I showed up early to Create 24, a sort of performance art revue held, appropriately, on Jan. 24 at White Rabbit Cabaret, to find a bunch of beautiful people wearing unnecessary scarves, a philosopher waiting stoically for a drink and an amiable puppeteer I’d met a couple of years ago who was kind enough to join a very out-of-place me.
We had gathered to see members of Indy Convergence, NoExit Performance, and Motus Dance Company, who had allied in a sort of artistic gambit. Four teams — led respectively by Leila Ghaznavi, Tommy Lewey, Katelin Ryan and Michael Velez — had come together the night before to create original theatrical pieces in the span of 24 hours. And we were going to see the results.
As best as I can decipher the performances could be titled thusly:
1) Aren’t Cell Phones the Darnedest Things?
2) Fixed Rate Interest in Faerie Land, or, Bill Wilkison and His Amazing Midsection
3) The Bunnies Don’t Like Us
4) Puppet Love
Performers used the project's limitations to their advantage, converting the without-the-aid-of-a-net tension into the energy of an improv show and rolling with the punches. With the exception of the second show — which concerned Mr. Wilkison, his banking troubles and his navel — the performances were nonverbal and expressionistic.
At least that's what I could gather from my vantage point. The primary downside to the evening’s entertainment was the White Rabbit’s low stage. Movement-based performers don’t tend to stick to standing upright like normal people do, so it could get a little difficult to catch all of their undulations down on the floor of the stage.
The show opened with a riff on our subservience to society’s digital overlords and (I think) technology’s isolating effects on contemporary relationships. And also possibly how mobile devices make us walk funny.
This was followed by the splendiferous midsection I’d previously mentioned — think of Saturday Night Live's “More Cowbell” sketch featuring an even tighter shirt and an even more brilliantly deadpan wearer of said shirt involved in a take on the old struggle of a simple man against a vicious, dog-eat-dog economy set to the key of vaudeville and sprinkled with a little Ben Vereen.
After this came a relatively short piece about three very sad people who seemed to have been abandoned by their long-eared friends — sorry, but I couldn't make out much more than that.
The final act, having been spearheaded by an associate of my friend the puppeteer who saved me from the beautiful scarf-wearers (small world), proved remarkably polished and honestly moving. I must admit that I'm a narrative junkie — and this piece had what I was jonesing for. It was delightfully ethereal, mercurial, and wordless — and even a rube like me could make out what was happening. What's more, the movement was very crisp and the pantomime easy to follow. And besides, who wouldn't love a story with funny, flying puppets? al-Qaeda, that’s who.
Another highlight of the night was a video short showing the artists at work. First of all, watching artists earnestly communicating amongst themselves (i.e. “I want you to try standing on me”) is comedic gold, and the audience reacted appropriately. Second, as difficult as it is to create a live performance in under 24 hours, shooting and editing a film in even less time is a nigh miracle; so hats off to Charles Borowicz of AnC Movies (creators of Science, Sex, and the Ladies) for producing a nice little piece of cinema under extraordinary circumstances.
Finally, and most importantly, this show was accomplished in the name of charity. Bravo to everyone involved. Ticket sales went straight to finishing Sa-K-La-K-Wel, a community center in Oban, Haiti; however, the establishment in progress will amount to what one could consider more than just an average “community center.”
Providing classes and recreation are naturally a part of its charter, but Sa-K-La-K-Wel will, in addition to featuring an amphitheater, also sustain itself by growing its own crops, collecting its own water, and generating power to light itself independently. It’s even built out of old tires. Really. Thanks to the money raised from Saturday night’s show, Sa-K-La-K-Wel can now afford to build a new roof over the complex. More information, as well as a donation link via PayPal, can be found at sa-k-la-k-wel.org.