A battle is brewing at Silo City, the gritty complex of grain elevators and rusty industrial buildings on the Buffalo River that will serve as the backdrop for Torn Space Theater’s war-themed production “Motion Picture” on Friday and Saturday.
The outdoor show, devised and directed by Torn Space co-founder Dan Shanahan, will feature soldiers clad in uniforms from opposing sides of the War of 1812, two groups of battling bagpipers and grain elevators illuminated with contrasting digital projections vying for the attention of visitors perched on aluminum bleachers.
It’s the latest site-specific project from the daring local theater company, which last year presented a series of theatrical vignettes inside the silos of the Marine A grain elevator on the sprawling Silo City campus. In thinking about a way to activate the industrial complex – a rusty but picturesque environment that has become a playground for Buffalo’s grass-roots arts community – Shanahan decided to go big.
“I was trying to find an overarching theme that would allow me to work with a site of that scale, and one of the things I was thinking about when I was looking at the site was that it was reminding me of a 19th century landscape painting,” Shanahan said. The concept of a conflict, he said, seemed like a natural way to bring a wide swath of the long-dormant complex to life. He compared the experience to a kind of drive-in movie.
In addition to the landscape paintings of the 1800s, Shanahan drew inspiration from the music of Bach and Beethoven, the fashion designs of Alexander McQueen and art of British sculptor Antony Gormley, and the costumes of historical and contemporary resistance fighters.
“There’s one particular soldier that we’ll call our hero, and we put him through kind of the classic hero journey, and he goes into war. While he’s in battle, he breaks away mentally and starts to think of this girl he once knew and loved, and that sort of takes him out of the present tense and allows us to take the narrative into these dream sequences,” he said. “There’s only four performers; however, we’re working with about 10 re-enactment soldiers. We’re working with 12 to 14 bagpipers; we’re working with a horseback rider. All in all, the actual physical people in the piece will total 20 to 25.”
The show also will include a dance piece conceived by Frank Napolski, which involves a catwalk sheathed in plastic and flooded with stage smoke to partially obscure the dancers and turn them into ghostly outlines.
In conjunction with the performance, Shanahan and Torn Space also will host Kenneth Collins, the artistic director and producer of the New York City-based theater company Temporary Distortion, at 3 p.m. Saturday in Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (341 Delaware Ave.). Like Shanahan, Collins is concerned with the intersection between live theater and cinema, and Temporary Distortion’s productions often incorporate elements of each medium. The talk, co-presented by Hallwalls and the University at Buffalo’s Techne Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies, will feature a screening of the company’s piece “Newyorkland.”
Shanahan said the talk is part of a new series of presentations from visiting artists the theater is bringing in to introduce Buffalo’s active artistic community to outsiders and to insert the city into a larger national conversation about art, theater and culture in general.
What: “Motion Picture”
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Silo City, 20 Childs St.
Info: 812-5733 or www.tornspacetheater.com