Edgy theater exhibit debuts in the U.S.

A national exposition of American sociopolitical theater under the sign of President Barack Obama, is making its U.S. debut in Long Beach, Calif.

Entitled “From the Edge,” this USITT Design Exhibition has returned from Prague and will be on display March 28 to 31 at the USITT’s 52nd annual Conference & Stage Expo at the Long Beach Convention Center. Arts writer/editor from New York Randy Gener is the curatorial advisor.

The team that created “From the Edge” recommends that people experience the exhibit more than once while at the Long Beach Conference & Stage Expo, promising the interior collage will be different every time they stop by. Gallery talks at the exhibit will provide an opportunity to learn about the exhibit from those intimately involved in its creation.

“From the Edge” was the USA national exposition at the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space, which had more than 40,000 visitors during 10 active and inspiring days in June 2011. Unlike previous USA national exhibits, “From the Edge” wears its impish unconventionality on its sleeve. Designer William Bloodgood’s pavilion is an arrestingly iconic structure — a disheveled old garage space in a grubby section of a city in Nowheresville, USA. With its brick walls, concrete floor, metal trusses, and industrial lighting, the mode is beat-up realist.

With a tongue firmly in cheek, it delivers the hard news: This is how American theatre artists irreverently wrestled with art, politics, and imaginative design during the dramatic unraveling of the Aught Decade. The period in consideration coincided with the tumult of a worldwide economic recession and a political transition in the White House — a wrenching reevaluation of core American values that brought about the rise of an African-American as the country’s 44th president.

Artistic director Susan Tsu conceived the socio-political theme and invited curators Chris Barecca, Linda Cho, Allen Hahn, and Don Tindall to work with her to identify uniquely American designs from compelling theatre ensembles. Randy Gener was appointed curatorial advisor.

What surfaced were 37 unique viewpoints from theatre artists reflecting on issues consuming Americans today: issues of identity, healing and obsessions with death and loss after 9/11 and hurricane Katrina.

“The pull of conscience is inevitable when engaged in war; anger directed toward the obliviousness of many to the destruction of our planet; rising political polarities and ambiguities in reaction to our first African American president; tensions relative to race and gender; anxieties about technology; the role of religion in society; challenges of the differently-abled and finally, a nod to Americans at play, while eating, and while re-envisioning classic work and performance as we know it,” said organizers in a statement.

The exhibit was built by the University of Montana team headed by Mike Monsos and Alessia Carpoca. R. Eric Stone contributed to all aspects of exhibit installation. Cosmin Chivu and Carolina Conte were videographers. Randy Gener conducted interviews. Daniel Denhart was the managing producer while Alexandra Bonds headed up the entire venture as international liaison.

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