Most TV crime shows start the same: a killing followed by a scene with caution tape, flashing police strobes and a chalk outline marking where the victim was found. The rest of the episode is spent unraveling the murderous mystery.
Attack Theatre will bring its take on this storyline to the dance floor in its new show, "The Chalk Line." But instead of the typical "whodunit," the approximately 90-minute performance (including intermission) uses modern dance to delve into why. It opens Friday at Spring Way Studio in the Strip District for a 10-night run.
Despite its pop culture and TV drama references, the piece grew out of a project Attack Theatre undertook a couple of years ago in which the company invited the public to help it create a work over a three-week period.
"Where it left off was where we wanted to begin," says co-artistic director and founder Michele de la Reza. "We had generated all these ideas, and over the last couple years they kept coming back."
"The Chalk Line" is an exploration of the "emotional landscape" of a handful of characters and their relationships. Audiences are tasked with pondering the deeper meanings behind their seemingly mundane actions. For instance, a shower can be more than cleaning the physical self.
"It's more about what she is washing away," Ms. de la Reza says. "Is she washing away her guilt? Is she washing away her sadness? That's the more interpretive or poetic aspect of where we're going with this piece."
Dancers create their environment as the show unfolds by drawing it on chalkboards. As a result, everyday objects take on a new perspective; beds, tables and chairs are drawn at vertical angles for the audience to see.
"There's something very powerful about the immediacy of our scenic choices that are extremely simple and really evolve right in front of the audiences' eyes," Ms. de la Reza says.
The drama is amplified with recordings of bold orchestral music. The quieter moments of character introspection are reflected in live harmonica music played by Pittsburgh-based musician Stu Braun.
In signature Attack Theatre style, choreography challenges audiences to think. While there is a story and structure to the show, it isn't linear, and resolutions aren't always what they seem.
"In a crime drama, you really want to try and figure things out and try to guess," Ms. de la Reza says. "I hope audiences want to try to figure out the emotional journey of both the individuals and their relationships."