Writer Jeff Grygny has long been interested in how philosophy, culture, science, and spirituality intersect. His latest work, The Performance Ecology Project, factors in the natural world. The production is a collaboration of Quasimondo Physical Theatre and Cooperative Performance.
“I did some academic work in contemplative performance and I always thought there was ecological connection between what happens between our mind and our body and our connection with the natural world,” Grygny explains.
He says after 20 year of stewing about it, The Performance Ecology Project was born. “Our show is about cultivating our emotional connection with the living world."
The process began with exploration.
Drawing from a variety of disciplines, local teachers led performers through a series of exercises.
“We had a yoga teacher from Yogashala in Riverwest, a tai chi teacher, a wonderful lady who in instantly got the sense of what we were doing. We had Deb Loewen who is the grand lady of experimental dance; Paul Norton from Milwaukee Mindfulness Center and then Brian (Rott) did the theater game session,” Grygny explains.
Rott is founding artistic director of Quasimondo Physical Theatre and directed The Performance Ecology Project.
He says the lessons laid the foundation for its six performers to head into the woods. "[They] tried to form connections with nature in some way, with another living organism."
Jeff Grygny says the process is called interviewing, or “(looking) into some living thing that you encounter and try to get a sense of it."
The performers reflected, journaled and then brought their observations and experiences back to the group.
“Each of the performers would come back and share either through performance or recitation with the rest of the group what they reaped from that interview,” Rott explains.
It fell to Grygny to distill and structure the results into a script.
Rott describes the results as unique: “We have performed pieces and devised shows that played outdoors before, but this was the first time that its been a true experiment where all the devising work really created what the performance will actually be. The field work inspired everything that led to the performance.”
Grygny hopes the experiment sparks inspiration within the audience. “Practices like yoga, mindfulness, and movement can enhance our emotional connection to living things, to foster innovations in ecological education and advocacy."
The Performance Ecology Project is midway through its run at the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park with final performances Saturday and Sunday.
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