Cube Calendar Articles for May/June, 1997

CUBE and the MASS Ensemble present
a collaboration featuring the premiere of a new work for the combined ensembles
by Patricia Morehead and the Chicago premiere of a new version of
On Thin Ice for flute and marimba by Janice Misurell-Mitchell
also works by Roscoe Mitchell, Earle Brown and others
with guest artist David Halloway, baritone

Monday, May 19, 1997 at 5:30 pm Auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center 400 S. State Street, Chicago -- Admission free
Open dress rehearsal Sunday afternoon, May 18 -- call (312) 554-1133

CUBE and MASS Collaborate

On May 19, 1997 (see box), the members of CUBEwill present a collaborative performance with the remarkable MASS Ensemble. Formed in 1994, MASSis an ensemble of musicians, dancers and artists that brings together a wide range of musical and artistic elements into one creative whole. Combining cello, percussion, and ensemble co-founder William Close's invented electro/acoustic string instruments/sculptures (Close Long Bows: 25 feet long stringed instruments pulled and plucked with gloved hands) with dynamic movement and dance, the MASS Ensemble is as musically intriguing as they are visually striking.

CUBE co-artistic director Patricia Morehead will compose a new work for the combined forces. Morehead's work will be an extract from a work-in-progress based on the legendary Sauk chief Black Hawk, with baritone David Halloway. The two groups will also collaborate on realizing graphic scores by Earle Brown and others. In addition, the MASSEnsemble will present several of its own works.

Simply playing the Close Long Bows lends a fluid/dynamic physicality to the kinetic elements of the performance; the bows are capable of producing intricate symphonic experiences. Choreography is created through the act of playing on and around the sculptural instruments. The physical nature of the performance is evoked by the large scale of the instruments in relation to the person. The instruments accompanied with the movement allow the audience to experience the music on both a visual and sonic level. They become the theatrical setting, the landscape, the characters with which the ensemble performs. The sounds of the Close Long Bows are akin to an electronic harp or violin. Melded with cello, flute, sculptural drums, castanets, percussive dancing, and other invented instruments, the music is a tonal canvas, which the performers activate with dance and movement.

Joining CUBEmembers Caroline Pittman, Janice Misurell-Mitchell, Patricia Morehead, Dane Richeson and Philip Morehead are MASS Ensemble co-founder Bill Close, cellist Joseph Harvey, and co-founder choreographer and flutist Tatiana Cira Sanchez.

Chicago Tribune writer Nancy Stetson wrote of the group:"When members of Chicago's MASS Ensemble have to declare what kind of art form they are, they probably check the 'all-of-the-above' box. Their unique performances include sculpture, dance, music, drumming, light and poetry. They're also experimental, unpredictable, and entertaining."

Lyric Opera Center to present Shulamit Ran's Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk)

On June 20 and 22, 1997, the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists will present the world premiere of Pulitzer-prize-winner and Lyric Opera composer-in-residence Shulamit Ran's new opera Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), conducted by Arthur Fagen and directed by Jonathan Eaton. The opera is based on a play by Russian writer Shloime Ansky (Solomon Seinwil Rapoport, 1863-1920), which the author adapted from his 1916 story Between Two Worlds, or The Dybbuk. The play was also the source for several other operas and for a classic Polish film.

(About the play:)

Playwright S. Ansky's classic Yiddish drama about life, death, faith and the spiritual bond between two lovers is set in Poland at the end of the 19th century. "The Dybbuk" tells the story of two ill-fated lovers -- Chanon, a penniless but devout student of Jewish mysticism, and Leah, the young woman he adores. Betrothed unknowingly to each other since birth, the two are denied their fate when Leah's father breaks the marriage contract and offers his daughter to a richer man. Upon hearing the news, the heartbroken Chanon, who is weak from prolonged prayer and fasting, dies instantly. His life cut short, Chanon's soul becomes a demon, or dybbuk, which enters Leah's body in an attempt to gain possession of her love for eternity.

What follows is an attempt by the deeply pious Hasidic rabbis to exorcise the dybbuk from Leah so she and her new wealthy fiance can proceed with their marriage. Leah must confront the choice between marriage to a man for whom she feels nothing or an unworldly union with her dead lover's spirit.

