Exchange Students

Posted on June 12, 2013 by Haymaker


All the really good ideas start in the middle of a gigantic synthetic forest.

We’re young (not us, really, but Haymaker – barely three years old). So we try to hang out with the cool older kids whenever possible. Last year, we heard that Duke was bringing this show called How to Build a Forest to town – no, “show” isn’t even the right word. It’s eight hours long. It has no dialogue. It’s just a forest growing out of an empty space and then disappearing again. That’s our kind of not-show. We signed up, and we found ourselves making rhythmic breath noises in that forest.

That’s how we first met Pearl D’Amour. We did some eating and drinking together, got some good advice about the devising life, and went our separate ways. We hoped our paths would cross again, but we weren’t holding our breath. Katie and Lisa are big time – they’ve been doing this for seventeen years, and they’ve won a bunch of important awards—so we didn’t imagine we’d hear from them again.

But now, here we are, about to start the first leg of a nine-month-long conversation with Pearl D’Amour. They invited us to join them on a grant from the Network of Ensemble Theaters, and so we’re going to be bouncing between our home of Durham and their homes of New Orleans and New York talking about and making work. Our company age differences aside, we’re both asking the same questions about relationship between the art we create and the audiences we want to see it. They’re making Milton, a show built from visits to five American towns with the same name. They want to perform it for the people of those towns. We’re making What’s That Cost?, a total reinvention of our Budget show from last year. We want to perform it outside of theaters – at an office, for the people who work there, or at an apartment building, for the people who live there.

It all starts at the end of June, when they spend the weekend with us in Durham. We’ll define some terms: “art” and “audience” and “community” and “relationship” and “disconnect.” We’ll talk about who we think our audience is, and how and whether we reach them. We’ll talk about performing for people who don’t usually see theater. And then we’ll stop blabbing and start making: we’ll show them pieces of What’s That Cost, and they’ll take us to Milton, North Carolina, and show us some ideas for their piece.

We’re stoked. We’d even go so far as to say that we’re super-stoked. NET gave us a real vote of confidence with this grant, thanks in no small part to hitching our wagon to one of the coolest devising groups there is. We hope that we come out of this collaboration having grown up as a company, and we hope that Pearl D’Amour gets a shot in the arm from working with us. Most companies never get exchanges like this – we’re lucky, and we’re going to grab that opportunity. We’ll be documenting everything, so stay tuned for the pictures and sounds and words from this adventure to come your way.