“Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)”
Bass Concert Hall, September 20
by Holly Cowart
Fine art, poetry and music are uniting on the theater stage this September. The inspiration behind this unique collaboration goes back decades, starting with the indelible impact of one man: Robert Mapplethorpe. Rising to notoriety in the early 1970s, his black-and-white portraiture highlighted social groups like celebrities, artists and members of New York’s underground S&M scene. With a formal focus on beauty and perfection, he pulled away the liminal curtain to reveal an intimate view that occasionally invited controversy. Although he passed away in 1989, his artistic legacy continues through exhibitions and as a timeless influence for upcoming artists.
Directed by Kaneza Schaal, this all-encompassing performance pairs elegantly with Mapplethorpe’s imagery while reflecting on the thoughts, emotions and connections that are formed in response. Korde Arrington Tuttle’s libretto stands at the show’s core, balanced alongside poetry from Tuttle, Essex Hemphill and Mapplethorpe’s muse, Patti Smith. The contemplative piece was composed by Bryce Dessner, guitarist for acclaimed band The National. Each note, voice and movement is made in reaction to a specific image being projected onto the stage. What develops is something beyond theater, a living exhibition and analysis of some of the greatest photographs of our time. “In setting the work up in this way,” informs Schaal, “…we invite [the audience] into how we are collectively thinking about this body of work while giving each person who comes the opportunity to address the material from their own seat.”