Two new short works were included in Schmantzey People, June 8-10, 2012 at 8pm.
More info HERE
Abby Bender has developed ten evening-length shows and more than fifty shorter works over the past twenty years. Schmantze Theatre, a playful spin on the over-used, catchall “dance theatre,” is dedicated to developing and presenting shameless (and oftentimes meaningful) work. Bender attempts to redefine what constitutes a dance, and who can be a dancer, while welcoming viewers and participants into the strange depths of her imagination. She is the Executive Director of Triskelion Arts, founded in 2000 and the Built on Stilts Dance Festival on Martha’s Vineyard which she co-founded in 1997.
Bender’s mission is to share her zeal for the unlimited nature of modern dance with the unlikely and occasionally resistant dance viewer and participant – to take modern dance beyond its niche audience by making work that is accessible without compromising its artistic intention. She deeply appreciates what the untrained dancer can intuitively bring to the stage. Her work typically involves large groups of people from a multitude of backgrounds, of diverse ages, shapes and sizes. Professional and novice performers share the stage. The theatric, oftentimes comical nature of her dances and the risks her work takes, draws a new community of dance-viewers to the art form.
This Title Will Not Change, a one-woman show premiered May 3-6, 2012. Performed by Abby Bender and directed by Charles Gushue. Instead of Abby Bender Schmantze Theatre’s annual evening-length premiere on a cast of 15-20 performers, 32 artists of various mediums have contributed to the seasoned choreographer’s first-ever solo show. The evening-length work is assembled from material donated by a wealth of talented dancers, composers, costumers, filmmakers, writers and clowns. Driven to experiment with a creative process that contrasted her usual approach to dance-making, Bender and Gushue asked participating artists to meet individually with Bender to explore and/or set their short material. No themes were set. No restrictions were placed. The pair have catalogued the ostensibly incongruous dances, text, improvisational content and comedic sketches, resulting in an extraordinary mélange that is part memoir, part metaphor, part myth. This Title Will Not Changeis, in fact, rife with change and its own inner logic, a surreal and surprisingly navigable journey into the cluttered landscape of the performer’s ID. The work shares the history and the humility of Bender’s psyche, and helps audiences understand why friendship and home always trump the minutia. A visual bacchanal, the show subdivides the theater into 3 worlds that are slowly revealed and absorbed into the next. An office is swallowed up by a junkyard. Finally, with the help of full audience participation, order prevails, exposing a magical scenery that has actually been there all along. With choreography by Peter Kyle, Stefanie Nelson, Katie Federowicz, Jessica Gaynor, Jonathan Ciccarelli, Zoe Schieber, Karesia Batan, Leanne Schmidt, Nadia Tykulsker, Alex Springer, Xan Burley, Charmian Wells, Amy Larimer, Cristina Jesurun, Laura Sargent Hall, and Charles Gushue. Music by Don Dilego, Roberta Kirn, and Brent Alberghini Clowning by Andrew Dickerson, Jeff Seal, Billy Schultz, and Richard Harrington Text by Rebecca M. Sproul, Alex Springer, Xan Burley, and Abby Bender Costumes by Sydney Maresca and Stephanie Sleeper Sets by Marisa Gruneberg, Alexis Iammarino, Charles Gushue and Abby Bender Video by Lyz Merida and Will Carlough Improvisation and Puppetry by Cassie Tunick and Jackie Moynahan Additional Direction by Dave Gochfeld
The Goldilocks Zone: more is more, a collaboration between Abby Bender and her friend and playwright Richard Harrington who has a very funny face, premiered May 6-8 and 13-15, 2011, However, it was not a dance or a play. Marked by Bender’s penchant for over-the-top ensemble dance sequences with appropriate doses of humility, the show follows Abby and Richard on their arduous journey towards making the very show that is underway, a show that might just fail miserably. Along the way, audiences are treated to comical and poignant glimpses into the hearts of the entire cast, revealing the delicate nature of collaboration and what a privilege it is to make art. Performed with gusto by Karesia Batan, Elizabeth Bougton Bates, Abby Bender, Althea Brugman Bender, Adam Boncz , Jonathan Ciccarelli, David Covington, Charles Gushue, Richard Harrington, Cristina Jesurun, Reshma Patel, Martha Pundsack, Melissa Rudder, Emily Skillings. With text by Abby Bender and Richard Harrington, Costumes and props by Abby Bender, Andy Dickerson, and Rebecca Sproul
Geegahdongpeoria premiered May 13-15 and 20-23, 2010. Inspired by the medieval dancing plagues, Geegahdongpeoria followed a landmark day-in-the-life of a fictitious people compelled to dance. This performance conjured up one of humanity’s lost tribes…lost with good reason. Portrayed by a cast of 13, this tiny nation of likeable human dodo birds swaggers blithely through fable and folk dance, while tromping over atavistic technologies and cornball Satan-worship. Conceived by Jeremy Wilson, Derek Breen and Abby Bender. Choreographed by Abby Bender in collaboration with the cast. Performed by Katie Federowitz, Lyz Merida, Reshma Patel, Rebecca Frank, Jonathan Ciccarelli, Charles Gushue, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, Natasha Ross, Sarah Lannon, Brandon Polanco, Sara K. Edwards, Charmy Wells, and Abby Bender. Costumes and props by Abby Bender. Video by Derek Breen, Rebecca Frank, and Jeremy Wilson. Script by Jeremy Wilson. Lighting Design by Andrew Dickerson.
