Exploration Over Declaration at inner OUT

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Playing March 27-30 at the Calamus Auditorium, kt shores’ inner OUT was the latest offering of Gay City Art’s introductory season and the first performance from shores’ newly minted group, Radiodog Arts. Originating from questions and conversations between shores and her young son, inner OUT ambitiously takes on many large ideas about perspective, experience, identity, sexuality, and the body.

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inner OUT featuring kt shores presented by Gay City Arts
Photo by Sara Ann Davidson

Aside from a few brief moments of choreography, much of the evening took on a sort of lecture-demo format. shores discoursed philosophically on everything from flossing to Hindu goddesses in the affected conversational style of a TED talk. Her visual aids included a projected Ken Burns-style slideshow of family photos and a gelatin mold that she altered with various implements. The gelatin became an analogy for the body as shores shaved away a side of the mold then chirped sardonically, “Oh, did you lose weight?” The gelatin engaged with the audience’s visceral empathy, evident from the tight wincing breaths heard with every piercing and slicing.

 

The few moments of dancing provided a nice break in energy from the talking. In one, confined by a small square of light, shores progressively striped as she eased in and out of clichéd personas, blending gestural movements and sexual posturing. In another moment she showcased her admirable technique with an energetic balletic section that displayed exquisite control and flexibility. Like a mischievous nymph she trapped a seemingly unsuspecting stagehand and instructed him to try to pick her up as she teasingly flitted through the space, gracefully dodging his attempts.

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inner OUT featuring kt shores presented by Gay City Arts
Photo by Sara Ann Davidson

Party scenes bookended shore’s solo work, where a cast of eight milled about in various degrees of character. Eric Aguilar’s drag persona was a particular delight, showing development and commitment. The rest of cast had moments of hilarity, but seemed mostly unclear about who they were or what was happening. The finale group section surrounded the reappearance of gelatin molds and quickly devolved into a slippery orgy/wrestling match. Though entertaining, it felt tangential to the other ideas of the piece.

 

At the start of inner OUT, shores invited the audience to view the work as an “exploration rather than a declaration”—a statement that seemed reflected in the intentional casualness and experimental nature of the evening. On several occasions, shores gave technical directions from stage or nonchalantly addressed friends in the audience. While this approach did lend a certain inclusionary feeling to the show, often the informality was distracting and abundant technical foibles made the whole evening feel under-rehearsed or accidental. The abundance of ideas introduced in the lecture came so fast and furiously that there was no time to absorb them, and the choreography, particularly the group sections, didn’t seem to explore those ideas in any tangible way. Like a gelatin mold needs time to set in the fridge, this show would benefit from creating an environment for the audience where some essential ideas could cure into a cohesive structure.

 For more information on kt shores, visit her website.