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In Performance: Benjamin Verdonck, Leidlein Für Gigi (Weiner Festwotchen)

Liedlein Für Gigi (Songs for Gigi)
Benjamin Verdonck
June 6-9 2019
Wiener Festwochen

A box with strings, two musicians, a voice. Sometimes the most direct path to hope is through simplicity. Inside of a hand made mini theater shapes, colors, and lights dance and flicker. The shapes are all linear, squares, rectangles and triangles, calling to a cityscape. Hidden in the dark, Benjim Verdonk creates moments of practical magic with a delicate virtuosity. The shapes move with a careful and meditative slowness as he relates fragments of conversations he’s had with his youngest daughter around the time of the Paris attacks. Verdonck sent me an English translation of the text that was written in German. Some excerpts are simple, about ponytails and sandwiches with strawberry jam. Some are less simple.

“what did those people do, she ask
skilled people
because they are angry
why are they angry
because they are poor”

We are brought through the handmade theater that houses shapes and lights and colors into some of the confusion and wonder that it is to be a 7 year old trying to understand the impossible, and an adult trying to explain it.

And then, the theater lights come on, and Verdonk emerges from the darkness simply and earnestly singing us a lullaby. “Our house is a very very very fine house” an innocent wish– a fervent hope that we can all hold collectively– that if he tells us everything will be okay, that it will be–punctuated with a single cymbal clash in the middle, we must not go into this world asleep.

Photo: Kurt Van Der Elst

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Lyam B. Gabel (they/he) is a trans* performance-maker, scholar, and community archivist who creates containers for collective remembering and radical celebration. They are a founder of trans-media oral history and performance collective LAST CALL, and a director of the NEFA NTP ‘18/ MAP ‘16 performance Alleged Lesbian Activities about the history of lesbian bars. Their current work the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table exploring queer care from the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis through COVID-19 received a NPN Creation Fund commission with the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center and Chatham University. Other current work includes an AR journey through trans* euphoria and queer ecology and a short film about lip-sync as time travel. He regularly collaborates on and midwifes work by playwrights and solo performers and has developed work at Judson Church, Pipeline, Ashland New Plays Festival, The Theater Offensive, and The New Orleans CAC among others. Lyam is currently an Assistant Professor of theater at Lehigh University. Current Drama League Next Stage Resident, Drama League Fellow 2017, Distillery Artist New Orleans CAC 2016.

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