La MaMa Blogs: 6 QUESTIONS: Megan & Jessica Kennedy (Junk Ensemble)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6 QUESTIONS: Megan & Jessica Kennedy (Junk Ensemble)

Founding Artistic Directors of Junk Ensemble, Megan Kennedy and Jessica Kennedy, bring their acclaimed DUSK AHEAD to The Ellen Stewart Theatre as part of the 10th Anniversary of La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival. Megan and Jessica took time out of tech rehearsals to answer our 6 Questions - and in sisterly fashion, each answered three questions:

1. What was the original inspiration for DUSK AHEAD?

Jessica: Dusk Ahead is inspired by the twilight hour when day crosses into night. The French have a saying: 'L'heure entre chien et loup' meaning the hour between dog and wolf. We were interested in transformations - to cross the line from safe to wild. We wanted to attempt to re-create this mysterious moment within live theatre - through lighting, strong visuals, imagery and choreography. Another fascination of ours is attachment, which features heavily in the piece. The performers are attached to each other and to various objects throughout the piece, exposing the inter-dependency, need and also the aggression that we have as humans. This also parallels the visual setting of hundreds of golden strings pulled taut across the stage, attached to other strings.

We were also interested in visibility, and in creating a constructed lighting where sure if what they seeing is real or imagined. The performers are blindfolded at points during the show, highlighting the vulnerability and instability contained within all of us. There is also a representation of self-imposed or deliberate blindness, where one makes a decision to not see/hear the truth and instead prefers to remain in the dark.

2. How is DUSK AHEAD different from your previous work?

Megan: Dusk Ahead is a very different departure for us in terms of our process and our work. We decided to focus on creating a distinct arc throughout the show that doesn't necessarily peak at the end of the show as in much of our previous work. We wanted this arc to reflect the content of the show - day turning into dusk and dusk melting into night - that moment when you realise your eyes are failing you and nothing is perceptibly as before. We collaborated closely with the composer Denis Clohessy, who wrote much of the musical score before we went into rehearsals. This is quite different to how we normally work, whereby we create the choreographic material in the studio with the performers and the sound designer/composer comes into rehearsals and works the design around the material. With Dusk Ahead, we came into rehearsals with a large chunk of the score already written. This informed the work in a completely different manner and became another performer in itself, instead of the music slotting into what the choreography requires. This was also enhanced by working with a cellist on the musical score, who came into rehearsals at an early stage and made the composition exist on a different level.

3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with your twin sister?

Megan: There are certainly both of these! Because we have known each other since the womb, we have a deep understanding of each other and do not need to verbally communicate much of what we think. We have a shorthand to our working methods when we're in the studio and are usually on the same page when it comes to initial concepts for our shows or artistic decisions during the process. When it comes to minor decisions like time fades during a show, we bicker like an old married couple. We often have disagreements during a creative process but we drop them quickly without holding a grudge and have got a lot better about keeping it out of the rehearsal space and in front of the cast. The composer for Dusk Ahead, who coincidentally is also a twin and inherently understands our relationship, once jokingly said to us that we should go to polite school. I think he's right.

4. Who has influenced you?

Jessica: It might be easier to say who HASN'T influenced us. We can be inspired by many sources, which include art house film and drunken rowdy people on the street. We often reference literature, film and photography in our work. Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson continues to be an influence on our work. His films tend to deal with what it is to be a human being. We are also influenced by the films of David Lynch and various Russian novelists. Pina Bausch tends to sneak in there also.

For Dusk Ahead, we looked at films Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano), Inland Empire (David Lynch), Sans Solei (Chris Marker) and Intacto (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo). Our literary references were Transparent Things by Vladimir Nabokov, Blindness by Jose Saramago and The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks. We also studied the photography of Gregory Crewdson, Diane Arbus and Sally Mann.

We also studied people on the street - their characteristics and individual physicality. Megan and I had a residency in Dance City in Newcastle, U.K. for Dusk Ahead. We went out on a Saturday night and were in amazement at the raw, brute, physical (alcohol-induced) movements of the people on the street. The women in particular were doing some impressive physical feats (which they most likely were not aware of doing). Their movements were almost acrobatic, and also brazen and fearless, with an underlying edge of violence. We have tried to replicate some of those movements (and the feeling) within the piece.

5. What was the last good book you read?

Jessica: The last good book I read was my father's manuscript (third draft) called Fossil Light (Dennis Kennedy). He also wrote the lyrics for the songs in Dusk Ahead. I have almost finished reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander and just before that I read the beautiful incomplete book, The Original of Laura (Vladimir Nabokov).

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?

Megan: Working at La MaMa is a wonderful experience for us. I have come to shows in the theatre for many years - having trained at Alvin Ailey in New York - and always enjoyed the atmosphere of the theatre which extends from the staff, to the incredibly varied and intriguing shows that are presented here, and the artists I have met along the way at La MaMa. What I love most about La MaMa is the lack of fear in the shows they choose to present, with a look towards risk and beauty and vital things that need to be said. 

Performing Dusk Ahead at La MaMa feels like a perfect fit to the experimental, supportive glove that is La MaMa, who truly understand and respect the artist. We hope to come back again.

La MaMa and Irish Arts Center present
by Junk Ensemble

Part of the 2015 La MaMa Moves Dance Festival

May 21 - 24, 2015
Thursday - Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 4pm

Tickets: $25 Adults; $20 Students/Seniors; ten $10 tickets available for every performance, advance sales only, while they last! 

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

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