Thomas Hampton Reviews TOHUBOHU! WITH GEORGE HERMS -Rachel Rosenthal Company

July 7, 2010

This review is of a performance of TOHUBOHU! with guest artist George Herms that took place on Sunday, June 11.

Photo credits: Martin Cohen, Joanna Grasso, Michael Childers.

In a terrific move forward, TOHUBOHU! the current monthly show by the Rachel Rosenthal Company at Espace DbD, incorporated the art of beat collage artist/ sculptor George Herms in to the mix.  This review will focus specifically on aspects of the collaboration with Mr. Herms; for a better overview of what TOHUBOHU! is, please read my original review.  This weekend, July 9,10,11, brings a collaboration between the TOHUBOHU! ensemble and Amy Knoles and Eric Clark of the EAR Unit.

The style and tenor of the evening remains the same (a free improvisation sans language; incorporating dance, vocalization, and touching on bits of theatrical styles like mime, contact improvisation, and commedia,) but as the company brings in new guest artists for special weekends of TOHUBOHU! you may decide to take a second visit to Espace DbD, and see the company collaborate with a guest artist who piques your interest.

In the case of this collaboration with George Herms, the company included him in their rehearsals for a number of weeks leading up to the show, and he brought some of his sculptural art pieces for the company to play with.  In a very interesting discussion post show, both the company and Mr. Herms spoke to the intriguing dilemmas that the rational brain concocted, and the artists had to overcome.

For Mr. Herms, the idea of working collaboratively in any way, let alone performance, was a constant lesson in the difficulty of ‘letting go’ in to the communal nature of the troupe, and trusting that the company is there to push the performance along, and that all choices are good ones.  I must say, for a novice performer, George Herms was definitely in the best of hands.  There was no noticeable dichotomy between the ‘actual’ ensemble of the Rachel Rosenthal Company and their newest temporary member as he concocted sets for improvisations, and joined in the performance.

One of the most magical experiences for Herms was the ability to see his sculptural pieces (which were utilized as set pieces, props, and costumes) again as living, soulful creatures.  When collectors get their hands on them, they wind up hung on walls, or placed on pedestals, distanced from the chaos of the world around them, cut off from real life in a sanitized surreality of what ‘art’ is as a commodity, not a living piece of his soul, or active reflection of society.

On the flip side of this coin, several company members, most notably Doug Hammett, spoke to the difficulty of treating the art like any other prop.  All of the company members were well aware of Herms’ status as an artist of significance.  They knew that each piece he brought in to play with, if hung on a gallery wall, would be priced in the thousands.  It took time to disconnect the ‘value’ from these props so the company could freely incorporate them in to performance- and that they did.

In one sequence, Hammett had wedged a sculpture around his neck.  Throughout the scene, he continued to struggle with it physically; bending and stretching out what seemed to be a clock spring further and further, invoking humanity’s constant struggle against time.  Mortality.  Our collective and simultaneously individual, yet absolutely futile attempts to unburden ourselves; force off this yoke.

Worthy of mention is the participation of Kate Noonan, Managing Director of the Rachel Rosenthal Company, who incorporates light and sound in to the mix.  Because this week’s guest was not a musician, all of the audio was Kate’s contribution.  Over and over throughout the course of the evening, Kate found just the right accompaniment to action on stage, and tracks that propelled and instigated performance opportunities.

Thematic content includes:  All performances will differ, but expect Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor, Live Music, Violence, Love.

TOHUBOHU! runs July 9,10,11, Sept 24,25,26, Oct 15,16,17, Nov 5,6,7, Dec 3,4,5
F,S 8:30pm Sn 7:30pm $20
Map of Espace DbD/ Rachel Rosenthal Co.
Buy Tickets online or by phone 310-839-0661
Visit the DbD/ Rachel Rosenthal website
Contact the production/ producers
View a Charlie Rose interview with Allen Ginsberg, Steven Watson and George Herms from Nov 29, 1995
Please note:  interview begins at 22:30




TOHUBOHU! performs with guest artist George Herms June 11,12,13

June 4, 2010

photo credits: Martin Cohen, Joanna Grasso, Michael Childers

TOHUBOHU! Extreme Theater Ensemble returns for new performances June 11th, 12th, and 13th with special guest artist George Herms.  Known as American assemblage’s Beat Generation master, Herms will be integrated into TOHUBOHU!, adding props, making sets, and performing with the improvisational theater group.

We reviewed TOHUBOHU! this Spring, and strongly encourage you to take part in this incredible, unique experience.

Here is our review:


“We just create art on the spur of the moment.”
Rachel Rosenthal

In a sentence, that pretty much sums up the experience that is TOHUBOHU! at Espace DbD.  For those of you unfamiliar, Rachel Rosenthal has been performing and teaching and pushing the boundaries of experimental theater for over half a century.

Over the course of an evening of TOHUBOHU!, the audience, or witnesses, have the pleasure of experiencing some rather “pure” improvisation.  That is, full and total freedom of the performers to find the truth of the moment, with no pressure to create anything- be it drama, humor, or a wacky wrap up.

For those of us who have studied theater games, be it Compass Players, Spolin, Piven, or even Groundlings/ IO/ UCB/ etc… TOHUBOHU! will be a pleasant reminder of the best that these techniques have to offer:  skilled players, surprising coincidences, revelatory moments.

And not to offend any of you “lovers of the herald” out there, but TOHUBOHU! also dismisses with the worst of what performances based on the games have become- an excuse for performers to grand stand, steal focus, push forward horrible jokes and insults, and see who can be more outrageous than each other.

