NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Berkshire audiences will have the chance to preview a playwhen British playwright and performer Tim Crouch comes to MASS MoCA for a two-week residency as part of the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab. In conjunction with that visit, Crouch will present a staged reading of his play "My Arm" in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Saturday, Dec.1, at 8 p.m.. Crouch’s multimedia tale of a young boy who decides to permanently raise his hand into the air unfolds through a combination of live performance, digital film, and the animation of everyday objects supplied by the audience before each performance. Shirley Dent, of the Institute of Idea’s Culture Wars, praises an early production of ""My Arm":" "Tim Crouch understands narrative, he knows what words will pull us in and what silences will keep us there."
Crouch describes the inspiration for the piece: "The original idea of the boy with his arm in the air came during an improvised story-telling I did for a group of ten-year-olds Š. The image stuck with me." Crouch then experimented with incorporating ordinary objects such as coffee cups, fire extinguishers, and chairs during a series of workshops at the National Theatre. He discovered that when "the objects were manipulated by the actors who were instructed not to get emotionally involved withŠ their object," the effect was engaging for the audience.
At its core, "My Arm" also provokes discussion about the differences between visual arts and theatre. In the introduction to "My Arm", Crouch describes "the social nature of watching a play and the private, stand-alone nature of looking at a paintingŠ ‘My Arm’ is from a clear theatrical tradition; the accompanying visual focus, however, requires a different frame of approachŠ Visual art expects its viewers to work hard. ‘My Arm’ attempts to let the audience be by itself for periods of timeŠto give the audience a greater sense of its own authority in relation to what it is seeing." he writes, performs, and produces his own plays. He has developed and performed commissions and new works across the world, including at the Royal Court Theatre and the National Theatre in London, the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Singapore Arts Festival, Culturgest in Lisbon, the Public Theatre in New York, and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
This year, Crouch was selected as a Sundance Institute Theatre Lab fellow. The acclaimed Sundance Institute, originally founded by Robert Redford, the annual host of the Sundance Film Festival, provides "a space for independent artists to explore their stories free from commercial and political pressures." The Theatre Lab is dedicated to developing the careers of theatre artists through a collaborative fellowship program.
"My Arm" will be presented up in the Club, in the museum’s Club-B10 performance space. Club B-10, located on the third floor of the museum, hosts hip and emerging artists from a multitude of performing arts genres. Dinner and snacks from Lickety Split Café and drinks from the MASS MoCA bar are available before and during the performance.
The staged reading of "My Arm" will take place on tonight Dec.1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16. Tickets for students are $10. MASS MoCA members receive a 10 percent discount.