‘She Turned on the Light’ to premiere at La MaMa

Do strangers share memories? “She Turned on the Light,” written and directed by Wendy Woodson, performed by Marina Libel, confronts the question through two perspectives: when you are a stranger in a strange land and when your remembrances seem to be carried across generations. The piece is a tour-de-force monologue with physical theater. It explores how lines of fantasy, memory and reality can loop and merge between women separated by age and history. La MaMa Experimental Theater in Manhattan’s East Village will present the work’s premiere run November 13 to 22, 2009.

Marina Libel plays a young woman and an old woman who discover that their lives have been running on parallel tracks. Photo by Eric Poggenpohl.

No issue is too small to unite the two women, or to divide them. The light in Noon’s room (reflected in the title) is turned on and off to excite memories, or to soften them as memories change. At times, they seem to be simply contemporaries; at other times, Lila burrows aggressively into the older woman’s past, to ferret out its secrets. While being alternately frustrated and angered by Lila’s demands, Noon is also protective of her. Through a delicate and rapid-fire interplay between word, gesture and light, we accumulate bits and pieces of stories and memories that we can follow. But just when we think we are clearly located, a sudden shift or an unexpected interruption takes us on another path. What we think we know in one moment disappears to reveal another layer of possibility. Is Noon dead or alive? Are Noon and Lila the same person or are they passing through one another in some mystical transformation? Who is Lucas, the enigmatic lover that Noon lost when she had to escape Europe and Lila meets on a train? These questions bring us to surprising revelations that speak to multiple experiences of displacement and desires for reconciliation.

A carefully choreographed interplay between word and gesture is a specialty of Wendy Woodson’s work, making it firmly interdisciplinary. From her experiences living in Brazil, Portugal and many other countries in her youth, Woodson has discovered inspirations, challenges and questions that relate to how and why she makes performance. She notes that when you move to a new country, gestural language becomes crucially important and inner lives are revealed through physical action.

Do strangers share memories? Fantasy, memory and reality can loop and merge between women separated by age and history.

The work is part of the “Cross Continental” series of Present Company, Inc. (www3.amherst.edu/~wwoodson/PresentCompany), which has a national reputation for innovative and exciting interdisciplinary performances of outstanding quality. It is part of Woodson’s six year-old project, “Cross Continental,” an ongoing series of interrelated dance, theater and video pieces that deal with exile, memory and reconciliation.

Wendy Woodson is a writer, director, choreographer, video artist and founder and Artistic Director of Present Co. Inc. To date Woodson has created eighty five works for the stage and for video exhibition that have been presented throughout the US, in Europe and Australia at such venues as the Washington Project for the Arts, Dance Place, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Emerson Majestic Theater, Wolf Trap, Jacob’s Pillow, and the Virginia Museum of Art. Woodson has received numerous awards and grants for her playwriting, choreography, and video including fellowships and company grants from the National Endowment from the Arts from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Mid Atlantic Arts Consortium, Boston Film and Video Foundation and Amherst College. She has also won artist residencies at such places as the Rockefeller Bellagio Center, the Yard, Blue Mountain Arts Center and Ragdale, among others; most recently she was a Fulbright Scholar/Artist in Residence working in Melbourne Australia. In addition to her work as Artistic Director of Wendy Woodson and Present Company Inc., Woodson has been a guest artist with numerous dance and theater companies in the U.S., The Netherlands, Australia, Portugal and New Zealand where she has made work for other organizations. She is also professor of theater and dance at Amherst College and the Five College Dance Department.

Marina Libel is a performance maker, dancer and actor originally from Porto Alegre, Brazil. Her choreography and writing have been performed at such venues as Williamsburg Arts neXus, Dance New Amsterdam, Galapagos Art Space and Brooklyn Arts Exchange. As an actor, dancer and collaborator, she has performed at The Chocolate Factory, HERE Arts Center, The Flea Theater, Dixon Place, Judson Memorial Church, Merce Cunningham Studio, The Public Theater and P.S. 122. She has worked with various companies including Present Company, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Man in Boat Theatre Co., Kayo Theater Works and South Pleasant Company. She has received grants and fellowships from the Brooklyn Arts Council, The Newington-Cropsey Foundation and others. She is currently pursuing an MA in performance studies at NYU.

The production is designed by Kathy Couch, a freelance lighting, scenic and costume designer who has designed over 350 performances in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Armenia, Russia, Latvia and throughout New England. She has worked extensively with Wendy Woodson and Present Co. Inc., KinoDance, Yanira Castro + Company, Candice Salyers and Chimaera Physical Theater. She is currently the resident Lighting Designer at Amherst College and pursuing her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Performances are November 13 to 22, 2009 at La MaMa E.T.C. (The Club), 74A East Fourth Street, between Second Avenue and The Bowery in Manhattan’s East Village. Show times are Fri & Sat at 10:00 pm; Sun at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $15, students and seniors $10. The La MaMa box office number is (212) 475-7710 and online ticketing is available at: www.lamama.org.