- Stephanie Perkins
- Participants in 2018’s The Rose Exposed: Breaking News!
Living under the same roof doesn't automatically make for a happy family. When those "family members" are six arts organizations sharing a building, it would be easy to think that the relationships would involve as much competition and jealousy as mutual affection.
For seven years, however, the six resident companies at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center—the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, Plan-B Theatre Co., Pygmalion Productions, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co., Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) and SB Dance—have made it an annual tradition to showcase all of their talents on one night. The Rose Exposed production serves up offerings from each company, providing a sampler platter of the amazing performances that take place in the building throughout the year.
According to Plan-B Artistic Director Jerry Rapier, the concept behind The Rose Exposed began simply as a way to bring people into the facility that was still trying to establish its identity. RDT's Linda Smith had attended a community meeting about promoting the "Broadway Mile," Rapier says, "where she had to explain to a few people what the Rose was—and these were people whose businesses were just on the other side of State Street."
Initially, the idea was to create a full-day event in which attendees could watch the companies develop and rehearse the pieces they would perform. Over time, that concept evolved, as Rapier states, because "we discovered that stuff didn't really work; people were more interested in the performance itself." Subsequently, performances have focused on short pieces by each of the companies or, in some cases, collaborations such as a Gina Bachauer pianist accompanying the theatrical and dance works.
In recent years, those performances have been connected by a single overarching theme. The 2018 concept is Breaking News, which Rapier describes as focusing on how "it's kind of hard to keep up with the way information swirls around us. Our goal wasn't necessarily to be overtly political, but simply to reflect what's going on around us. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, there's a sense of unease. This seemed to be the best way to put an artistic umbrella over that." Beyond that broad concept, individual organizations have tremendous freedom in the way they interpret it—and for some of them, The Rose Exposed is an opportunity to be playful and creative in a way that's not always possible for other productions. Choreographer Nick Cendese, who is working on RDT's Rose Exposed contribution, describes the whirlwind process that begins at 9 a.m. with a warm-up class, followed by a two-hour rehearsal chunk, an hour of time with the pianist, an afternoon break, full run-through by about 5 p.m. and curtain at 8 p.m.
Cendese is also finding a particular challenge in that their piece "will be kind of the interstitial glue between the other companies. And I have literally no idea what's going to happen. ... I get tasked with showing up on that day, putting something together in four hours. The only way to work that fast is to stop thinking and work spontaneously. You don't have time to second-guess."
SB Dance's Stephen Brown adds, "I always like doing the Iron Chef kind of things. You come in and you're told, 'You're going to have live piano music, and here are your choices.' The piece I chose originally was a kind of exuberant version of "My Favorite Things" ... so I got a group together and an idea based on this piece of music. And then the music changed. So I kept all the stuff I was doing, and well, let's do it with Mozart then. I like being able to string things together like that."
For the audience, the result is a rapid-fire chance to explore the creative work all of the companies do, perhaps discovering a kind of performance they might not have attended otherwise. "I think it's such a great snapshot," Cendese says. "If people like one of our organizations, but they don't know the others, it's a great chance to experience something new.
"And," he adds with a laugh, "the pieces are only 10 minutes, so if you don't like something, it will be over very soon."
What's interesting to all the participants, however, is how an idea that began as a way to get patrons to know the companies better has also developed into a way for the companies to know one another better. Rapier mentions as one example a collaboration with Gina Bachauer on a production of Peter and the Wolf, which evolved into Plan-B's annual elementary school tour. "What has happened over this seven years," Rapier says, "is that we've become incredibly aware of each other's work, looking for ways to support each other, and we're much more of a community than we were before. ... What we're all really understanding is, the more we assist each other, it's helping each of our missions. The barrier is gone to reach literally next door."
Like they say: The family that plays together, stays together.