Experimental Theater Piece Explores Early New England Life

Ain Gordon

(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – After a weeklong residency, writer, director, and actor Ain Gordon will present his new contemporary theater piece, Not What Happened, on Saturday, April 28, 2012, at 8 pm in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center, as part of MASS MoCA’s series of work-in-progress showings. Photographer and historian Forrest Holzapfel contributes images of rural landscapes that becomes intrinsically connected to Gordon’s theatrical exploration of early New England life.

Gordon is well-known for his works that attempt to reveal histories of lost people and places. For this project, he enlisted Holzapfel’s help to research Vermont’s pre-industrial farming history by visiting historic sites and studying the landscapes of hamlets such as Guilford and Marlboro. Together, Gordon and Holzapfel expose traces of colonial history and imagine previous incarnations of both the land and the people who occupied it.

Photo by Forrest Holzapfel

Gordon’s work, which the New York Times calls “smart” and characterized by “genuine emotion”, investigates the notion of place as it relates to forgotten histories. Not What Happened is a theatrical duet for two people who can never meet: a historical re-enactor in period costume and the figure from history she re-enacts. The audience members become tourists visiting a deteriorating historic site where they are led on a guided tour by the historical re-enactor.

But the tour guide’s identically dressed doppelganger – the actual woman she impersonates – is also present, living her life from the past as the re-enactor simultaneously attempts to live it, too. The piece raises questions about the politics of historical re-enactment: Does the process preserve history, or re-imagine it? How does historical fact becomes fictionalized through re-enactment, and how much room for re-interpretation can be granted before the truth becomes too muddied? Projections of Holzapfel’s photography of farmland frame Gordon’s onstage investigation of the intersection between personal memory and public history.

Gordon has been writing and directing theatre since 1984. He is a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in Playwriting, a three-time Obie Award winner, and has received two NYFA Fellowships. Gordon’s work has been produced by the Mark Taper Forum, Dance Theater Workshop, Performance Space 122, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance, where he was an artist-in-residence, among many others. In the past he has collaborated with artists such as Bebe Miller, David Gordon, and Wally Cardona. He is a core writer of the Playwrights’ Center, Visiting Artist at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Co-Founder of Urban Memory Project, and Co-Director of Pick Up Performance Co(s).

Not What Happened will be presented as a work-in-progress on Saturday, April 28, at 8 in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center. Tickets for Not What Happened are $15 and $10 for students. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11 AM – 5 PM, closed Tuesday. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours, or purchased online.




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