CREATIVE PEAKS: Thespians and Humanoids

By on October 25, 2016

Theatrical humor and sci-fi art take over the valley this week.

It would make sense that the entrance to another world is located in Jackson Hole, and artist Gabe Michael Kenney may just have the proof.

It would make sense that the entrance to another world is located in Jackson Hole, and artist Gabe Michael Kenney may just have the proof.

Staged laughs

Everything was fine until Masha showed up. Bickering middle-age siblings Vanya and Sonia find comfort in commiseration, but their sister Masha casts a new light on old family ghosts while swanning about with her boyfriend Spike. Will family ties, and the family house, ever be the same again?

Off-Square Theatre and the Russian Club of Jackson Hole are presenting a staged reading of the Tony-award winning play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang this week. The play is a comic send-up based loosely on Anton Checkov’s The Cherry Orchard, and stars Jackson native Creed Garland who is reprising his role as Spike from the Broadway production.

Visiting director Allison Watrous of the Denver Center of Performing Arts directs the reading. She will be in residence for a week teaching workshops at Jackson Hole High School and the Journeys School, part of the Center of Wonder’s artist-in-residence program.

“I love the play because it is so amazingly funny in its humanity,” Watrous said.

Having participated in Chekovian plays both as an actor and a director, Watrous says she admires the way Durang worked with the material.

“Durang really addresses the main Chekovian themes in this new contemporary way. You see how this Vanya mirrors ‘Uncle Vanya.’ The writing is just so smart.”

The play also features Nicole Madison Garrett, Clare Payne Symmons, Liliana Frandsen, Pat Towne and Malika Williams.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, 7 p.m. Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 in the Black Box Theatre at Center for the Arts, $18.

Immersive imaginations

Teton Artlab is hosting two visiting artists this month, Gabe Michael Kenney and Dana Lynn Harper. Both hold MFAs from Penn State, and both create unique immersive experiences with their art.

Kenney will present a device called the Portal Vortex Machine, which he created during the residency. As its sci-fi name suggests, the device is to be used by a character, played by Kenney, to search for the entrance to another world. He calls the world Agartha, a city located deep underground populated by ancient humanoids.

His multi-faceted work includes printmaking, photography, video, sculpture and performance. He will show photographic documentation of Kenney’s adventures with the Portal Vortex Machine in our regional wilderness. The machine is still in progress, but Kenney has made scouting expeditions to Yellowstone’s Fountain Paint Pots and other locales. Eventually he will set up the Portal Vortex Machine and “proactively meditate,” he said.

Kenney explained: “With a laser guide to help establish precise locality, I hope to make peaceful contact with Extra Terrestrial Intelligences or Ultra Terrestrial Intelligences and request guidance and assistance for the human race here on Earth.”

Where Kenney delves into alternate realities to discover more about what it means to be human, Harper evokes transcendence in the here-and-now. “My work explores moments of self-transcendence, where time is slowed down and the outside world is forgotten, a place where the imagination is ignited,” she said.

Harper, who lives in Colombus, Ohio, has been particularly fascinated by clouds during her time in Wyoming. “I’ve always been transfixed by the idea of particles that make up the atmosphere,” she said. “I like thinking about zooming in on particles to imagine how they would look if I were a bit smaller.”

During her residency, Harper has created drawings based on fog, vapor and clouds using layers of translucent brightly colored theater gel, holographic vinyl paper and hula-hoop tape to create layers of atmosphere. She places these collages on top of clear Plexiglas and then coats them with resin.

Harper will also present an installation inspired by aspen trees in the form of a long wire vine covered in neon pink gaffer’s tape and translucent neon orange leaves. “In all my work, I am trying to create a place, whether that be within the mind, or a moment between painting and viewer,” she said. “The work created at Teton Artlab is an extension of what has already been occurring in my work, but is influenced by my new experiences with the environment here.

Artist talk and open studio with Gabe Michael Kenney and Dana Lynn Harper at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, October 27 at Teton Artlab, free. PJH

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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