Week 4 in Review: Zoetrope Sun

Performers Prepare

One week until showtime! All the beautiful and thought provoking ephemera we created over the course of the workshop needed to find form within each other for the festival. Through our group planning meetings and reenactment from our arsenal of works, we strove to make a festival that would immerse the audience in a nested zoetrope experience. From dawn till late, grand piano, tambura, and brass instruments emanated from the music room, filling the house and the hill with a perpetual soundtrack of musicians and composers thinking out loud. We spent the days juggling between juxtaposing performances, drone photography with John Butkus, and preparing the grounds. Interspersed, of course, with quick cooling dips in Burden Lake. At night, we gardened late to prepare the drive circle for a brand new zoetrope apple orchard. 


One morning midweek, film maker Mark Kendall filled us with stove popped popcorn and screened his film "La Camioneta". We related it to our questions about the role of narrator versus audience, which Mark eloquently navigated throughout the filming process. To put these new ideas into practice, Tony Drazan guided our rehearsals to more precisely blur the line between performance and real life. One evening fellow Troels Steenholdt Heiredal proposed an experiment with his camera obscura, designed to allow human bodies to inhabit the camera. Collectively we made two room sized camera obscuras see each other- some of us engineered focal lengths while others performed for the capture or watched the capture from inside the cameras. The night before the festival, visiting artist Bart Drost premiered a soft opening of his house for those that participated in the Haus 26 project.

At the Festival

Day 1 

We kicked off the festival on Friday August 5th with an opening of Bart's Haus 26 and a series of activities for visitors spanning from synchronized swimming to alchemy. The sound piece Sun Voices, by Sophia Subbayya and Sam Torres, gathered us back together on a story journey around the house before the huge welcome dinner. Fellow Frida Foberg and participants Josephine Saabae and Elsa Mencagli unveiled a four course dining experience. Starting with framed and walking vegetable appetizers, they followed it with a buffet of six salads on window panes and slow barbecued chicken and brisket. While all seventy guests dined in the barn, the creative cooking team mixed drinks in a suspended "water eye". For dessert at dusk, a field of five hundred hanging blueberries surrounded tarts on porch swings.

Dinner left us content, curious and ready to expand our repertoire in other mediums. Sophia, piano, and Michael Harrison, composer and tambura, carried away the piano recital with a transformative series of original and admired scores. The audience sat facing the grand piano in the music room and lounged around the windows outside. Many closed their eyes, traveling inwardly with the soul of the music. Sopia and Michael received standing ovations after many pieces. 

Kicking off the late night program, Tony Drazan composed a conversation entitled "Elsewat" in the barn. We followed it with a Zoetrope Moon midnight synchronized swimming performance at the lake. Most of the audience stood on the dock to see the water show up close. Unbeknownst to them, a single swimmer towed the dock into the middle of the water. When a handful of synchronized swimmers in the audience revealed themselves by suddenly diving from the detached dock to commence a routine. All realized their circumstance. The evening ended with an audience swim party late into the night.

Day 2

The festival on Saturday had many ongoing installations, including the planting of Arts Letters & Numbers Apple Trees in the new orchard near the entrance Zoetrope Garden. A small gallery of inner working sketches hid amongst the vegetation of the hill and a video installation of drawing, rocks, and drone captures by Cassidy Batiz and Elsa Mencagli entitled "Micro, Mid, Macro" looped in the study. Periodically, participant Elio Icaza performed his cooling Rain Fountain mobile water installation.

At noon the performance series resumed with a musical composition game by Scott Anthony Shell performed by Sam Torres and Elliott Hughes. During the piece the audience choose what page of the score each musician would play at what time. Our workshop wide performance works followed, starting with a Still Life, a switch of audience and performer, and a series of tableau relays around the driveway culminating in a themed Zoetrope Sun Tableau on the house stage. In the intermissions, the audience nibbled artisanal sandwiches and spring rolls.

The film Gotham by Bill Morrison transitioned into an interactive and immersive performance entitled "Invitation of a Surface". Beginning with ungrounding mirror play and surface movement, the audience entered a fine tuned atmosphere amidst upside down opera, fog machines, and projector light. A water eye weighing down from above filled, burst and washed across the floor.

After the saturated visual experience of "Invitation of a Surface", we began the Composers Concert. Each musician showcased what they created during the workshop. We followed it with a juxtapositive work entitled "Body", which included the short film Kuka by workshop participant Lindsay Bloom and fellow Sabrina Sadique's reading of "Grace" set to a score created by participant Scott Shell. "Body" moved all of us to think deeper about empathy within and without ourselves.


During the open mic, workshop participants and guests shared their talents for tall tales, music, and brave curiosities. The audience feasted on fabulous dinner salads during the transition times. To the audience's surprise, the dusk performance of "Finding Balance" in the orchard shared with everyone an appley desert while the last tree was planted. Transitioning smoothly to "Harmonic Constellations", we composed our own version of Michael's score by moving around the spatial sonic landscape while Lindsay Bloom and Jo Stewart showed their film on subtle movement. Musicians wandered with us, adding their own instruments into the mix. 

For the formal ending of the festival, we performed a Prologue, where each creator stood alone on the orchard stage and shard a brief thought, both true and now. Club Zoetrope immediately followed and kept the beats fresh all night. 

We are deeply grateful to our volunteers, who initiated the transformation of festival operations into living works of art and to our audience who listened deeply and suspended disbelief for the two days of festival. 

We still have some Arts, Letters & Numbers merchandise available here