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Nick Brooke: Time and Motion Study

Sep 27–27, 2008, 9:00 pm
Hunter Center
$10/ 10% member discount

In a large arena somewhere between a factory, an office, and a Wagnerian opera, eight performers sing, lip-synch, bricklay, and shovel, coordinating their movements precisely with a dense electronic maquette of sound effects, song fragments, and recorded text. (Listen to a sample now.) Composer and artist-in-residence Nick Brooke’s playful and ingenious Time and Motion Study is based on industrial efficiency studies of the 1920s and ‘30s and their relation to Muzak. Co-directed by Jenny Rohn, the production spins a symbolic web that examines how recordings have seeped into the psychological landscape of the U.S. and influenced our daily work rituals. Time and Motion Study will be performed with Mass, a work Brooke describes as half American Idol and half religious service, which combines virtuosic singing with hand-to-hand combat. Galleries open until 7 PM.

PRESS RELEASE >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Nick Brooke Presents Work-in-Progress Showing of Muzak-inspired Time and Motion Study

(North Adams, Massachusetts) Frank Gilbreth coined the phrase “Time and Motion Study” for his 1920s ergonomics experiments, in which factory workers’ movements were measured and reordered to increase efficiency. Gilbreth, along with the machine aesthetic of the 1920s, have inspired Nick Brooke’s newest performance piece Time and Motion Study, in which humans are also micromanaged. Using a groundbreaking performance approach that Meredith Monk has called “one of the most innovative and exciting pieces of musical theater I’ve seen in years”, the performers are trained to lip-synch, sing, and coordinate their movements precisely with a dense electronic maquette of sound effects, pop song fragments, and prerecorded text. After a two-week residency Time and Motion Study will be presented as a work-in-progress performance co-directed by Jenny Rohn on Saturday, September 27, 2008, at 8 PM in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center. The galleries will be open until 7 PM before the performance; dinner and drinks are available from Lickety Split and the MASS MoCA bar before the show.

An experimental music piece for eight performers, Time and Motion Study takes as its inspiration technological culture of the turn of the century when Muzak was first pumped over telephone lines to bolster worker productivity. Designed to be like air, or in Erik Satie’s words “furniture music,” Muzak would crescendo emotionally every 15 minutes, reinforcing the workaday energy curve. The performance soundtrack includes samples of quotidian sounds — standards, top 40, and everyday breathing, humming, and movement — and mixes them with scat, songs without words, exercise records and Wagner, all sources that suggest a background orchestra that moves us like Muzak. The singers blur in and out of focus -- at times everyone sings and moves en masse; at times the performers act independently, performing eight different surreal vignettes, each one coordinated in lock step.

The performers first rehearse musically to meld their voices with the sampled collage of sounds which virtually choreographs every movement. Then co-director Jenny Rohn and Brooke collaboratively develop the movement based on the individual performers’ contributions and on improvisatory exercises. Drawing on a poor theater aesthetic, the stage setting, designed by Bessie Award-winning designer Sue Rees, is minimal allowing the actors to evoke the music while lighting by Michael Giannitti highlights their actions. Over the course of the performance, the players gradually build brick a set of walls from 200 enormous wooden bricks. Scraps of furniture suggest an arena somewhere between a factory and office and shovels, wheelbarrows, and piles of copy paper add to the ambiance. Collaborating with the co-directors and performers, the sound engineer gradually fades the sound maquette in and out to create moments of presence and distance with the live and recorded voices.

Time and Motion Study is the third part in a tetralogy that began with Tone Test (2004), which premiered at the Lincoln Center Festival and was written under a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Mass (2006). The tetralogy is inspired by sound technologies on the verge of collapse (the phonograph, the radio, Muzak, the walkman), and examines how recordings have reengineered the psychological landscape of the U.S.

As a second part of the performance on the 27th, Mass will also be performed. According to Brooke, “Mass is half American Idol and half religious service, and combines virtuosic singing with hand-to-hand combat.” In the “parody” masses of the 16th century, fragments of romantic, patriotic, and dance songs were rearranged into religious masses. Brooke’s Mass creates a kind of secular service based on ephemera of U.S. pop culture reworking pop tunes from the past 30 years. Top 40 lyrics can often double as religious incantations -- the phrase “I believe” echoes from American Idol to Cher, and the “you” in U2 alternately means God or some romantic other. The piece is conceived like the parody mass one might really sing at home, quilted together from pop songs that identify some Americans more than religion.

