‘Daily Life Everlasting’ Combines Dance and Theater with Energy of Rock Show

In “Daily Life Everlasting” by Charles L. Mee, people meet, fall in love, make out with each other, find being alive both awkward and funny, and dance a lot. Witness Relocation will apply its unique, pop-culture dance/theater style to the play, in which a group of characters move through various relationships, are buffeted about by the situations they suddenly find themselves in, have a huge blow-out party and hopefully, find true love in the end. La MaMa E.T.C. will present the work’s premiere run April 2 to

19 in its Ellen Stewart Theater, 66 East 4th Street, directed and choreographed by Daniel Safer with original songs by Obie-winner Heather Christian and costume design by fashion designer Brad Callahan of BCALLA.

Productions by Witness Relocation combine dance and theater with the energy of a rock show, exploding contemporary culture into intensely physical, outrageous, poetic, and sometimes brutal performances. This is the company’s third play in its ongoing collaboration with Charles L. Mee. (The first was “Heaven on Earth” in 2011; the second was “Eterniday” in 2013, both at La MaMa.) The company is led by director/choreographer Dan Safer. Its shows have been presented by theaters ranging from La MaMa to the Ontological to Theatre National de Chaillot (Paris).

Witness Relocation
Vanessa Koppel will appear in Daily Life Everlasting by Charles L. Mee, performed by Witness Relocation, directed and choreographed by Daniel Safer. Photo by Kaz PS

“Daily Life Everlasting” is a full length dance/theater piece for nine performers, with a collage-like text that is typical of Mee’s writing. Various individuals meet the loves of their lives, struggle to get by, disappear from the world yet collide with each other at yard sales, parties, brunch gatherings and a lecture/demonstration or two. The performance style, like the text, will be a collage of differing forms, including dramatic scenes, high impact partnering, social dance, live singing, film and video projection, and getting down to some good ‘ol pop music. Director Dan Safer explains, “Chuck visualizes a production then writes what he imagines it will be; then he gives it to you but doesn’t tell you how to do it. It is our job to create a reality that discovers the inner life of his text and collides it with dance, theater, and visuals of our own devising.”

In the spirit of the mixed media, collage-like nature of the text and performance style, Witness Relocation is adding two powerful collaborators to its creative staff for this production. Obie-winning composer Heather Christian has written songs for the piece, some of which will be pre-recorded by her and some of which will be sung live by the ensemble. For costume design, the company is working with Brooklyn-based maverick designer Brad Callahan, whose BCALLA line is rising through the ranks of both the fashion and nightlife worlds and was featured recently in PAPER magazine. His designs are a montage of influences, fueled by fetish wear, Brooklyn street style, wrestling outfits and dollar stores, and should add an inspiring new level to the collage-like nature of the piece.

Charles L. Mee is known for his work with SITI Company, for which he wrote “Orestes,” “bobrauschenbergamerica,” “Hotel Cassiopeia,” “Under Construction” and “soot and spit (the musical).” He was Signature Theater’s Playwright-in-Residence in 2007-2008 and last collaborated with Witness Relocation on “Eterniday” at La MaMa in 2013. That play tried to encompass the complexity of human experience into one exceptional day. The production inspired mostly rhapsodies of joy and gratitude in its reviews. (See excerpts below.)

Witness Relocation has been called “a dance theater anarchist’s utopia” (Performing Arts Journal, 2006). The Village Voice called it “[one of the] ensembles who now lead the city’s progressive theater scene.” Its productions vary between small punk rock shows and giant epics. The New York Times wrote that Witness Relocation’s work “aggressively blurs genres and makes high-low culture distinctions obsolete.” The company is ensemble-based and makes shows ranging from fully scripted plays to original, devised dance/theater pieces and many things in between. Founded in 2000 by director/choreographer Daniel Safer, it has created about 15 original productions, engaged in a two year residency in Bangkok and performed in theaters, nightclubs, rock videos and a Thai TV Soap Opera. It is based in New York City and tours domestically and internationally. Its productions include “Eterniday” (La Mama, 2013), “Heaven on Earth” (La MaMa, 2011), “I’m Going to Make a Small Incision Behind Your Ear to Check and See if You’re Actually Human.” (Bushwick Starr, 2010), the English language premiere of “Five Days in March” by Toshiki Okada, translated by Aya Ogawa (La MaMa, 2010), “The Panic Show” (Dance New Amsterdam, Bumbershoot Festival in 2009; Le Quartz-Anticodes Festival, France in 2010), “Haggadah” (La MaMa, 2009), Mikuni Yanahaira’s “The Blue Bird” (English language premiere, Clemente Soto Velez, 2009), “Vicious Dogs On Premises” (Ontological, 2008) and “Dancing Vs. the Rat Experiment” (La MaMa, 2006).