The evening is almost like a spiritual or religious experience, with Rachel Rosenthal as your shaman, guiding not only the performers in their quest, but the audience as well.  The seating is limited, with only 35 patrons per performance, and the experience is quite intimate.  It felt as if the audience was a voyeur, a nearly invisible yet necessary element in the progress of an incredibly talented corps of dedicated performers.

TOHUBOHU! realizes what many scripted performances attempt yet fail at achieving; it poignantly deconstructs the human condition, and awakens the audience to confront their own place within it.

Thematic content includes:  All performances will differ, but expect Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor, Live Music, Violence, Love

TOHUBOHU! runs March 12,13,14 April 9,10,11 May 7,8,9 June 11,12,13 July 9,10,11
Friday and Saturday at 8:30pm Sunday at 7:30pm $20
Map of Espace DbD/ Rachel Rosenthal Co.
Buy Tickets
Visit the DbD/ Rachel Rosenthal website
Contact the production/ producers
View a Charlie Rose interview with Allen Ginsberg, Steven Watson and George Herms from Nov 29, 1995   Please note: interview begins at 22:30

Peformance clip from ENCORE L’AMOUR!

June 1, 2010

We just got ahold of this performance clip from this Spring’s ENCORE L’AMOUR!  If you missed the show, this “trailer” is a good mix of all of the fun the performance gave to it’s audience…

Let us hope that the great documentation and positive reviews from the run at Highways will help to generate interest in a remount of this show some time soon.

Thematic content includes:  Dance/ Movement, Love, Highbrow, Live Music

ENCORE L’AMOUR! was presented in April of 2010
at Highways Performance Space
Visit the Nathalie Broizat website

Thomas Hampton Reviews ENCORE L’AMOUR!

May 7, 2010

Love drives us to live our life to the fullest.
ENCORE L’AMOUR! is a box of fancy chocolates, all wrapped up pretty in a bow, and hand delivered to your door unexpectedly by the most attractive of messengers.  At first, you are overwhelmed by the grandiosity of your new gift.  But as you tear open the wrapping, and try each confection, you find that each truffle and treat has wondrous magic inside.  Your hunger, desire, and curiosity increase exponentially with each bite.

Nathalie Broizat and Jean-Paul Monsche have built an amazing evening of movement and music musing on love, loss, regret, redemption, and letting go.  Each vignette was a fully thought out meditation on different aspects of love:  romantic love, the love of friends and family, the love of music, lust, the love of movement, of self expression, and at its core, the joy of love itself.

Each member of their ensemble exhibited top notch physical control, exuding a unique, open, inviting, and expressive presence.  The confluence of skilled mime and clown work throughout the evening proved the continued relevance of the form.  This work, steeped primarily in story, not contrivance, will be a necessary revelation to many audiences who have only experienced more derivative American clowning and/ or classic mime.

Here are a few of the confections offered to a dazzled and dumbfounded audience:

A lover takes a running leap, sliding across a table to rest face to face with his sweetie, only to steal a glass of wine.

A pair find themselves entangled in the messy complexity of coupling as a rollerblading lover wraps his partner in a tangle of ribbon; a present he can unwrap in good time.

Two lovers dance a joyous farewell, as one accompanies their movements by playing an accordion worn as a backpack by his dance partner.

Heart headed lobster/ love monsters chase after objects of desire.  Confetti sprinkles the air in an attempt to intoxicate the audience as an aphrodisiac. 
All the while, a French Gypsy band transports you to a place where Michel Legrand has been appointed Minister of Music, and quality and quantity are derigeur.
As a final grace note, the last number opened on Nathalie setting a dinner table for a celebratory meal with close friends.

One by one, each cast member came in, sat down, and was served a salad dressed at the table, with bread and cheese, and wine.  And then The Mad Alsacians, one by one, came on stage, sat down, and began to eat.  Suddenly, the entire audience was invited to join in, and we all broke bread together, drank wine, and celebrated the love we share with each other, and the love we have for the performing arts.

By forgoing spoken language, ENCORE L’AMOUR frees your mind and opens your heart.  The audience is invited to move beyond personal hangups and baggage, sympathize with the players, and empathize with their unique conundrums, desires, disappointments, and triumphs.  Our participation in the finale/ onstage after show dinner party drives home the fact that it was our own personal brushes with love that we saw played out in each short love story.

Love crosses all societal boundaries.  Love is love.  Regardless of social class, caste, economic standing, race, gender, age, political ideology, language…  This show will reach any audience given the opportunity to perform for it.  If it arrives in your town, treat yourself to something wonderful.

Photo Credits:  Leo Garcia

Thematic content includes:  Dance/ Movement, Love, Highbrow, Live Music

ENCORE L’AMOUR! was presented in April of 2010
at Highways Performance Space
Visit the Nathalie Broizat website

ENCORE L’AMOUR! Press Photos

April 19, 2010

We caught the closing night of ENCORE L’AMOUR last night at Highways Performance Space.  It was an incredible evening of clowning, music, and dance, featuring a talented corps brought togeather by NATHALIE BROIZAT and JEAN-PAUL MONSCHE.

Thematic content includes:  Dance/ Movement, Love, Highbrow, Live Music

ENCORE L’AMOUR! runs from 4/16 to 4/18 $20
F,Sa 8:30pm Sn 7pm
Map of Highways Performance Space
Buy Tickets
Visit the Highways website
Visit the Nathalie Broizat website