In a Stupor

Carrie Hanson, Artistic Director of The Seldoms, had a very busy year in 2010.   Just a few things on her agenda:  a tour to Russia, a successful premiere run of Marchland at the MCA, a new home that was featured in TimeOut Chicago, a husband and a baby boy named Levi (who, by the way, might be the cutest thing on the planet).  Not one to stop and rest (unless there is ice cream involved), she set to work on STUPORMARKET, opening tonight at Stage 773 and then heading to the Joyce Soho in New York this June.

Paige Cunningham and Carrie Hanson in the 2009 duet Thrift.

Clear in her intent and aesthetic, Hanson is one of the most prolific and intelligent choreographers in Chicago (she also has a wicked sense of humor), continually challenging herself, her dancers and her audience.  Expanding on two earlier works Thrift (2009) and Death of a (Prada) Salesman (2009), she has revisited, revised and added to make the new 60-minute piece for eight dancers about the economic crisis.

RB spoke with Hanson at her West Loop condo last week and asked her about the new piece and economics…(she really knows her stuff!).

RB:  Tell me about STUPORMARKET.

CH: It is kind of a culmination or the final project in a series of smaller projects.  I did Thrift in early 2009, the duet that I did with Paige Cunningham.  I’ve stepped out of it and Christina (Gonzalez-Gillett) has stepped in to my role.  The sound backdrop is Paul Krugman.  That was the entry point into this economy project.  I knew that I wanted to continue with it and eventually go to a full-length work.  The next thing that I made was Death of a Prada Salesman, which was about the luxury market.  That whole idea came to me in one afternoon.  I was drinking on my roof in the sun…the heat and the alcohol (laughing)… I was intrigued by people, even people that could afford to continue their consumption at the rates they normally consume at the luxury level had kind of slowed down because of shame.  I was just really interested in that situation, that kind of embarrassment or changing your behavior because now it is in bad taste to continue to buy ostentatiously when people are losing their jobs.  Somehow Death of a Salesman came in there and I thought Death of a Prada Salesman!  That was a very theatrical piece.  I’m not sure it was wholly successful.  It’s made its’ way into STUPORMARKET in a very abbreviated way.  Thrift also sits in STUPORMARKET in kind of…I halved it and moved it around a bit.

The structure of it really feels like a series of vignettes.  Some of the other things we tackle or that I tried to make physical material around are the housing bubble, foreclosure…there’s a section that opens it where there is card dealing going on.  I wanted to reference the aspect of trading, the market that is speculative and about risk taking…managed risk.  It’s kind of like gambling.  I actually have a couple of guys wearing trader’s jackets.

There’s this rather complex economic concept called Ketchup Economics by Lawrence Summers that I thought would be more transparent, but is buried in the physical material…that’s just really about the process and the starting point, but it’s ended up with this kind of interesting section where the dancers are doing a move and they name the move and they give it a price, then someone comes in and looks at the price that they’ve put on that move and modifies it a little bit.  The idea of Ketchup Economics is that general economists look at the cost of tomatoes, the cost of labor…they would look at those hard factors in determining the price of ketchup.  Finance economists would look at something a little more arbitrary…what Summers says is…they’ve determined the price of a 2 quart bottle of ketchup by the price of a one quart bottle.  The 2 qt bottle is always twice as much as the 1 qt, which depends on the price of the 1 qt.  So if that price is wacked out…I thought that was interesting and related in some way to the housing bubble.

The piece includes spoken word.  There’s some humor in it.  There’s a section called build a bigger house, where one person builds a relatively modest, small house that they can afford and the next person build a bigger and it keeps going.  They’re chewing gum at the same time.  I was interested in for two reasons:  I wanted that literal bubble, to blow a bubble, but I the more we were chewing the gum…Chewing gum is a really self-involved, self-centered kind of physical act.  Some people do it modestly and some people don’t.  So the guy that’s building the big house is grossly, obnoxiously chewing his gum.

At the base of this, there is this look at these two different economic camps – the New Keynesian and the New Classicists.  New Keynesian advocating for more government intervention and more government spending, Krugman’s advocacy of really, really big injection into the economy through infrastructure projects, and the Neo Classicist where the idea is to let the markets do the work, because the markets are generally rational…and that government should basically stay out of it.  I set both of those things up in one solo. Richard Woodbury is doing the sound design.  We worked together to find a bunch of sound bites from former presidents, politicians, economists.  We hear them arguing those two points.  We’re also doing some projections (of news headlines), more as a delivery system for some of this information.

While Hanson is not performing in the piece, her signature wit, smarts and style are sure to be center stage.  At the time of the interview, she didn’t have an ending yet.  “I’m waiting for that creative answer to come to me at 3:00 in the morning,” she says.  According to her post-dress rehearsal Facebook post, it looks like that answer came and was celebrated with a pint of ice cream.

STUPORMARKET at Stage 773 – Feb 17 – 19 at 8pm, Feb 20 at 3pm

Tickets at 773.327.5252,

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