Till We Wake

“Till We Wake” is a new dance/theater work conceived, produced and directed by Katie Elliott and Jim LaVita (artistic directors of 3rd Law Dance/Theater) in collaboration with Philip C. Sneed (Producing Artistic Director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival) and Clare Henkel (CSF Costume Designer). Based on a new reading of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” our work exploits the echo in time and situation between the world as we are just experiencing it and the world of La Belle Époque, the Great War, the Roaring Twenties and The Great Depression. In art, literature, music and architecture, winds of change—typically referred to as Modernism, or the modernist movement—blew through Europe and the United States.

While drawing on many varied and complex influences, modernism appeared to many as a reaction to the century that was about to end, catastrophically, in World War I—“the Great War.” Throughout the evening the work counterpoints the internal life of Prufrock against the larger world situation unfolding at that time. The events of the era-war, ‘irrational exuberance’, economic collapse—are themselves reflected in the events of our times.

Eliot’s poem is frequently seen as a signal moment in the birth of the modernist movement in literature. It exhibits and anticipates themes, such as disillusionment, indecision, rejection of the past and aspects of European (in particular) cultural history, technique (use of fragments, juxtapositions and original versification), that became hallmarks of Modernist poetry. Eliot’s poem coincided with other revolutionary movements, and not just in the arts.

In science or technology, the world of Newton was being replaced by the world of relativity and quantum theory, the world of the horse by the world of the engine, the world of land travel by the promise of air travel. In the arts—perhaps more familiar to most of us—the turn of the twentieth century was the time of Debussy and Nijinsky, Picasso and Matisse, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Bauhaus school, and in addition to Eliot, Pound and Williams.

“Till We Wake” draws on tools and imagery from “Prufrock,” such as extensive use of juxtaposition and fragmentation, as well as evoking the spirit and affect of the poem in the form of short vignettes and structured movement episodes. The heart of the work, the poem itself, is given a reading bordered by deconstructed text. The poem is, of course, spoken in its entirety and exactly in the form written by Eliot; every word scripted by Eliot is uttered by Sneed, albeit the deconstruction works the text in an improvisational and free manner.

As the modernist voice abandoned and rejected the past in hope of a better future, the creators of “Till We Wake” use imagist narrative and the malleable quality of Eliot’s poetical devices to develop an exciting and entertaining work of art during which the audience experiences the confusing and dislocating emotions of the two historical cycles.

Produced and directed by Katie Elliott, Jim LaVita, Clare Henkel and Philip Sneed
Cast includes: Jennifer Golonka, Tiffany Halay, Danielle Hendricks, Eliza Kuelthau, Michael Richman, Tara Rynders, Angie Simmons, and Mason Lawrence Taylor (dancers). Philip C. Sneed (actor)

Lighting design by Craig A. Bushman.

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