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.