project image
Heather Gray Photography

first performed on April 29, 2011
ATLAS, Boulder, CO
performed three times in 2011


with Travis Mouffe (film director)


In spring 2011, I directed an interdisciplinary theater-driven production, entitled “Carnivals and Snowstorms,” which explored the liminal space between dream, metaphor, memory and the afterlife. This production consisted of three original performances in the fields of dance, music, and drama, which were unified through story and atmosphere. The driving question behind this production was, “what new meanings can be derived through innovations in theater and film collaboration?”

Cinema is a two-dimensional world that relies on memory; meaning is derived from the flickering of images. Live performance occurs in real time with an audience and is inherently three dimensional and body-centered. In this production, we explored the “world between worlds,” that being the bridge between film and live performance.

The unifying characters in the production were three carnival barkers, who in actuality were professional dancers. Their movement text was inspired by butoh and the mechanics of a broken carousel. Through the process of creating devised theater, we came to understand that these barkers were the through-line of the piece. The three main performances within “Carnivals and Snowstorms” took place in separate tented stations. The barkers unified the production not only atmospherically, but also spatially, as they came to represent caretakers of this space, and physically interacted with each performance site within the program, including film.

The barkers interacted with film and thus came to represent the bridge between cinema and live performance through two main avenues. The barkers were introduced into the production through a short screening of their world of origin: a broken carnival shot in color, which soon encountered time lapse and faded into black and white imagery. The barkers then seemed to emerge out of the film world into that of real time; this gave the barkers an intangible and ghost-like quality, like smoke rising from a flame. The barkers thus seemed to be liminal beings-neither of the concrete world of film nor belonging to the dynamic realm of live performance.

In the climax of the production, the barkers re-appeared with an archaic film device and projected analog images of other characters, which then faded into black and the sound of the spinning reel.

The key discovery made from this exploration was the effect of ghosting or palimpsest, where the various performances-live and recorded-continued to resonate and layer the space, not unlike the very process of memory.