To Know a Veil is all about the reveal – and what it means to withhold it.
From the very start, viewers are compelled to watch the ensemble dress for the show, albeit through a thinly-curtained wall that sets the stage for events to come. Never preachy, Emma Crane Jaster and her fellow performers – Kate Folsom, Neelam Patel , Naima Ramos-Chapman, Selome Samuel, and Anastasia Wilson – mesmerize with choreography that is seamlessly emotive and erotic, driving a contemplative spirit that expresses femininity, sexuality and gender roles with an inquiring approach.
Oh, and there are games. To Know a Veil quickly renders its audience a subject of the experiment, ushering them out of a voyeuristic role and into a place at center-stage (think Scruples, or Never Have I Ever for you recent college grads). The interactions are purposeful, a focal point around which the ensemble can perform their interpretations and a mechanism that brings most of the eye-rollers to heel. They’re also a lot of fun.
The work similarly diverts with a brief lecture on Moroccan and American architecture that serves surprisingly well as a metaphorical framework and explanation for Jaster’s inspiration.
Strong musical components (the work of Matt Pearson and DC Artist Unown) throughout the piece deserve recognition as well for managing to feel both polished and countercultural, providing a backdrop to the interviews played overhead as the artists swirl across the stage.
To Know a Veil
Conceived by Emma Crane Jaster
645 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
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To Know a Veil includes none of the “if only you knew” admonishment of similar works. Honest moments of bare-naked narrative from the ensemble are well-placed accent notes to reinforce the seriousness of the topic at hand. But the overall tone is warm, friendly and playful. The audience is left pensive and on-topic, sure, but also smiling. Expect to laugh, if uncomfortably at first.
One caveat: if you would rather be eaten by wolves than join in for some audience participation, you might want to sit this one out. If undaunted, however, To Know a Veil is not to be missed.