Performer-audience interaction to be key MCA’s

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A scene from “The Fever” to be presented during the 2017-18 season of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art Stages series. (Photo: Courtesy of the MCA)

Dance, performance art, music, theater and more. It will all be part of the ever-adventurous Stage series at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art during the 2017-2018 season, during which the focus will be on an inter-activity between the performers and the audience.

Featuring national and international artists, as well as new work by Chicago-based artists, one highlight of the season will be the arrival of choreographer Twyla Tharp, who will be recreating some of her work from the 1960s and ’70 for the first time in decades.

The series has been organized by Yolanda Cesta Cursach, the MCA’s curator of performance, with assistance from the museum’s new associate curator of performance, Tara Aisha Willis, whose background is in dance and choreography, and who most recently worked on projects in New York.

Tickets for the performances will be available beginning May 3. Call (312) 397-4010 or visit All performances will take place in the MCA’s Edlis Neeson Theater.

Here is a closer look of what will be on tap:

Okwui Okpokwasili”s “Poor People’s TV Room,” will be part of the 2017-18 Stage series at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. (Photo: Courtesy of the MCA)

Okwui Okpokwasili”s “Poor People’s TV Room,” will be part of the 2017-18 Stage series at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. (Photo: Courtesy of the MCA)

+ 600 HIGHWAYMEN: “The Fever,” (Sept. 7-10): The latest work by this Brooklyn-based theater company “tests the limits of individual and collective responsibility” and is performed “in complete collaboration with the audience.” Created for an intimate viewership of 75 people, its writers and directors, Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, take turns as narrator, describing an unremarkable party hosted by a woman named Marianne in an unnamed town. As time passes, the performers slowly call on volunteers to catch someone falling slowly, rearrange an arm, or help a person get up. The piece,which premiered in 2017 at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, is a study about the sympathetic feeling between strangers and how, uncalled-upon, we are dependent on one another.

+ Marc Bamuthi Joseph: “/peh-LO-tah/,” (Oct. 5-8): Inspired by the artist’s first trip to South Africa, when the nation was preparing for the 2010 World Cup, this work recounts personal stories of playing soccer mixed with social commentaries about the business of the sport and how soccer – the source of joy and physical freedom for so many – also is a means of corruption and inequality. Along with poetry and spoken word, dancers perform a range of movement from hip-hop to modern and folkloric dances of South Africa and Brazil (host cities of the World Cup) fused with movements of its footballers and Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. A meditation on how egalitarianism is played out in a sport known as “the beautiful game,” the performance was developed with and directed by Michael John Garcés, with choreography by Stacey Printz, and it is accompanied by original music by Yaw Agyeman of the Black Monks of Mississippi. It will be presented by the MCA in association with the Chicago Humanities Festival.

+ Faye Driscoll: “Thank You for Coming: Play,” (Nov. 9-12): This work by Bessie Award-winning director and choreographer Driscoll investigates how we rely on stories to relate to one another and to form identities as individuals and citizens. It combines Driscoll’s life story with stories of the performers and collaborators to create a collective autobiography that is danced, sung, and spoken. Presented by the MCA with the Chicago Humanities Festival.

+ Twyla Tharp: “Minimalism and Me,” (Dec. 7-10): This program will explore Tharp’s works from 1965 to 1970 and feature the choreographer’s recollections from the stage about the era, the creation of her seminal early works, and her experiences while living among many of the major visual artists of the time. Members of Twyla Tharp Dance will perform excerpts of the works that Tharp discusses during the program. During the course of her career, Tharp has choreographed more than 160 dances that have appeared in feature films, ballets, Broadway shows, and television specials, and she has been the recipient of two Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, a National Medal of the Arts, and a Kennedy Center Honor.

+ Federico León: “Las ideas,” (Jan. 25-28, 2018): Capturing the intimacy of a creative process, Federico León and Julian Tello, the Argentine writer/director duo behind Las Ideas, sit with their laptops, notebooks, and a projector at a ping-pong table. Blurring the lines between reality and fiction, the audience watches as the two engage in a constant exchange – a ping-pong of ideas and theories for the show taking place. What is an actual part of their lives and what belongs to the artistic experience is unclear; the ideas analyzed, observed, and confronted on stage may in fact become actual working material. The performance is in Spanish with subtitles.

+ Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis: “The Way You Look (at me) Tonight,” (Feb. 8-11, 2018): Cunningham, a Glasgow-based artist and leading disability culture activist, along with choreographer Jess Curtis, will perform this sensory journey that explores society’s habits of perceiving people and the world.The two performers dance, sing, and tell stories, with intermittently timed questions directed at the audience to spur introspective moments and self-reflection. As the performers excavate their own ways of seeing each other as a man and a woman of different ages, bodies, and backgrounds, so are the audience members asked to look at themselves.

+ Mind Over Mirrors: Bellowing Sun, (April 6-7, 2018): Chicago-based musician and composer Jaime Fennelly will premiere this work which blends various voices through electronic synthesizers and Fennelly’s primary instrument, the Indian pedal harmonium. This new project expands Fennelly’s solo practice as a harmoniumist and synthesist to include a panoramic ensemble made up of vocalist and percussionist Janet Beveridge Bean, violinist Jim Becker, and percussionist Jon Mueller, all selected by Fennelly for their work in the Cosmic Americana genre. The musicians perform with audiences seated on stage encircling a sculptural light installation designed in collaboration with Timothy Breen, Eliot Irwin, and Keith Parham. The centerpiece illuminates the room with live animation and gradual changes in light and color, allowing viewers to see and react to their fellow audience members in this enticing audiovisual environment.

+ Okwui Okpokwasili: “Poor People’s TV Room,” (April 12-15, 2018): Bessie Award-winning artist Okwui Okpokwasili debuts at the MCA with tis work – a kinetic history of collective action and resistance movements in Nigeria. The performance draws from two historical incidents – the Women’s War of 1929 and the Boko Haram kidnappings of more than 300 girls in 2014 – in order to unearth buried stories of the country’s women-led resistance campaigns. Okpokwasili performs with a cast of women from different generations in this collaboration with director/designer Peter Born that fuses choreography, song, text, and film to create “a potent narrative around the impact of that erasure on Nigerian society today.”

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