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In Performance: Sorrow Swag / LIGIA LEWIS (American Realness)

Sorrow Swag / LIGIA LEWIS

ABRONS ARTS CENTER
Playhouse
466 Grand Street,
New York, NY, United States

Viscerally nightmarish and spectacular in its simplicity, Sorrow Swag draws its audience into a sensorial abyss populated by cultural remnants of the Western canon. Choreographed by Ligia Lewis with live sound by George Lewis Jr and muscularly performed by Brian Getnick, Sorrow Swag stages an amorphous boundary between interior and exterior, the internal and the cultural. The performer’s haunting emotional life unfolds around us, populated by disjointed speech and movement, an expansive soundscape, and color-saturated visuals. At the same time, text pulled from the Western canon–most notably Beckett–along with movement that morphs seamlessly from dancing to fighting insist that these painful states exist in relationship to external stimuli and political structures, particularly through the lens of race. From the audience, it is not clear whether we are living inside this grief with the artists, or in fact constructing it ourselves with our gaze; ultimately, the piece’s striking–nay, terrifying–closing image, clearly inspired by Billie Whitelaw’s legendary 1973 performance of Beckett’s Not I, challenges us to see how both are true. In Sorrow Swag, the path from the political to the primal is direct, if only we are brave enough to face its undeniable pain.

Reviewed by Sara Lyons

Image by Kat Reynolds

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Caden Manson is a director, media artist, and teacher. He is co-founder of the media ensemble bigartgroup.com and network, blog, and publisher, contemporaryperformance.com. He has co-created, directed, video- and set designed 18 Big Art Group productions. Manson has shown video installations in Austria, Germany, NYC, and Portland; performed PAIN KILLER in Berlin, Singapore and Vietnam; Taught in Berlin, Rome, Paris, Montreal, NYC, and Bern; the ensemble has been co-produced by the Vienna Festival, Festival d’Automne a Paris, Hebbel Am Ufer, Rome’s La Vie de Festival, PS122, and Wexner Center for The Arts. Caden is a 2001 Foundation For Contemporary Art Fellow, is a 2002 Pew Fellow and a 2011 MacDowell Fellow. Writing has been published in PAJ, Theater Magazine, and Theater der Zeit. Caden is currently an associate professor and graduate directing option coordinator of The John Wells Directing Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama.

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