The Seldoms Rebuild Monument

The Seldoms in "Monument". Photo by William Frederking.

Carrie Hanson, one of Dance Magazine‘s 2012 25 To Watch and the artistic director of Chicago-based troupe The Seldoms has made quirky, intriguing works in odd places like an Olympic-sized empty outdoor swimming pool, a gigantic vacant garage and in an antique salvage house. Now, Hanson finds her inspiration in more issue-based work. This weekend, the company revisits her first issue-based work, Monument, a piece that tackles consumption, disposal and our impact on the environment.

While Hanson does research and begins working on a larger, new work based on Lyndon Baines Johnson, the company set to restaging Monument. Why? ”I really like the work,” Hanson said. “It hasn’t been on the stage since 2008. Our audience has really changed and grown since then, so I feel confident that this will be a new piece for a lot of people. I’m still interested in the topic. I think it’s still relevant and it’s voice, it’s style and the material still match our identity.”

Hanson sees this “monumental” work was a turning point in the trajectory of her company and in the way she and her dancers, most of whom have been with her for years now, create material. “Monument sort of opened the door for this new method of working and new type of piece,” said Hanson. “I would call it more dance/theater, rather than abstract, although some of the vocabulary is still abstract in language. And there is text content.  It was the first piece where I felt like I needed to use language to deliver some very specific facts or data to the audience.” Some of that information – which will be heard in a voice-over by dancer/actor Liz Burritt – includes stats about the Statue of Liberty and the no-longer-in-operation Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. Dry subject matter indeed, but trust me, Hanson makes her poignant points entertaining too. Original sets and video are no longer around, but an updated sound score by Richard Woodbury incorporating grinding machines, dripping goop mixed with songs like “I Love Garbage” and low level foreign language tapes perk up the piece and help give it new energy.

So, what’s the take-away? “I’m just interested in sparking some thought,” Hanson said. “I want to avoid being too heavy-handed or preachy in any of these environmental subject matter-driven pieces. Just a check. What are the last five things I threw away? Thinking about the things we take for granted and thinking about the long-term consequences of that.”

The Seldoms present Monument at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 26-28 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20; call 773.327.5252 or visit http://www.stage773.com/Show?id=138.

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