Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's first experimental theater festival, Xfest , will bring an exciting array of talent to campus Wednesday-Saturday, May 12-15. The Xfest is planned as a festival of theatrical experimentation, often described as a presentation of innovative works as well as the development of new concepts and techniques in stage production.
Four theater companies from SIUE, Seattle and New York City will perform over four nights in SIUE's James F. Metcalf Theater, unless otherwise noted:
• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 12- Whammy!! The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self will be performed by members of the SIUE Theatre 310b class-Oprah Winfrey and Ethel Merman. Dr. Phil and Phil Silvers, Nietzche and The Shirelles? The artistic team that brought you The Probe: An Inquiry Into the Meteoric Rise and Spectacular Fall of Orson Welles in Hollywood rides again in this madcap multi-media dance-theatre comic exploration of self-help, sexual dysfunction, 1960s dance parties, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pharmaceutical bliss and suicide. Want to know the seven secrets to a sane self? You know you do. And there's only one way to find out. Dig?
• 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 13- "[ ]" will be performed by Red Metal Mailbox, a New York-based company-When you try to define something important-capture it, pin it down-it simply shifts out of view. You can only see it properly if you don't look at it straight on. You have to squint a little. Look at it sideways. You see it in a flash of understanding and then it's gone, and you spend the rest of your life trying to remember what it was. Hailed by the New York Times as "fabulously strange, delicious, engaging and nuanced," Red Metal Mailbox's newest work premiered at The Chocolate Factory Theater in New York City in the spring 2009.
Red Metal Mailbox is a New York City based company that creates investigative performance. Their work has been presented at The Public Theater (365 Days/365 Plays), The Chocolate Factory Theater, Dixon Place, P.S. 122's Homeroom, Dance Theater Workshop's 40Forward, and Galapagos Art Space among other venues in New York City, as well as at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and the Metcalf Experimental Theater at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Artistic director Sarah Maxfield is a graduate of the SIUE Department of Theatre and Dance.
• 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 14-The Medicine Showdown by The Flying Carpet Theatre Co., a New York-based company-Set in small-town Georgia during the 1918 global influenza pandemic, this original work pits a crusading doctor against an entourage of "snake oil" salesmen. Public health seems at odds with the town's economic interests as civic leaders debate shutting down all public gatherings-including the popular and lucrative local medicine show. Interwoven with the realistic play (inspired by Henrik Ibsen's classic Enemy of the People) are scenes from a period medicine show, complete with tap dance, old time melodrama, country music and vaudeville style comedy.
Based in New York City, The Flying Carpet Theatre (FCT) creates work that fuses vaudeville style entertainment-mime, circus, conjuring, puppetry, dance and clowning. With a special eye toward nurturing new bold voices, the FCT has introduced several important artists to New York. For its inaugural production, FCT presented 1001 Nights, an original musical by Robert Lopez who went on to win the Tony Award for Avenue Q and then followed with a mime and magic show called The Dancing Handkerchief, of which the New York Times raved, "you will fall under its spell."
• 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15- Zen Tales by UMO Ensemble from Seattle, in the theater at SIUE's Katherine Dunham Hall-During the past 23 years, UMO Ensemble has become known as one of the most innovative, compelling and critically acclaimed performance companies based in the Pacific Northwest. The ensemble has performed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. As its mission, the UMO Ensemble is dedicated to "providing awe, challenge and inspiration" to theater audiences. The group will not disappoint as they take the Arts & Issues stage in SIUE's Katherine Dunham Hall with their irreverent approach to Zen: share the experience of the red nose monk clowns tackling ancient Buddhist, Zen and Sufi stories through mask, puppetry, live music and laughter.
Talk back sessions will be conducted following each performance, with directors and cast members fielding audience questions. Xfest workshops on campus will be open to the public and students. For more information, visit the website: siue.edu/xfest, or call the SIUE Department of Theater and Dance, (618) 650-5614.