Turkey (a dramatization) premiered May 7-10 & 14-16, 2009.
The quirkiest show about “the hardest thing you’ll ever do,” Turkey was a playful and powerful performance about the agony, monotony and unintended comedy that accompanied Bender’s attempt and almost successful process of quitting smoking. Featuring choreography on a cast of fifteen as well as video, music, and theatre, Turkey (a dramatization) locks horns with the demons of nicotine addiction, those self-proclaimed experts with all the answers on fighting it and the emotional rollercoaster that becomes the path to giving up that bad thing you love to death. This farcical dance-theatre uses the metaphors of space travel and the hyper-empowered vocabulary of self-help to usher the audience through conflicted feelings of rootlessness and self-determination. The piece is brought to pitch-perfect life through subdued color, a smoke-filled stage, ashen costumes and a sparse but symbolic set of ladders and ropes. Conceived and choreographed by Abby Bender
Performed by Katie Federowicz, Natasha Ross, Lyz Merida, Jonathan Ciccarelli, Marisa Gruneberg, Rebecca Frank, Bathsheba Squires, Tradon Turner, Sara K. Edwards, Reshma Patel, Marissa Metelica, Sarah Lannon, Janessa Olsen, Michael Fritz and Abby Bender. Script by Jeremy Wilson, Abby Bender, and Michael Fritz. Video by Becca Frank and Will Carlough with guest appearance by Anne Harris. Original music by Eli Orling. Lighting Design by Andrew Dickerson.
Zerosum premiered May 30-June 1 and June 5-8, 2008. Zerosum’s central metaphor dissected competition and the artist’s creative process. Particularly, the tacit disagreements that affect company members and their director, the relentless pursuit of an elusive muse, and the so-called distance between spectators and participants. To this point, the audience engaged in limited yet significant interplay with the performers. The piece was giddy with theatricality: bright colors, the slamming doors of bedroom farce, and a silly twist on danse macabre—all seen under the aegis of marathon-running. Zerosum was a playful, wonderfully disorienting modern dance theater piece that incorporated story-telling, word-games, changing spaces and social drinking. Conceived by Abby Bender and Jeremy Wilson. Choreographed and performed by Abby Bender, Rebecca Bone, Lyz Merida, Shelley Pinard, Natasha Ross, Rebecca Frank, Sarah Seely, Jonathan Ciccarelli, Katie Federowicz, Sara Edwards, Julia Peck, Justin Francavilla, Kate Kaminski, Katie O’Neill*, Reshma Patel, Ydhelca Perez, Bathsheba Squires, Tradon Turner, Marisa Gruneberg and Johnny De Arden. Original music by Eli Orling. Costumes and sets by Emily Taradash and Abby Bender. Lighting Design by Brian Aldous and Andrew Dickerson.