Dan Safer (Director/Choreographer) is Artistic Director of Witness Relocation and specializes in genre-bending works. He originally hails from the wild suburbs of New Jersey. He recently choreographed and co-directed the acclaimed “Ubu Sings Ubu” with Tony Torn and Julie Atlas Muz. Beside Witness Relocation shows, his work as a choreographer has been seen at the BAM, DTW, St. Mark’s Church and the Ash Lawn Opera. He has choreographed plays, operas, rock videos, fashion shows, and films. In 2011, he choreographed Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” for Philadelphia Orchestra with the Obie-winning New York based Ridge Theater. He was a 2007- 9 recipient of the Six Points Fellowship (Performance) and has won two NY Innovative Theater Awards. Artforum Magazine called him “pure expressionistic danger” and Time Out NY called him “a purveyor of lo-fi mayhem.” He is the Head of Movement Training at NYU/ Playwrights Horizons Theater School and a frequent teacher at The Norwegian Theater Academy. He used to be a go-go dancer and once choreographed the Queen of Thailand’s Birthday Party.

Composer Heather Christian received a 2014 Obie for her music to “The World is Round,” directed by Rachel Dickstein at BAM Fisher. Her musical ensemble, Heather Christian & The Arbornauts, pulls from the traditional gospel canon in tandem with circus music, noise rock and good old fashioned feeling good. She is a veteran of many Witness Relocation shows, including “Heaven on Earth” (2011), “Haggaddah” (2009), “Vicious Dogs on Premises” (2008) and “Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment” (2006).

“Daily Life Everlasting” will be performed by Alexa Andreas, Aziza Barnes, Nikki Calonge, Philip Gates, Tori Khalil, Vanessa Koppel, Mike Mikos, Dan Safer and Chinaza Uche.

Video and projections are by Kaz PS. Set design is by Jay Ryan with Andrew Bordwin. Lighting design is by Jay Ryan. Sound design is by Michael DeAngelis.

Costume design is by Brad Callahan of BCALLA (www.bcalla.com), a Brooklyn-based fashion designer whose clothing is worn in performance by Azealia Banks, Lady Gaga, Mykki Blanco, and more. He recently collaborated with porn icon Colby Keller and the CockyBoys on “Colby Does NY,” a very NSFW gay porn film featuring his 2015 fall/winter collection, which screened during NY Fashion Week.

‘Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment’ (La MaMa, 2006):

“Witness Relocation’s ‘Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment’ was like going to your first punk rock concert in the 1980s. It was raw, it was racy. If it was hard to follow at times, it was too lively for that to matter. The company has been compared to Pina Bausch, Richard Foreman, and the Wooster Group, but Witness Relocation’s mobilization of the element of uncertainty, the sheer physical vitality of the performers, and the mixture of genres puts them more in line with the Andrei Serban, Jan Fabre, Frank Castorf, and David Bowie.”– Kelina Gotman, Performing Arts Journal,

“Ellen Stewart of La MaMa has helped launch the careers of Sam Shepard, Tom O’Horgan, Andrei Serban, and Candy Darling. It is a pleasure to add a new company – Witness Relocation – to Stewart’s roll call of magnificent acts…. While influences are clear – the genre-mixing works of Pina Bausch, Richard Foreman, and the Wooster Group are definitely in evidence – there is plenty of originality here, too, as well as youth, joy, vulgarity, and an ironic distance from the media saturated world that inspired the show.” – Hilton Als, The New Yorker,

