600 Highwaymen X 2 = 1,200 Highwaymen? Apr 28, 2016
by Tommer Peterson
I had the opportunity to participate in the workshop production of The Fever during 600 HIGHWAYMEN’s residency at On the Boards over the past three weeks. This is a new work-in-progress, so it is enough to say that it is about the bonds of human communities, and the way they respond to the unknown, the outsiders, those not part of the group. Pack animals by nature, there is an inherent tension between our imperative to come together and nurture the collective, and the presence of a stranger in our midst.
Every time we circle up and put our arms around one another in love and comradeship, we also close ranks and turn our backs on others.
We are in a time where divisiveness and polarization are increasingly the social norm, and the intellectual capacity to love and respect another, but hold different views, has degenerated to a state where hostility and opposition are the blind responses to encountering those different from ourselves.
The Fever also raised the stakes, by exploring this topic with a significant amount of participation by the audience. This was totally new territory for me, I was not used to asking audience members up on stage, let alone telling them what to do. But the three “test performances” we did with OtB audiences helped evolve the work, and improve the ways we brought audience members into the story, and gradually handed more and more of it over them. I was amazed by the change and evolution in the audience’s investment and ownership of the work that took place over the hour or so the test performance lasted.
600 HIGHWAYMEN, Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, are subtle, careful artists. Their approach is generous and considered, and the story unfolds in slowly paced and nuanced steps.
All of which makes me look forward to their current work coming up this weekend…
Onstage April 28 – May 1, 600 HIGHWAYMEN’s Employee of the Year tells the story of a woman’s life age three to eighty, and is performed by a cast of 10-year old girls. (Note this is not a children’s show.)
Hinton Als, in the New Yorker, had this to sat about the piece, Employee of the Year…. Stars five girls under the age of eleven in a story about rebirth. The protagonist’s house burns down; so begins her journey in search of home and community. With music by the impressive David Cale, the show promises one thing for sure: a story filled with bodies that are inseparable from the poetry of politics.