Simplicity at 12 Minutes Max


Written by Carla María Negrete Martínez
SynivaWhitney and Will Courtney of GENDER TENDER
Photo by Mary Margaret Moore
On The Boards’ longest running program for up and coming artists produced seven works at their former home at Washington Hall this Sunday and Monday, February 10 and 11, 2013. This month’s curators were Daveda Russell and Gabrielle Schutz who constructed an evening characterized by simple concept pieces in both dance and theater.  
Quinn Armstrong and Kaytlin McIntyre presented The Killers, a short theater piece performed by Samantha Lee, Donna Wood and Zachary Simonson. At the beginning, Wood and Simonson were in a deep and rather unclear conversation. Allusions to something being in the suitcase with which Lee was anxiously preoccupied came across through references to veganism. The mystery finally became clear when Lee revealed a toy rabbit in the suitcase, which she proceeded to dissect. Use of slow motion helped accentuate the difference in mental states between the characters. Linas Philips and Shawnsey Michael Thomas’ I’m Just Trying To Get By With A Little Help From The Tool Guy, got off to a similarly murky start. Inspired by Tim Allen, Thomas performed this one-man show that detailed an abusive childhood and a moment of reconciliation years later, on stage in the life of the character. With a long introduction and attempts at comedy with an overuse of props, the piece came across as gimmicky.
Both Kyle Easterly and Syniva Whitney | GENDER TENDER explored gender roles and female empowerment in their dance pieces. Easterly choreographed Match, a dancing duel with Dylan Ward. For “Round One” Ward wore men’s dress pants and a sports bra while Easterly wore a dress. Their combat was filled with low squats and slow motion hits to a sound score akin to an arcade melody. Easterly’s triumph was marked when he flung his dress onto Ward’s prone body. They duked it out for two more rounds, but in Easterly’s world whoever plays the female role always won.
Whitney presented Gender Tender in Syncs and Squats, a funny showcase of partially cross-dressing men and women wearing latex heels, hats shaped like sand castles, old telephones, and more. To an improvised and recorded text by Will Courtney and Whitney, the performers took turns voicing over the opposite gender. What began strong, with the six performers circling each other and singing “I’m coming out,” seemed to weaken at the end, as the dancers looked around with hesitation. The degree of improvisation in the piece remained unclear.
Grace Levy re-opened the show after intermission with Bony. A wonderful play, it painfully detailed the life of an anorexic person through a tour guide at a natural history museum. Moments of comedy juxtaposed with the brutal honesty made it more palatable. Equally honest was Erin Pike’s Score, in which she and Tadd Morgan stood naked on stage. Morgan, with an apple in his mouth and after many muffled noises, finally let out an orgasmic yell as Pike, seated on a white chair ate a banana, a popsicle, and a lollipop, then smoked a cigar and downed a beer. Score also explored gender roles; Pike seemed to play the feminine role, but only when she kicked off her heels did Morgan become subservient to her.
Shannon Stewart closed the evening with Come. Get. To This, in which she narrated how the work came into being. Her friend Sam Mickens had composed a string quartet, which became the score for the piece, in order to raise money for rent in Brooklyn. As Stewart spoke about how the piece would include four dancers, and be performed at a gallery, she taped an outline of a stage with four quadrants. More than a performance, the work felt like an audition or pitch to have the piece produced, as she only had herself to show choreography meant for four people. Come. Get. To This addressed life as an artist with rawness and fearlessness.
12 Minutes Max remains a wonderful program for up and coming artists to show their works, whether it’s an excerpt or the beginnings of an evening-length creation. In this particular edition, most pieces seemed to be the seed for longer, more fully developed pieces. While all could benefit from more time to explore and develop their works, premiering at 12 Minutes Max was hopefully the first step in that direction for many of these artists.