Attack Theatre assembles performances that engage public and art

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Attack Theatre has always had a love affair with "Some Assembly Required," an interactive art and dance collaboration in which the company began with a "blank slate." Then viewers verbalized their reactions to the performance's work of art, inserting a first layer with added improvisations, a second layer with new music, and a third layer for the finished product.

In about an hour the original is completely changed, with the audience itself taking ownership in designing a dance.

It all began more than a decade ago with co-founders Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope at the Frick Art & Historical Center. They repeated it over the years, gradually adding the rest of the company and cellist Dave Eggar and percussionist Chuck Palmer.

Attack Theatre's 'Some Assembly Required: Public'

Where and when: Schenley Plaza, Oakland, 6 p.m. Thursday; Buhl Community Park, North Side, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday; Penn Avenue (between Wood and Center streets), Wilkinsburg, 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: Free.

Information: www.attacktheatre.com.

It escalated during the blizzard of February 2010, when Attack took on a dozen or so museums and galleries in the space of two weeks, moving its paraphernalia about in a rented truck.

"Some Assembly Required: Public," now on view in various locations around the city, is just that: a premise to take on the outdoors art that adds so much to Pittsburgh's appeal. It also meant that "Some Assembly Required" went on steroids.

Master of ceremonies and director Mr. Kope called the process "like playing miniature golf" -- the audience got a score card and pencil to keep track of the changes.

They engaged Dave Bjornson of AAM Studios and his impressive new truck, armed with the latest technology including the kind that can provide a live Internet feed to upload performance video on Attack Theatre's website, or record film, television, music, theater, corporate events and more. As he put it, this was "a full-service production solution."

Biggest of all was the art itself, the kind that you may have seen for years or even have passed by every day but was only a part of the subconscious. One thing was certain: The four dancers and two musicians had to cover a lot of territory because the art tended to dominate the area.

It began in Oakland on a cold, rain-threatening afternoon at Schenley Plaza in front of the Frick Fine Arts Building. Victor David Brenner's 30-foot-tall fountain, "A Song to Nature," which was an ode to the Greek god Pan and a lady companion, was the subject at hand.

But the performers drew the audience in with a light-hearted performance, scampering around and, surprisingly, in the waters. It covered a lot of territory and highlighted the fact that these dancers took lots of risks on concrete pavement and the circular rim of the fountain.

There were two huge murals during the next few days -- East Liberty's "Lend Me Your Ears," by 19-year-old Jordan Monahan and assisted by Allison Zapata, which was perhaps the largest of all with a parking lot and active street traffic, and Wilkinsburg's "10,000" by Brian Holderman, with Jesse Best, in which the audience found a "prehistoric Pittsburgh," "lumps and bumps" and "distasteful cauliflower trees."

On the North Shore, they Attack-ed George Sugarman's colorful "Pittsburgh Variations," an imposing painted aluminum structure next to the Seventh Street Bridge in a particularly playful and picturesque setting.

It was all captivating and very audience-friendly. Although the "Assembly" was occasionally uneven, being created in the moment, some onlookers may not have realized that they were viewing some sophisticated dance partnering or hearing the complex improvisations of Mr. Eggar as he moved effortlessly from Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" to Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in the space of minutes.

There was no doubt that anything could happen, however, and it was well worth the wait. Even Steel City Interpreters' Nick Miller was pulled into the improvisatory fray when director Peter Kope asked the percussionist to whisper things into the sign language expert's ear. The result was hilarious as his face contorted into smelly reactions while executing a flurry of signs.

Along the way, audiences could pinpoint "cool hiding places" or "eggs in hot sauce with biscuits." One gentleman found that he was able to finally understand dance. And, at the very least, you could discover a terrific piece of Pittsburgh.

theater

Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish can be reached at jvranish1@comcast.net. She also blogs at www.pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.


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