Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wanna Help Construct a Forest at Vanderbilt, Then Destroy It?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 1:16 PM

There’s a lot of focus these days on football at Vanderbilt. We like football. Even so, it might be cool to train a spotlight for a moment on other important campus matters. The arts, f’rinstance — in particular, theater.

The university’s Department of Theatre recently announced that emerging playwright Sheri Wilner will spend the spring semester as the Fred Coe Playwright-in-Residence, teaching a course for undergraduates and working with students on an original play to be staged April 18-19 as part of Vanderbilt's Festival of New Works.

Wilner is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Heideman Award from the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Her works include Labor Day and Bake Off, the latter praised by the New York Times as a "barbed, witty, thoughtful, giggle and snort-inducing satire on gender roles. ..."

The playwright’s Kingdom City will be produced by the respected La Jolla Playhouse during its 2014-15 season. Her other works have been published in more than a dozen anthologies and have received more than 200 productions in the U.S. and abroad. Wilner earned her MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University, and recently completed a visiting assistant professorship at Florida State University. Her residency was made possible by the endowed Fred Coe Artist-in-Residence Fund set up by Academy Award-winning VU alum Delbert Mann.

Associate professor of theatre and department chair Leah Lowe, who made the Wilner announcement, is also shepherding another very interesting VU project set for unveiling March 28-29. Entitled How to Build a Forest, the project by the Obie-winning collaborative team of playwright Lisa D'Amour and director Katie Pearl — in collaboration with painter and installation artist Shawn Hall — is an interactive performance art piece involving creation of a fantastic animated forest.

For eight hours each day, audiences will either watch or participate in the assembly of the giant installation, culminating in a half-hour window where the finished forest is on display — before its rapid, inexorable destruction begins. The performances in Vanderbilt's Neely Auditorium are free and open to the public. For more information, see the full release after the jump.

Vanderbilt University Theatre hosts 'forest' hybrid art installation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A diverse group of artists, students and other interested individuals will create a forest that is part visual art and part theatre performance at Vanderbilt University March 28 and 29.

Vanderbilt University Theatre will present "How to Build a Forest" from noon to 8 p.m. each day on the stage of Neely Auditorium as part of its New Works Festival. The hybrid project is a collaboration between the Obie-award winning collaborative team of playwright Lisa D’Amour and director Katie Pearl and visual artist Shawn Hall.

"We are excited to host these emerging artists who will bring to life the creative as well as destructive forces at work in our environment," said Leah Lowe, associate professor of theatre and department chair.

Beginning with an empty stage, the artists, assisted by Vanderbilt students and others, will build a forest composed of fabric, steel and repurposed objects over the course of several hours. The forest is 'complete' for about a half hour before the participants start dismantling their work.

The event is free and open to the community, and audience members can come and go throughout the performance, observing the details of the created forest from the theatre seats or from within the installation itself.

Initially inspired by the loss of old growth forest in Hurricane Katrina, “How to Build a Forest” was in development when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010. The piece explores the length of time it takes to create an ecosystem and the rapidity with which it can be destroyed. The piece premiered in 2011 at The Kitchen, a premiere artistic space in New York City for cross-disciplinary exploration.

The work features sound design by composers and sound artists Brendan Connelly and Christopher DeLaurenti and lighting design by Miranda Hardy and Peter Ksander.

In conjunction with “How to Build a Forest”, Steve Baskauf, senior lecturer in biological sciences, will offer tree tours of the campus departing from Neely Auditorium at 2 p.m. March 28 and 29. In addition, self-guided tours of the campus designed by students will be available for audience members who would like to explore the local environment.

A panel discussion on art and the environment featuring Vanderbilt faculty will take place March 28 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall.

From April 5 to May 3, Shawn Hall’s work will be exhibited at Nashville's Red Arrow Gallery, 1311 McGavock Pike.

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