Nearly two years ago, a group of artists decided to get together without any performance plans. They just wanted to explore working together as a group.
“We wanted to have the training without a goal. It was a lot like a yoga class, but we were working in different kinds of physical theater,” says member Elle Denby.
Though they didn’t have specific plans in mind, the Neutral Mask Collective has presented the occasional showcase over that time. They will take the stage this week with I’ll Be Trying To Be There, the final piece in Illusion’s 2015 Fresh Ink series.
“It’s an amalgamation of all those things that we have explored in the last year and a half. This show is a series of vignettes about love and life and relationships,” Denby says. “It’s also about exploring what it takes to be truly present onstage with an audience and each other.”
While the group started as a way to explore different movement techniques and build a fresh approach, performing offers plenty of challenges and rewards.
“The audience is absolutely important. Depending on the energy we have there, that will change the performance. We have specific stories that will change depending on our mood and who is there,” Denby says.
“Every show will be a living show. You might come on Thursday, and then see a completely different show Friday night. There is a template, but not a script. The idea is to break the rules and follow the idea that in that moment you are feeling how to be authentic,” adds company member Ashley Benbow.
As the group started to give performances, they drew the attention of the Illusion, who has supported movement-based companies in the past.
“Illusion has put a lot of trust in us. It is so rare for people to take a chance on new projects,” Benbow says.
“Before this, we were just a group of like-minded people who got together,” Denby says. “Working with Illusion has been awesome. They have not said no to us in any way shape or form. They have given us anything we need, and that has been a big struggle. It is a bit of a challenge to stay present.”
The show’s storytelling may offer challenges to the audience. “They need to be patient and be ready to not follow an arc of a story. If they love it or hate it, we want them to make them feel something while they were there,” Benbow says.
“It would be great for the audience to feel the excitement of what is happening. These abstract stories come from huge moments of truth,” Denby says.
IF YOU GO:
Fresh Ink: I’ll Be Trying To Be There
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 8th Floor
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612-339-4944 or visit online.