The latest offering from SuperGroup, "The Tent Has Been Pulled Down," is a collage of movement, music, and words that is as much about process as it is about the third-wave feminist blogosphere. The troupe will be performing it as part of Red Eye Theater's New Works Four Weeks Festival. This week's rehearsal showed a performance that is smart without being pedantic, funny, and ultimately an experience of tapping your head while rubbing your stomach.
The members of SuperGroup are eerily in sync with each other. They have a group email, through which they respond interchangeably. In an interview, their conversation flows easily between each other, not like they are finishing each others' sentences, but rather speaking thoughts in a dance of playfulness and understanding. This is a group that understands each other inside and out, and their work reflects that.
"The Tent Has Been Pulled Down" began as two pieces in January of 2011. According to Sam Johnson, the first work took as its starting point improvisation, and how to do it "performatively." The process involved allowing collaborators who felt a strong impulse to "set" that impulse so that it could be re-created. However, any of the other members could say "no" to that impulse without offering explanation.
"In other collaborations, we were trying so hard to please each other," says Erin Search-Wells. "We wanted to toughen up a bit, and practice saying no."
In the piece, SuperGroup also wanted to figure out how to create work without making sections that bridge together with transitions, focusing on each part of the piece sequentially, so that it moves seamlessly throughout.
The second piece that they began working on, originally titled "Two on One," involved two of the collaborators creating assignments for the third person. For example, they might ask that person to find an article in the New York Times and source words from it to create a song.
Eventually, the two pieces merged together. SuperGroup used the "Two on One" structure for creating text and music, and their improvisation technique to create movement. The result is an incongruous phenomenon of words and music happening simultaneously with dance and gesture not having any relation to each other (although in some cases inspired moments of happenstance allow the two worlds to collide).
The subject in some ways is the process of creating the work itself. For a company that is meticulous in creating the structure of how to make art, the end result inevitably reflects that process. The form becomes the subject, in a way. But there is also an actual subject matter. That in some ways is the most interesting thing about the piece.
Interwoven into the gestural movement is an exploration of New Wave Feminism. Specifically in blogs, but also in rhetoric and human complexities, such as how to express oneself as a feminist in today's world, and how that may conflict with our mother's feminism.
SuperGroup members downplay the content that they have chosen. The theme "is not necessarily what the thing is about," says Johnson.
"We're not interested in telling anything specific," says Wells. "I'm interested in creating a submersive experience for the audience."
Certainly, a rehearsal of the piece shows they have definitely created an immersive experience, particularly with the help of scenic designer Abbey Kleinert, who has created gorgeous Japanese print- inspired backdrops for the production. But SuperGroup's treatment of the subject of feminism is also powerful and personal.
However, we can't tell you too much about it here. There are a number of show elements that are secret, and at the request of the SuperGroup members, we will let you experience those for yourself. Part of their goal is to allow the audience to enjoy the piece without needing prior knowledge. "We don't want to tell you how to read the work," says Search-Wells.
So by all means, experience "The Tent Has Been Pulled Down" for yourself.
$8-$15; pay-as-able Thursday