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Dream Logic: Juniata Theatre Explores Subconscious; On a Trapeze

(Posted November 7, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College Theatre and The Gravity Project will explore the ethereal dreamworld of the human subconscious using trapeze choreography in "and they lay, not awake, yet dreaming without sleep," which will be staged at 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Nov. 20 and 21, and at 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 22 and 23, in the von Liebig Theatre in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus.

Tickets for the production are $4 for students with I.D and $7 for adults. Tickets are available at the box office on the day of the performance, or at Juniata's information desk at Ellis Hall one week before opening night. Tickets also can be ordered by calling (814) 641-3771.

"It's a wonderful image to see someone floating above the earth in a way that is not possible without the assistance of a trapeze."
Nathan Dryden, The Gravity Project

The theatre piece opens as if the dancers are asleep in trapezes suspended from the theatre's interior. As the dancers awake, the production brings in a visual imagery that appears and drifts away as narratives arise and dissolve.

Like dreams, some sections are complete narratives, while others end abruptly. Additionally the material will have a dream logic as the cast performs comedy, romance, nightmarish sections and surreal scenes. The production will feature music by a wide variety of performers, such as John Zorn, Akira Rabelais, Frank Sinatra and Mogwai.

The production combines aerial choreography, natural sound and music to create the illusion of actors levitating through the air onstage. The lighting design for the production is by Maria Shaplin, a freelance lighting designer based in Philadelphia. She recently created the lighting design for Juniata's production of "Angels in America" and "War Party" by the Interact Theatre Company.

The magic of flight is accomplished using trapeze, a single bar suspended by a rope or ropes. The trapeze, commonly associated with circus performers, was previously featured in a Juniata production in 2006, "airstonewater."
Nathan Dryden created and directed the production as part of The Gravity Project, a group of theatre professionals who work in regular residencies at Juniata. "It's a wonderful image to see someone floating above the earth in a way that is not possible without the assistance of a trapeze," says Dryden.

Dryden, who has been creating choreography using trapeze for more than a decade, is using the unique "industrial" space of the von Liebig Theatre to stage the performance.

The trapeze used by Dryden differs from the circus models in that he often uses a triangulated trapeze suspended from a single rope, which allows the dancers to spin or circle the stage. He also can use the ropes for dramatic effect, using white ropes to frame the dancers dramatically or using black ropes to make the dancers seem to be floating in the air.

Dryden also works as an actor for The Gravity Project, performing in the 2007 production of "Crispin" at Juniata and at The People's Light & Theatre Company in Philadelphia.

Dryden, based in Seattle, Wash., is an independent choreographer and teacher who creates pieces for two Tucson, Ariz.-based dance companies: Zuzi and New ARTiculations. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Irvine.

Juniata students in the cast include: Brenna Fredrickson, a freshman from Fairfax Station, Va.; Caroline Binder, a sophomore from McConnellsburg, Pa.; Josh Beckel, a senior from Hollidaysburg, Pa.; Allison Strausberg, a junior from Bel-Air, Md.; Skye Hatton-Hopkins, a senior from Bellefonte, Pa.; Susanne Makosky, a freshman from Greensburg, Pa.; Peter Mike-Mayer, a sophomore from Glen Rock, N.J.; Danielle Rohar, a senior from Greensburg, Pa.; Megan Monahan, a senior from Pottstown, Pa.; Brittany Moyer, a senior from Takoma Park, Md.; Adam Vachon, a senior from Gray, Maine; and Kevin Whitmire, a freshman from Enola, Pa.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.