The benefits of Red Eye's Works in Progress: "Too often in the theater we are rushed to production."

Zanaib Musa 

Zanaib Musa 

This weekend, Red Eye Theater will present its annual Works in Progress event. The series showcases a group of new pieces that have been in development over the course of the past six months at the space. It's all part of the theater's New Works 4 Weeks festival, which runs through June 23, and is an example of Red Eye's commitment to supporting artists in the beginning stages of new work.


Works in Progress 2013 features five pieces. Cecilies, by Jeesun Choi and Thalia Kostman, is about an urbanite who hires others to live life for her as she is overwhelmed by the tediousness of her daily routine. Translation, by Haley Finn, is part performance, part installation, and is an experiment in self-guided narrative. Sam Johnson, from Supergroup, is showing a solo dance work called "Discrete Convolution." Zainab Musa is presenting a self portrait about identity, called Enough. Finally, My Life is All But Over, by Andrew Lee Dolan and Peter Heeringa, takes on an unsolved murder case from 1948 as its subject matter. 

"Three years ago, I discovered the Somerton Man, a 1948 unsolved mystery about a man found dead, sitting up on a beach looking over the sunset," says Heeringa. "I made two solo performances about him and the details surrounding his death. I was still interested in working on it, so I brought Andrew on board." 

Their works-in-progress performance started with the question of "how can we perform a case file?" says Dolan. "The result is a performance that is part lecture demonstration and part film noir detective story, interlaced with performer confessionals about losing someone." 

The pair had originally proposed exploring a lecture demonstration of the Somerton case file, but they had so much source material and research, plus Heeringa's two years of solo work, that they weren't sure how to honor it all.

"So we invited over some artists, and held a funeral," Heeringa says. "It was a formal-dress service with a visitation hour, candles, awkward condolences, and eulogies. We each gave speeches and said goodbye to the Somerton man and all of the expectations we carried with him." 

"The funeral opened up the question: How do you say goodbye to someone who's already gone?" says Dolan. "Five months later, the piece has shifted to include personal narratives of seeking closure, and the Somerton case file has transformed into a film noir murder mystery." 

For Heeringa and Dolan, having the dedicated rehearsal space and regular feedback that is part of the Works in Progress program was invaluable. 

"Too often in the theater we are rushed to production," says Heeringa. "The WIP provided us with the time and space to explore an idea we had, and it allowed us to test run a half-dozen concepts in front of a sharp audience of artists. We left every session with critical feedback, centering questions, and pages of new ideas." 

Many artists going through the Works in Progress program go on to develop their pieces further, whether that's through another program, or the Fringe Festival, or doing a fully staged performance of their piece. Some artists end up being a part of the Isolated Acts series, the latter three weeks of the New Works 4 Weeks festival, in subsequent years. 

Heeringa and Dolan say their piece will go back into development, and they hope to do a longer workshop in 2014 or 2015. 


New Works 4 Weeks

Works in Progress 2013

8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday through June 2

$8; pay-as-able Thursday

Nick LeMere's He & Him/She & Her June 6-9

Angharad Davies's Pretend and Tamara Ober's Sin Eater June 13-16

Rehearsing Failure, by Lisa Channer, Cory Hinkle, and Annie Enneking June 20-23

Red Eye Theater

15 West 14th St., Minneapolis