When the man in the fedora leads the audience onto 14th Street and promises they’re about to see something that “has never before existed in the history of this evening,” he’s not kidding. Filter, one of three Artistic Blind Dates at this year’s Source Festival, is a unique examination of places and the way people view them.
Part of the 2012 Source Festival’s “Ethereal Encounters” collection, Filter examines all the levels involved in looking out a window. First, audience members take to the street themselves. It feels like the start of a magic show: no tricks here—this is real life. Back in the theater, though, a pair of headphones waits on every chair. Put them on, and the tricks begin.
Powered by Silent Storm Sound System, Sound Designer and Composer James Bigbee’s sweeping sound design, including original music mixed with bits of E. E. Cummings and other texts, exists only in the headphones. The room is silent. This makes things just a bit difficult for choreographer Sarah Ewing, who dances at the window in perfect union with the sound, but without any earpiece herself.
While Ewing dances, flawlessly, to music she can’t hear, projections of her dancing, sometimes while being projected onto herself slide around the room, first inhabiting the curtains, but also hitting Ewing and the floor. She opens the curtains as part of her dance, adding her own reflection in the window to this already-dizzying mix of layers. Then, in the projected video, she begins to dance with someone else; in the headphones, we hear another voice, reciting in tandem with Ewing’s voice bits of E. E. Cummings’ “if everything happens that can’t be done.” Then, across the street, through the window, there’s the man in the fedora, leaning against a tree, reading Cummings out loud into the audience’s headphones. It’s magic.
Somehow, by the middle of the show, Ewings, Bigbee, and the Artistic Blind Date’s other artists (Kristy Simmons, Visual Artist/Playwright, and Anthony Barbir, Performer) have managed to turn not only the Source rehearsal studio, but a whole city block into a performance space, incorporating sounds, silence, smells, buses, and unticketed passers-by on the street outside.
The cumulative experience, in which it is impossible to catch every nuance, is thrilling. Some bits of the show stick out from the sleek majority, including excerpts of Tolstoy and William Jennings Bryan quoted at the audience with no easy relevance to the knife-sharp focus of the rest of the show.
Overall, Filter is an exciting example of the cross-media dialogue encouraged by the Artistic Blind Dates of this year’s Source Festival. The show does a fantastic job of taking advantage of its venue in the widest sense possible, and in the process it reveals the labyrinth of layers between watching and seeing.
Source Festival runs thru July 1, 2012 at Source, 1835 14th Street NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Created & Performed by Sarah J. Ewing (Choreographer), James Bigbee Garver (Sound Designer/ Composer), Kristy Simmons (Visual Artist/ Playwright)
Performer, Anthony Barbir
Produced by Source Festival
Reviewed by Robert Duffley
Running Time: 30 minutes followed by a 15-minute talkback