Art Facts

August 26, 2004

September 2, 2004

September 16, 2004

Performance groups' 'improvography' merges artistic disciplines

Lower Left Performance Collective wanted to commemorate 10 years. Sledgehammer Theatre had an "Alternative Guest" spot to fill. Sushi Performance and Visual Art was homeless. It was the perfect storm that brought the three local arts organizations together for a performance melding dance, music and theater.

"ATTENDANCE" opens Sept. 9 and runs through Sept. 19 at St. Cecilia's Playhouse, downtown. The multidisciplinary show will include Lower Left dancers, along with special guests including percussionist Steven Schick of Red Fish/Blue Fish, poet and activist Bennie Herron of the Taco Shop Poets, vocalist Molly Wilmot of San Diego Opera and several Sledgehammer actors. It also features a blend of improvisation and choreography in what Lower Left calls "improvography."

"Improvisation can range in how set it is," explained Lower Left collective artist Rebecca Bryant. "Maybe there's a score that's being followed, certain parameters being followed, or maybe it's completely open, without a score. We're really skirting the edge here of what's improvised and what's choreography."

This show does have a framework, with some "scripted" elements, so rehearsals are still required. Yet each night's performance will be different.

"What you're getting is a unique performance ... It will be completely different the next day," said Sledgehammer artistic director Kirsten Brandt. "So you get this freshness and this surprise, and there's always something completely unexpected that will happen."

Sledgehammer artists Laura Lee Juliano, Jessa Watson and Ruff Yeager will bring both improvised and prepared monologues to the performance.

Award-winning dance troupe Lower Left celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, as playfully referenced in the show's title.

Lower Left is collective in residence at Sushi Performance and Visual Art, so back in June when Sushi moved out of its space in the ReinCarnation Building near Petco Park, the dance group also became homeless. Until the new facility opens in 2005 -- as Icon, a residential and retail high-rise -- Sushi will perform in various locations throughout the county as "Sushi Take-Out."

Lower Left Performance Collective collaborates with Sledgehammer Theatre in a work of

Meanwhile, Sledgehammer Theatre was looking for something for its "Alternative Guest" spot, in which a visiting artist or company takes over St. Cecilia's Playhouse. The itinerant artists seemed to fit the bill.

"We thought, to kick off (Sushi) Take-Out, what more perfect thing to be our alternative guest than Lower Left?" said Sledgehammer's Brandt.

The theater company also offered its playhouse to Sushi as its home away from home.

Sledgehammer and Lower Left are no strangers, either -- the two have collaborated on performances in the past, and "both organizations have been fans of each other," said Bryant. She and Brandt also anticipate future cooperative efforts between their organizations.

"We would love to work with (Lower Left) often, and I love working with particularly the dance community," said Brandt. "This will be the one thing we do with them this season, but there's talk of things next season."

Sledgehammer is known for producing edgy works that sometimes blur the line between theater and dance, as in last season's "Nu," a trio of plays communicated entirely without dialogue. Lower Left is a postmodern dance company that also produces innovative work, and Sushi is nationally recognized for exploring avant-garde performance art. The three share a similar aesthetic, and a sort of kinship.

"When you're on the edge of an art form," explained Bryant, "there's a little bit of a camaraderie of other people who are on that edge, and the particular struggles of being on the edge I'm sure translate -- even if it's a different medium."


Organization: Lower Left Performance Collective

Tickets: $10-$20

Dates: Sept. 9-19

Show times: Monday and Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m.

Location: St. Cecilia's Playhouse, 1620 Sixth Ave., downtown

More information: (619) 544-1484,

August 26, 2004

September 2, 2004

September 16, 2004