THEODORA SKIPITARES CHRONICLES AMERICAN POLICE KILLINGS USING LORCA AND INGENIOUS GIANT PERFORMING BOOKS.
"There's Blood at the Wedding," a show with large-scale puppetry and documentary narration, articulates grievances of the victims through the suffering and strength of their mothers. Performing books celebrate the victims' lives.


WHERE AND WHEN:
May 18 to June 3, 2018
La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theatre), 66 East Fourth Street
Presented by La MaMa E.T.C. in association with Skysaver Productions
Thursday to Saturday at 8:00 PM; Sunday matinees May 20 at 5:00 PM; May 28 & June 3 at 4:00 PM.
$25 Adult Tickets; $20 Students/Seniors
Ten $10 tickets will be available to every performance on a first-come, first-served basis (advance sale recommended). $1 facility fee is added on all tickets.
Box office 212-352-3101, www.lamama.org
Critics are invited on or after May 18. Opens May 18.
Photos are available at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JU4onxCQlHDfxsCv1

NEW YORK, April 17 -- Why's that giant head of Federico Garcia Lorca rising over a hand-painted toy theater? Maybe it's because the weddings of Sean Bell and Justine Damond, lost in a hail of bullets, recall the tragedy of "Blood Wedding." Theodora Skipitares, the famed creator of theater with giant-to-miniature puppetry, thinks that a contemporary American tragedy--police killings of innocent civilians--should be an open book. Her latest puppet theater creation, "There's Blood at the Wedding," is set within six large-scale book pop-up constructions, through which she reflects on the lives and deaths of six victims of police violence: Philando Castile, Amadou Diallo, Sandra Bland, Sean Bell, Justine Damond and Eric Garner. Fragments of Lorca's masterpiece connect a Circle of Mothers--the mothers of the American victims--with the grieving mothers of the classic Spanish play. La MaMa E.T.C. presents the world premiere of the piece May 18 to June 3 in its Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East Fourth Street.

The proscenium of Lorca's toy theater serves as a portal to draw us into a world of books within whose pages the stories of the fallen unfold, recited by the voices of their mothers. The books are ingenious moving environments, from four to seven feet high, that include a Tunnel Book (which gives the effect of looking at sort of a 3-D landscape), a Meander Book (made of a single folded sheet of paper), a Pop-up Book and a book made of seven-foot rulers. One is a Hidden Book (a book with a secret compartment) that becomes the jail cell where Sandra Bland was found dead three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop. Justine Damond was shot by a Minneapolis police officer after she called 911 to report an assault in a nearby alley; her book is in the shape of Minnesota. She died the day before her wedding and Sean Bell died at his bachelor party. "Blood Wedding," it will be remembered, takes place on the day of a wedding.

Skipitares reminisces that three key ideas inspired her play. She reflects, "In Lorca, I found a universality in terms of mothers and their losses." Then she quotes Amadou Diallo's mother, who said "If there is anything as cruel as the taking of a man's life, it is the taking away of his story. Our sons died so that we could open the book on their lives." Finally, she cites Toni Morrison's admonition, "If there is a book you want to read, and it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."

The play's six performing books are meant to celebrate the lives of the victims. For example, in the Accordion book that tells the story of the affable 395-pound Eric Garner, he folds a whole pizza and eats it like a taco. It's silly and wonderful, providing an opening to honor the Garner's life and offset the dire material.

The giant puppets, masks and performing books are created by Theodora Skipitares. Music is composed and performed by Sxip Shirey, who has collaborated with Ms. Skipitares for the past 10 years.. Video projections are by Kay Hines. Co-set designer is Donald Eastman. Lighting design is by Yi Chung Chen. There is a cast of five puppeteer-storytellers: Onome Djere, Chris Ignacio, Alexa Jordan, Jane Catherine Shaw, Eric Taylor and Tom Walker.

Theodora Skipiares has created 25 of her puppet epics to-date. Her last two were inspired by modern classic plays: “Six Characters (A Family Album)” (2017), inspired by Pirandello, and "The Chairs" (2014), a response to Ionesco in which the chairs themselves were the principal characters. Preceding these were a cycle of plays from Greek classics which were a response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They included her trilogy of "Helen Queen of Sparta," "The Odyssey" and "Iphigenia" (2004-2007), "The Traveling Players present The Women of Troy" (2009), "Lysistrata" (2011) and "Promethius Within" (2012). Her body of work, dating back to the late 70's, includes productions on such subjects as scientists, surgeons, miners, eugenicists, renaissance artists and women in prison, all created with documentary material and assembled texts. For the last 25 or so years, Ms. Skipitares has been a resident director at La MaMa. The American Place Theater presented her breakthrough work, "The Radiant City," a music-theater work about Robert Moses, in 1991.

Her work has been exhibited widely in the U.S., Europe and Asia, most recently at the Whitney Museum. She has worked frequently in India as a Fulbright Fellow, as well as in Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea. She is a recipient of the American Theater Wing Design Award and has received many awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, several NEA grants, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, a McKnight Fellowship and a Distinguished Playwriting Award from the Helen Merrill Fund. She is Artistic Director of Skysaver Productions, a multimedia theater company based in New York.

ABOUT LA MAMA
La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theater. An integral part of New York City's cultural landscape, La MaMa has a worldwide reputation for producing daring work in theater, dance, performance art, and music that defies form and transcends boundaries of language, race, and culture. Founded in 1961 by theater pioneer and legend Ellen Stewart, La MaMa is a global organization with creative partners and dedicated audiences around the world. La MaMa presents an average of 60-70 productions annually, most of which are world premieres. To date, over 5,000 productions have been presented at La MaMa with artists from more than 76 nations.

La MaMa's 56th season highlights artists of different generations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, who question social mores and confront stereotypes, corruption, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia in their work.  Its stages embrace diversity in every form and present artists that persevere with bold self-expression despite social, economic, and political struggle and the 56th season reflects the urgency of reaffirming human interconnectedness.

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CRITICS ARE INVITED on or after May 18. Opens May 18.
PHOTOS are available at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JU4onxCQlHDfxsCv1