Theatre as Sacred Space Sep 15, 2012

by Byron Au Yong

Christian Rizzo, Sophie Laly and Lori Goldston's collaborative performance installation Néo-Fiction mixed still and moving images with music and movement. Projected forest, water, moon and roadway footage from Discovery Park, La Push and Mt. Rainier framed a rectangular space for Rizzo and another figure to dance. On a rectangular platform nearby, Goldston played the cello. I felt a sense of ceremony, a deliberate play of repeated patterns with the plucks and drones of Goldston's cello playing to Rizzo's moving body hunched then elongated across the floor. A white screen dissolved into clouds or water. Stillness became meditative.

Even though Rizzo's outfit in the second part included a red hood and white tennis shoes, my mind wandered to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. All Duwamish Indians in Seattle were forced to leave their ancestral homeland for reservations. Kikisoblu (a.k.a. Princess Angeline), Chief Sealth's eldest daughter refused to leave. She lived in a cabin on Western Avenue between Pike and Pine Streets until her death in 1896. When Rizzo left his clothes lifeless on the floor and rolled into the darkness, I felt my body gasp.

With this collaboration, On the Boards offered a gift. With two events free and open to the public, Néo-Fiction quietly showed the beauty and power of living in Seattle with an acceptance of the violence and loneliness strangers from distant shores can sometimes bring. Towards the end, the back wall of the Behnke Center for Contemporary Performance lit up revealing the electrical systems and fire extinguisher on the side. We were in the theatre. Nobody had died. This event was not a sentimental nod to the beauty of nature or humanity. Rather, Néo-Fiction provided a moment to accept that humans eventually succumb to the cycles of nature, and more significantly that even within the artifice of performance one can connect with the divine.