Bridgman/Packer in VOYEUR. Photo by Tyler Silver

Year: 2018-2019
DanceForce Member: Margaret Kaiser
Artists: Bridgman/Packer
Community Partners: Canalside; Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation; Torn Space Theatre
Audience: 500
County: Erie

Last year—the first year that Torn Space Theater (TST) collaborated with the NYS DanceForce (DF) to include dance in its summer RESPONSE FESTIVAL—was a huge success. In an effort to continue to fulfill the festival’s goal to provoke audiences to have an authentic response to art, either positive or negative but never indifferent, TST and DF presented TRUCK with seasoned artists Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman.

Last year’s presentation of BASTARD: THE PAINTED BIRD couldn’t have been more dissimilar to TRUCK: BASTARD was a blackbox theater production with a solo dancer and a 17-member community cast of diverse non-professional performers, whereas, TRUCK was performed within the confines of a 17-foot box truck parked outside TST and on the public Canalside Boardwalk, with two seasoned artists partnering with each other as well as with video projections of themselves. One was quite abstract and filled with devastating references to the impact of war on displaced individuals, and the other was humorous and played with one’s perception of reality. THE PAINTED BIRD required purchased tickets, whereas, TRUCK only required curious passersby to sit down and enjoy a free performance.

Planning began in May. TRUCK agent Sandy Garcia, eager to serve the artists and the presenters, included our performance in the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation touring grant to offset some costs. TST Director and tech crew prepared for two TST outdoor performances, while DF member Margaret Kaiser worked with Canalside administrators to arrange performances on the Boardwalk. Prior to our performances, Kaiser traveled to Corning to observe the load in of the truck and the temporary tent attachment for the audience and to meet with DF colleague Lois Welk to gain insights about the needs of the artists and a simple, but effective way to collect audience evaluations. This was a trip well made, as it informed our setup on the Boardwalk, which had challenging wind exposure from Lake Erie. Overall, TST administrative and tech oversight was more than adequate. The 200 evaluation forms revealed that 69% of the audience were familiar with contemporary dance and 31% were first timers. 97% indicated an interest in attending another dance performance, while 3% indicated that they would not. In addition to one -word comments such as “awesome” or “amazing”, there was “dance is not really that intimidating!” TST’s marketing included enticing brochures, an exciting website page, and mailings. All aspects of this collaboration were seamless and satisfying.

When reflecting back on the Boardwalk performance, there was nothing quite like drawing in unsuspecting folks: parents with baby carriages lured in by the music & the intriguing visuals; teens on bikes swerving in behind the tent curious enough to stand stationary by their bikes until the artists’ final bow; and, senior citizens strolling by the Canal eager to sit on lawn chairs to witness what the commotion was all about! The best part, of course, was the fine artistry of Myrna and Art and their uncanny ability to engage diverse audiences to remain curious and responsive to dance.