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An Odd Phenomenon

by Erin Duffee

Preview of Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes, and Anna Bass’ Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host on the MainStage on April 25, 2015. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

Act one: the job of being a performer.

Act two: falling in love and what it means to stay in love.

Act three: nothing lasts forever.

Ira Glass is a radio producer and broadcaster, best known for This American Life, a weekly radio show featuring journalistic non-fiction narratives. Monica Bill Barnes is the artistic director of the Monica Bill Barnes Dance Company, based out of New York City and focusing on original dance, performed in unusual places. Anna Bass is the associate artistic director of MBB Dance Company. Glass, Barnes and Bass all share a common mission—exposing the nuances of everyday life in creative ways, which both inform and excite the rest of us. In 3 Acts, 2 Dancers, 1 Radio Host, the trio presents a full-length performance combining Glass’s storytelling with Barnes and Bass’s dancing.

“It’s an utterly ridiculous idea for a show,” Ira Glass admitted to the Minneapolis St Paul Magazine at the early outset of 3 Acts national tour, in 2013. “We thought it would be fun, and we started making the show,” Glass continued, explaining how he and co-collaborators, Barnes and Bass, really just skipped over the pitch and approval part of the creation process. “If we had to pitch it to someone, how would the answer have been yes?” he asked. The trio chose to self-produce the show, a familiar gamble for Glass, who recently took his radio show This American Life independent, after 17 years of production under Public Radio International.

Two years later, no one can deny the results—a hilarious and heartfelt show that’s received nothing but rave reviews since opening night at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. As any creative worth their snuff will tell you, the line between ridiculous and brilliantly original is not so obvious. A willingness to take risks is a necessary part of the creative make-up. You have ideas, you work them out, and you hope they resonate. Playing it safe is a good way to guarantee that they won’t.

As a dancer, I think that the premise of 3 Acts is brilliant. The most common question heard from any audience after a dance performance is: what was it about? The question is inevitable, though hearing it out loud will make most choreographers recoil, like a snake poked in the gut. For many dancers, the narrative is a slip of inspiration, not meant or even able to be shared. 3 Acts is a most brilliant solution, pairing narratives delivered by America’s favorite storyteller, with original dance choreography by Barnes and Bass. It is a complimentary accompaniment, with dance stepping in where the words cannot take you further and words providing a structure to hang on to in the midst of all that beautiful movement.

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Wendy Whelan’s “Restless Creature”

by John Killacky, Executive Director

An evening of duets with Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo; Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 pm, MainStage. Get tickets at www,flynntix.org,

“It’s the time in my life for me to do this—I don’t think I have anything to lose. I have only things to learn and places to grow, and there’s so much untapped artistry and expression in me. These collaborations can tap that artistry and expression in a new way for me.”

Wendy Whelan is arguably one of today’s greatest ballerinas. Recently she retired after spending 30 years at New York City Ballet, dancing virtually all the major Balanchine roles and working closely with choreographers Jerome Robbins, William Forsythe, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Shen Wei, and Wayne MacGregor. She was Wheeldon’s muse in particular, appearing in 13 of his dances.

In 2012, she began developing projects for the next chapter in her esteemed career. “Being a ballet dancer I was feeling the end of something, and I needed the beginning of something else. ‘Restless Creature’ is an exploration for me. I chose four young male choreographers from the contemporary world to make works for me to dance with them. I needed some new inspirations and some new challenges in my life.”

The works created by these four dancer/choreographers—Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Bryan Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo—premiered in August 2013 at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and is performed at the Flynn on April 30.

“She’s uncompromising, generous, bold, enthusiastic, adult, at the same time decisive and investigative. Few dancers in any genre show better that a work should be a process of self-discovery.” —Aliastair Macauley, New York Times dance critic on Restless Creature

In January 2004, Baryshnikov thrilled Flynn audiences with his virtuosity and grace. Now Vermonters have the opportunity to experience another dance great as she evolves and expands her aesthetic range and artistic vision.

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Love Can Turn the World

by Anne Averyt, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of African Children’s Choir at the Flynn on April 16, 2015.

