York theatre Professor Michael Greyeyes has choreographed and directed from thine eyes, a powerful new dance theatre work that examines mortality, memory and forgiveness, opening Sept. 22 at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre.
This world premiere is the season opener for Toronto’s DanceWorks and kicks off Harbourfront Centre’s dance series NextSteps 11/12.
The show is co-produced by Native Earth Performing Arts and Signal Theatre, a company Greyeyes founded for this production.
Right: Ceinwen Gobert performs in from thine eyes
Greyeyes developed from thine eyes in collaboration with Aboriginal writer Yvette Nolan. It is set to an original score composed by former York theatre student Miquelon Rodriguez and Sharon Hann (BFA ‘06) designed the costumes.
The title is taken from a passage in the Koran: “Lift the veil from thine eyes”. It refers to making the passage from this life into the next and seeing ourselves and others truthfully.
The six performers, including dance grad Shannon Litzenberger (MA ‘05), express the struggle to find meaning at the end of their lives as they confront their deepest fears, most cherished memories and each other.
“These thoughts about mortality came from conversations with my mother before she passed,” said Greyeyes. “In my culture [Plains Cree], we don’t view death as an end. It is the next step on a journey. For me as an Aboriginal artist, it’s essential that my company communicates my worldview and cosmology.”
The cast has been rehearsing on campus in the Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts over the summer and moves into the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre in the Centre for Film & Theatre next week for additional preparation.
Left: Michael Greyeyes
York theatre Professor James McKernan is serving as technical director and has involved the production in colleague Peter McKinnon’s research project on sustainability in live performance. “Building on existing data and tools already in use in the construction industry, we’re using from thine eyes as a test piece to create a budgeting tool that tracks the carbon footprint of a show, similar to the way designers track financial expenditures on their materials,” said McKernan.
The design team has been designing a shadow production, tracking the materials they would have used were sustainability not a factor. At the end of the production, the two tracking documents will be compared, so the sustainability gains can be measured. The extra time and work involved in designing two editions of the show and sourcing the most sustainable materials available is where support for the project from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada has been most valuable, McKernan noted.
Left: James McKernan
“We’re learning that sustainability at this stage in the game is all about long-term planning,” he said. “We’ve found that the eco-option is rarely more expensive – it’s just sometimes harder to find and more time consuming to buy. Hopefully, as the demand grows and as designers learn the best sources for these materials, it will become even easier to reduce the impact of a production on our environment.”
from thine eyes runs Sept. 22 to 24 at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre. For more information and tickets, visit the DanceWorks website.