Source Festival: ‘We Forget, We Never Forget’

FOUR STARS
In a theatre festival marked by brave, bold performances, the Artistic Blind Dates may be the bravest. The Blind Dates bring together three artists of varying disciplines to create a short performance inspired by one of the Source Festival’s full length plays. Putting up a new work can be nervewracking; creating that work from scratch in under four months sounds terrifying. But luckily for Festival audiences, Rick Westerkamp and Layne Garrett were more than up to the task. For such a short piece, We Forget, We Never Forget is impressively evocative – I saw it before the play it was based on (Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea) and was surprised at the number of parallels.

Rick Westerkamp. Photo by Chris Macke Photography.

Rick Westerkamp. Photo by Chris Macke Photography.

If you’re wondering whether I forgot how to count, I can assure you that’s not the case. At midnight before opening, Westerkamp and Garrett learned that their remaining partner had pulled out of the production. Squeezing in seven hours of rehearsal the next day, the two artists attempted to create a cohesive whole out of two-thirds of a performance. This was mostly a success.

If We Forget has a weakness, it’s that it consists entirely of interpretive art forms. Westerkamp contributes his background as a dancer; Garrett, his work as an improvisational musician (The missing piece was apparently a poetic work that would have offered a more accessible entrypoint for audience members). While Garrett both constructs and plays an instrument made of driftwood, wire, and metal housewares, Westerkamp goes through two movement sequences interspersed with the raveling and unraveling of green cloth. At the end of the piece, the two men remove the paneling covering the windows to reveal the bustle of 14th St. outside. The performance is confusing at first, especially for those of us less used to modern dance as an art form. But as gestures and sounds repeat, the interplay between movement and music becomes clearer and the repeated, extended gestures begin to build meaning.

The meaning I drew from the production was not quite what the artists had meant. That fact was made clear as the performers discussed their intent and process in the post-show talkback. Bits and pieces matched, certainly, but overall theme was conveyed more accurately than specific action. In many ways I feel like that’s besides the point. I entered the performance a skeptic and left intrigued. And in Dontrell afterwards, I saw echoes of both versions – the performers’ intentions and my own personal vision. Garrett and Westerkamp are clearly on the right track, if not quite as far down it as they might have liked.

Running Time: 15 minutes, followed by a 30-minute talkback.

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We Forget, We Never Forget plays  6/25@7;6/26@7;and 3 and 7 PM on 6/29/14 at Source Festival at Source-1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.

 

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