Have you ever stepped into a room or a building and knew instantly that it held countless stories and memories? There is a certain quality that old buildings seem to have that make them almost feel like people themselves; like they could exert some force on you and influence your actions. If you were able to have a conversation with that space, what would it say? Would it have some special insight to share with you based on the memories it holds? Does it actually have the power to change the course of peoples’ lives? These are some of the questions that I have been asking as we have gone through the process of creating Ethereal Abandonment.
Thinking of the theater itself as the main character of the piece has helped me to frame all the stories that are brought together in the different scenes, both past and present. The common thread is the space itself and maybe that is why it’s important to consider carefully what is being lost when we develop new areas of the city. If we think of these spaces as entities with life forces of their own, then lives are at stake with each historic building that is foreclosed and slated for redevelopment. There is
something to be said for progress and moving forward, but we also must consider what may be lost along the way. What special places do you hold dear? To what lengths would you go to save their lives?
As the creative process of Ethereal Abandonment has been underway, I have found that the variety of topics discussed throughout the show has given me a lot to latch onto and mull over. One that has continued to intrigue is the purpose of my character; I play Terpsichore, or “Cora,” the muse of music and dance. Along with two other women in the show, we represent three muses that Candace Casey—the photographer whose work is the inspiration for the show—found a mural of in an abandoned building in Chicago and snapped a photo.
Through researching the purpose of muses historically, I realized that there were nine total, and they were painted in murals as a reminder for all who see them to find inspiration, as each of the nine muses characterizes a particular subject (Terpsichore’s being music and dance). In ancient Greece, the muses were called upon as a middle ground between humans and gods/goddesses, and later on were continually painted in social and entertainment venues, for much of the very same purpose.
Anyway, with all of this character analysis, I began to consider all of the sources of inspiration accessible to us today. Unlike the ancient Greeks, we have access to a multitude of religions, freedom of careers, opportunity to make various life choices, availability to travel or move literally wherever we would like, etc.—we have unlimited sources of inspiration. So with that being said, what purpose could my role as a muse serve if someone were to see her? Would a mural of muses pose any inspiration to passersby in the present?
I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t share my thoughts on those questions. However, if I peaked your interest, come see the show and become part of the conversation! It will be sure to aMUSE you.
Ethereal Abandonment is my first stab at collaborating on a full evening dance theatre project with someone other than Michael Estanich. I am excited about what Ellyzabeth and I are making and I'm also a little bit scared about my lack of complete control. But that's life right? I don't think we learn if we can't take ourselves out of our own comfort zones. And working with a large ensemble of creative, opinionated artists is not a place where I need to take complete control. It's a place to grow new ideas and develop myself as an artist. This process continues to remind me that what I love about my job as a director is the infinite amount of possibilities there are in making work about the human spirit. Bringing RE|dance group dancers together with this beautiful cast of characters from CDE has given Ellyzabeth and I the inspiration to create a work about a theater where spirits evoke memories of friendship, love and loss. Most importantly, Candace Casey's beautiful images are brought to life to remind us how important the art of storytelling is. I'm grateful for this experience and the many new beautiful humans I have met along the way! Please make sure to come by and see what we've made together! Hear the stories that the lost souls of this abandoned theater want to share with you.
Vulnerability connects us to moments that are strung together on life's timeline. The inspiration behind Ethereal Abandonment is much like the layers the of Candace Casey's multimedia photographic series of the same name.
“There is something about ruins that calls to us to come explore, look closer. There is at once a sense of discovery and a feeling of long ago. A slipstream of hope. In the accumulated debris are the seeds for tomorrow, the roots of reclamation.” - Photographer Candace Casey
The project began in 2015, while I was in Candace's studio looking at the images and they reminded me of the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. We collaborated in creating a book, writing a one line story and title to go with each piece. As I started working on this project, I got more and more interested in the layers of Candace’s work. She goes into abandoned places, take photos, then inserts images into them to create the story that she feels is underneath the decay and sometimes graffiti.
The images spoke to me, I saw movement, I heard stories and I wanted to create more. Seeking a muse, I found them in Candace’s work. Lucy and I were talking about possibly working together when Paul Granjert, a local filmmaker asked if I would collaborate with him to create a dance film. We brought Lucy on to this project and shot what is now the trailer, at abandoned houses in Highland Park. That film has now been accepted into the Stockholm’s Dance on Camera Film Festival.
Part of this inspiration for the play comes from working in the auditorium at Ebenezer that we have been slowly updating and we overlook Trumbull School, which has been closed for 5 years now. When I look at it, I can hear children playing and I think about how the neighborhood has changed since it closed.
Just a neighborhood over is the Uptown Theater. Once you learn about the history, you long for the days the theater was active creating memories for all who walk through the doors. This show is a love story about the theater and the artists that created it.
Lucy and I met while participating in a choreographer's festival that ran for many years back in the late 90's and early 2000's. After branching off and doing our own thing for over a decade we reconnected in Natalie Rast's Ballet classes. We started catching up on life, our jobs, or artistry and that led us to working together in a variety of professional levels. CDE has produced festival and concerts that RE Dance Group have presented work in and joined us in efforts to fundraise through Aramark and our football season stints at Soldier Field. We just came to realize that we had a lot in common in regards to running our companies and we were trying to find ways to support each other's work.
The layers of our work are unfolding throughout the rehearsal process as we create Ethereal Abandonment