Saturday, June 01, 2019

Flyway Productions's The Wait Room a review/reflection Take 2

Flyway Productions's The Wait Room, which premiered in San Francisco April 19-27, and May 17-18 in Richmond, looks at the effects of incarceration on family members left behind, specifically women. Jo Kreiter, director, choreographer of the work brought in collaborators from ESSIE Justice to provide stories which Pamela Z then mixed with music to create a literal landscape wherein dancers performing on a tilting set shifting both by the weight of dancers flying as well as other dancers moving the set on its axis. The Wait Room was quite remarkable especially opening night as in climate weather pushed both dancers, choreographer,m designers and audience close to its collective edges. I wasn't the only person seated on the edge of her seat.

Bianca Cabrera, Clarissa Dyas, Laura Elaine Ellis, Sonsherée Giles, MaryStarr Hope,
and Megan Lowe.
Photo credit: Austin Forbord
Laura Elaine Ellis, Sonsherée Giles, Clarissa Dyas, Megan Lowe
photo credit: Austin Forbord
Kreiter's reflective choreography stayed in conversation the entire length of the work as dancers' explored in text and form the difficulties inherent in an imagined carceral structure. The somatic dissonance these women and children experience daily communicated in the flying broken falls frozen attempts at embrace-- what happens when a person loses a loved one or a loved one taken away, out of touch beyond their physical reach? On both sides of the aisle, cell, room, children, wives, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, allies -- wait.  The audience listens to the clock tick. . . as we all wait to the score repeats the refrain between movements: "And so you're waiting, waiting hours, 2-3 days, it felt like forever. . . . I showed up visiting him. I didn't know the rules. I would try going once a week. it's 400 miles. The process of getting to him. It made me so uncomfortable. I remember holding my breath. So much nervousness. And so you're waiting. No, you can't go in. No. You can wear those pants. My dad's hand was on the other side of the glass. I didn't know the rules and they change between visits."
It was a cold night in San Francisco. All my invited friends canceled that evening to join me. I nodded understandably as the winds blew threw my thin lining. However, once the performance began, the stories the artists told across a landscape that is visceral and emotional and caustic all at once, I'd like to say, I became a bit warmer-- nope (smile). It even started to mist. Jo said she came really close to canceling opening night, but I am happy she didn't. As the sun set in the distance, dancers sat in chairs, some high on the pole which was the center of the clock which ticked . . . time a casualty in a war where race, gender and economics convict certain babies before birth. All of a sudden, the captive mother who throws herself over the side of the slave ship is understood. She refuses to sit lie stay bound to uncertainty. The weight destroys happiness and joy. New life is a weight she cannot fathom-- the unknown too much to contemplate. Waiting Room? What will the pronouncement be?

In Pamela Z's score women speak of not being about being turned away after traveling so far to 
see their loved one. Other women share special moments once the wait is over and they are in the visiting room. Sentencing is not singular. It affects the person taken from home and his or her family too. Kreiter's The Wait Room shares stories of consolidated loss capitalized: individual, family, 
Clarissa Dyasphoto credit: Austin Forbord
community, nation, yet, Clarissa Dyas's flight in the last movement reflects both defiance and strength. These women who wait are not going to give up or give over their loved ones.

The performance was across the street from UN Plaza in San Francisco, then moved to Richmond, California. It heads to New York September 20, where it will be performed outside Sing Sing Prison. The Wait Room, a site specific dance honoring women with incarcerated loved ones is part 1 of The Decarceration Trilogy: Dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex One Dance at a Time.. It is also, Jo says, her most intimate work to date, as it explores a private aspect of her life. She also spent many years as a woman who "waited."  The marvelous dancers are  Bianca Cabrera, Clarissa Dyas, Laura Elaine Ellis, Sonsherée Giles, MaryStarr Hope, Megan Lowe with Lighting Designer: Jack Beuttler  and Costume Designer: Jamielyn Duggan. 

Listen to three interviews: 1. Jo Kreiter;  2. Jo with Laura Elaine Ellis (dancer), Catalina "Caty" Palacios and Tanea Lunsford Lynx, members, ESSIE Justice; and 3. with the creative team, Pamela Z and Sean Riley. 


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