The audience was as exuberant as the children on stage when the African Children’s Choir preformed at the Flynn Center Thursday night.  There was an uproar of applause and cheers to greet the children as they first came onto the stage. Throughout the concert, hand-clapping and foot-tapping was as prevalent off-stage as on. Singing songs of hope and radiating joy, the children won the hearts of everyone in attendance.

The evening was short as the visiting troupe performed only 12 pieces and one encore, but no one seemed to mind.  These were young performers, girls and boys, 7 to 11, and the show was a demanding one; a tribute to their energy and enthusiasm as well as to their singing.

Led by music teacher and conductor, Specioza Nabisubi, the children performed traditional African music and tribal children songs as well as western offerings such as He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and This Little Light of Mine.  With simple props all 18 children danced the Can Dance, while a handful of boys awoke the audience with a rousing drum performance.  There was also an interactive performance of song and mime celebrating a fishing expedition and an elaborate presentation of an eastern Uganda initiation dance which is a traditional coming of age rite for young boys.

Accompanying the children’s choir on their U.S. tour are Auntie Specioza, Uncle Eddie and tour leader Emily Gronow from Wales. All three took turns introducing the music and paying tribute to these “remarkable children” who demonstrate the power of “hope and faith” to transform lives.  During the second half of the show each of the children introduced themselves and told what their hopes were for the future.  Some want to be doctors or nurses, others accountants, a policeman, soldier, teachers or a lawyer.

Throughout the show there were numerous video testimonials by former choir members who have achieved success in life thanks to the opportunities for education and mentoring they received as part of the children’s choir organization.  Since its inception in 1984, more than 1000 children have toured with the choir and tens of thousands of children in seven African countries have benefited from the programs funded through the choir’s international outreach.

Tour leader Emily Gronow praised the Flynn Center audience as the most enthusiastic the choir has encountered on their tour. Those in attendance, young and old, were clearly captivated by the young visiting performers who entertained with their joyful songs and animated dance.

Perhaps the evening and the choir’s message was best summed up in the words of the song entitled Love Can Turn the World …

We’re different as night and day,

                                  but the same in every way.

                                  We can be anything we want to be…

                                  because love can turn the world.

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Sleight of Hand

by Lindsay Rae, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Miwa Matreyek at the Flynn on April 15, 2015.

Miwa Matreyek is a modern magician.

Her performance was like sleight of hand: something I kept trying to figure out or a trick I kept trying to catch. I repeatedly asked myself, “How does she do that?!” Creativity, technology, and talent are the answers, I realize, but like a good magic trick, I was never able to determine exactly how she made it all happen.

The stage seemed pretty unassuming when we first sat down, just a small screen with the curtains pulled in close on either side. I deliberately didn’t do much research on Miwa and her work prior to seeing her performance, but from what I had seen, the screen’s small stature was a surprise to me. The modest set-up that greeted me when I entered the theater only added to the sense of wonder I felt while watching her performance. I was impressed by how that humble screen seemed to grow until it filled the stage throughout the course of the show.

What completed this immersive aspect of the experience was the totality of the illusion that Miwa created. Her silhouette blended seamlessly with those of the diminutive creatures that she encountered during her digital adventures. Through some trick of technology, Miwa placed herself between and among layers of animation that moved and shifted around her. This effect placed her directly into the moving, dreamlike vignettes so that you couldn’t separate fact from fiction. More than once, Miwa had close, personal encounters with some of the miniature inhabitants of her imaginary world. On all fours, her back became a campground for a little human she rescued from the depths of an ocean; standing among skyscrapers of a bustling city, another miniature bridged the gap between the roof it stood on and Miwa’s mouth, crawling inside of it and then down into Miwa’s own depths before disappearing into the floor. Miwa’s movements echoed the exaggerated, slightly disjointed movements of her otherworld companions. If I allowed myself to become completely engrossed watching this interplay between the real and unreal, for just a moment, I almost wasn’t sure which was which.

Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of her performance was the timing that was obviously required to create the full experience of Miwa’s semi-reality. While she remained otherwise in silhouette, the human hands you knew were behind her shadow-puppetry seemed to expose themselves through the front of the screen. In reality, of course, the “human hands” we were seeing were only images. The positioning and timing of her real arms and real hands had to coincide precisely with those of the animated hands in order to complete the effect. I wondered how many times she had rehearsed these movements to cement them into muscle memory, or if she had cues marked off on stage that we couldn’t see from the audience. There was obvious thought, planning, and consideration that had gone into each series of actions. In any case, I was still wondering just how she accomplished these visual feats.

When I left the Flynn after attending Miwa Matreyek’s recent performance of her latest solo work, This World Made Itself, I was feeling pretty blown away. I was expecting a show unlike anything that I had ever seen before, and Miwa delivered the most vibrant and stunning series of visualizations I’ve maybe ever seen. Miwa Matreyek’s mind would be a delightful and fantastical place to visit. Watching her made me feel as if she gave the audience a glimpse into her psyche and how it works. This unique showcase is one that I would urge anyone to attend if they have the chance.

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The Soul of Brazil

by Brett Sigurdson, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Gilberto Gil on the MainStage on April 20, 2015. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

I first encountered Gilberto Gil in the back of a VW Vanagon under the shadow of the Rockies outside of Denver. My wife and I were working for the Forest Service and we lived in government housing with roommates who often squabbled. To get away, one roommate would spend nights in the back of the van listening to music and I occasionally joined him. He had developed a fascination with early Brazilian psychedelia music—called tropicália—and bands like Os Brazos, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, Os Baobás, and others.

I remember falling into the housemate’s seats as the music engulfed me; this spacey, tropical, jangle-pop-boogaloo echoing out of his speakers like a transmission from another planet. It all sounded as if a tight bassanova band had taken captive Ian Anderson and his flute, Jorma Kaukonen and his boogie guitar, and Keith Richards, who was forced to play the lead guitar part of “Paint it Black” in every song. It sounded like everything and nothing I’d heard before.

But then my roommate began playing Gilberto Gil, who sounded positively pop compared to all of the psychedelic noodling. His voice had a rakish presence—smooth, knowing, in command. Even over cheesy string arrangements, his voice maintained maximum charisma and credibility. At times, Gil’s music seemed a complete departure from the “Os” bands and their tropicália, like his sound was based in the buttoned-up office suites of 50s Tin Pan Alley rather than the patchouli streets of 60s San Francisco.  But then an out-of-nowhere key change or whistle or other musical diversion would remind me that Gil had the experimental heart of his tropicália peers. He just couched it in a catchy pop sensibility informed by the tight rhythms of rock, reggae, and funk, as well as those of his native Brazil.

Gil’s sound, his restless artistic sensibility, as well as his politically conscious outlook, have kept him perpetually relevant and always interesting. Indeed, with 52 albums released, 12 gold records, 5 platinum albums, 7 Grammys and more than 4 million records sold, he is a certified legend—a huge world artists whose acclaim is perhaps neglected stateside.

Personally, I’ve neglected the Gil albums in my collection for too long, so I’m looking forward to reconnecting with that special moment of introduction to his music in the back of my housemate’s Vanagon. I’m not sure what favorites I’ll hear when the master takes the stage at the Flynn—“Touche Pas À Mon Pote,” “De Bob Dylan A Bob Marley – Um Samba Provocação,” “Rebento”—but I know it will sound better in person than out of those VW speakers.

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Heaven Knows, Anything Goes

by Josh McDonald, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Broadway musical Anything Goes on the MainStage on Monday, April 27 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

Times have changed. So says Cole Porter in the opening line of the song Anything Goes – a featured number in some musical or other. I forget which one.

He goes on to lament that, in olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking – now, Heaven knows, Anything Goes.

It’s a common complaint, especially among the older generation. “What’s the matter with kids today?” asked a different lyricist for a different show, some thirty years later, but the sentiment is the same. Today’s youth are out of control.

