Conceived by Chance D. Muehleck
Directed and Choreographed by Melanie Armer
Composed by Admiral Grey
Produced by La MaMa in association with The Nerve Tank
Nomination: The Maiden is nominated for Outstanding Performance Art Production
Photos by Raymond Haddad
About this Production
The Maiden was constructed to explore questions of power and showmanship in the context of a trailer park nightclub. We blended found text, choreographed movement, and live music to reboot the myth of Persephone’s abduction, creating a visceral, overlapping experience of her journey to the Underworld. That journey took her from ignorant bliss to the realm of pure knowledge, allowing her to turn the tables on her captor.
The show featured a three-piece band of Chorus members who played a variety of instruments, all of which were literally built into the set design. Hades rode an absurdly tall and specially designed and constructed bicycle contraption. And Demeter was present in voice only--heard over a unique audio speaker suspended above the audience--until the show’s final moments when she made a slow and silent walk across the playing space.
Melanie Armer talks about how the creative team reimagined this classic Greek myth.
What inspired you to create The Maiden?
Melanie: The Maiden grew from an element of Glory Road, which was our installation piece about Sisyphus that was presented by Arts Brookfield last year. Persephone was there as overseer, but she wasn't the focus of the project. Our way in to Persephone's story was through the psychic wormhole of innocence to pure knowledge--that is, knowledge untethered from moral or practical concerns. The versions of the myth we’re familiar with don't give her much of a voice. She's taken to the Underworld, she's tricked (or not) into staying there half the year, and her mother wanders the earth crying after her. But approaching it from the perspective of Hades as a knowledge-giving source complicates Persephone's journey in all sorts of ways. It tends to come back to the nature of power: Who wields it, what feeds it, and how is it transferred?
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Melanie: The Maiden was conceived by Chance D. Muehleck and then workshopped over one full year in its development with Director/Choreographer Melanie S. Armer & Composer/Performer Admiral Grey. This was a slight shift in the collaborative process for The Nerve Tank which allowed these three collaborators equal impact prior to the written text and rehearsal process. The addition of a collaborator, new to the Nerve Tank at this core level was another joyful and exciting change. The Maiden is a true culmination of the work the Nerve Tank has been doing for the past 6 years incorporating evidently strong design, and a more audience- accessible finished piece than ever before.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Melanie:The main challenge for us is often: What’s the conceptual frame for the themes we want to explore, and how much explication of this frame does an audience need to feel engaged? With a classic Greek myth, you’re starting with something that many people have some familiarity with. But they might not know the details, or even the most important twists in the story. So we kept that balance in mind throughout our process.
What makes The Maiden so different?
Melanie: We first encountered Admiral Grey's work when we saw a bizarre version of the film Metropolis projected with live dance, costumes and 4 bands. One of these bands was Admiral Grey's "Glass Lamborghini" We were smitten, and began stalking her online. When Mio Yoo at LaMama asked us to pitch a project for the Club space we proposed a joint venture and when Mia expressed interest in the project, we connected directly with Admiral Grey hoping she'd love the idea. It turned out that she had recently completed a solo performance project centered on Persephone and was delighted to delve deeper into her mysteries with us. From such auspicious beginnings, deep collaboration was no surprise.
What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Melanie: If the audience comes away with anything from The Maiden, we’d like it to be these 3 things: A light mind. A deeper breath. Full ears and eyes.