Alyson Pou recreates a 19th Century Dime Museum at NY’s South Street Seaport

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Artist Alyson Pou will play a mother and daughter joined by their hair in “A Slight Headache,” her solo performance/installation that recreates a 19th century Dime Museum or Sideshow. The event is an LMCC Swing Space Project, and will be presented March 20 to April 19 in the Melville Gallery of South Street Seaport Museum, 213 Water Street, in Lower Manhattan.

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Alyson Pou in A Slight Headache.

The entire work is conceived, written and performed by Alyson Pou. The play is directed by Jessica Bauman. The installation is by Alyson Pou.

A Slight Headache (www.aslightheadache.com) is a play of sensuous lyricism staged within a dime museum installation in the evocative setting of New York’s downtown historic district. The event aims to transport audiences back to a time when “the wonders of nature, the works of man” were displayed for profit with amazing theatricality. The classic theme of a daughter’s struggle for freedom and a mother’s quest for survival takes place among the strange, the unusual, the bizarre and the exotic.

The daughter of this drama miraculously sprang from her mother’s forehead at birth. Since that time, their shared and indestructible hair has joined the pair. Over the years, the daughter has grown and the hair has grown but the hair cannot be cut. In order to survive, the Mother exploits this freakish condition. In nightly entertainments, the Mother sings, recounts her daughter’s extraordinary birth and invites viewers to try to cut their hair. The daughter tells fortunes. But tonight the daughter refuses to perform. She reveals secrets about herself and the hair that drive the women to a final, perhaps fatal, confrontation witnessed by the audience. Alyson Pou plays both Mother and Daughter.

The installation/setting is an enveloping experience with a romantic aura and slightly gothic tone. A barker invites the audience to enter a “cabinet of curiosities” complete with such oddities as the world’s only bearded piranha. Souvenirs such as magic hair growth elixir and postcards are offered. Even a toy puppet theater is for sale, with which one can re-enact the duo’s life and adventures. In the back of this area is a small stage with velvet curtains, footlights, sideshow banners and a piano where the Mother and Daughter perform their daily show.

The script, costume, and installation of “A Slight Headache” have been developed in part during residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and an artist’s research fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society, Worchester, MA. In 2006, Voice and Vision Theatre awarded Pou one of five ENVISION professional playwright residencies at Bard College. Additionally, “A Slight Headache” has been performed as a work-in-progress at Dixon Place, Bowery Poetry Project, Mulberry Street Theatre, Kraine Theatre, Women’s Studio Center, Work Space Gallery in NYC and the Metropolitan Club, Washington DC.

The neighborhood of the South Street Seaport Museum is a provocative location for this production because it was populated with many Dime Museums during the 19th century. P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, located at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street from 1841 to 1865, is the most famous among them.

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Alyson Pou as Mother and Daughter. Photo by Paco Cao.

Alyson Pou has been making installation and performance work for over twenty years. With a background in dance, visual art and writing – her work combines movement, text, and objects. She has performed, exhibited and lectured at museums, galleries, art centers and colleges around the country. She is the recipient of a New York Dance and Performance Award (“Bessie”) in the category of choreographer/creator for “To Us at Twilight – .” Her work has been presented in New York by Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, Performance Space 122, Franklin Furnace, The New Museum, Artists Space, Threadwaxing Space, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Creative Time, Dixon Place, HERE, the Bronx Museum and The Downtown Performance Festival; in California at New Langton in San Francisco and The Contemporary Art Forum in Santa Barbara; The Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans, the High Museum of Art and Nexus Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, among others. She has received grants from the NEA, Art Matters, Inc. and The Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art as well as commissions from the Atlanta Festival of Art and Deutche Bank. She has been awarded fellowships by The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The American Antiquarian Society, and has served on both organization’s artist advisory and selection committees. In 2006 Voice and Vision Theatre awarded Pou one of five ENVISION professional artist residencies at Bard College. She has received the Henderson Award for Poetry.

Pou has taught classes on the history of performance art and has lead hands-on workshops and classes for multi-media performance production at NYU, Cooper Union, The New School, Williams College and Smith College.

Her major works are documented in her website, www.alysonpou.com. A summary of Ms. Pou’s past works with themes related to “A Slight Headache” is available at www.aslightheadache.com/alyson_pou.htm.

Director Jessica Bauman has been working as a director in New York and regionally for more than fifteen years. Her work has been seen at theatres such as New Georges, New York Theatre Workshop, Soho Rep, the Public, Juilliard (including the world premiere of “Fuddy Meers” by David Lindsay-Abaire), Rising Phoenix Rep and the 52nd Street Project. Regionally, she has worked at Portland Stage Company, Shakespeare Theatre of NJ, Theatre Outlet (Allentown, PA) and the O’Neill. She is currently developing “Into the Hazard (Henry 5),” a six-actor adaptation of the Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” She has been an Artist-in- Residence at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, a Drama League Directors Project fellow, an alumna of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, a NYTW Usual Suspect and New Georges Affiliated Artist. Jessica recently directed the world premiere of “Teachers Break” by Terrence McNally for the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway, starring Cynthia Nixon and Maura Tierney.

“A Slight Headache” is made possible by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space program, which was created with lead support from the September 11th Fund. Project space at Melville Gallery is generously donated by the South Street Seaport Museum.

Performances are March 20 to April 19, 2009 at South Street Seaport Museum, Melville Gallery, 213 Water Street, New York, NY. The performance schedule is Thursdays thought Sundays at 7:30pm. Previews are on March 20, 21, 22, and the show opens on March 26. There will be no performance Easter, April 12. The installation Opens March 20 and is on view through April 19 Fridays through Sundays from 2-6 pm. Tickets are $20. For tickets call SMARTTIX at (212) 868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com. For more information please visit the show’s website: www.aslightheadache.com.