Santa Fe-based Theater Grottesco explores the world through 'Survey' - Albuquerque Journal

Santa Fe-based Theater Grottesco explores the world through ‘Survey’

Members of the Santa Fe-based Theater Grottesco will present “Survey” on Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Outpost Performance Space. (Courtesy of Theater Grottesco)

Theater Grottesco will perform “Survey” at the Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale Blvd. SE, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13.

The Santa Fe-based troupe will explore themes reflected by “Art Meets History: Technologies of the Spirit,” an exhibition at 516 Arts through the lens of physical theater.

“Survey” germinated from a 2019 Theater Grottesco exploration of Greek chorus, founder John Flax said.

That study culminated in a 60-minute structured improvisation with text that continued to evolve.

Next, the chorus transformed into a group of buffoons reciting fairy tales, Flax said. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the actors filmed themselves, turning the results over to an editor.

The third iteration changed into a more ethereal chorus asking its audience for haikus built around the veil between life and death.

“Each chorus has its own character,” Flax said.

Last fall, the troupe worked with Axle Contemporary’s mobile art space and Burning Books, an avant-garde writing press, to create a story line built on absurd questions.

“Questions like, ‘What’s in the storage container behind Trader Joe’s?’ ” Flax said. “They’re making fun of the notion of surveys. Surveys are kind of ubiquitous.”

Those questions include: “What breaks your heart open again and again until it stays open?” as well as, “Some people call Santa Fe woo-woo. What is woo-woo?”

“The chorus delivers them with abstracted movements,” Flax said. “They provide the answers the actors have chosen.”

Laced with New Mexico history, the troupe will turn the questions and answers over to its postmodern Greek chorus for a physical performance.

“They’re going to spin a bit more (questions) for Albuquerque,” 516 Arts’ Kevin Paul said. “They’re going to project photographs from the Albuquerque Museum while they’re performing.”

“Survey” is a structured improvisation dedicated to the memory of J.A. Deane, who conducted the Out of Context improvisational musical ensemble.

Santa Fe-based Theater Grottesco began in Paris in 1983 and has created 18 full-length productions and more than 50 shorter works ranging in style from tragic buffoonery to gesture-based dance. They have performed in eight countries, 30 states, most major U.S. cities and dozens of smaller communities.

“Art Meets History: Technologies of the Spirit” is at 516 Arts through Sept. 3.

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