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January 9, 2007

Prufbox staged at the Reynolds Center

Prufbox staged at our Reynolds Center's Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium this past December.

The Happenstance Theater returned Prufbox to the stage after a well received run in the first annual Capital Fringe Festival. The encore performance was staged before the holidays at SAAM, a proper setting, since the play's mise en scène is built to resemble the work of Joseph Cornell.

Prufbox was co-inspired by Cornell's shadowboxes and T. S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." In the play, the stage becomes the figurative room in which the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Mark Jaster (a classically trained mime) and Sabrina Mandell (a poet and performance artist), both Happenstance Theater members and the play's coauthors, perform the movement and gesture–based work with puppeteering assistance from Happenstancer Lindsay Abromaitis-Smith. It's not a traditional performance — again, fitting, given the nature of the references and the Dada atmosphere for which they strive. In the spirit of Cornell's work, the play tells no literal story but relies on expressive objects and the viewers' association with these objects to create mood and achieve a narrative.

In one scene, a pas de deux between a teacup and umbrella pays especial homage to the original works by Cornell. Cornell would have appreciated the balletic property of the performance, as Cornell's Medici slot-machine works were interactive tributes to his favorite ballerinas. Happenstance's use of music by Django Rheinhart and the Comedian Harmonists echoes the surrealist atmosphere Cornell achieved in his film-montage work, Rose Hobart, by playing Nestor Amaral's dreamy Holiday in Brazil as the soundtrack.

Posted by Kriston on January 9, 2007 in American Art Here


I saw this play too and thought it was terrific.

If you enjoy this type of non-traditional theater that directly references art and artists, then I can strongly recommend seeing any play by the New Orleans playwright Michael Merino. Merino’s work is quirky, challenging and often confounding.

My favorite plays by him are Hemispheric Dysfunctionalism and the Cortical Titanic and Artist and Protector of Children: The Life of Henry Darger.

Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post reviewed Artist and Protector of Children: The Life of Henry Darger in an article titled "The Artist as Art
Henry Darger's Provocative Paintings and Tragic Life Inspire New Works

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Cortical Titanic (in the early 1990s.) It was staged in Uptown New Orleans in a Unitarian Universalist Church – I believe the church was later converted to a private residence.

It was pouring down rain the night I saw the play. Several of my friends and I after the performance joked about how we would artistically approach death if we were faced with the prospect of drowning Titanic-fashion in a massive flood of New Orleans.

As the pirate Ragetti says in the blockbuster movie: I guess that's what you call ironic.

I believe that Michael Merino is now affiliated with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

Yes, I have relocated to Washington, DC -- and thanks for the kind words. I have a reading of three short works at Woolly Mammoth Theatre on March 26, 2008 at 7 pm. Hope you can make it.

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