Strange Attractor's latest show is "Enlightenment on E Floor North." Pictured are Roblin Gray DaviS, Aram Aghazarian, Rebecca Noon and Kamili Feelings. Photo by Flordelino Lagundino Photography.
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO Arts and Entertanment
If you're looking for an adventure down the largely unbeaten path of experimental theater created and performed in Providence, I would suggest you allow Strange Attractor to be your guide.
Strange Attractor prides themselves on creating “inviting and unexpected performance that challenges the popular conception of live theatre while engaging new audiences with original, high-caliber, physically devised work.”
Strange Attractor includes talent from Providence, Pennsylvania and Alaska. The group is comprised of members Aram Aghazarian from Philadelphia, PA; Roblin Gray Davis of Juneau, AK and Providence's Jed Hancock-Brainerd and Rebecca Noon.
If you’ve never been to a Strange Attractor show, then it’s hard to imagine what they do. The group blends clown with melodrama; commedia dell arte with the absurd and grotesque, all while “staring unflinchingly at the darkest spots of our shared humanity to uncover the sublime, the foolish, and the ridiculous.”
Strange Attractor’s performances are highly physical and often atmospheric; their shows are to be experienced and not simply viewed.
The group has been around since 2010, and has created four full-length shows in that time.
In 2012 they wowed Providence audiences with an environmental piece called “A Terrific Fire,” which was part “adventure novel and part haunted house.” The group transformed the black box space at 95 Empire Street into a sitting room for tea, a winter forest and a torture chamber. That’s just what they do.
Their latest show, “Enlightenment on E Floor North,” is currently in development.
“It's an exploration of work,” said Rebecca Noon, “Particularly jobs (not careers) in America, looking specifically at the museum security guard.”
Noon said they’re using the museum security guard character as a way to examine work. Why?
“They show up, they stand, they wait for something to happen," she said. "In this way there is a lot of opportunity for us to go into a lot of concrete and fantastical scenarios -- which we love."
Roblin Gray Davis said the show is an “exploration into ennui,” but it’s also fun. He also said there are some socio-political themes woven into the script.
“Guards are often paid very little to be responsible for objects that are worth more than the amount they will make over their entire lifetime,” she said.
The concept for the show blossomed out of Jed Hancock-Brainerd’s own experience as a RISD Museum security guard.
“It wasn’t until Jed became a guard that I started to really think about what your day was like standing among beautiful things,” explained Noon, who is also Brainerd’s wife.
Noon said Strange Attractor has had many conversations with various security guards in order to develop the show.
“One former guard from the Seattle/Portland Art Museum told us that guarding in a museum can be hard because [at] a museum all the tendrils of culture expand, but that you are not privy to that experience; it’s your job to protect that experience,” she said.
Though the show isn’t “done,” yet, Noon explained that because Strange Attractor doesn't sit and draft a script – they “construct” the show instead – they can share it with an audience at any time.
“For me, the piece is ready when we’ve fleshed out what interests us as creators and when we have something alive, three-dimensional and provocative to an audience--something we intensely want to perform,” said Aram Aghazarian.
Strange Attractor previewed “Enlightenment on E Floor North” in Pawtucket earlier this month, and travelled to Portland this past weekend to take their show to audiences there. Once the show is finalized, it will have another run in Providence in the fall of 2013 or winter 2014.
An award-winning journalist and theater critic - and a performer at heart. Kim's talents have taken her from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NY, to stages in Boston and Providence's own Trinity Repertory.