Like when your daughter is all set to marry a British nobleman (a marriage which would, conveniently, help save the failing family fortune), and they’re on a ship to England to seal the deal, but then she falls for a young stowaway who has hooked up with a couple of two-bit mobsters (and may or may not actually be their mob boss), and the three of them seem determined to woo her out of her profitable relationship. And to further complicate matters, the nobleman may or may not be having an affair with the shipboard nightclub singer (who had feelings for the stowaway but is now falling for the nobleman instead…?).  Suddenly a simple marriage of convenience seems less simple and most inconvenient.

But then, what can you expect when the world’s gone mad today, and good’s bad today, and black’s white today, and day’s night today; when most guys today that women prize today are just silly gigolos? Things were just a lot simpler back in – well, let’s see, that was written in 1936 so… back sometime before then, I guess. But in any case, wouldn’t it be nice to just go back to whenever it was that life was simpler?

Unless, of course, you happen to be someone who enjoys complicated Gordian love-affairs with misunderstandings and mistaken identities and all the hijinks that ensue. If you’re into such romantic shenanigans – if driving fast cars you like, if low bars you like, if old hymns you like, if bare limbs you like, then something like this might be your cup of tea.

So when every night the set that’s smart is intruding on nudist parties in studios… (wait, this is a family show, yes? Just checking…) Anything Goes!

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Let’s Get Weird

by Cynthia Close, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes, and Anna Bass in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host on the MainStage on Saturday, April 25. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

“We brought down the house in Carnegie Hall.”

So says Ira Glass, whose name and persona is immediately associated with This American Life, a weekly public radio show broadcasted on more than 500 radio stations to over two million listeners. For some folks, he is the reason that they tune in to public radio.

Radio is a medium made for good storytellers and Ira Glass has proven to be one of the best of his generation. However, there has been a host of good storytellers on the radio since its inception. So what makes Ira Glass and This American Life different? Perhaps the key to their popularity can be found on their web site: “We view the show as an experiment. We try things.” This show and the subsequent performance in Carnegie Hall might be one of those “experiments.”

New York’s famed Carnegie Hall is home to performances of Bach and Beethoven by the world’s greatest symphony orchestras, but would those same music-loving audiences accept, even applaud, a sort of vaudeville show by a radio host and two dancers? Evidently the answer is a resounding YES!

This American Life is not an overnight phenomenon. It started in Chicago in 1995, went national in 1996 and has accumulated almost every prestigious award journalism and broadcasting has to offer: the Peabody, the DuPont-Columbia, the Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club. Ira Glass was also named the best radio host in the country by Time Magazine.

But back to the upcoming show at the Flynn and why anyone would want to pay to “see” a radio host perform. Well we Vermonters like to think of ourselves as entrepreneurial, different, even taking pride in being labeled “weird.” What could be weirder than bringing together dance and radio? When was the last time you “heard” a good radio dance performance?

Never! This is a first.

If you like the storytelling on This American Life and you like dancers who can also do “funny”, then the combination of Monica Bill Barnes, Anna Bass and Ira Glass all together on the Flynn Main Stage is bound to be well worth the price of a ticket.

The mission of Monica Bill Barnes & Company is to “celebrate individuality, humor and the innate theatricality of everyday life” making it a perfect match for This American Life. It is a four-member company including Monica Bill Barnes (Artistic Director/Performer), Anna Bass (Associate Artistic Director/Performer), Jane Cox (Lighting Designer) and Kelly Hanson (Set/Costume Designer), who have been collaborating to produce more than thirty shows over the past decade.

As advertised in the title, the show is in three acts. Act one is about the job of being a performer. Act two deals with falling in love and staying in love. In Act three we discover the truth of the phrase “nothing lasts forever.”

This show is only in Burlington for one night. Then it will be on tour across the country, moving from Vermont to Cleveland, Ohio and on to other far-flung places right through June 2016 when Three Acts, Two Dancers and One Radio Host arrives in Charlotte, North Carolina. So if you want to see what promises to be a unique experience, get your tickets now, as I’m anticipating a sellout crowd.

