News Column

White Church near Spring Green becomes full-time home for mime company

June 25, 2014

By Gayle Worland, The Wisconsin State Journal

June 25--Steven Wasson and Corinne Soum have always worked in experimental theater. But two years ago they embarked on a bold experiment of a different sort: Turning a vacant church in the historic Wyoming Valley near Spring Green into a summer home for their European mime company.

Now they're taking that effort a step forward -- making "The White Church," as they call it, the permanent, full-time home for their internationally renowned company, Theatre de l'Ange Fou.

Their summer will be filled with performances, lectures, public workshops, intensive trainings for actors and even a collaboration with Madison'sKanopy Dance Company.

The White Church Theatre Project will hold its opening party for the public at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 28, with a presentation of its summer season at 7 p.m.

Kanopy has been "planning and scheming" for its joint effort with Wasson and Soum ever since a group of Kanopy dancers participated in some workshops at the White Church a year ago, said Lisa Thurrell, co-artistic director of the modern dance troupe.

Over a week this summer, Wasson and Soum will choreograph a work for Kanopy dancers. The piece, which Thurrell said is expected to be "Kafkaesque," will have its preview at the White Church on Aug. 16 and be further refined as the centerpiece of Kanopy's season-opening dance concert at the Overture Center this fall.

Corporeal mime, which uses the body as the main means of dramatic expression, "is such a fascinating theatrical form, and so beautiful, surreal and mysterious," Thurrell said.

"I just don't think we really have anything quite like that in the region," she said of the White Church Theatre Project. "I think it's a boon for Madison and the whole Spring Green area."

For Wasson, it's also a homecoming of sorts. The Illinois native got his start in mime in 1976 at the Valley Studio on Upper Wyoming Road, then moved to Paris, where he met his French-born wife Corinne. Both were assistants to the "father of modern mime" Etienne Decroux.

The two lived for many years in Paris and then London before re-settling in Wisconsin. "It was a decision we'd been mulling a number of years," Wasson said.

Running July 5 through Aug. 4 will be the 12-member company's biggest production, "Waiting for Ulysses." Written by Wasson, the work was staged last summer but performances had to be halted mid-season after Soum suffered an injury. She's back on her feet and will appear in this year's show.

Both Soum and Wasson will direct a new work for Kanopy Dance, to be performed at 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Aug. 16. Kanopy will again perform the work at Overture Center this fallCK.

Performers can enroll in "The Thinking Body," an intensive summer session in corporeal mime. Those who want to simply sample the art form can drop in for a two-hour open class held Saturdays July 12, 19 and 26.

The White Church will remain home base for Wasson's international company, which counts performers from Brazil, Chile, Australia, Iceland, the U.K. and France among its members. The company took the unusual step of expanding its performances to Mondays, so that workers from nearby American Players Theatre could attend shows on their regular day off.

Wasson hopes that eventually the White Church will become a "creative spot" for the creation of theater, presentation of lectures and other arts events.

"The Spring Green community has been very, very supportive of the project," he said. "It's raised the profile of the area a little bit, and also raised the profile of mime in general. I hear often from people from one coast or the other who want to come by."


(c)2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

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