Exploring what it means to make art as everything changes.
WORDS BY ANNA MARIE SHOGREN
Bela Lugosi’s Dead are, perhaps, our loved ones, our teachers, our inspirations, our past selves. So, now, what does it mean to make live art? What’s it any good for? Isn’t there something else we should be doing with our time? And what about trying to leave the plane of status quo existence, to escape from the shifting conventions of contemporary performance which mirror society’s trappings, while remaining prosocial?
SuperGroup is a beloved, three-piece, Minneapolis–based collaborative performance group of Erin Search-Wells, Sam Johnson, and Jeffrey Wells, whose work over the past 14 years has dug thoughtfully and often hilariously into these many dark questions.
Their work has traditionally included “incongruous multi-tasking,” thick and elaborate choreography, and scripted language impressively layered atop one another. It’s challenging and time-intensive work for performers, but they have carried the ethos of navigating the productions humanely by supporting their collaborators as whole people, through disruptive life transitions. Their workers have never walked out. They have upheld the energy of original anarchism with audiences, acknowledging horizontality in that relationship, honoring that everyone in the room holds their own experience. Mary Overlie, who is the originator of the Viewpoints technique as well as cofounder of Danspace Projects, Movement Research, and beyond, is their friend and mentor, and shared this lineage of dance work with them. Now, SuperGroup carries that forward, bringing it into a new realm. Whether this practice is within your frame of reference or not, think of it this way: The word “viewpoint” expresses observation and consideration. And a plan for going on.
Now, SuperGroup asks: when a process or when lives have been halted and rearranged by death, illness, grief, and changed countless times, what holds together? What gets worn down? And where do you go? What begins?
SuperGroup’s members have researched these questions of organization, action, and direction for their production of Fine, beginning with a pre-pandemic series of performances, or council meetings, at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. Entering again and again since then with a porous and necessarily casual energy. They have retraced past steps and studied wolves. Building a show by showing up for one another.
Fine premieres November 2 at the Red Eye Theater, a space that has itself also undergone challenging transitions in the past few years, including a move to the Seward Neighborhood after condominium development pushed them from their established home, and after previous artistic directors Steve Busa and Miriam Must passed the torch to a group of seven theater and dancemakers who have shared a history with the Red Eye. The theater continues to be a prominent support for countless young, emerging, and mid-career artists, enlivening the Minneapolis scene. Longtime Red Eye collaborators Heidi Eckwall has created an original lighting design for the black box theater space and Crystal Myslajek has made original sound and music. Still, it continues to evolve, mounting shows that explore the very questions of making art through change.
Bauhaus didn’t know they were propelling a genre when they recorded Bela Lugosi’s Dead, and Bela Lugosi didn’t know Bauhaus. Bauhaus only knew they were making a choice to spend a long day playing together in the studio.