banished? productions is an avant-pop performance company that generates immersive interdisciplinary art experiences for all, to re-create wonder and re-awaken the senses. It is committed to producing quality work that cull from multiple artistic expressions, particularly in performative or theatrical experiments that play with text and form. banished? strives to inspire and collaborate with other artists in order to fuel its own artistic process: re-discovering and re-inventing the art of narration.
Carmen Wong, Founder/Artistic Director, banished? productions on Into the Dollhouse:
Into the Dollhouse is an original hybrid performance project that took a collective lifetime of memories to create. The piece, which makes its world premiere on February 17, 2012 at the Mead Theatre Lab in DC, uses a dance narrative told in three vignettes as a meditation on performing gender, childhood memories and imagined nostalgia tinged with music that tie these moments of reminiscing.
The concept was to take memories of growing up along with the music that played in the background of these memories to craft a story of looking back in order to look ahead. I was very much inspired by “Education of a Girl Child” – a beautiful cyclical piece by composer/ choreographer Meredith Monk, Anna Halprin’s “Parades and Changes’” choreography and Charles Mee’s collaged solo play Salome. The performance continues the company’s signature of using the stage as a canvas on which to immerse audiences in a collaborative hybrid theatre form that uses narrative, movement, text, music and sculpture.
Using my own recollections of growing up in Singapore as a jumping-off point – along with the eclectic soundtrack of songs sung to me by my grandmother fused with the music my parents and older sibling listened to - I invited the dancers/devisers (Carrie Monger, Jennifer Rivers and Stefanie Quinones Bass) to weave in their childhood and growing-up stories. I wanted to explore these questions: “Who did we think we would become? Are we there? Will we ever get there? What moments or rituals do we strongly remember, and how have these left an imprint?”
In many ways, the piece is about time travel, each vignette depicting a moment in time of a woman’s journey through life: who she was, who she is, and who she will become – all of this shaped by the choices she’s made and the hand of time/circumstance.
Sentimental as the inspirational material may be, Into the Dollhouse approaches nostalgia with quite a bit of distrust, ever-aware of the fact that some of these memories are fragile, even imagined. As such, the musical elements sound like they come from broken TVs and faraway places, where singers aren’t actually singing and even the live musicians strum along in an aloof manner, as if to different songs. The entire black box continues the motif of a chaotically-charmed dreamworld: a dollhouse stripped of its original meaning, replaced with a pervasive, tactile illogic. Little dresses are swept aloft to create a strange canopy or stand like scattered sentinels among the audience – who are offered a chance to interact with the space in order to find their place and time within the piece.
After several more meetings with Carrie, I was able to flesh out and further develop each vignette’s concept. Co-founder and props artisan Niell DuVal began experimenting with creating the dress sculptures. More meetings with other collaborators ensued: Lighting Designer Levia C. Lew helped to visualize the dresses within the space; Costume Designer Melanie Clark asked insightful questions on how each character expressed themselves through clothes, and musicians Travis D. Flower and Emmett Williams – who will perform live and give the piece a wonderful voice – made wonderfully foggy interpretations of the selected music. Nicola Daval also became our lynchpin – the final performer I cast for a very crucial role for the show. Bit by bit, each collaborator gave shape to the amorphous ideas in my head, and brought them to glorious life.
into the dollhouse
Into the Dollhouse is an original devised-movement performance that explores girlhood, nostalgia and looking back in order to walk forward. The piece takes inspiration from Meredith Monk’s Education of the Girl Child, Anna Halprin’s Parades & Changes, selected text from Charles Mee’s Salome, and songs from yesteryear that trigger reminiscing.
More photos and info here.
“For those with a predilection for theater that wanders out of bounds. (A) soothing new performance piece (that) cocoons an audience in the music & imagery of popular culture. The effect is both familiar & mysterious.” – The Washington Post
“(An) intelligent and compelling new performance piece…The revealing peek they offer at some of our most simple, perpetual behaviors…is worth the trip through the little front door” – DC Theatre Scene
“The experience is quite unlike anything you’ll ever have…” – Maryland Theatre Guide
Into the Dollhouse is available to tour. It can be presented in theatrical spaces, and is also adaptable into site-specific house settings (video available). For more information on tech rider, schedules, and full-length video, contact us.