What That Must Feel Like Dec 6, 2013

by Jim Kent

When I think of essence, I think of Herbal Essences shampoo ads, and watching them as a kid. The commercials were racy for a quiet 8 year old preacher’s kid from Minnesota, especially when attempting to empathize with the woman, what that must feel like for her. But my parents bought the product regardless. I remember using it in the shower and thinking, “This shampoo is the best thing I’ve ever smelled.” That stuff was serious.

Now the shampoo doesn’t quite have the same effect. With my underdeveloped 8 year-old palate, it was all heightened sensation to me, and it was designed that way. I could never do justice describing the fragrance in words now. It is a very time-and-place specific thing, getting to the pith of something. Like any olfactory association one makes, there are so many things at play when attempting to get to the crux of an experience.

Let's get pretense out of the way--I'm a huge Dayna Hanson fan, so I need to gush for second. (If you check out the lobby, you'll know how and why.) This select cast is exuberant, brilliant in its execution, and I'll probably be there every night. SIGH

Ok. whew

Dayna Hanson doesn’t do reenactments of history for history’s sake. She fervently wants to get to the why, the essence, and, generously, from the perspective of potentially voiceless figures. I love this about her, and it's one of the bravest acts of love I can think of as an artist.

Her and her cast have surveilled the Clay Duke shooting copiously, learning every swagger, jolt of emotion and breath. It is startling to see the unison movement of physical essence and to think about the rigor involved in programming oneself to the point of intuition. With careful and mastered execution, the cast ventures passed empathy and into sympathy.

These events have been exploded apart into many studied essences, reimagined in a world of terror, emblems and spirit animals, vulnerable soliloquy, deceptive suffering, and so much of it to humorous effect. Without judgement, and without claim to intimate personal knowledge, the cast delicately gives subtle and hyperbolic voice for those that otherwise wouldn’t be accounted for or lost.

Watching the surveillance, one can see what a confusing situation it was, and this wild excursion through a swirl of emotion, poetry and freedom is evidence of considerate humanism. I think there’s enormous value in the search itself, even if what you come up with is a fully realized essence. I feel thankful for and lucky to be near such selfless art-making.

Drawing by Linus Mumford, Dayna's son

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