Friday, July 16, 2004

Hidden Gem (second in a series)
[a show that might not be on your radar, but should be...]

Terra Incognita
Women's Club of Minneapolis
TWO PERFORMANCES ONLY - the opening Friday and Saturday, August 6th and 7th, of the Festival
And one of the performances is the very first performance block - 5:30pm on a Friday. 
Tough for any performers, doubly tough for out of townerpemuch chance to garner any word of mouth.  Scheduling conflicts have made it impossible for them to stay for the whole run of the festival, unfortunately, but they're still very excited about bringing their play to share with us. 
No doubt they'll all be working the festival community to get the word out.  And I'm putting in a plug for them as well.
What's it about, you say?  I'm glad you asked...
Here are the words of Woody Hood, head honcho for Terra Icognita:
"I've been thinking about how to talk about 'Dix' for a long time.  The play is rather thickly poetic and fragmented, so talking about it with words is a bit strange.  It doesn't lend itself easily to publicity and promotion unfortunately...

The setting for the piece is the Dorothea Dix Hospital, founded in 1848 to change the public's perception of mental illnesses. Here's the basic info on her: Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887) - American philanthropist, reformer, and educator who was a pioneer in the movement for specialized treatment of the mentally ill.

The play opens with a long-time nurse introducing a new hire to the 'Dix Hilton.' We quickly leave the confines of the real and enter multiple worlds as we discover each new patient. We enter a place created by a woman who only perceives the universe via color. One understands and communicates only by rhythmic sound. A third patient transmogrifies into multiple people/times/places.

As the piece progresses, the young nurse learns to pull her interior landscapes that she's kept secretly squirreled away to the outside. In the end, all of the women join in a ritual of freedom, safe away from the confines of 'real' or 'normal.'

Words I would use to describe the play: funny, surreal, sweet, bizarre, warm, earthy, disconnected, connected, imaginative. The playwright is [also] a published poet...She just had a premiere of her first opera at a festival last fall in Alsace, France (a bizarre and wonderful thing with music created randomly by mechanized robots...

We've already had a directed reading of [Dix]. The audience was remarkably positive and they seemed to be able to track the piece well. I'm dying to know how audiences will respond to the full beast...

Our company (Terra Incognita) is happy to find a festival in the U.S. that is still interested in this sort of work. We're tired of paying for the airfare to travel our work to Europe where it can be viewed in its own terms and not in commercial ones."

I love a play that needs the Fringe in order to exist. The description fascinates me. There are a couple of Minnesota-based women's theater companies, also in the Fringe this year, who probably ought to give it a look, and a longer local production, if it's as good as I think it's going to be.

Catch it while you can. Two performances only, in the opening weekend, and then they're gone.

(normally this might be a candidate for "Save This Show From Its Title," but if a mispelling more common to e-mails is going to get you to give this show a second look, then I'm OK with that)

For another Hidden Gem, look at
Mary Skelley Sunshine Box
(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit

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