"It has been described as 'Romeo and Juliet meet the Exorcist. It's a love story that is beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. Ansky's play celebrates the division between earthly existence and the supernatural, between fleshly desire and the cravings of the spirit, and between the material reality in which we live and the transcendent longings of two lovers."1

Ansky's original title of the work, "Between Two Worlds," describes well the dichotomies found within the play. "It indicates how we in life are suspended between this Earth and the other world ... between a sense of the demonic and the angelic."

Ansky, born in 1863 in Lithuania, created the play from a number of Jewish myths, folk tales, songs and legends he gathered during his career as a scholar of Hasidic culture. Ansky never had the chance to see a performance of the play, however, because he died shortly before its 1920 premiere in Vilna, Lithuania. The play has been a staple of the Yiddish theater since its first staging and has been performed worldwide.

Written about a time and culture in history when people believed good and bad spirits infiltrated their everyday lives, "The Dybbuk" contains images of magic and mysticism as ancient as the sacred Kabbalah itself. But as remote as this culture may seem to most people today, the play is remarkably alive and accessible.

Neal Lerner, Washington University (St. Louis) Record.

1 Quotations are by director Henry I. Schvey, Ph.D., professor of drama and of comparative literature in Arts and Sciences and chair of the Performing Arts Department at Washington U.

(About two films :)

A Vilna Legend (Tkies kaf). George Roland (U.S., 1933)/Zygmund Turkow (Poland, 1924)

(Dem rebns koyekh). This is the 1933 American sound adaptation of the Polish silent Tkies kaf (1924), featuring two of Poland's best-known Yiddish divas, Ida Kaminska and her mother, Ester-Rokhl Kaminska (the latter's only film appearance here preserved). A fashionably expressionistic, rather more lighthearted precursor to themes in The Dybbuk, set in early twentieth-century Jewish Lithuania, Tkies kaf addresses the classic conflict between traditionalism and modernism in a tale of frustrated love and spiritual intervention. Two young people, a yeshiva student and a poor fruitseller, though promised to each other before birth, can fulfill their love only through the miraculous intervention of the prophet Elijah, who appears in a variety of disguises. Popular, and critically controversial--accused of playing into the Gentiles' image of Jews as uninhibited gluttons (in the humorous wedding scene), as uncanny (its thesis)--the film fascinates with on-location scenes in old Vilna, where local beggars became extras and Jewish landmarks were worked into the plot.

* Written by Henrik Bojm (1924), based on a play by Peretz Hirshbein; and by Jacob Mestel (1933). Photographed by Seweryn Steinwurzel. With Ester-Rokhl Kaminska, Ida Kaminska, Zygmund Turkow. Narrator: Joseph Buloff. (60 mins, Yiddish narration with English subtitles, B&W, 16mm)

The Dybbuk. Michal Waszynski (Poland, 1937)

(Der Dibuk). In The Dybbuk, as in mysticism and love, the past has a magnetic pull on the present, and the dead are as alluring as the living. Khonnon (Leon Liebgold) and Leah (Lili Liliana), betrothed before birth, meet, knowing nothing of the vows. Khonnon becomes obsessed with Leah and begins to dabble in the kabbala. Leah is betrothed to a wealthy man, and Khonnon offers her his body, soul and intelligence--via Satan--and dies. Leah's father invites the spirit of her dead mother to the wedding; Leah invites Khonnon from the grave. The film is filled with haunting, unforgettable scenes that verge on the surreal, set to choreography by Judith Berg. Jewish mysticism links with expressionism--as in Nosferatu or Vampyr, man is an insubstantial presence in the cinematic ether. Ansky's play was written during the turbulent years of 1912-1917, Waszynski's 1937 film made during another period of prewar unease; shot on location in rural Poland, it captures a rich folk heritage.

* Written by Alter Kacyzne, Andrzej Marek, based on the play by S. Ansky. Photographed by A. Wywerka. With Abraham Morewski, Leon Liebgold, Lili Liliana, Isaac Samberg. (123 mins, in Yiddish with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)