Katie Pearl and Lisa D'Amour with Emily Johnson: Terrible Things

Fuse Box

April 26 & 27, 2008
by Angela Ahlgren

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      Performance still from Terrible Things
      Created and produced by Katie Peal and Lisa D’Amour with Emily Johnson
      Presented as part of the Fuse Box Festival 2008

      Katie Pearl and Lisa D’Amour’s Terrible Things, a performance at the Blue Theater, invests in the language of make-believe to draw the audience into an evening of storytelling. In the opening moments, Pearl, with childlike conviction, informs the audience that they will be scientifically transformed by the show. She weaves together disparate strands of autobiography while five actor-dancers create scenery around her with marshmallows. The marshmallow-movers cover the floor in geometric patterns, leaving room enough for Pearl to stand center stage. Occasionally, the movers perform simple choreography or crawl on their hands and knees across the floor, plowing pathways through the marshmallows with their forearms and allowing Pearl to move more freely through the space.

      Introduced as a work-in-progress, Terrible Things is charming and funny, but still lacks overall cohesion. Pearl’s stories about her mother, her past relationships, and her life as an aspiring ballerina in Oklahoma seemingly have little to do with one another, other than that they are housed, as Pearl comments early in the show, in her "wheelbarrow of memory, each story so heavy it seems to be full of Crisco." The dance sequences, though refreshingly spare and simple, also seem only loosely related to Pearl’s stories. With more focused selection and more purposeful interweaving, the stories and movement will be every bit as compelling as the marshmallow scenery, and the audience may indeed be transformed.

      Angela Ahlgren is a Ph.D. student in Performance as Public Practice at The University of Texas at Austin, where she studies Asian American and queer performance. She is also a taiko performer, and has begun working on her dissertation on women and taiko drumming in the U.S.


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