By Torn Space Theater

Written & Directed by Dan Shanahan and Melissa Meola

Menu crafted by Steve and Ellen Gedra of The Black Sheep

RESPONSE: Performance Series 2019

August 9-11, 16-18, 2019

About the Performance

Every August the society enacts an early harvest celebration that celebrates what has been metaphorically cultivated familially, socially, and globally.

This past year the society has experienced two deaths and is anticipating two births. The cycle continues.

The society will enact rituals that consecrate the cardinal directions of South, West, North and East. The rituals are set at times of transition that bear witness to the waning of sunlight into darkness and the transformation of energy in the plant cycle.

Bringing forth vital fluids produced by various energy transference and transformation, the society processes the ointments for Burden. These fluids have been created through the forces of milking, dredging the earth, wrestling, and death metal.

Burden is in search of an answer. The king of feast conducts the ceremony.

Your participation and presence is necessary in bringing forth the word.

Performance Structure

Act I

  • Seed
  • Golden Hour
  • South

Act II

  • Root
  • Blue Hour
  • West


  • Sprout
  • Twilight
  • North

Act IV

  • Flower
  • Dusk
  • East

Act V

  • Fruit
  • Night
  • Center

Text for the ingestion meditations from “The Kybalion – the Three Initiates”

A Note on Site-Specific Work and Torn Space

Site-based performance is work developed for non-traditional performance venues. We have developed work within factories, grain elevators, a steam ship, a processing facility, a train terminal, and a church among others. Site-based performance is about bringing audiences to unexplored spaces, curating their experience, repositioning the familiar into unfamiliar territory, while crafting a series of visual moments that communicate with one another. In site-based works, the architecture provides the visual parameters, often stripped of their original function, and it’s our job to provide context, so that the audience may connect with the space and performance in a meaningful way.

Recently we have been developing site-based performances within the context of the public ritual. In order to deliver an access point for the audience as well as a narrative perspective, we have devised a fictitious society to tell the story within an alternative reality, composed of recycled pop culture, ancient mythologies, machinery and technology, designed by an interdisciplinary team of artists and performers. This society has their own beliefs, priorities, and mannerisms, and the performance is their ceremony in honor of a theme; past themes have centered on the act of violence, 19th century romance and the various conceptions of Burden. The society is constructed from traditional and non-traditional performers; ranging from military re-enactors, high school marching bands, blacksmiths, farm animals, gospel singers etc., providing a unique patchwork of America in the early part of the 21st Century and specifically Buffalo, NY in the early part of the 21st Century. By incorporating the talents of our community and working with both professional and nonprofessional actors our work is firmly rooted in the traditions of the ancient Greeks, who believed “amateur” provided vitality to performance.

Ultimately site-based work is about giving the audience an experience that they participate with; bringing them to different spaces, providing curated vantage points, while presenting them with images that are both collective and self- enclosed. It’s about creating a collective ritual that looks to the ancients while being fixed in the present tense.

Dan Shanahan and Melissa Meola, Torn Space Founders

About The Black Sheep

Food for this performance was curated and prepared by Steve Gedra and The Black Sheep Restaurant and Bar. Steve and Ellen Gedra co-founded the James Beard Award-nominated restaurant in 2015 on the principle that the best food comes directly from the source. Their ever-changing farm-to-table menu features fresh, local ingredients prepared with world-class technique. For more info, visit their website: blacksheepbuffalo.com or head straight to the restaurant at 367 Connecticut Street in Buffalo for the full experience.

About the Venue

Located on the Buffalo River not far from where it empties into Lake Erie, the Silo City campus was once a floodplain known as Dyosowa or “Land of the Basswood” by native peoples. It was filled in to accommodate industry and transportation, radically changing the ecological trajectory of the site. Aerial photos from as recently as the 1990s show an industrial moonscape practically devoid of vegetation. As each of the corporations that operated on this peninsula closed its doors, new forms of life began to find purchase in the novel new landscape. Cottonwood trees floated millions of their seeds out over the railroad lines like every year before but without herbicide treatments to keep the tracks clear, a forest took hold. Pockets of plants that had survived the mower in odd corners and ditches began to colonize the compacted bare ground where trucks, trains, and buildings once stood. These were not the marsh plants that lived here 500 years ago, but unintentional introductions from near and far that could survive the radically altered hydrology with only rubble to serve as soil. Honeybees constructed hives in boarded up windows. Peregrine Falcons found the silos a workable substitute for the cliff faces they prefer to nest in. Red Fox dined on the rats who ate the last of the stored grain. Today this place is a living laboratory of ecological regeneration. Inspired humans work toward advancing the evolution of biodiversity on the site instead of doing battle against it. For information on tours, workshops, and events see our website: Lyceumsilo.city

Josh Smith, Landscape Ecologist for Silo City