Send for the Million Men
Send for the Million Men is the culmination of two decades of research on Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists executed in Boston in 1927 for a crime they most likely didn’t commit. Created by Joseph Silovsky, with Catherine McRae (music) and Victor Morales (video/performer), this staged performance tells the story using oratory, puppetry, robotics, video projections and hand crafted machines. The performance combines descriptions of the actual events with narrative from Silovsky’s life and research, bringing into focus the flawed judicial processes in that era and showing how it still reverberates today. A series of objects establishes the background information for the show. Silovsky maps out the crime scene on an empty stage, illuminating both the stark facts and his obsessively detailed knowledge of the story. He presents the night of the arrest silently—an arrangement of suitcases becomes an eerie town, using elaborate projection-mapping. Interwoven within these stories is a meta-narrative about truth and perception. What is evidence? What is proof? Silovsky performs with Victor Morales as two earnest but bumbling storytellers, and their reliability as honest conveyors fades in and out as the performance progresses. There is a constant pointing to the frame- no fourth wall is ever established. You as an audience member are requested to be both suspect and trusting. This structure is upended when contrasted with the stark rejection of their appeals and the execution of both Sacco and Vanzetti at the end of the show.
Here Arts Center, NY,NY; Mass Live Arts, Great Barrington, MA
Joseph Silovsky has been performing and making machines for theater since 1990. The “mad scientist” of New York’s experimental theater, he is known for his odd and ingenious mechanical creations that he uses to tell stories of obscure historical incidents and the minutiae surrounding them. The combination of low and high-tech props that he builds creates an extraordinary landscape for his singular performance style. His shows are quirky and humorous, but are inevitably contrasted by the tragic subject matter that is addressed. He has performed solo and group shows at HERE, St Anne’s Warehouse, PS122, the Collapsable Hole and other venues in New York, as well as in Chicago and at the Kananahk Performance Art Festival in Rakveres, Estonia. He premiered Send for the Million Men at HERE Arts Center (December 2014), and performed it at Mass Live Arts in Great Barrington, MA (July 2015). Various workshop versions of Send were performed at Catch!, Labapalooza, Little Theater, HERE’s Culturemart, and the Collapsable Hole (2011-14). Prior performances have been: The Jester of Tonga at PS122, Binghamton First Night Festival, and elsewhere, (2007- 2009); and The Reddest Dirt in Oklahoma, Tonic’s Little Theater, Jan 2006. Joseph collaborated with Victor Morales as Tutto and the Ragman (2001-2005), as well as with Radiohole (2003-2013), The Builders Association (2000-2010), Lucky Pierre (1998-1999), HMS (1995-1997), and the Cook County Theater Department (1994).
Photo by: Cory Weaver
This post is part of a series of profiles on performance and performance makers from this year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2016, an overview of contemporary performance presented during the 2014/2015 season available for touring now. If you would like to be apart of next year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2017, you can join the project here.