Saturday, March 20, 2021

"Merge: Give Ear" streaming from the Cowles Center

Berit Ahlgren and Nathan Keepers
(photo by Shelly Mosman)
Give Ear is one of the many shows that were scheduled to open in March 2020; I call them "ghost shows." Some of them had a few performances before being cancelled, some of them just dress rehearsals or previews, some of them never even reached that point. Some of these shows will return in some form when theaters open again, but some will never come to be, and just remain an idea in the artists' minds. The Cowles Center gave creators Berit Ahlgren, Nathan Keepers, and company the opportunity to revisit Give Ear one year later and make it into something new. The result is a film/dance/theater piece that combines footage from the filmed final dress rehearsal last year and the new performance this year (both filmed on the Goodale Stage with no audience) with footage from the rehearsal/creative process (in one of the gorgeous studios in the Cowles Center) that sort of bridges the two performances. As Nathan says at one point, it "turned out to be super meta and weird." It's a look inside the artistic process as these artists try to make sense of the original piece they were trying to make one year ago and everything that's happened since. Nothing will be the same when this pandemic is over. Give Ear is an exploration of what that looks like for this one specific "ghost show."

Give Ear is part of the Cowles Center's "Merge" series that pairs artists from different disciplines, in this case Berit Ahlgren from the dance world (a founding member of TU Dance) and Nathan Keepers from the theater world (Producing Artistic Director of The Moving Company). The original concept of the show was listening. A simple concept but one that is actually very hard to do in practice. We're a society that's over-stimulated. We have so many inputs coming in from so many sources, it's hard to filter out the nonsense and listen to what's really important. This piece speaks to that in a number of short dances, and that idea still comes across in the performances by the company (also including JuCoby Johnson, Isaiah Langowski, Jordan Lovestrand, Mirabai Miller, Leslie O’Neill, Randy Reyes, Joe Tennis, and Christian Warner). But in addition to the theme of listening, the piece also speaks to ideas of connection, creation, change, and the meaning of art in these times.

Throughout this extended intermission, artists have continued to find new ways to make art. Rather than simply stream the filmed dress rehearsal, which would have still had value, but would have been two-dimensional and static, these artists revisited their work after all that's happened in the last year and let that inform, change, and grow the piece. Give Ear is both a new piece of art made in and for these strange times, and a glimpse into the process of creating it. If you missed last night's livestream, you can still watch it on demand through Sunday. See the Cowles Center website for details.