River of Gruel, Pile of Pigs: The Requisite Gestures of Narrow Approach

Adam Sanders

outside the Offshoot where rehearsals for River to Gruel are taking place


Fusebox Festival blogger Aaron Sanders reporting from Austin, TX.

I feel a little bit like a Sumerian brought forward in time for a five hour master class on the history of flight, who is now being asked to explain it. Because of this and also owing to the process I am now embedded in, I would like to take the next two years meditating on what I have seen and asking questions . . . I would also like to apologize, because I believe this idea of contemplative response wished to become a real boy, had that wish granted, and then went back in time with the sole purpose of breaking Timothy Braun’s French press.

River of Gruel, Pile of Pigs: The Requisite Gestures of Narrow Approach is a collaboration between Sibyl Kempson and a jaw dropping list of Austin artists and/or companies (Physical Plant, Rubber Rep, Rude Mechs, and Salvage Vanguard Theater) that started in 2010. I collided with it last year when it was presented in workshop form at the Fusebox Festival and caught a glimpse of some of the artifacts produced during their early period of research, discovery, and creation. I was taken with the time and freedom they had given themselves to dream, to cull and/or cultivate those dreams, to free associate, to allow for inspiration and the random, and then to take all of that work and start over again, digging deeper. This was not Ibsen’s theater nor would it be built with anyone else’s technique. This was something all together different; an early iteration and yet a self aware step that took into account the audiences full complement of sense and the space and time it was being presented in.

Having spent some time this month with the group as a friendly fly on the wall what I have come away with is a sense that this is our theater; a uniquely crafted performance made for us; a form made more real by its abstraction and loose ends. To me the text takes on the shroud of a mythology or maybe the tenets of a Tao by its patient construction, its dense layers, its hidden secrets, and by the courage of these artists to embed it with the deeply personal. It requires you to be present and available and to bring your own history that you may weave it into the tapestry, but if you are willing to meet them half way the reward is well worth the work.

Add to all of this that it is being performed by some of Austin’s most experienced multi-disciplinary artists and what you come away with is a journey that is captivating and gritty and fun. I envy most of you who will walk in, largely unaware, and take each brave step for the first time. I believe this will be a workshop that you will not soon forget and I look forward with giddy anticipation to being in the audience with you.

River of Gruel, Pile of Pigs:  The Requisite Gestures of Narrow Approach
April 22-24 at 8PM
The Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo
This performance is part of our Machine Shop series.

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