August 28, 2014  

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Southern Miss Dance and Theatre Collaborate to Create Contemporary Art: The Mystery of Other Lives

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The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Dance and Department of Theatre will present The Mystery of Other Lives April 3, 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. and on April 6 at 2 p.m. The 50-minute performance combines both dance and theatrical elements in a contemporary form. The performance will be held at 416 East Pine Street in downtown Hattiesburg.

The collaborative production of the Department of Dance and Department of Theatre blends scene work, music, and dancing into one piece. The cast (six dance majors, six theatre majors, and one double major) has all contributed to the creation of the piece.

John Warrick, chair of the Department of Theatre, explained how devised theatre is different from a typical theatric production. “Devised theatre is a new trend in making performance art pieces, in which an ensemble group of performers create their own work without the use of a playwright or dramatic text,” he said.

“In this way of working, the performers might begin with an abstract theme before then introducing games; these games then develop into scenarios which in turn may be further refined into scenes and dance pieces. The beauty of devised work is that it allows artists from different disciplines, such as dance and theatre, to work together on shared concepts of performance.”

Warrick, along with guest artist Jeffrey Fracé from the University of Washington and Elizabeth Lentz, assistant professor of dance at Southern Miss are co-directors of The Mystery of Other Lives.

Fracé was invited to teach classes and workshops to theatre and dance students in December, thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Fracé recently returned in January for several days to begin work on The Mystery of Other Lives.

"This work of art doesn't just mean something for the Department of Dance, or the Department of Theatre, or even just Southern Miss. It's a chance for our entire community of Hattiesburg to see a very contemporary form of collaborative performance art, in which many professional dance and theatre companies are now working,” said Lentz.

“I've worked in this form as a professional in Chicago, before moving to Southern Miss, but as far as I know, it's the first full-scale production of this kind here. It's a chance for our students, who are the next generation of artists, to work in this new form, and for Hattiesburg to experience it. This is part of why we're performing it in downtown Hattiesburg, rather than on campus," said Lentz.

Admission is $10 for the general public and $5 for students, check or cash only. For more information, contact the Department of Dance at 601266.4161 or the Department of Theatre at 601.266.4994.