by Marcina Zaccaria
A transformative story that deals with the systematic rape of Bosnian women, “Dust to Dust” will be performed on December 10th, International Human Rights Day, at The Church of the Holy Family (UN Parish).
“Dust to Dust” was originally developed through Voice & Vision, an organization dedicated to supporting women’s theatrical work in New York. The play was subsequently performed at the League of Professional Theater Women, New Play Festival at New World Stages and Stage Left Studio. Internationally, it was performed at the Women Playwrights International Conference (WPIC) in Stockholm, Sweden, Teatrul Luni in Bucharest, Romania, Thespis MonoDrama Festival in Kiel, Germany and MonoAKT in Prishtina, Kosovo.
“The play takes place during the course of the war, tracking the terrifying progression from individual rape to gang rape to rape camps," Hess explained. She did an interview with a neighbor here who is Bosnian, who escaped the war. “She, herself, thank God, was not raped. Her insight was invaluable,” Hess said.
The title, “Dust to Dust,” has to do with cycles of life and death. Through the course of the story, we see that these women are part of an ongoing and enlarged human landscape rather than reduced to a one-time and isolated historic event.
“Dust to Dust” deals with the deeply human reaction to terror and the all too everyday system by which women’s bodies were used as battlefields. With “Dust to Dust,” Hess attempts to repair borderline behavior by reclaiming one’s truth, including one’s darkness as well as one’s light.
Considering the project from a writer and a director’s point of view, Hess questions how the audience will be able to witness the story, knowing what they bring to it will be dependent on their own experience and orientation. The story reveals the thoughts and emotions not only of a woman who was raped during war, but also seeks to recognize the circumstances of the soldiers who were involved in such rapes. In this way Hess wants to refrain from demonizing men even as she wants to involve us all on some level.
“We are not at a safe remove,” Hess said. “She’s me. She’s you.”
The show is being presented on the last day of the UN Conference on Gender Violence. This year’s official theme is “Orange the World in 16 Days.” The larger conference invites individuals and groups to mobilize and call for the elimination of violence against women and girls. 16 days of Activism Against Gender- Based Violence was established in 1991 at the first Woman’s Global Leadership Institute. It takes place annually from November 25th – December 10th.
“Dust to Dust” is being performed on the last day of the conference on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. The time span of the conference underscores that gender-based violence is also a violation of human rights.
In “Dust to Dust,” Hess leads a stark, raw investigation that deals with reclamation after the erasure of emotion. The ‘Outsider' in the play finds that shame and humiliation travel with her in her veins after witnessing the extreme, sexual objectification of the 'Everywoman'. Thus the ‘Outsider’ identifies with her cry. In recognition, there is a visceral understanding of their shared humanity. “Dust to Dust” moves beyond cultural boundaries to encounter the universality of man’s inhumanity to man.
Hess has worked in traditional and avant-garde theater for years. Ms. Hess’ acclaimed solo work, beginning with the trilogy “Living Openly & Notoriously,” has been performed around the globe: Berlin, Bath, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Toronto and Yerevan, as well as Off-Broadway. Her New York credits include work with The New Group, Women’s Project, Irish Rep, MTC and NYTW. She has also worked extensively in regional theaters.
Hess is also writing a book, “The Interplay of Being,” based on her methodology culled from teaching acting at New York University (NYU), The O’Neill Center: National Theater Institute (NTI), Fordham University, and international workshops and master classes.
“Dust to Dust” will be performed at The Church of the Holy Family (The UN Parish) on 315 East 47th Street at 7PM. The 40 minute performance will be followed by a Q & A.
A smart company and an inventive production team hit their stride with “The Downtown Loop” at 3LD Art and Technology Center.
Set in the streets of 21st Century Manhattan, “The Downtown Loop” takes the audience on a virtual bus tour evoking nostalgia for what may or may not have been. Day in, day out, a Tour Guide leads a double-decker bus tour through Manhattan below 59th St., filled with his excitements and disappointments.
Ben Gassman has written a meticulous script. In it, gentrification, economic revitalization and the ceaseless buzzing activity that keeps Manhattan on the leading edge is explored through the eyes of the people the City leaves behind.
The company features performers interested in bringing cutting edge work to creative spaces. Greg Carere, Keelie A. Sheridan, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, Mia Jessup, Robert Metz, Sam Soghur and Hakan Tolga Polat are glad to blend in with the audience throughout the show. In chatting with audience members, the performers seek to clarify why New York is the unique, inspiring, and sometimes troubling City that it is. As they tell their personal stories, the players in their 20s and the middle-aged actors who portray the hot dog vendor and the souvenir salesmen are compelling. Improvisation, in addition to the script, never seems shoddy or out of place in the production.
Direction by Meghan Finn is clever and strong. The monologues to the audience are as effective as the more candid scenes that explore love, loss, and desire in New York City. Finn, who has directed projects at PS122, Dixon Place, and HERE, is careful to find nuance in each moment of the play. She treats the script as a jumping off point, and builds a world that is full of humor, tension, and heartache. Production elements are detailed and cohesive. Details like actual free hot dogs available from a hot dog stand are noticed.
Video design by Jared Mezzocchi is striking and inventive. Images of the City are colorful and bold. The floor to ceiling surround video does make it seem that you are actually traveling on the bus tour through New York. The video is more realistic than expressionistic, however there are departures from the basic action of the play where the large video screens feature aqua to green fades and bright yellow blurs. Stop-motion photography is featured in other sequences.
This and other interactive attempts are quite successful, and make this a rare, impressive evening in the theater. The co-producer, 3 Legged Dog, exists to produce new, original works in theater, performance, dance, media and hybrid forms. 3 Legged Dog’s mission is to explore narrative possibilities created by digital technology. They seek to provide an environment for our artists to create new tools and modes of expression so that they can excel across a range of disciplines.
“The Downtown Loop” is running until Saturday, November 16th at 3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street, at Rector, in downtown Manhattan. It is located two and a half blocks below the WTC site. Tickets are available by calling Ovationtix at 866-811-4111. For more information, visit www.3ldnyc.org.