(North Adams, MA) Berkshire audiences will have the chance to preview a play when British playwright and performer Tim Crouch comes to MASS MoCA for a two-week residency as part of the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab. In conjunction with that visit, Crouch will present a staged reading of his play My Arm in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Saturday, December 1, at 8 PM.
Crouch’s multimedia tale of a young boy who decides to permanently raise his hand into the air unfolds through a combination of live performance, digital film, and the animation of everyday objects supplied by the audience before each performance. Shirley Dent, of the Institute of Idea’s Culture Wars, praises an early production of My Arm: “Tim Crouch understands narrative, he knows what words will pull us in and what silences will keep us there.”
Crouch describes the inspiration for the piece: “The original idea of the boy with his arm in the air came during an improvised story-telling I did for a group of ten-year-olds …. The image stuck with me.” Crouch then experimented with incorporating ordinary objects such as coffee cups, fire extinguishers, and chairs during a series of workshops at the National Theatre. He discovered that when “the objects were manipulated by the actors who were instructed not to get emotionally involved with… their object,” the effect was engaging for the audience.
My Arm was the first thing I wrote and was never rehearsed. We at no point sat in a room and looked at what was happening. We had previews at Battersea Art Centre where we had a friend, (Hettie Macdonald, who is a film and theatre director, who came in with my friend Karl James) and we just spent the days talking. Hettie suggested a different way of approaching the evening and I approached the evening differently. We then talked about how that was and through that lovely dialogue we found a language to talk about the show.
The word ‘random’ is a really important word. A great excitement for me is to have no control over how people respond, not to attempt to fix them in their response, but to maintain a certain randomness in the nature of what we are presenting in the knowledge that there is lots of good meaning to be got from this. I don’t want to narrow it down because there might be something that I’ve completely forgotten or haven’t noticed and that’s for you as an audience to pick up on. If you do pick up on it then that’s great, but it won’t be because I have consciously directed you to pick up on it.
I mentioned when we met before the Duchamp quote: ‘the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed’, which is such an important one for me. I’m aware that constantly in theatre and in any art form things are being expressed that had no discussion in rehearsal, were never intended in the process. Rather than trying to track those things down and squash them, my hope is to let them be and let them grow and go wherever they want to go for an audience. My job as a performer is to do very little and I don’t work very hard in my performances in the traditional sense. – Tim Crouch
At its core, My Arm also provokes discussion about the differences between visual arts and theatre. In the introduction to My Arm, Crouch describes “the social nature of watching a play and the private, stand-alone nature of looking at a painting… My Arm is from a clear theatrical tradition; the accompanying visual focus, however, requires a different frame of approach… Visual art expects its viewers to work hard. My Arm attempts to let the audience be by itself for periods of time…to give the audience a greater sense of its own authority in relation to what it is seeing.”
Beginning his career as an actor, Crouch started making his own work in 2003 and now, based in Brighton, he writes, performs, and produces his own plays. He has developed and performed commissions and new works across the world, including at the Royal Court Theatre and the National Theatre in London, theRoyal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, theTraverse Theatrein Edinburgh,Singapore Arts Festival, Culturgestin Lisbon, the Public Theatre in New York, and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
This year, Crouch was selected as a Sundance Institute Theatre Lab fellow. The acclaimed Sundance Institute, originally founded by Robert Redford, the annual host of the Sundance Film Festival, provides “a space for independent artists to explore their stories free from commercial and political pressures.” The Theatre Lab is dedicated to developing the careers of theatre artists through a collaborative fellowship program.
My Arm will be presented up in the Club, in the museum’s Club B-10 performance space. Club B-10, located on the third floor of the museum, hosts hip and emerging artists from a multitude of performing arts genres. Dinner and snacks from Lickety Split Café and drinks from the MASS MoCA bar are available before and during the performance.
The staged reading of My Arm will take place on Saturday, December 1 at 8 PM. Tickets are $12 in advance, $16 on the day of the show. Tickets for students are $10. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office, located off Marshall Street in North Adams, from 11 AM until 5 PM (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased online at www.massmoca.org.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. MASS MoCA is an independent 501(c)(3) whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy. Except for an initial construction grant from the Commonwealth, and competitive program and operations grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MASS MoCA is privately funded: 90% of annual operating revenues are from earned revenues, membership support, and private gifts and grants.