‘Vicious Dogs on Premises’ (Ontological-Hysteric Incubator, 2008):

“avant-vaudeville, conducted with brio and a cheery disregard for the fourth wall….Everyone has a grand time (including the absurdly charming performers)…. [the troupe] feels so comfortable with radical techniques-borrowed from icons such as the Wooster Group and John Cage-that they can redirect them into pure frolic. It’s liberating and silly, and their aesthetic forebears might even find it an awfully fun reunion.” – Helen Shaw, Time Out

‘The Blue Bird’ by Mikuni Yanaihara (Clemente Soto Velez-CSV, 2009):

“There’s a thin line between zany and hysterical, and Witness Relocation – award-winning physical theater of multi-genre collage and excess – tramples that line with manic abandon….Consider this one an assignment. Go!” -Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

“ultimately inspired and fun” – The New Yorker (Goings On About Town)

“thank heavens for Witness Relocation, a bunch of nuts who think that expressionism should be a wahoo with beer and wigs, and actors cracking up during the dance breaks.” – Helen Shaw, Time Out

‘Haggaddah’ (La MaMa, 2009):

“Haggaddah rocks…Safer has created what will come to be seen as a seminal work in the history of Jewish theater.” – Culturebot

‘I’m Going to Make a Small Incision Behind Your Ear to Check and See if You’re Actually Human.’ (Bushwick Starr, 2010):

“Dan Safer…(is) a structure geek: games, chance procedure, regulated improvisation. The resulting collision is a typically rowdy Witness Relocation mash-up of rules and ridiculousness: great fun, stupid fun and great stupidity, punctuated by fleeting breakthroughs into surprisingly personal revelations from a game cast of seven.” – Claudia La Rocco, New York Times

‘Five Days in March’ (La MaMa, 2010):

“Safer’s spoken-English, American pop-culture version opens up, punches up and clarifies Five Days with a visually and aurally gorgeous production and with outrageously capacious, perversely genius performances” – Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

‘Heaven on Earth’ (La MaMa, 2011):

“With its avant-garde playfulness and abstract poignancy, ‘Heaven on Earth’ offers a slice of postmodern paradise.” – Paul Menard, Time Out New York

‘Eterniday’ (La MaMa, 2013):

“bounces with body-positive exuberance….while “Eterniday” kicks up its heels, it’s also rueful, sweet, angry and strange….This infectiously joyful company does, it seems, shy away from dealing with pain. Its work and Mee’s fantasia dovetail precisely. It’s just that the performers, drunk on dancing, can’t yet imagine a time when they won’t be vibrant and perfect and young.” – Helen Shaw, Time Out (CRITIC’S PICK)

“‘Eterniday’ is a profoundly beautiful production, heartfelt and honest, with a deeply important political message. Witness Relocation has hit the sweet spot, combining energetic pop culture with smart, thoughtful reflection, inviting the audience to laugh and grow simultaneously.” Sarah Lucie, Show Business

“The play is, at turns, thought-provoking, laugh-out-loud funny, bizarre, and awe-inspiring. This theatrical experience is one-of-a-kind and certainly not-to-be-missed.” – Kelly Aliano, New York Theatre Wire

“The piece arrives at a truly lovely and optimistic envisioning of human pleasure and what a perfect, guiltless life might look like. When all is said in done, there are familiar songs, ones we’ve heard before, which we’ve danced to with a lover or a group or alone, and there is Safer’s infectious choreography, which is inescapably entertaining. This is all to say, it is nearly impossible to leave ‘Eterniday’ without feeling a sense of joy and gratitude.” – Adam R. Burnett, Indie Theater Now

La MaMa E.T.C. will present “Daily Life Everlasting” April 2 to 19, 2015 in its Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street, Manhattan. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 4:00 PM. Tickets are $25 general admission and $20 for seniors and students. Ten $10 tickets will be available to every performance on a first-come, first-served basis. The box office number is (646) 430-5374. Tickets can be purchased online at www.lamama.org. The running time is 60 minutes

Jonathan Slaff
Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.