Alumni theater company, Vox Theater, to Perform in VoxFest

by Hallie Huffaker | 7/9/15 6:01pm

Vox Theater, a company run by Dartmouth alumni Kate Mulley ’05, Matthew Cohn ’08 and Thom Pasculli ’05, will be returning this weekend to showcase several pieces-in-work at the Hopkins Center in a series titled VoxFest. After just one week of rehearsals, the Company will stage five free performances that stretch the boundaries of “typical” theater.

Vox Theater, founded in 2012, was created to capitalize on connections between alumni, Cohn said.

As alumni, it is particularly special to return to Dartmouth, “where we first learned how to be artists,” Cohn said.

According to Cohn, this will be the third year in a row that Vox Theater will return to the College with VoxFest. The company works closely with students in Theater 65, “Drama in Performance”, a class that aims to understand the process of working on new plays.

Jamie Horton, who teaches the course, said that he felt a “really natural association” between Vox Theater and current Dartmouth students.

“We are committed to fostering and growing relationships with our alums,” Horton said.

Cohn also noted the ease of communication between alums and students.

“We founded the company because we realized that even if you didn’t overlap at Dartmouth, there is a kind of certain shared vocabulary among alums,” Cohn said.

Cohn said that VoxFest participants can form “very intense” relationships. He noted that some students who participated in previous years have later worked with Vox Theater post-graduation in New York.

VoxFest consists of many exhibitions, including the July 8 Vox Barter performance at the Hood Museum. Cohn said that the main three shows for the weekend are “Tear a Root from the Earth,” “The Calamity” and “Merced de Papel.”

“Tear a Root from the Earth,” a folk musical about Afghanistan directed by Marina McClure ‘04, will be performed Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Warner Bentley Theater. The show follows one Afghan family over the course of several generations, according to John Bair ’06, one of the co-writers.

The musical is based off of a concept album by the Washington, D.C.-based Americana band Gramophonic, made up of Johnny Walsh and Jessica Batke, and the musical incorporates many of their songs. Gramophonic will actually be performing live during Saturday’s show, Bair said.

The piece is very much a work in progress, Bair said. Some parts of the show will be staged with minimal costumes, while others will be read by the performers, McClure said.

“This is the first workshop of what will probably be a series of workshops throughout the rest of the year,” McClure said. “So we are focusing on refining the script and music.”

Bair is particularly excited for the audience to attend. Immediately following the show there will be an audience discussion, where members can voice their opinions about the performance.

Christopher Wall ’92, who wrote “The Calamity,” similarly takes cues from the audience, listening to what they say during intermission to see if the play is flowing.

“The Calamity” is a full-length, two-act musical that will be performed on Sunday at 7 p. m. in the Bentley Theater. The show portrays a modern take on the Middle Age practice of towns closing their gates during the plague. Wall said that he hoped to explore the human decision-making process.

“I was very curious in kind of an existential way when we say we might help each other out,” Wall said. “But what about when something like that really happens?”

Tommy Dickie ’05 is one of the four actors in “The Calamity.” He stated that during the rehearsal process there have been “obstacles,” like all works in progress, but that “it is in the figuring out how to solve the obstacles that the art happens.”

He said that he believes that there is much value to performing pieces-in-work for an audience.

“When you go to see a fully staged play, the idea is, ‘Audience, sit back and let us entertain you,’ which does not always initiate a conversation between audience and artist,” Dickie said. “And this is more like opening up a window for people to spy in on a laboratory.”

“Merced de Papel,” an original dance and puppet performance, will be performed Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Bentley Theater. It was co-created by Marisa Clementi ’05 and is defined in the program as being “about the making, the destroying and reassembling of identity, sanity and memory.”

Haley Reicher ’17, a student in Theater 65 who will be in the performance, said that the piece is based on a novel, “The People of Paper” by Salvador Plascencia. Plascensia’s novel follows a woman made out of paper and her interactions with the world around her.

“We are taking themes from that book to explore what it is like to be breakable but also able to hurt other people,” Reicher said. “A woman made out of paper is very easily hurt herself but can also give papercuts to those with whom she interacts.”

Horton said that he believes VoxFest to be an exciting opportunity for both performers and students.

“I always love working on new plays, they are the lifeblood of the theater,” Horton said. “This is a remarkable opportunity for the students — as an undergraduate, I never had anything close to this.”

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