The windows were plastered shut, shunning the remnant evening light, with a collage of newspaper clippings. The room was illuminated by a perimeter of candles, flickering mildly in re-appropriated jars. Igniting the center of the right space lay a giant, mechanical arrangement of wilting white roses: they stretched out, contorted, sinister, beautiful, like great metallic spiders legs. The left space remained in the soft yellow darkness of candle-light, further shadowed by a clothesline, eerily adorned with slips and gloves and jewels: a ghostly curtain of feminine accoutrements.
Framed by these two spaces hung a screen. Accompanied by a lovely yet tragic piano tune I watched myself emerge from the chaotic green of a forest, red-hooded and black-booted. Little Red (little me) swept gently through the underbrush and trees, the image made romantic by slow shutter speed and delicate close up shots of fingers and flowers. When Little Red meets the wolf, he is not a hairy beast, but a mysterious man. He seduces her with petals. Little and blood red.
When Little Red abandons her stylized foot-pattern-dance, we know something is not right. She bounds through the bushes in a love-infected search for better blooms. The tragedy of her naivete is alluded to as she plays “he loves me, he loves me not” with her roses, by the terrible specter of her cruel, hungry seducer. She crafts a choker with the bejeweled buds of her flowers, fastening it tightly to her neck. The brilliant red bulbs shine like bruises, or a freshly slit throat. When she finally makes her way to grandmother’s house, her horrific fate is realized at the hands of the debonair-devil-wolf.
We spectators stood about the dusky space in a sprinkled mass watching the screen repeat itself, as two white-clad dancers moved among us. Their melancholic gestures mimicked Little Red’s fateful innocence. I experienced a certain discomfort watching them. They would fall, or float to the ground, morbidly, only to rise again, slowly, seemingly sick with the despair of death.
The evening ended with story-time. Two readers told us fairy-tales and spoke poems, asking us to reflect on the mixed-media performance we had just witnessed.
This is the work of one of my oldest friends, Julia Reisen, and her co- producer/visionary/artiste, Micheline Heal. Together, they created Death’s Garden, the experimental installation/performance/screening I just described. It was the first of a whole series of similar installations they are preparing over the next year. The project will culminate in a large-scale installation to take place in June 2010. There will be three more short films like Little Red, more choreography and dancers, and more sculpture and art like the mechanical, electric flowers.
I was lucky enough to take part in this amazing project, as Julia asked me to play Little Red Riding Hood in her short film. It was a wonderfully eye-opening experience. I had not acted in 5 years, and I had never acted for the screen. The experimental nature of the project was a unique and important aspect of the experience. In many ways, I felt more like I was a dancer in character, than performing as an actress. Stay tuned for more about Micheline and Julia’s up and coming work, and a link to the film.