Jane Franklin, Artistic Director, Jane Franklin Dance, thinks about how Amazon’s HQ2 in Virginia might impact her neighbors in EyeSOAR, her latest Capital Fringe show.
The idea for EyeSOAR came from the neighborhood itself. It’s probably the only remaining industrial area left in Arlington County. What does that mean? It means that there is no residential housing on the city block. Instead you have several businesses that have been on either Nelson Street or S. Oakland for quite a while, like Automotive Express, the recording studio Inner Ear Studio, and non-profit organizations Arlington Food Assistance Center and Shirlington Employment and Education Center.
In the meantime, just across South Four Mile Run, which is a lovely creek and more or less a dividing line, there is tons of new development, particularly since about 1995 and later. It’s known as the Shirlington Restaurant area and is filled with vertical buildings that house residential condominiums, businesses, restaurants, plus Shirlington Library and Signature Theatre.
It is important to think about the creek as a dividing line; very new buildings on one side, and a lot of older buildings and cinder block warehouses on the other side.
I spend time in both areas. There’s a very convenient footbridge that spans the creek. I frequently walk from our office space and rehearsal space at 3700 S Four Mile Run Drive, to all the conveniences just across the creek like the Post Office, Harris Teeter, dry cleaners, and a UPS office.
– Why this show now?
The theme of gentrification and alteration is part of EyeSOAR. It’s a fact of life that change is both positive and disruptive. Many neighborhoods in DC have undergone transformations and Arlington County and the City of Alexandria already feel the impact of Amazon.
The other part of EyeSOAR, though, is just a love of the current landscape at this moment in time, what it actually, physically looks like. You see plenty of wonderful blue sky and green grass plus idiosyncrasies that are very particular to the buildings, how they’ve been built or rebuilt, and embellished. For example, Charles Meng, Executive Director at Arlington Food Assistance Center, told me that through the renovation of their building they found a civil war cannon ball. The site had been a garbage dump and earlier a Union shooting range. That’s a bit of history uncovered. It’s a real life story about what the building once was, and can be compared, in your mind’s eye, to what it is now. The visual image is strong. We want our audiences to see what the area looks like and get a sense for where we are.
In EyeSOAR, we project video and still images because you may not have ever been to that part of Arlington. There’s a story behind every picture and here is where our neighbors come in. I spoke to them. That was a great thing to do! First of all, I rub shoulders with these folks or walk or drive by by their business locations day after day. It was overdue for me to actually talk to my neighbors because being in the S. Nelson/S. Oakland Street neighborhood is like being in a small town with all its quirkiness and unspoiled imperfections.
– Whose stories are you telling?
Each person has a unique story which we reveal during the show. The words are sometimes spoken by the performers, and other times have been woven into the sound score that also merges with the video projection and the movement on stage. Mary Stewart from WETA talks about workplace culture when WETA was in a building where everyone used the same coffee room and hallways and compares that to being in a vertical building. Don Zientara, founder of Inner Studio and at the same location for 30 years, talks about his building as a place where it is possible to “make as much noise as we want and no one will care.” Travis Hackney from the sandwich shop Weenie Beenie says that “people knew us and we knew them. We recognized their car and their sandwich would be half way done by the time they came up to the window.” Mike Katrivanos, owner of New District Brewing Company says that the entire block is considered “non-conforming” by Arlington County; and that regulatory designation made the approval process all the more lengthy.
We tell many stories through the words of each individual. The collective whole is pretty great.
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– Take us inside your process for creating EyeSoar.
Our creative process has been very collaborative from the outset. One of the performers, Rebecca Weiss, collects video by using a ‘steady cam’ device for iphone. It makes it possible for us to do some ‘drive-by’ shots that reveal the journey of being in the neighborhood. All of the interviews are transcribed and we use the spoken words specifically to create the movement. There is always plenty of editing and rearranging, but each of the performers has a hand in the shape of the material. I edit the audio, video; select the music and the sequence of the material, but the performers truly embody the spirit and bring life to each story.
– If you won a Tony for this show, who would you thank?
I am very grateful for the creativity and spontaneity of the cast members Ian Edwards, Carly Johnson, Shonnita Johnson, Kelsey Rohr, Amy Scaringe, Brynna Shank, Rebecca Weiss. This is our Washington DC premiere and we are fortunate to include original music by Don Zientara of Inner Ear Studio. Inner Ear is well known for recording numerous local and regional artists, and some nationally known artists like Dave Grohl. Don calls himself a ‘bit of electronics junkie’ but he is an all-around good guy and a fine musician and he’ll perform live most shows. I would also like to thank the interviewees, the folks already mentioned plus Megan Carney, Arlington County Dept. of Parks & Rec, Uzi Samee Cultural Affairs Specialist, Jessica Ward of The Board Hound, Rudy Flores Automotive Express.
– When the performance is over, what do you want the audience to be feeling or thinking about?
I want everyone to think about their neighbors. We recently went on a trip to Utah. The first morning, we were at a hotel breakfast buffet. The employee overseeing the buffet proceeded to tell us about all the features, and we gave some sort of a short reply about being able to figure it out. After we sat down, I realized that her friendly attempt was interpreted, by us, as a sort of insult. Why was it so hard to accept that someone was trying to be nice? I hope everyone takes some time to figure it out, look around and discover your neighbor, because it might just be pretty great.
Jane Franklin received a MFA from The Ohio State University as a University Fellow and certification from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies. Jane Franklin’s choreography has been presented at multiple venues and festivals in the mid-Atlantic region and southwestern US and internationally in the UK and in Mexico. A recipient of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region Creative Communities Award, Jane has developed innovative and collaborative projects combining dancers with the round wall skateboarding community, with a life size kinetic sculpture, with the architecture of a specific site, with dogs & owners, and with interactive live video and sound for numerous public art projects. Jane Franklin is a recipient of the American Association of University Women Elizabeth Campbell Award for the Advancement of the Arts in Arlington, Special Opportunity Awards from the City of Alexandria, and her video work Four Mile Run Footbridge was selected for PHOTO/VIDEO 13: Juried Mid-Atlantic Exhibition. Jane is a Reviewer for DC Metro Theater Arts.