by Aaron Henne

As a Co-Literary Manager for The Theatre @ Boston Court, I am very fortunate to engage constantly in the process of developing new work for the stage. I get to ask hard questions about what plays are attempting to communicate and look carefully at the ways in which they accomplish their goals. As a writer/director of theatre, such engagement enables me to also look deeply at my own work and ask the same kinds of probing questions of its forms and functions.

Over the course of the past two years, I founded a theatre company called theatre dybbuk, whose mission is to illuminate the universal human experience by creating provocative theatrical presentations based on Jewish myths, folklore and history. After looking at the local and national landscape, I realized that there are a  limited amount of theatrical experiences that are dealing with Jewish topics in multidisciplinary or decidedly non-naturalistic forms. Out of this observation, theatre dybbuk was born.

Throughout the last decade, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of different companies (the Odyssey Theatre’s Koan Ensemble, Son of Semele Ensemble, Berkeley’s Central Works) who use a variety of in-house development methods to foster new work. When theatre dybbuk began I knew that I wished to create pieces through some kind of engagement with group processes. I also knew that I personally thrive where collaboration meets isolation. After looking carefully at many different takes on bringing new work to fruition I decided, inspired most specifically by my collaborations with Central Works and my previous work with LA Contemporary Dance Company(LACDC), to begin with a basic premise for a piece, one that would be rich enough in its history that it would require the assistance of multiple minds and voices. This premise would then be discussed by cast members, designers, composers, choreographers and script development consultants over the course of many months. All team members would help with research and would serve as “dramaturgs”, people who think deeply about the work, helping to question its assumptions and bolster its strongest choices. Simultaneously, the company would engage with on-our-feet workshops where we would test out material and attempt to find how it communicates in time and space. Through this combination of intense investigation of a piece’s internal workings and full bodied explorations of the play’s moments and scenes we would hopefully create something deeply imagined and examined.

Well, it came time to embark on our first attempt at this process. I came up with the idea for a dance theatre piece that would take a look at Lilith folklore (In some interpretations of Genesis, Lilith is considered to be the first woman before Eve who was cast out of Eden!). I then approached my collaborators at LA Contemporary Dance Company with the idea and we decided to move forward with a co-production which would take place approximately a year after that discussion. In conversation with Kate Hutter, the Artistic Director of LACDC, we set about casting the show.

Julie Lockhart, who has worked extensively with Boston Court’s collaborators from last season, Theatre Movement Bazaar, was cast as Lilith and Brad Culver, whose work on the Boston Court stage (How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found) had previously blown me away, was cast as Ba’al, the primary male figure in the piece. Other development partners signed on soon after, including composer Eric Mason, Script Consultant and theatre dybbuk’s Managing Director Barbara Mueller-Wittmann and Script Consultant Brian Polak. Brian, as most of you know, is BC’s Marketing guru and a great playwright to boot. Another perk of working with a wonderful arts organization – people with multiples talents abound.

We spent about 6 months engaging in the process indicated above and now, “Cave…A Dance for Lilith” is about to open. It has evolved into a work that spans thousands of years, utilizing the story of Lilith to look at modern, Biblical and pre-monotheistic narratives of oppression and conflict. Thanks to the way the development proceeded, the piece exists fully in the collision between text and movement. At times, the “play” is score, a landscape upon which the emotional experience of dance can occur. At other times, the dance is narrative, moving the plot along in ways that words alone could not accomplish. More often than not, it is all of the above, a visceral and intellectual experience that attempts to engage the viewer on multiple levels simultaneously.

We’re entering the final two and a half weeks of rehearsal.  I am curious to see how the constant questioning and evaluating that this system has encouraged will continue to operate. Every day, I am changing the text as it becomes clear what best communicates on stage. Every day, the cast members and choreographer are inventing and discovering movement vocabularies that exceed what I alone could have imagined. Every day, the piece is born anew.

Audience members are the missing collaborators and we will only truly know what has been created when we are experiencing it together. I hope to see you there for this inaugural production!


Co-produced by theatre dybbuk and L.A. Contemporary Dance Company, “Cave…A Dance for Lilith” explores the folklore of the demon Goddess Lilith, who is said to be the first woman before Eve. Lyrical language, visceral movement, live instrumentation and original musical composition come together to create a unique dance theatre experience, which utilizes ancient tales to speak to conflicts, both personal and political, today.

WHEN: November 9-18, 2012, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:30 pm, Sundays at 7:30 pm.

WHERE: Diavolo Performance Space, 616 Moulton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90031

TICKETS: $20.00 online. $25.00 at the door.


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