Nick Brooke’s instrumental works have been performed by the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the Nash Ensemble of London, Orchestra 2001, Dan Druckman, and New York's Gamelan Son of Lion. His work has been performed across the U.S. and in Europe, and featured at the Lincoln Center Festival, the Spoleto Festival, and the MATA Series. He has received awards and residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, ASCAP, the Rockefeller Foundation, Djerassi, and the MacDowell Colony. He holds degrees in music composition and philosophy from Oberlin, and a PhD from Princeton. He teaches at Bennington College.

Co-director Jennifer Rohn graduated from New York University’s Experimental Theater Wing and studied under Jerzy Grotowski at UC Irvine. Rohn has appeared in director Robert Wilson’s Hamletmachine, Quartet, Salome and the CIVIL warS, and appeared in director Anne Bogart’s productions of Another Person is a Foreign Country and Spring Awakening. She has appeared on Broadway in The Kentucky Cycle and The Crucible, and has a Dallas Theater Alliance Award for her work in Arm's and the Man and a Barrymore Award for her portrayal of Lil’Bit in How I Learned to Drive. She has collaborated in the direction of numerous productions including Ubu Roi with Steven Wangh, Mud Angel with Kevin Kuhlke and Mass with Nick Brooke. She is a founding member of the Point of Entry Theater Company.

Sue Rees's recent design work includes A Likeness for Creach/Company (Joyce Soho); Farewell for Nugent+Matteson at Danspace @St. Marks and Colony Theatre, Miami; Catherine Filloux’s Lemkin’s House (Vital Theatre and 79th Street Lab, NY), The Dispute by Marivaux (Abingden Theatre, NY) and Antigone (Intar, NY), both for NAATCO and Mia Katigbak, Commedia del Smartass by Sonya Sobieski ( New Georges at Ohio Theatre, NY), The Unknown by Janet Allard/Jean Randich (NYMF) all directed by Jean Randich. Other companies and directors she has worked with recently include 13P: The Internationalist by Anne Washburn (45 Bleecker Street, Fairfield Theater Company), Aphrodisiac by Rob Handel (P.S. 122,NY, Long Wharf Theatre, CT), both directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, At Said by Gary Winter directed by Tim Farrell at PS122, additionally Clubbed Thumb’s Alice the Magnet by Erin Courtney directed by Pam MacKinnon., and SPF’s Millicent Scowlworthy by Rob Handel, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll. At The Flea Theatre, Tribeca, NY , she has worked on the following: Like I Say by Len Jenkin and Margo Veil by Len Jenkin, Jabu by Elizabeth Swados, (nominated for a 2005 Hewes Design Award). An ongoing collaboration with the Kattaikkuttu Theatre from Kanchipuram, India has involved documentation of the school as well as designing animations for The Milky Ocean performed at the Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, India in 2006. Other artists she has worked with include, Jonathan Bepler, Susan Sgorbati, Cathy Weiss. In 1989 she received a “BESSIE” for her Creach/Company scenic design.

On Broadway, Michael Giannitti designed lighting for August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which he also designed at Arena Stage, Huntington, Seattle Rep and Old Globe Theaters. He is resident lighting designer at the Studio Theater in Washington, DC, where he has designed over 25 productions and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award in 1999. He has designed lighting for numerous productions for the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, Trinity Rep in Providence, RI, and Capital Rep in Albany, NY. He has also designed lighting for a host of other venues, including Virginia Stage, George Street Playhouse, Jomandi, Portland Stage, Merkin Hall, Opera Ensemble of New York, and Indiana Rep. He has designed lighting for dance productions in New York at The Joyce, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project, The Kitchen, P.S. 122, and La Mama for choreographers Susan Rethorst, Nugent + Mattison, Cathy Weis and Marta Renzi, as well as Everett Dance Theater at Dance Theater Workshop, Spoleto Festival, Walker Arts Center, and on tour. As a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant recipient, Giannitti taught at the National University of Art, Theater and Cinema in Bucharest, Romania in Fall 2004 and at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School in Summer 2006. He currently serves on the Fulbright Senior Specialist Theater and Dance Peer review panel. BA, Bates College; MFA, Yale University School of Drama. He has taught at Bennington since 1992.

Tickets for Time and Motion Study are $10. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off 87 Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. Wednesday through Monday. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased on line at www.massmoca.org.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
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