In the fall of 2018, Theater Grottesco received two artist exchange grants, one from Theatre Communications Group, the other from the Network of Ensemble Theaters, both funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The company worked with Jeff Glassman of the Fay/Glassman Duo from Illinois, staging the first ten minutes of a 70-minute piece where 6 plays happen simultaneously, performed by 4 actors on a 10’x10’ grid. Then we worked with artistic director Adrian Schvartstein of Barcelona’s Kamchatka, a company that creates silent street performances around the world.
Both experiences demanded virtuoso physical ensemble, the foundation of Grottesco’s theatre-making. We were inspired to return to these roots with a 6-week long master class we called Extreme Ensemble. But the participants refused to quit after 6 weeks so we carried on. Five months in, they had developed an extraordinary sense of listening and breathing as one. We discovered a web of physical and vocal “prompts”, giving them the tools they needed to consistently compose new pieces in real-time full of surprise and a special beauty because they were unusually immediate and daring. It was clear the artists were ready for the next step.
Ensemble is the heart of Greek Chorus. Long time collaborator, Patrick Mehaffy, adapted the Joan of Arc story, and the ensemble was inspired to research and adapt further. A different performer delivered each piece of the story at each performance with unique details and physicality each time.
The physical relationships of the hero to the chorus and the chorus members to each other, are pivotal and constantly changing. This is Grottesco’s modern version of Greek Tragedy, alive and in real-time. No two shows were the same.
“Being in this show was unlike any other theater experience I have had. The Form itself was the teacher. How do six women (all strong leaders in their own right), share leadership? When is it my time to step forward? When is it my time to step back? It was like being in a freestyle jazz band where we all were playing the same song but we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next.” Susie Perkins
"Two of the aspects I loved most were the way the show changed every night, and the challenges of peripheral awareness the tragic style imposed on our improvisation. “Speaking to the Gods”—riffing on a tale with gaze lifted while being aware of not only my body and words but five other bodies and voices in space and time pushed me to find an exhilarating state of trust and constant letting go of plans and preconceptions." Susan Skeele
"To be part of Different was an experience of alchemy between ensemble members. We cultivated a one mind sensation that the audience could feel." Danielle Reddick