20 Years at World Financial Center

Two theatre pieces, both world premieres and both in and about the World Financial Center, are set for the month of May in celebration of its 20th anniversary. YES, it is kinda like throwing a surprise party for yourself, but if you want something surprising and site-specific, you start at home!

The “home” site, of course, is the World Financial Center Winter Garden, 220 Vesey Street, and the specifics are works by Shua Group, which creates theatre, dance and movement-based art for public environments, and Women’s Project, which is breaking the proscenium for its second year in the World Financial Center with a site-specific theater piece for the Winter Garden.

Both Shua Group and Women’s Project are using the World Financial Center for both theme and concept. Both companies have been commissioned by Arts World Financial Center in celebration of its own 20th birthday.

Women’s Project’s Corporate Carnival World Premiere Commission

May 14 thru 17, Wednesday thru Friday, performances 1:00pm and 7:00pm; Saturday 1:00pm, 4:00pm and 7:00pm, World Financial Center, 220 Vesey Street (212) 945-0505 or click www.worldfinancialcenter.com, Free

Shua Group’s Giant Place Detail – World Premiere Commission

Performances: May 8, 9 and 10 at 8:30pm (audience meets at Starbucks in WFC Courtyard) Multi-media Installation: May 8 thru June 14, 7:00am to 11:00pm daily (located on lobby level, eastern glass wall) World Financial Center, 220 Vesey Street (212) 945-0505 or click www.worldfinancialcenter.com, Free.

Shua Group’s Giant Place Detail will reveal daily life in the Winter Garden from the perspective of cleaners, clerks, bankers, brokers, reporters, etc who actually inhabit the Winter Garden with performances May 8, 9 and 10 and a video-sonic art installation May 8 through June 14.Forty or more performers will convert the everyday dynamic of the Winter Garden into a playground of movement that re-imagines the function of the public space. Shua Group will create a transformative experience using a group of bodies relating to a popular public space

The choreography of Giant Place Detail will be inspired by the physical expressions of life in the Winter Garden in relation to its architecture. This expression, such as the diagonal rush of office tenants from escalator to stairway or the slow movement of a cleaner and his garbage can through the palms, will expose the beauty of the space as it is. (Happy Birthday Winter Garden!)

To create the piece, Shua Group, a performance company that utilizes the languages of dance and visual arts, predominantly in public spaces with lay performers, is spending most of April studying the daily life of people who populate the Winter Garden, ranging from cleaners to investment bankers to create Giant Place Detail.

By month’s end, Shua Group will actually make some of the “Winter Garden regulars” part of the final theatre work. And, to get some of the ambient sound of the everyday Winter Garden for both the live performance and the video sonic art installation, microphones will record from the highest heights of the Winter Garden’s barrel-vaulted glass ceiling, among other places.

Women’s Project, on the other hand, is looking up to create a theatre piece of the derring-do and derring-don’ts of the business community. Corporate Carnival, opening May 14 for a four-day run through May 17, is finding its material by looking to life in offices of the World Financial Center, home to 40,000 working people every day. Women’s Project is casting a keen female eye on high finance in towering corporations and finding incredibly amusing parallels between corporate America and carnivals. Corporate Carnival will embrace everything that’s freakish, curious and wonderful about business culture, corporate jargon and the wacky people who live with it daily.

Corporate Carnival will use tangible, physical, specific sideshow acts to illuminate the intangible, the metaphysical, the enormous vagaries of a global business market, the fluctuating economy, and the giant retailers that dominate the national landscape. On the midway of the Winter Garden, audiences will enjoy incredible feats of strength and balance, including executives climbing up the corporate ladder, financiers juggling hedge funds, ambitious women eating the glass ceiling, and brave clerks wrestling with Sarbanes-Oxley and many more daredevil acts

“This spring, Arts World Financial Center is engaging the public with two site-specific world premieres commissioned to celebrate our 20th anniversary,” said Debra Simon, Executive and Artistic Director of Arts World Financial Center. “For our 20th anniversary year, we’re taking it to the next level by commissioning new works for art, music, theatre and dance.”

“In the case of these two events, the next level is a tightrope,” Ms. Simon said.

The Process…No Playwrights in a Garret!

“We begin the process of creating Giant Place Detail by interviewing bankers, secretaries, technical staff, nannies, mothers, children, maintenance and cleaning staff and others, said Joshua Bisset, co-director of Shua Group www.shuagroup.org . “Our questions would be simple: Why do you come here? Describe your day in the building. Do you have a favorite place here? We would also ask people whether they would be interested in being involved in the installation and/or the performance.”

Shua Group engages the public in the
creation of Giant Place Detail.

The “we” of Shua Group to which Mr. Bisset refers includes him, a choreographer and dance artist, costume designer and co-director of the company, Laura Quattrocchi. Collaborating with the company are visual artist Sylvestre Hobart, sound artist/composer Stephane Garin and filmmaker Diana Quinones Rivera.

Shua Group will hold open rehearsals in April, so visitors to the Winter Garden may watch the creation of Giant Place Detail as it evolves. Click www.worldfinancialcenter.com for the schedule. In addition, a multi-media installation can be viewed in the Winter Garden May 8 thru June 14, 7:00am to 11:00pm daily (located on lobby level, eastern glass wall).

Material from these interviews and other graphic and sound recordings of the Winter Garden will be the source materials for the video art installation.

The performance of Giant Place Detail features performers from Shua Group and the cleaners, bankers, nannies, secretaries and other who the group met through the interviewing process. Music for the performance will be composed by Stephane Gardine, who would develop the soundtrack based on ambient sound and conversation. .

For Women’s Project’s Corporate Carnival, the creative process has been proceeding all winter.

“We all read a lot of stuff, especially books on magic, the history of sideshows and the World Financial Center,” said Julie Crosby, artistic director of Women’s Project www.womensproject.org who conceived of the project last year when she, on a visit to the World Financial Center, envisioned the Winter Garden transformed into a circus.

“We then checked out the websites of the building’s corporate tenants. We came up with a list of conceits that merged the carnival and corporate worlds – such as the banker who grows and shrinks depending on the stock market or an analyst trying to stay in the many loops of corporate communications.”

Women’s Project’s Corporate Carnival will
interact with the public in surprising ways.

Next, the director Junghyun S. Gregory cast the core performers in the show – six individuals with varying “carnival” skills. Everyone juggles. Some have puppetry skills. Taylor Mac, who’s rather famous downtown right now, is the main carnival speaker.

“We have a bullwhip expert,” Dr. Crosby added. “And the core performers are supplemented by another group of performers named ‘temps.’ I then locked all the core performers, the production designer Georgia Lee, the dramaturg Megan Carter and the director in a box sunk to the bottom of a tank of water. We open the box in April when a more traditional rehearsal period begins.”

The production designer, Ms. Lee, imagined the physical way that the Winter Garden could be turned into a sideshow and created a series of costumes that could be worn on a boardwalk if not a boardroom.

Arts World Financial Center is sponsored by American Express, Battery Park City Authority, Brookfield Properties and Merrill Lynch.

Admission is free for all events. For information, call (212) 945-0505 or click www.worldfinancialcenter.com.

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