Witness Relocation in ‘Eterniday’ by Charles L. Mee

With its production of “Eterniday,” a new work by Charles L. Mee, Witness Relocation will apply its unique, pop-culture dance/theater style to a play that crams all of human history into one day, reflecting on the pain of life and the perennial elation of falling in love. La MaMa E.T.C. will present the work’s world premiere April 4 to 21 in its Ellen Stewart Theater, directed and choreographed by Dan Safer.

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 troupe’s second play in its ongoing collaboration with Charles L. Mee. (The first was “Heaven on Earth” at La MaMa in 2011.) 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).

ETERNIDAY- L-R: Saori Tsukada, Mike Mikos. Photo by Kaz Phillips Safer.

“Eterniday” is a collage play, which is typical of Mee’s writing, but with a (surprisingly) linear plot about two people falling in love. Its title refers to all of human history happening in one day, which will be evoked through Witness Relocation’s signature blend of dance and theater, all the better to illustrate the random nature of life and the inevitability of death and to celebrate the exhilaration of falling in love. The characters include people from pop culture throughout the eons.

Superman and Wonder Woman (now senior citizens) are there, as is Sir John Mandeville (the purported English explorer of the 1300’s), Don Quixote and a handful of ordinary folks as well. Mee’s plays are written with poetic texts and stage directions but intended as scenarios for the director to use as a versatile slate. Even their visual content is described in lyrical poetry. So much of “Eterniday” will necessarily be developed in rehearsal. Director Dan Safer notes, “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.” Expect caveman costumes, video projections, rolling set pieces, and huge dance numbers.

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 “Heaven on Earth” at La MaMa in 2011. That play dealt with the possibility of happiness after civilizations crumble, touching loosely on the Roman ruins, the 1930s Dust Bowl and more. Time Out (Paul Menard) wrote, “With its avant-garde playfulness and abstract poignancy, ‘Heaven on Earth’ offers a slice of postmodern paradise.”

Witness Relocation (http://witnessrelocation.org) 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 Dan 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 but tours domestically and internationally. Its recent productions include “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).

Daniel Safer (Director/Choreographer) is Artistic Director of Witness Relocation and specializes in genre-bending works. Most recently, he choreographed Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” for Philadelphia Orchestra with the Obie-winning New York based Ridge Theater. He originally hails from the wild suburbs of New Jersey. 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. 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 used to be a go-go dancer and once choreographed the Queen of Thailand’s Birthday Party. He is the Head of Movement Training at NYU/ Playwrights Horizons Theater School and has recently taught at Princeton University and The Norwegian Theatre Academy.

“Eterniday” is co-created and performed by Nikki Calonge, Sean Donovan, Vanessa Koppel, Kate Lee, Mike Mikos, Wil Petre, Javier Perez and Saori Tsukada. Set and lighting are designed by Jay Ryan. Video is by Kaz Phillips Safer. Costumes and props are by by Deb O. Sound design is by Michael De Angelis. Assistant Director is Ben Gullard.

“Eterniday” will be presented by La MaMa E.T.C. in association with Witness Relocation at La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theater) from April 4 to 21, 2013, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $25 general admission or $20 for seniors and students and are available at 212-475-7710 or through www.lamama.org.

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.