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The Artist’s Journey – Without Walls (WoW) Festival Series: Sam Mitchell of HEDDA’ING - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

The Artist’s Journey – Without Walls (WoW) Festival Series: Sam Mitchell of HEDDA’ING

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Our inaugural Without Walls (WoW) Festival, taking place October 3-6, will be here before we know it, and we can’t wait to welcome the San Diego community to this weekend explosion of innovative, immersive, site-specific theatre!

Over the next several weeks leading up to WoW, we’d like to get you acquainted with some of the talent behind a few of the exciting productions that will be making their mark on this four-day theatrical adventure! These artists, playwrights, directors, actors, dancers and designers will share moments of inspiration, challenges of the process and behind-the-scenes details in the hopes of getting others just as excited as they are to witness, experience and revel in the fruits of their labor. Join us as we explore The Artist’s Journey – WoW Festival Series!

Leading us off: San Diego-based performer/choreographer Sam Mitchell, who will be joined by Norway-based dance theatre artists Siri Jondtvedt and Snelle Hall in Hedda’ing, a cross-cultural, dance theatre exploration. Using Henrik Ibsen’s play Hedda Gabler as a source, Hedda’ing investigates the polarities that exist between the role of home as a sanctuary and as a prison, between memory and reality, and between the existential and the spiritual. Hedda’ing is set in and around the Stuart Collection’s Fallen Star by artist Do Ho Suh.

For Hedda’ing tickets and info, click here.

of Hedda’ing at Without Walls (WoW) Festival

Hedda’ing was the convergence of multifarious inspirations. The first inspiration came in the Fall of 2012. I was scouting for a location for my site specific dance theatre piece Erhaben. This was my first choreographic work as a graduate student in Dance Theatre at UCSD and I was excited to be part of Patricia Rincon’s Arts in Action Festival. I happened to see Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star house perched atop the seventh floor of Jacobs Hall at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Because the location was “off the beaten path,” I chose to use the Hawkinson Bear, which was closer to the other sites in the festival. The Fallen Star house still beckoned to me. I introduced myself to the curator of the Stuart Collection, Mary Beebe, and pitched the idea for a dance theatre piece that might take place at Fallen Star. Mary, although very interested, had a few concerns. Mostly with the practicality of getting access to the house, which is only open to the public six hours a week.

In January of 2013, I mentioned my fascination with the Fallen Star house to my wife, Judy Bauerlein, who, in addition to being an actor and director, is also a professor of theater at Cal State San Marcos.  I was preparing to attend an acting workshop for the Michael Chekhov technique and our source material was the play Hedda Gabler. Judy suggested the collaboration with two Norwegian performers, Siri Jøntvedt and Snelle Hall, whom she had met at a dance festival in Minneapolis in 2010.  We Skyped Siri and discussed the possibility of Hedda Gabler as a site-specific, physical theater piece, performed at Fallen Star. Being from Oslo, the last place of Henrik Ibsen’s residence, Siri was thrilled. We also shared an enthusiasm for the work of dancers Katie Duck and Julyen Hamilton, both whom Siri has worked with personally in Amsterdam, Holland.

Siri and I have continued our Skype rehearsal sessions, as well as sending rehearsal videos, material, ideas back and forth between Oslo, Norway and San Diego. Siri and Snelle will arrive on September 22 to begin the intensive rehearsal process required to work on location for Hedda’ing. I have drawn inspiration from the Swedish film, Let The Right One In, as well as the films by Lars Von Trier, the work of choreographer Mats Ek, the music of Handel, and, of course, the insights gained from MICHA faculty members, Joanna Merlin (New York), Hugh O’Gorman (Los Angeles) and David Zinder (Tel Aviv, Isreal) while using Hedda Gabler as the source text for the Chekhov workshop that I attended in January this year.

In June, Mary Beebe, Jim Carmody (UC San Diego Theatre and Dance faculty member), Marike Fitzgerald (La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Staff/Without Walls Festival producer) and I had a meeting inside of the Fallen Star house. We discussed the requirements of working with this sculpture, the vision of the piece and the practicality of getting the audience there to view the piece.  We sat for two hours inside the house, and when I stood up, I was immediately disoriented by the “geometry” of interior. The feeling was similar to being seasick, except that we were on the seventh floor and not the ocean! This is the first of, hopefully, many collaborations between Siri, Snelle and myself.

Sam Mitchell is currently in the second year in the M.F.A. program for Dance Theatre at UC San Diego. He has danced with Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, Malashock Dance, Patricia Rincon Dance Collective, Johanna Meyer and Sommer Ulricksonn as well as other numerous artists, poets and musicians. Sam, who is Yaqui Indian, was recently invited to join in the creation of a new choreographic work that was part of the Banff Summer Arts Festival, in Alberta, Canada.

Sam Mitchell inside the Fallen Star "home." Photo by Jim Carmody.