TO ROCK. ROCK MUSIC, TO BE SURE. BUT ALSO, MORE BROADLY: TO AGITATE, UPSET, OPPOSE, RESIST
RockCitizen presents an immersive sonic, visual, and kinetic environment that recalls countercultural spaces of the 1960s and connects them to a larger history of people pursuing breakthroughs and transformations in their lives and worlds. A companion piece to the acclaimed Power Goes, RockCitizen looks at 1960s social movements that rode waves of protest, experimentation, hedonism, and dissonance in efforts to remake what it means to be an individual and a community, a citizen, and part of—or sometimes outside, or sometimes even outright against—a civic body. Dance and dialogue unfold under the "Brascape," a spectacular, mobile net of 216 colored bras. With references to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters's Acid Tests, rock icons such as Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, and political figures such as Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, Students for a Democratic Society, civil rights intellectual and novelist James Baldwin, and activists in women’s and gay liberation movements, RockCitizen brings together a multidisciplinary group of artists to advance The Seldoms' project of using dance theater for social inquiry.
THE MAKING OF ROCKCITIZEN
The Seldoms were the first resident artists in the pilot summer of the National Center for Choreography Akron, an important new resource initiated by DanceCleveland for US dancemakers. In July 2015, the company, along with collaborators Bob Faust and Julie Ballard, spent nine days in residency developing RockCitizen, shaping choreographic material and installing Bob's "Brascape," a spectacular mobile visual centerpiece. The Brascape, in flux and layered in meaning, evokes the psychedelic rock poster saturated in color, military camo netting, the rainbow of the gay pride flag, and of course, the bra as symbol of the Women's Lib movement. While in the Akron/Cleveland area, the company also made research trips to the Kent State May 4 Memorial and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. These visits—walking the grounds where the National Guard opened fire on Kent State students and exploring artifacts and exhibitions from popular music history—fed our thinking and imagination about RockCitizen, a work that draws upon the intersections of these political and cultural legacies.
Premiere Storefront Theater, Chicago 2016
Presented Union Theater, UW-Madison 2018
Presented Studio5, Evanston 2018
Artistic Director Carrie Hanson and The Seldoms were joined in this project - the companion piece to Power Goes - by the same acclaimed artistic team, who deliver an expansive, layered and daring exploration of what it means to rock the system: playwright Stuart Flack, visual artist Bob Faust, sound artist Mikhail Fiksel, lighting designer Julie Ballard, video artist Liviu Pasare, historian Michael J. Kramer, Assistant Director Christina Gonzalez-Gillet, guest performer, actor Brian Shaw, and the ensemble - Philip Elson, Sarah Gonsiorowski, Damon Green, Matthew McMunn, Cara Sabin, and TJ Stallworth.
"Accepting that you have freedom doesn’t mean you are exercising that freedom to its fullest. The process of creating and living inside of RockCitizen is teaching me to be myself, to be strong, to be resilient, and most importantly to be free."
How do politics get waged on the inside, through existing structures of government and society? Figures as diverse as conservatives such as Richard Nixon and Pat Buchanan and liberals such as African American presidential candidate and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm allow The Seldoms to investigate efforts at working for or blocking reform within the order of things. RockCitizen also explores what happens when people push for change at the edge of the state, as when the prankster radicals in the Yippies tried to levitate the Pentagon in 1967 to protest America's involvement in the Vietnam War or when young draftees confronted the absurdity of the military's surreal draft lottery.
RockCitizen received major support from Elizabeth A. Liebman. Additional support came from The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, the Arts Works Fund for Organizational Development, a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. The development of RockCitizen was made possible in part by DANCECleveland as part of the Pilot residencies for the establishment of the National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron, and in part through the 28-Hour Workshop program at Chicago Dramatists.