Take This House (and Float It Away) Flooding Play on Midwest Tour
When I bought a condo near the Iowa River six years ago, I was delighted to learn that the flood insurance I thought I needed wasn’t required after all. My condo was outside the 100-year floodplain, so by turning it down, I saved a fair amount of money on monthly homeowner’s premiums.
If I’d still owned my condo last summer, I would have regretted that decision. The Iowa River surged out of its banks beyond even the 500-year floodplain. The first floor of my once-beautiful home filled to the ceiling with muck, slime, and water. Quite literally, the river ran through it.
Like so many others, several of my former neighbors were deep in denial as the water rose ever higher. By the time they recognized that they really, truly did have a PROBLEM, the water was lapping at the roads, and the raging river was too close for them to save their belongings.
They weren’t alone in their plight. The University of Iowa suffered tens of millions of dollars in damages, including the loss of many items (and buildings) that could have been saved, had the powers that be acted more quickly. The devastation in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids totaled billions of dollars. And reconstruction is expected to take at least 10 years.
Of course, this is not a new story. Not so long ago, Hurricane Katrina left much of Louisiana and Mississippi scarred beyond recognition, as homes and businesses washed away, and those that remained were flooded. People died in that disaster, as far too many residents were unable or unwilling to prepare for the worst.
And, we’re told, by climatologists (who should know), this is only a foretaste of what’s to come. As the planet warms, storms will become more fierce. Waters will rise higher. Winds will blow stronger. Yet some of us still wait for proof, our backs turned to the rising water, our ears shut to the sound of the wind.
All of this is by way of introducing an original play about flooding that is now touring the Midwest. Blue Planet Green Living is pleased co-sponsor the troupe’s visit here, along with the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City. The description of the play sounds familiar to those of us in flood-damaged Iowa. It may resonate with you as well:
“In the heart of levee-protected suburbs along California’s American River, a middle-aged couple think they’re immune to anything nature blows their way — catastrophic flood included — only to find themselves terribly deluded. This original theatre piece, Take This House (and Float It Away), spirals into the tragicomic world of Stu and Marlene’s floodplain living room, where the couple is unable to comprehend nature’s effect on their safe, suburban sphere. As Stu hides behind “groundbreaking” research into bird gestures, Marlene extrapolates caffeinated solutions to newspaper headlines, conflating staying informed with staying afloat.
Although we have not yet seen the play, the reviews we’ve read have been highly positive, both for the troupe, Change of State, and for the play.
Choreographer Carol Swann calls Change of State performances “clear, dynamic, and spacious.” Of Take This House she says, “All of a sudden [I was struck] with the absurdity of our society’s madness.”
University of Iowa MFA playwriting candidate Andrew Saito describes the play’s quality as “enriched by moments of sudden speed and exaggerated slowness, as well as sequences dreamlike and otherworldly, which augment with the otherwise naturalistic and comedic tone.”
At several of the venues, the play will be preceded by a truly unique experience. Jacob Barton will play a composition for udderbot — an original slide woodwind instrument.
If you have the opportunity to experience this play and meet this talented ensemble, I encourage you to do so. The subject matter is sure to make you think, and the play may well cause a little flooding of your own, as you alternately laugh and cry. Afterward, the performers will lead a discussion about local water issues in each community.
River Music Experience
131 W. 2nd St.
$15 (no one turned away for lack of funds)
Unitarian Universalist Society
10 S. Gilbert St.
Iowa City, IA
(A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Iowa Artists Relief Fund.)
3502 N. Elston
$15 ($5 discount for students, unemployed, etc)
1340 North 6th Street
$15 ($5 discount for students, unemployed, and members of Bucketworks)
Allen Hall, S. Rec Room
University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
Student Union Theatre
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
202 S. Broadway
The Tin Ceiling Theater
3159 Cherokee St.
St. Louis, MO
$15 ($5 discount for students, unemployed, etc.)
About the Company
With background in contemporary dance techniques, theatre, and improvisation, the four-year old Change of State Performance Project makes poignant and unsettling performances that unravel expectations of symmetry and the methodology of logic. The company is co-directed by Andrea del Moral and K. Qilo Matzen, and currently includes multi-faceted, Midwest performers Jacob Barton and Elizabeth Simpson. Matzen and del Moral, based in Oakland, California, frequently perform in collaboration with community organizations to engage audiences with understanding and improving water systems, policy, and sustainable technologies. For three years they commissioned dances from Illinois choreographer Lisa Fay, a two-time Illinois Arts Council Fellowship recipient.
Andrea del Moral, co-director (b. 1978), provides theatrical direction for Change of State Performance Project. She studied theatre at Boston University and dance at the School for New Dance Development (Amsterdam). Her work is influenced by training in Skinner Releasing Technique and other somatic practices, theatre directing, improvisational dance and theatre, contemporary dance, clowning, aerial dance, and writing. Andrea has expansive teaching background at all age levels. For two years she directed a summer theatre workshop for young women. She has also taught about water systems, agriculture, plant breeding, economics, white supremacy, and global economics. She wrote several chapters in Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground, has also published poetry, and recently completed her first full-length, nonfiction book.
K. Qilo Matzen, co-director (b. 1980), brings a technical movement background to Change of State, with a BFA in Dance from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and training in Martha Eddy’s Integrative SMTT (Somatic Movement Therapy Training). Ze works with clients and teaches through a Somatic Movement Therapy perspective. Qilo has performed in North America and Europe, touring the Balkans with activist arts collective Building Bloc, working with European director/choreographers, and locally as artist-in-residence at the Jon Sims Center, San Francisco. In addition to hir Somatic Movement Therapy practice, Qilo works as a plumber’s apprentice. Qilo is a contributing author to Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground (Soft Skull, 2007), where ze wrote about the Dishwater Deviants, the guerrilla plumbing wing of Change of State Performance Project. (ze and hir are gender neutral pronouns)
Jacob Barton (b. 1985) pursues an amateur virtuosity in composing and in performing, in music and in language. In addition to collecting and learning new instruments (most recently a trombone), he also builds new ones (most notably the udderbot, a new slide woodwind instrument). He plays these instruments in house concerts and with An Exciting Event, a round-singing puppet troupe. A graduate of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Jacob was a recipient of a 2006 BMI Student Composer Award for composing “Xenharmonic Variations on a Theme by Mozart” for microtonal player piano. Jacob’s interest in microtonality has led him to organize a Xenharmonic Wiki, the Seventeen Tone Piano Project concert series (Houston), and the Chicago-based UnTwelve. It has also given rise to his participation in the Garden Performance Project (NYC) and the School for Designing a Society (Urbana, IL).
Elizabeth Simpson (b. 1976) describes her experience of living as “Finding out what it’s like to be alive.” Through this look she engages in various forms of creative and social justice work, always striving to act in awareness of the rich intersections of personal, social, present, and historic domains of human living. She has been doing performance art incorporating vocal composition, puppetry, fire-spinning, street theater, and storytelling since 1994. Elizabeth studied Theater of the Oppressed with Augusto Boal and Story Circles with John O’Neal. She is a co-founder of the anti-racist community learning project, Liberation Education, and continues to teach anti-oppression and creativity workshops throughout the country in academic and community settings. At home in Illinois, Elizabeth is the Peer Mediation Coordinator at Urbana Middle School and teaches the class “Being White in a Multiracial Society” at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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