Gutterball (a wilderness) premiered in May, 2007 and was resurrected for Freefest in September and foranother full run in October, 2007. Loosely structured on beloved fairytales and intimate interviews with family, the piece explored what it means to love and how its loss may effect one’s sense of self and mortality. The central image of the show – a dozen or more Wizard-of-Oz Dorothys onstage at once – created a manic theatrical spectacle while evoking and critiquing cultural fables of troubled womanhood. The cast of 23 alternately play the lead character as she stumbles through a deconstructed world in which she is forced to face her demons and herself. Transcending kitchiness, Gutterball‘s Dorothys became Eve and Snow White, Madonna (both pop and biblical), a forest of dangling bodies, a living bowling alley, and the entire cast of Alice in Wonderland. With costumes, music, and movements that collage music videos, street theater, circus performance, lounge entertainment, and high modern dance, the work provided plenty of emotional, narrative and conceptual threads to let the audience find its way into Gutterball‘s strange labyrinth, and then back home again. Conceived by Abby Bender. Performed by Josie Carbone, Adam Davidson, Danielle DiCamillo, Sara Edwards, Katie Federowicz, Marcelle Hopkins, Kate Kaminski, Ken Lang, Lyz Merida, Mandana Mofidi, Christi Mueller, Janessa Olsen, Katie O’Neill, Reshma Patel, Julia Peck, Natasha Ross, Melissa SanFiorenzo, Bathsheba Squires, Emily Taradash, Tradon Turner, Pedro Jimenez and Tommy Wilkinson. Costumes by Emily Taradash and Abby Bender. Video by Akil Kraja and Loch Phillipps. Sound and text by Abby Bender and John McCloskey. Set by Paul Duffy and Abby Bender. Lighting Design by Andrew Dickerson.
ZOO premiered May 11-13, 18-20, 2006. A fable of crime and ultimate redemption, ZOO introduced a cast of animals incarcerated in a human prison. By delving into their collective past, dreams and nightmares, we are reminded of our own animal natures, and share in both their innocence and their viciousness. Conceived and choreographed by Abby Bender. Performed by Kenneth Lang, Marisa Gruneberg, Jackie Moynahan, Hilary Maia Grubb, Megan Demarkis, TraDon Turner, Janessa Olsen, Josie Carbone, Jessica Seeman, Tommy Wilkinson, Kate Kaminski, Marissa A. Schoenfeld, Cristiano Veracosa, Danielle Loustau-Williams, Carlo Fiorletta, Abby Bender, Rachael Vacharasovan, Yuka Ogata, Julia Peck, and Katie O’Neill. Sets and costumes by Abby Bender, TraDon Turner and Ijeoma Iheanacho. Lighting design by Brian Aldous.
The piece dealt with the choreographer’s artistic mission, forcing a hard look at the fine line between dance audiences and performers, and who is ultimately in control of the experience. Bender’s first foray into writing alongside choreography, DIG DEEP, with its comical, sincere and often surprising approach to a staged audience’s experience of dance, was a multi-faceted exploration of the tensions, dependancies, and idiosyncracies implicit in the performing arts’ relationship to its audiences. The piece was a finalist in Time Out NY’s Dance Audiences Award. Conceived and choreographed by Abby Bender. Peformed by Patricia Dominguez, Jill Barnes, Josie Carbone, Jodi Reiter, Mike Andrews, Megan Demarkis, Carlo Fiorletta, Britt Lamoureux, Hilary Grubb, Danielle Loustau-Williams, Richard Harrington, Jason Jones, Kate Kaminski, Edmund Young, Crystal Willis, Kenneth Lang, Aki Shidara, Tradon Turner, Marisa Gruneberg, Lauri Berritta, Natacha Dockery, Saori Tsukada, and Tommy Wilkinson. Film by Jill Barnes. Original Music by Drew Heller. Lighting Design by Brian Aldous.
