Postmodern feminist dance trio Mad King Thomas present their latest work this weekend in an interactive and intimate performance that explores family and place, held at a private residence. The piece, called The Narrator Is Suspect, leads the audience through the house for storytelling, dancing, and cake.
The piece "is all about home," says Theresa Madeus, who makes up Mad King Thomas along with Tara King and Monica Thomas.
For the project, the group decided that they were going to visit each other's hometowns. They started in the fall of 2012 with King's in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They stayed for 10 days, visiting her family and grandparents, and exploring "the full scope of family and geography and culture," Madeus says.
That summer, they went to Madeus's hometown in Cody, Wyoming, followed by a visit to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Thomas is from, last fall. They also visited her dad's house in North Carolina. Finally, they ended up traveling to Miami for a residency where "we unpacked all of this and put together the bits and pieces," Madeus says.
The group wanted to explore questions of home and childhood and "how you become who you are," Madeus says, as none of the group is from Minnesota, but have all stayed here. "We are kind of married to each other in a way," Madeus says. "We've all met each other's families, we've been working together for 10 years. It was high time we brought each other home."
The three choreographers met in 2001 at Macalester, and started working together as seniors in 2004. Two members of the group, Madeus and Thomas, have lived together since their sophomore year. King lived with them after they graduated, eventually moving in with her partner.
Mad King Thomas has kept all three of them in Minnesota. "If we were individual agents, we would have moved," she says. "But because we were committed to working with each other, that's meant that we didn't go anywhere else." Next year, when Thomas goes off to grad school, the group will navigate working long distance. Madeus compares it to when a significant other takes a job in another city, there's a negotiation that takes place with that person's partner.
One aspect of this weekend's performance is a fake Ken Burns documentary about their travels. "Ken is such a great icon who can stand in for all our love and hate of cohesive narrative, meaning-making, and identity-building on a national level," says Madeus. "He's the classic documentarian, well-meaning and well composed, truly good, and yet he's still a suspect narrator with an agenda and a specific lens. We had an extensive relationship with him that included a breakup letter, but that didn't make it into this version of the piece. The documentary is still there, though, complete with slow pans across photographs."
The piece takes place in the Powderhorn area; you receive the location when you sign up. During the performance, the audience will sometimes divide up, so not everyone will have the same experience. "It's quite flexible in terms of how it goes down," Madeus says.
Besides the two public shows this weekend, Mad King Thomas also has additional private shows, where the homeowner invites their own friends. In addition, the group plans to eventually take the work to each of their hometowns, although the dates have not been confirmed.
IF YOU GO:
The Narrator Is Suspect
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
For more details about the show, check out the event page on Facebook.