CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Sept. 8, 2000
(NOTE TO EDITORS: This is the first in a series of stories that revisit the
commissioned works that were part of the 1999-2000 Millennium Festival at
the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium. We will document how the works
have developed or changed, where they have been performed, what the critics
have said, and in some cases how the artists themselves gauge the works.)
ONE YEAR AFTER THE MILLENNIUM (FESTIVAL)
Hancher-commissioned Geometry of Miracles has continued to
develop and perplex on tour
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The 1999-2000 Millennium Festival at the University of
Iowa Hancher Auditorium opened with the Sept. 8-11 U.S. premiere of "Geometry
of Miracles" by Quebec director Robert Lepage and his Ex Machina theater
Lepage, who has been hailed as one of the theater visionaries of the late
20th century, combined dance, music, theater and innovative stagecraft to
examine a little-explored aspect of architect Frank Lloyd Wrights life
-- the influence of Russian/Serbo-Croatian mystic Georgei Gurdjieff through
Wrights third wife, Olgivanna. Lepages production viewed Wright
and his art completely through the eyes of Gurdjieff, family members and apprentices,
depicting arts perpetual struggle between the material and the spiritual.
"Geometry of Miracles" premiered in Toronto more than a year before
its U.S. premiere in Hancher, drawing mixed reviews. The Toronto Globe and
Mail critic described "imagery so intense its breathtaking,"
and a review by Kerryn Chan in the Flying Inkpot concluded, "Lepage has
been honoured many times over for his vision and creative talent, and he deserves
every one of them. Personally, this work has confirmed one nagging suspicion
that I have had for a long time -- Lepage IS a genius!" The production
shared the 1999 Inkpot Theatre Award for Best Performance.
But another Toronto review in Upstaged called the piece "a frustrating,
shapeless mess. . . a big disappointment," and the production made Eye
magazines list of 1998 "Disappointments."
Lepage has a reputation for continuously developing and refining his productions
through performance. Hancher Director Wallace Chappell, who viewed the Toronto
premiere says the "Geometry of Miracles" that came to the UI was
"much improved" as a result of Lepages refinements as the
show toured to the Salzburg Festival and other venues in Europe.
"It was always visually fascinating -- alternately disturbing and quite
beautiful -- both times I saw it," Chappell explains. "But the growth
of the script was successful and needed. I do remember feeling that there
was still work to be done when it left here."
Lepages touring agent, Menno Plucker, says that although Lepages
productions are always "works in progress" throughout their runs,
"Geometry of Miracles" took much longer to gel because Lepage was
working with many young performers with whom he had not worked before. "This
show really took a year to come together," Plucker explains. "But
at a certain point we all felt that it turned the corner, and in the end Robert
was very happy with the result."
Since the Hancher performance, "Geometry of Miracles" has carried
its Iowa imprimatur around the world, including performances at the Walker
Art Center in Minneapolis; Performing Arts Chicago; the Massachusetts Museum
of Contemporary Art in Boston; the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy
of Music in New York; the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain in Glasgow,
Scotland; the Israel Festival in Jerusalem; venues throughout Europe; and
even to Singapore. The production was given its final performances in June
Reviews became more positive as the show developed, but continued to be
mixed, with lavish praise for Lepages visual inventiveness and reservations
about the success of the narrative.
When Lepage brought the production home to Quebec, Alvina Ruprecht of the
CBC concluded, "Lepage is investigating the whole creative process here
in a performance of self-doubt and constant questioning. There were moments
I felt that these visual and spatial events created an extraordinary poetry.
But Lepage's intellectual pretensions dont nearly come up to the level
of his visual imagination."
A review in Woodstock electronic magazine stated, "this production
takes experimental theater to higher ground. . . The production has a quality
that can only be experienced first hand." The critic of the Staten Island
Advance called the production "often wildly funny, if precariously complex.
. . scattered but provocative and entertaining."
Lepage has since created a new solo performance piece, "The Far Side
of the Moon," which has been drawing rave reviews. He was booked to perform
the work later this season in Hancher, but tour-scheduling problems forced
the cancellation of the engagement.
The Hancher Millennium Festival was the most extensive and ambitious performing-arts
millennium celebration in the United States. The season-spanning festival
featured more than 20 major commissions in music, theater and dance.
In addition to "Geometry of Miracles," new works were presented
by choreographers Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Susan
Marshall, Bill T. Jones, Ushio Amagatsu and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers
including Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield, UI alumnus
David Lang and Mexicos Gabriela Ortiz. Performances of the commissioned
works were presented by prominent ensembles including American Ballet Theatre,
the Kronos Quartet, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Sankai
Juku, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane
Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson
Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.
The commission of "The Geometry of Miracles" was supported by
Marvin A. and Rose Lee Pomerantz of Des Moines. Other commissioning and production
support came from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hancher Millennium
Fund, the Hancher Enrichment Fund and Hanchers annual giving program,
which is known as Hancher Circle.
For UI arts information, visit this new address -- www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa
-- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <email@example.com>.