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Volume 16, Number 9
September 6, 2010


culture special

Also in this section:
The Panama News Acrostic
Poets' Corner
Sparky the Wonder Dog
Impressions of Disneyland, paintings by George Scribner
Groundwater: A Listening Project
Cool Internet Sites
Enantito
Passage to Panama: a musical journey
Noises Off!




A strange interdisciplinary montage at the Ancon Theater
Groundwater: A Listening Project
by Eric Jackson, photos by Gale Cellucci


Agua/Tierra: Una Propuesta Para Escuchar
Groundwater: A Listening Project
written and produced by Baraka de Soleil, Tanisha Christie, Awilda Rodríguez Lora and Katherine Zien
directed by Baraka de Soleil
with Danny Calden, Lu´is Guillén, Enrique Jaramillo, Claudia Lamboglia, Omaris Mariñas, Mireya Navarro, Jaime Newball
,
Tanisha Christie and Awilda Rodríguez Lora

This reporter has only been going to productions at the Ancon Theater for about one-quarter of the Theatre Guild's 60-year history, so it would not be intellectually honest to declare that Groundwater was the strangest production every staged in that little wooden building. The August 23 performance of Groundwater was, however, the strangest thing this reporter has ever seen there. But of course, hippies, even aging ones, are supposed to be weird. Appreciation of strange things is our vocation, our raison d'etre.

Groundwater was a bilingual but not all that highly verbal multimedia show, with audience participation, audience on the stage and performers in the audience. There were video installations --- but that scene with Awilda Rodríguez Lora eating the mango --- was that video, or some sort of a lower-tech back projection? Should we call parts of the performance "contemporary dance," or are they more properly described as "experimental movement?" Music? Check. Written communications? Those, too.

Coming at you from various angles, you get abstract glimpses of the relationship between the United States and Panama --- the struggles and the cooperation; the joy, horror and insanity; the conscientious construction and wanton destruction; the die-hard know-nothing nationalism; the largely black identity of those who built the canal; the sense of a small country used like a small fish to fertilize someone else's garden, yet neverthelesss turning into something live and unique.

This production was part of Katie Zien's Fulbright scholarship in pursuit of an interdisciplinary Northwestern University PhD, with a dissertation about the history, social relations and performing arts of Panama and the former Canal Zone during the near-century when the canal was built and managed under US auspices. It's also another step onto the international stage for director Baraka de Soliel, Awilda Rodríguez Lora and Tanisha Christie, all of whom are noteworthy performers, directors, producers and creators in experimental performing arts genres. The mainly Panamanian cast came from many creative fields, from drama and dance, engineering and architecture, jewelry and photography.

The show left a strong but ambiguous impression, which would not do for somebody who demands clear answers. But who --- who really knows Panama --- would not recognize the uncertainty and the lack of clearly defined lines as some of the defining features of what this country is?

Co-sponsors for this show included the US Embassy and Northwestern University's Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts.


There were no tickets to this show. You needed a mango to get in.

Also in this section:
The Panama News Acrostic
Poets' Corner
Sparky the Wonder Dog
Impressions of Disneyland, paintings by George Scribner
Groundwater: A Listening Project
Cool Internet Sites
Enantito
Passage to Panama: a musical journey
Noises Off!



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© 2010 by Eric Jackson
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