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Beautiful Noise

by Lauren Sanders, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Terry Galloway’s “You Are My Sunshine” in FlynnSpace on April 11, 2015.

I’m sitting there, taking note of my surroundings. Never having been to the FlynnSpace before, it’s smaller than I imagined. Interpreters wear all black, sitting near the stage and waiting for the show to begin. Everyone who has a hearing impairment is in the front row with a good view of the hands that will be telling Terry Galloway’s story. There’s an entire language to be understood without a sound. To assist her storytelling is a table with props. It doesn’t look like much: odds and ends really. Soon I will realize they are much more important than items collected over the years.

They are Terry’s life.

Then I hear something: this awful banging noise coming from the corner of the room. It’s Terry of course, with soda cans attached to her ankles. She opens with a scream, “I love sound!”

And she does.

Loudly, excitedly, and with profanity she goes over the details of her life.

She was a freak as a child with her Coke-bottle glasses and her box hearing aid which did next to nothing for her hearing. She wears them and imitates her teenage-self going through puberty. It went something like this: “bounce bounce, beep beep, bleed bleed.”

She learned how to use inflection from a teacher by putting her hands on her throat and feeling how her vocal cords moved. Something that some teachers today would get scorned for. She became part of an elite group of deaf gay performance artists. She found her love. All of the pieces that are on the table are pieces of her and have led her to that very moment.

When Terry began to talk about when she got her hearing back, it was astounding. Apparently, when a cochlear implant is first turned on, it’s like listening to a million machines going off at once. Even voices sound distorted and extremely screechy.

But one noise sounded beautiful and pure: the ring of a bell.

Over and over Terry rang that bell for us and it really began to sink in how grateful I am to have all of my senses. Especially the ability to hear even the littlest of sounds. I heard the women next to me sigh in awe, especially when Terry explained how it was to hear her partner Donna’s voice for the first time. To really hear it. Now Terry has had the implant for three years and she has yet to hear everything you or I have.

It’s a miracle. She has the cure!

Though she may not have it.

Terry received a notice from Cochlear explaining a recall on her device. Not the replaceable part of the device on the outside of her head, but the part that was surgically placed inside her skull. At any moment this piece of beautiful equipment could utterly and completely fail. And this my friends, is why the show is called You are My Sunshine. Because this piece of equipment is a ray of light that nothing else can replace.

Something that only “hearing people” would know how it feels to lose.

Terry grabs her ukulele, puts her implant on a pillow, and sings: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You do not know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

She ends the show with one final note, “I’m still learning.”

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Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain Preview

by Lindsey Rae, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain on the MainStage on Tuesday, April 21 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

I saw that the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain was coming to the Flynn and I couldn’t pass it up. I enjoy seeing all manner of live performances, but music might be my favorite. An orchestra of ukuleles? I can think of few musical ensembles that could rival this one in fun and entertainment. Be still my heart. Sign me up.

I have a long-term relationship with music. Things have gotten pretty serious. We spend a lot of time together—I mean a lot. We’re like two peas in a pod, music and me. Music’s a great helper, especially around the house, like when I’m doing the dishes or folding laundry. It amps me up and helps me get things done. It’s even better at keeping me company on long car rides. On nice days, we’ll go for a walk. If it can motivate me, maybe we’ll even go for a run. It gives me a shoulder to cry on if I need one. It’s always there for me. I often go to sleep thinking about it. I make it and it makes me who I am in many and varied ways.

Recently, we reached another big milestone in our relationship. I went out on a limb and bought a guitar. I was visiting a second-hand store in downtown Burlington with my sister. We were there to look at furniture for her new apartment. That was when I saw it propped up against an old desk. Maroon. Acoustic. I’d never seen an acoustic that color before. It seemed to be in good condition—a few dings here and there, but no worse for wear, and certainly no worse than me. It was love at first sight.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t have some doubts. After picking it up and inspecting it, I initially put it back. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to make that level of a commitment. My sister and I wandered around the store a little longer to give me some time to mull things over. Looking at old lamps and dinnerware, I kept thinking about the guitar and how regretful I would feel if I left it behind and someone else ended up finding it. I ultimately decided that I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave the store without it. So, it came with me.

