New World brings an innovative acting technique to town.
Add zombies to a tale about the apocalypse, and you're bound to attract an eager audience. But what happens if you add some classic Greek tragedy to the mix? TAPIT/New Works Ensemble Theater will reveal the answer at Edgewood College on Dec. 6 and 7.
The Madison-based company teamed up with Akron, Ohio's New World Performance Lab to create Now What, a mashup of two one-act plays. The show, billed as "one part Medea, one part zombie apocalypse," looks at what happens when things get real and people go over the edge.
"There are many different real-world circumstances where people feel they're at the end of their rope. I was in one such situation," says Danielle Dresden, a producing artistic director at TAPIT and the writer of the show's zombie portion. "At the same time, I was thinking about zombies and why they are so popular, especially with young people. What does that say about us and the times we live in?"
Dresden was eager to collaborate with New World, which she and Donna Peckett, TAPIT's other producing artistic director, connected with in 2006. New World is steeped in the dramatic technique developed by Jerzy Grotowski, a visionary of 20th-century avant-garde theater.
"There are no similarities in our techniques, but there is certainly a similarity in our worldview," Peckett says of TAPIT and New World.
For Now What, New World adapted Franca Rame's production of Medea, updating it to include the personal story of actress Debora Totti, who performs the title role.
Another important aspect of the partnership is an artistic exchange program. Dresden and Peckett recently traveled to Ohio to lead theater workshops for middle schoolers, the New World company and the Akron-area community. Now New World will return the favor, teaching the Grotowski technique at Edgewood College and the UW in their first visit to Madison.
"The exchange is a great way to delve into another technique and see how it can enrich our own practice," Dresden says.
Even after spending so much time contemplating zombies, Dresden still isn't sure what's at the root of our contemporary fascination with them.
"I've sometimes heard it's 9/11 or anxiety over disaster.... Maybe it's ecological. Maybe it's personal," she says. "I think it reflects a general unease that in a number of ways maybe we figured out we can't go on living [the way we do] much longer."
In other words, expect both troupes to explore uncomfortable feelings and situations. New World is "looking at going over the edge in a very physical, emotional and serious way," while TAPIT's contribution is more "comic and social, looking at the context we live in."
After each performance, the companies will lead a dialogue on "going over the edge." With the holidays -- and their excess -- just around the corner, there should be a lot to talk about.