, and her movement. Coleman ranged throughout the musical universe, singing everything from The Beatles to Nina Simone, but it was her original compositions that dared you to force your eyes away from her bared heart, an impossible task. Obie-winning director Laurie Carlos joined Coleman on a few songs and this combo was unbeatable, each building on the other's energy, almost blowing the roof off Hyde Park Theatre.

- A.M.

Sound Painting
Created by Walter Thompson, with various local artists as his orchestra

Eruptions of sound: a tuba hiccuping down the scale, a cymbal hissing lazily, a sigh, a clarinet noodling out a sweet melody, a patient arguing with his shrink, wind-up toys clickety-clacking. All these sounds and hundreds more bubbled off Hyde Park's stage as New York artist Thompson led an intrepid band of local artists - two actors, two vocalists, five instrumentalists, and a dancer - through his "spontaneous compositions." Using signals that made him appear an energetic and mischievous baseball coach, Thompson coaxed a dizzying array of sounds and attitudes from his players. They provided bits of striking musical dissonance and lovely harmony, often hilarious improvised conversations, and the occasional odd noise, and somehow Thompson blended it all into a captivating collage of emotion, color, and texture. It was pure creation, and dazzling. - R.F.

Backwards Into China
Written and performed by Heidi Schreck, directed by Tricia Rodley

Schreck radiated warmth and awkward grace during her performance of this monologue about teaching in Siberia and writing for a newspaper in St. Petersburg. Using song, stories, and a funny hat, Schreck illuminated more than minutiae about her Russian adventure. She welcomed the audience into her numerous faux pas and equally numerous personal discoveries. Thankfully, this engaging piece will have another incarnation as part of Seattle's Printer's Devil Theatre season.
- A.M.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle