Photo Shoot: Annie-B Parson, “Ich, Kürbisgeist”
Friday February 21, 2014
Studio of David Korins, West 30th Street, New York City
Chance Magazine, in its second year of publication and currently developing its third issue, includes a range of sections on a theme: theatre makers in conversation with each other and with our readers about contemporary theatrical design and important designers of prior generations. Among the sections a reader might find in a single issue of Chance are: “Performance” that captures images from theatrical performances; “Focus” that may drill into the details of a dress or element of a design; “Document” that records the efforts behind a particular design or designer’s body of work; and “Monograph” that examines the work of a single designer who has a significant legacy from prior decades. The definitional lines among our sections can sometimes be fuzzy — yet the essential point is that Chance seeks to capture designers in conversation with one another and to allow images to speak for themselves. Chance looks at the world through the lens of theatre and design.
The Chance “Play” section is where we examine a new theatrical work and allow it to breathe in printed excerpts and in staged images that are not from any particular production. In “Play” we sometimes allow an unproduced theatrical work to be realized by designers for the printed page. I observed a Yonkers photo shoot in summer 2012 that came from this orientation, that resulted in the Chance Issue 1 spread in which a Chance Costume Editor Camille Assaf imagined the world of Sharr White‘s then unproduced The Snow Geese long before it was announced for its Broadway production.
On this winter evening in February 2014, I observed a different kind of “Play” session involving actors, choreographer Annie-B Parson, costume designer Suzanne Bocanegra, photographers Fabrice Trombert, and shoot coordinator Fitz Patton at David Korins‘ West 30th Street studio in Manhattan. These costumes and actors were crafted for a realized staged production, and the team created entirely new scenarios within the set of a working designer’s studio, and later (images not captured here) on the streets of New York and on the subway.
Ich, Kürbisgeist, is a piece in the repertoire of “Big Dance Theater” written by Sibyl Kempson in a completely invented language — “an amalgam of English, Swedish, German and Sid Caesar,” according to the production’s on-line description. The piece was co-directed and choreographed by Annie-B Parson, costumed by performance artist Suzanne Bocanegra, and animated by performers including Paul Lazar, Tymberly Canale, and others. Choreographer and costumers at this “Play” shoot collaborated with Patton and Trombert to create worker set-ups imagined and enacted, in a working studio on a Manhattan winter night.
The final images in Chance Issue 3, that travel from studio to the street to the subway, will astound you. Allow these images taken by me within the Korins studio alone to suggest some of the possibilities that were explored. And also imagine partially understandable improvised dialogue, in the created English-Swedish-German-Sid Caesar nonsense dialect, involving charming and ridiculous actors (identified where I was able) in charming and ridiculous garb.
My favorite overheard phrase during the shoot, asked in all earnestness: “What about the pumpkin butt?”
Credits from web site for the production:
Big Dance Theater
Directed by Paul Lazar
Co-directed/Choreographed by Annie-B Parson
Written by Sibyl Kempson
Set Joanne Howard
Video Karinne Keithley, Josh Higgason, Jeff Larson
Music Karinne Keithley and Ben Williams
Lights Joe Levasseur
Sound Jamie McElhinney
Costumes Suzanne Bocanegra
Production Manager Brendan Regimbal
Produced by Aaron Rosenblum
Performers Paul Lazar, Tymberly Canale, Molly Hickok, Kourtney Rutherford, Eric Dyer
A Big Dance Theater Production Commissioned by PS122 & The Chocolate Factory
New York Live Arts, October 31 – November 9, 2013
Chocolate Factory, October 25 – November 2012
© Martha Wade Steketee (March 18, 2014)