Silence

Written and Directed by Dan Shanahan and Melissa Meola

Designed by Torn Space

Part of the 2020 RESPONSE Performance Series

 

From the Writer/Directors

Every August Torn Space Theater enacts an early harvest ritual on the grounds of Silo City, a vast campus of grain elevators stretching along the Buffalo River. This ceremony is a metaphorical reaping of what has happened globally, locally and familially. This event creates a space to process the year’s yield as well as cultivate our mental soil and sow the seeds of aspiration in preparation of the coming months.

2020 has shown us in vivid detail a world that is out of balance. Wildfires, a global pandemic and Black Lives Matter have coalesced, providing a stark portrait of a society in need of change. We are at a historic crossroad and live performance provides an opportunity to contextualize our unprecedented times.

Earlier this year we began work on a new performance series called “Neighborhood”. In preparation we were reading EO Wilson; American biologist, naturalist and writer, and two of his assertions resonated strongly with us. The first is his claim that humans are Eusocial animals, like ants, and it is our cooperation that has allowed us to gain dominion over the macro-world. But often this cooperation is limited and assigned to the groups that we feel we belong to. This innate tribalism is an instinct that we must move against. When we take the long view, the way forward resides in making choices that better the whole. Not just the whole of homo sapiens, but the whole of the integrated planet on which we reside.

The second claim was his call for a new human mythology. That mythology begins with the miracle of blue green algae emerging from oceans and an acknowledgement of the miracle of the evolution of matter into a highly complex form of the human being with its sophisticated level of consciousness and awareness.

For this year’s reaping, 2020 has shown us the tragedies and disasters that occur with a world and society out of balance; a society where the values of individualism have confronted their own limitations. In Silence, the society will enact a ritual that acknowledges the events that are occurring due to our own human errors and lay a foundation for moving forward. The foundation is being laid with early forms of poetic thought in the language of Rumi, the 13th-century Persian author and theologian, Bach’s balance of sorrow and of gravitas in his cello suites, the basic building structures of stone, wood, and fifire, and collective engagement that is not yet able to touch. It is a ritual carving out space for you and me.

In our forced isolation we have only been reconfirmed of our need for community and the need to share experiences together. We invite you to join us in the regenerative meadow at Silo City; a site once empty of life and now teeming with wildflowers, trees, grasses and a diverse population of wildlife. A space that demonstrates the power of nature to transform, adapt and emerge stronger and more beautiful.

– Dan Shanahan and Melissa Meola, Torn Space Founders


References and Symbology

Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi) – 13th century Persian writer of ecstatic poetry. The “society” uses phrases from Rumi’s poetry as mantras to contemplate existence and love; space and time.

Bach Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor. Prelude, Allemande, Sarabande, Gigue – Viewed by some as an extension of silence, the 5th suite requires a player to tune down to a G. As a result we are led down a new tonal path, one that is filled with an edge of sorrow and of gravitas. A slight move towards resignation and reflection as we walk the serious, complex path of life full of struggle and hardship; hope and purpose.

Harris Hawk – Messenger of the Unseen World. Element of air

Rock – Elements of water and earth. The pink granite stones were dug by hand out of the grounds surrounding Star Lake in the Adirondack region of upstate New York. The granite stones represent a labor of love. Granite facilitates and maintains balance in relationships within cooperative groups. Granite supports discretion and diplomacy.

Fire – Creation, Destruction, Transformation

Labyrinth – A symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The labyrinth sculpture is a vertical representation of the three ritual spaces: The large cottonwood tree, the poison garden and the small cottonwood tree.

Season Flags – Zodiacal abstractions based on the four seasons

American Flag– The continued experiment in democracy, equity and freedom

Number 4 (incorporated into choreography)- Focus,

Foundation, Conscientiousness

Number 5 (incorporated into choreography) – Personal freedom