What have I learned about playing guitar so far? It’s hard. Not easy at all. Not even a little bit. Nope. Seeing the pros, or seasoned amateurs, strumming and plucking away makes it look simple. But of course, it isn’t. My fingers, not unlike five-year-olds, have minds of their own and only sometimes do what I ask of them. Many days, getting my two hands to work together is nothing short of an exercise in futility. Granted, I’m only just starting out, barely a few months into this process. It’s amazing to me how much I’ve already improved, but I recognize that I have a really long way to go. In spite of only recently taking the plunge, I see my relationship with music already evolving. I like how flexible and forgiving my guitar is. I can pick it up whenever I have a little down time and strum away. Ten minutes, an hour. It all counts. Any time that I have to kill, my guitar and I cut through it like butter. We’ve been laying waste to time every day since I brought it home.

I’ve always had the utmost of respect for musicians, but that respect has only deepened since I’ve started learning the guitar. The time alone that is required to develop that skill and talent is worthy of praise. But it isn’t just time. It’s determination, devotion, not giving up, persisting in the face of difficulty and even repeated failure. All of that goes into making a musician, and there will be many of the finest and funniest on stage next week as part of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. In addition to the fun I know I’ll have, how inspiring, as a fledgling guitarist, to see them all playing together.

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Miwa Matreyek’s Kaleidoscope Dreams

by Erin Duffee

Preview of Miwa Matreyek on the MainStage on Wednesday, April 15 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

Multimedia artist Miwa Matreyek hails from Los Angeles and it is clear that her work is influenced by the Southern California landscape. Her surrealist theater bursts with bright colors, lush vegetation, and hazy (heat induced?) states of lucid dreaming. While watching videos of her work online, I could almost feel the beams of unadulterated sunlight, hear the sounds of the Pacific . . . but then again maybe I was in a state of cold-induced lucid dreaming; my brain’s desperate attempt to remain sane during one of Vermont’s famous April blizzards. Weather aside, Matreyek’s work holds a certain vibrancy that I find easy to associate with SoCal and I look forward to hearing what others have to say about that!

In recent years, Matreyek has garnered great attention for her unique performances, which seamlessly combine theater, animation, and shadow play. While the animation reel glows behind her, Matreyek’s shadow plays along in front; lighting candles with a flick of a shadowed hand, or guiding a city out of the ocean with the gesture of an arm. The layering of media and shadow creates a kaleidoscopic world where fantasy and reality seem fully interchangeable.

Of course, the elements of fantasy and reality are not in fact interchangeable – they are brilliantly mapped, planned, and choreographed to simulate an illusion of interactivity. Matreyek is a highly skilled animator and she creates all of her own animation reels for these theater projects. She began working with the medium as an undergraduate art major at UC Santa Barbra. Coming from a background in collage, she was interested in animation as a more vibrant expression of the assemblage art she was already doing. In 2007, Matreyek received her MFA in Experimental Animation and Integrated Media from the California Institute of the Arts. That same year she received the Princess Grace Award for Film for her final thesis project Dreaming of Lucid Living.

Matreyek sent Dreaming off into the international film festival circuit and let it gain momentum while she continued to work on solo and collaborative projects. By the time Matreyek finished her next solo work, Myth and Infrastructure, in 2010 she had already become the darling of the new media arts movement. Myth premiered at the annual TED Global conference in Oxford, England. The performance takes the viewer on a dreamlike journey through natural and developed landscapes, occasionally delving into domestic spaces as well.

Myth and Infrastructure will be performed on Wednesday, as will This World Made Itself, Matreyek’s 2013 solo creation. This World is a dreamy journey through the evolution of earth, moving across landscapes and time to provide a rich visualization of the earth’s natural history. According to Matreyek’s website, the performance is fantastic mixture of science and surrealist fantasy.

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Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
153 Main Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401
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