Akil Kraja and Loch Philips of Offramp Films, Ryan McFaul, Jeremy Wilson, Jill Barnes, Cree Nevins, Will Carlough, Derek Breen, Lyz Merida and Becca Frank (film)
Don Dilego, Drew Heller, Elias Orling, Andrew Dickerson, and Roger and Ellen Bruno (original music), Oliver Butler, Matthew Dean, Paul Duffy, Ijeoma Iheanacho,Tommy Wilkinson (sets)
Sydney Maresca, Sarah Cant, Tradon Turner, Emily Taradesh, Stephanie Sleeper (costumes)
Jeremy Wilson, Richard Harrington, Michael Fritz (writing)
Fabulous performers in Abby’s NYC work have included the following:
Mike Allen, Michael Andrews, Mayumi Ando, Cary Baker, Ty Baldwin, Jill Barnes, Karesia Batan, Lauri Berritta, Sandi Berman, Nicholas Bodkin, Jessie Bohl, Adam Boncz, Rebecca Bone, Nicolle Bradford, Althea Brugman Bender, Jonathan Ciccarelli, Josie Carbone, Layla Childs, Alexis Cohn, Jen Cooke, David Covington, Aisha Dacosta, Adam Davidson, Johnny De Arden, Megan DeMarkis, Julya Denholm, Danielle Dicamillo, Molly Dickerson, Natacha Dockery, Katie Federowicz, Carlo Fiorletta, Sara Edwards, Justin Francavilla, Rebecca Frank, Michael Fritz, Erin Galligan, Patricia Dominguez, John Grauwiler, Alex Greenshields, Sherry Greenspan, Brigitte Griswold, Hilary Grubb, Marisa Gruneberg, Sarah Gullo, Charles Gushue, Richard Harrington, Anne Harris, Eric Hoffman, Josh Howard, Marcelle Hopkins, Cristina Jesurun, Addie Johnson, Jason Jones, Kate Kaminski, Elissa Kammer, Lisa Kasimow, Chelsea Knight, Britt Lamoureux, Jeong-min Michelle Lee, Danielle Loustau-Williams, Kenneth Lang, Sarah Lannon, Betty Law, Lena Lewellyn, Anna Luckey, Selby McRae, Maureen McLaughlin, Stacey Menchel, Elizabeth Merida, Marissa Metelica, Mandana Mofidi, Christie Mueller, Cree Nevins, Yuka Ogata, Janesssa Olsen, Katie O’Neil, Reshma Patel, Jen Pearcy, Julia Peck, Ydelca Perez, Craig Peterson, Anne Palmer, Estee Pierce, Shelley Pinard, Brandon Polanco, Adam Pollock, Martha Pundsack, Samantha Rabin, Jodi Reiter, Sonya Robbins, Natasha Ross, Melissa Rudder, Melissa Sanfiorenzo, Cesarina Santos, Zoe Scheiber, Marissa Schoenfeld, Leanne Schmidt, Sarah Seely, Jessica Seeman, Mahdi Shah, Ean Sheehy, Aki Shidara, Miya Signor, Emily Skillings, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, Bathsheba Squires, Emily Taradesh, Sam Tiegan, Saori Tsukada, Kathyrn Tuman, Tradon Turner, Nadia Tykulsker, Hubie van Riel, Rachael Vacharasovan, Cristiano Veracosa, Ruth Ward, Charmian Wells, Tommy Wilkinson, Crystal Willis, Zoe Wolff, Edmund Young
Jilana Abrams, Sara Ahren, Bonnie Alexander, Cameron Alexander, Flo Alexander, Tilly Alexander, Marta Azzollini, Teo Azzollini, Rhonda Backus, Cary Baker, Colleen Carroll, Layla Childs, Sally Cohn, Jen Cooke, Lori Cunningham, Courtney Daly, Meredith Dillon, Alyson Esposito, Katie Federowitz, Lara Forman, Amy Jardin, Laura Sargent Hall, Erika Hughes, Alexis Iammarino, Andy Jacobs, Ilona Kamens, Roberta Kirn, Margaret Knight, Judy Kranz, Carol Loud, Devon Lodge, Megan Lowe, Anna Luckey, Anita Macfarlane, Alexis Major, Mary Esther Malloy, Zoe Meinelschmidt, Ashley Mondrick, Lily Morris, Sarah Ortip Sommers, Kelly Peters, Samantha Rabin, Sonya Robbins, Marissa Schoenfeld, Liz Schneiter, Jessica Seeman, Hartley Sierputoski, Lilah Steece, Sharon Strimling, Sofi Thanhauser, Holly Thomas, Tommy Wilkinson, Alison Wilson, Zoë Wolff
Katie Fitzgerald, Paige Henry, Hayley Higdon, Alaynna Miller, Mel Stuckey, Meghan Westerman