TORN SPACE THEATER
“American Grain” was a collaborative performance designed specifically for the grain elevator known as Marine A, one of the most compelling industrial structures in the nation. Located in the industrial space along the waterfront of Buffalo, NY, this particular grain elevator is a series of seven interconnected 120’ silos. The interior of the silos has been stripped of its functional aspects, leaving a haunting shell of concrete and rusted steel that amplifies the acoustics of voices, instruments, even footsteps. Designed around the unique architecture and mythology of the space, this site-specific production offered the community an entirely new perspective within a neglected but treasured historical landmark. Composed collaboratively, “American Grain’s” participating artists designed specific performances for each of the seven silos, accompanied by an original score performed live throughout the event. The space itself dictated the structure of the performance and its pacing. The performance is perhaps best understood by these three representative scenes within the longer performance.
Silo 1: Since most audience members have not previously seen inside Marine A, we reveal the space slowly, allowing audience members to explore the cavernous, dark silo as light gradually reveals details of the structure (including its full 120’ height) to the score of a single, sustained note. At the climax of this note the space goes black and a single light appears in the passageway to Silo 2. Ash falls from above and silent narrators beckon the audience into the adjoining space.
Silo 2: The scene is stark; a bare bulb flickers. A shirtless elderly man fastened to a chair struggles to speak. Laboriously he recalls a woman he once loved and the invasion that took her away. His final words: a bomber, bombers, we’re running / we’re inside, and my eyes adjust to the blood, up comes her blouse / the gash in her side sucking, spitting air / till her thumb closed it / And I died first. An air raid sounds and the audience moves on.
Silo 5: The audience stands in the center of a dark silo. A faint light glows in a hole in the roof above, and a figure, seemingly floating, descends the full height of the silo. Secured by a hidden climbing belt, she wears a costume made of LED lights that she manipulates in pulsing, elongated gestures. She reaches almost to the audience, suspended only a few feet overhead. She pauses, then ascends with breathtaking speed and disappears back through the opening 120’ above her.