Transposing the Past into the Future
By Natalie Becker
The Arts & Humanities division of Austin Community College is engaging in a little summer experiment this August. Transpositions will bring together seven departments to create a full-length show reflecting the emotional and physical transition from the Rio Grande Campus to the college’s future at Highland Campus.
Director Anne Wharton draws inspiration for the format of the show from local artist Stephen Pruitt and his adventures with Catastrophe Theory Arts. Pruitt formulates his shows to incorporate many different kinds of performers, using casual transitions to create a friendly and informal atmosphere. Wharton wants to bring that spirit of collaboration to ACC. “The show is a way to come together and create a foundation for when we move to Highland and begin sharing a new space,” Wharton says.
The title of the show, Transpositions, comes from a contemplation of the themes of moving and change. “It’s the musical idea of moving a melody line up or down in pitch. You preserve the melody line, but it becomes something new. It’s a relocation that preserves the essence of the thing, similar to our transition to Highland. We’re relocating to a new space but preserving the essence of what it is that makes us the ACC dance department or the drama department,” Wharton says.
The seven departments involved in the show all bring a different perspective on the theme. “I want the show to create a opportunity for artists to explore the concept of change and move without giving strict guidelines. It’s not a straightforward commission – it’s a collaborative process. The show focuses on specific themes but leaves space for individual artists in their respective mediums to create and explore,” Wharton says.
Transpositions relies on multiple dance pieces to provide the main drive behind the show’s theme of move. Dance professor Melissa Watt will premiere new choreography set on the Dance Performance Workshop Class. And Dance Professor Ellen Bartel’s improvisation students will also be involved, creating a unique work that changes every time it is performed. Provenance, a dance film, will also premiere at the show. Dance Professor Catherine Solaas directed the film that brings together current and former ACC dance students in a physical exploration of the raw space at Highland Campus.
The Drama department will be presenting a scene from The Children’s Hour and a monologue from Our Town. The visual art department will be contributing an exhibition of sculptures based on movement from Art Professor TJ Hilton’s sculpture class.
The music department will be showcasing their Jazz Ensemble and Stage Ensemble during a full-hour set before the performances on Thursday and Friday evening. This hour of live music will give the audience time to peruse the lobby space, where sculptures will be joining exhibitions from photography, creative writing and game design.
Transpositions is more than an evening of entertainment and artistry; it’s the foundation for a new future for the audience-driven departments at ACC. “We want to help foster a culture of collaboration so that when we get to Highland, and are suddenly geographically close to each other for the first time, there are already connections in place. A dance student can go down the hall and find a music student to collaborate on a piece, or a video game designer can use a dancer for animation, and so on because they’re already met,” Wharton says.
“That is the goal of the showcase,” Wharton continues, “to bring people together, not just for this one performance in the summer but for a future of collaborations in the community.”
Transpositions is free and open to the public. The show is on the Rio Grande Mainstage Theater on Thursday and Friday, August 11 and 12. The live music will start at 7 pm each night followed by the show at 8 pm.