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Minneapolis by Elizabeth Weir

Three Legged Race wraps up for a 5th and final Summer Blizzard


It's terrific to go out in a blizzard of fine work, but it's sad not to return

The curiously named Three Legged Race will close, even as it succeeds and finds national recognition in the form of a $12,000 National Endowment for the Arts award, received last January. The company, a hotbed incubator of innovative performance art, launches a multidisciplinary collaboration of five sets of artists in its fifth annual Summer Blizzard 2003 this week. And it co-produces two full-length stage works in the fall with the Playwrights Center, one by rising playwright Kira Obolensky and one by Obie and Bessie-award winner Laurie Carlos.

"Our mission is to accelerate the invention of new theater and performance," said Three Legged Race artistic director, Bonnie Schock, "and we hope we've helped to bring about change in the last 10 years. It is a little sad to be closing, but our need to institutionalize and to re-invent our artistic program in an environment where funding for the arts is in recoil, would require a lot of additional resources. We won't compromise our program. It's a brave decision of the board to finish with a year of really wonderful work."

Summer Blizzard 2003 continues the company's extension into unexpected performance with aerialism, ballet, clowning, dance, improve, music, stilt walking, theater and video in five collaboratively-created pieces.

Ballerina Sally Rousse worked with Three Legged Race last year and through that connection met and had an intensive collaboration with New York aerialist Chelsea Bacon. "Sally's a member of James Sewell Ballet," Schock said. "She's a wonderful dancer and, for this Blizzard, she choreographs and co-creates an amazing project with Homer Avila. Homer is a dancer and recent amputee. They'll be using tissue (a fall of fabric that can be climbed and danced within) and a Spanish web (a rope)."

Summer Blizzard 2003
Kate Weinrieb and Nathan Keepers
From Sarah Agnew, Nathan Keepers and Luverne Seifert, all highly physical Theatre de la Jeune Lune alums, comes cinematic clowning in an intriguing concept. "Sarah and Nathan created a short story about a man going to the movies and seeing his own life," Schock said. "As he watches it, he seeks to change it." The piece includes Claire Simonson's videography, much of it live-feed video.

In a piece that Schock describes as "eerie and incredibly profound," Stacy Dawson collaborates with David Neumann of New York's Big Dance Theater and features music by Eno. "Stacy uses extremely smart movement, dance, text and bizarre visual images," said Schock. "Her choreography is unique and her story-telling, clear and precise; and she has odd, unexpected humor."

"Brian Brooks is extremely athletic," said, Schock, describing Brook's work. Brooks participated in Three Legged Race's second Summer Blizzard. This time his Moving Company performs a series of works based on the color green that incorporates video by Sarah Bowder. "He focuses on one segment of the body," said Schock, "and the dancers essentially juggle with one another. It's mesmerizing to watch."

The fifth work features two sisters and jazz by George Cartwright. "Anne Elias is an installation artist," said Schock. "Her sister, Meg Elias-Emery, is an accomplished aerial mover. Meg has been collecting people's first memories, and she uses amazing recordings of people. She weaves these evocative stories differently each night with aerial movement, using the tissue, Spanish web and an adaptation of a bungee cord."

Schock told how Three Legged Race commissions a Master of Ceremonies to tie the Blizzard pieces together. This year, Luverne Seifert acts as emcee. Seifert will segue between pieces with little comic segments, some that Schock describes as pedestrian and funny, some more elegant.

Since its inception in 1995, Three Legged Race has worked with 176 artists and helped to birth 68 multidisciplinary experimental works.

Schock is confident that Three Legged Race has given artistically inventive performance a significant boost. Works developed in Summer Blizzard have gone on to perform at Dance Theater Workshop, Symphony Space, The Kitchen, Dixon Place and Ps 122, all in New York City, and to Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts.

Locally, creative use of video, puppetry and movement are creeping into small and larger theater productions, and Theatre de la Jeune Lune used live-feed video in its critically acclaimed Figaro and Meg Elias' aerial dance in A Circus of Tales earlier this year.

Three Legged Race's closing contribution to pushing open the envelope of theater will be two commissioned plays that will run in repertory at the Playwrights Center in October. Playwright and animator Kira Obolensky, of Lobster Alice fame, will use song and human and puppet characters to look at the ethical dilemmas behind prosperity. Laurie Carlos has teamed up with choreographer Ananya Chatterjea to bring Marion's Terrible Time of Joy, a work of dance theater, to the stage.

It feels like the right time to step aside now. We set out to accelerate performance invention," said Schock, "and we have done that."

Summer Blizzard 2003 August 14 - August 17. Thursday through Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Sunday, 7:00 p.m. $12 - 16. Three Legged Race, Southern Theater, 1420, Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call 612-340-1725 or visit www.3LeggedRace.org.

Photo: Claire Simonson



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Elizabeth Weir



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