Next Walker Performing Arts season takes collaborations to new heights

Philip Bither may have done the unforgivable in announcing the Walker's 2013-2014 performing arts season - he's named a favorite.

"Uh-oh, you caught me on that - don't tell any of the other artists" he laughs.

Perhaps luckily the curator's top pick comes up first in the new season announced today. The Nature Theater of Oklahoma -- "They actually took their name from a Kafka novel," said Bither -- will perform "Life and Times," a multi-part show based on a mammoth phone call with an ordinary American woman.


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Nature Theater of Oklahoma performing "Life and Times" (All images courtesy Walker Art Center)

Bither says that when they began talking, they thought they would just chat for about 60 minutes.

"They ended up with 11 hours of her life," which they took, "ums" and all, and created a musical theater piece about everything the woman could remember, he says. The final show lasts eight hours. Bither saw it in Europe and was enthralled.

"I found myself remembering my earlier childhood memories while watching this woman's struggle to bring to life her earliest memories:The neighbor who scared her next door; What her dad smelled like when he came home from work. And I sense that the entire audience was going through a similar process," he said.

Bither isn't bringing the full "Life and Times" to the Walker, just the early part, which runs three hours.

"And it takes you from the earliest baby memories to the third grade. And you end at the third grade," he said.

Bither clearly takes great joy from his work, and delights in describing it all. He points out the way performance has changed in recent years, and how the convergence of disciplines is apparent in the season.

"I think the age we live in is an age of intense content and the digital era allows people to draw from many sources, and the notions of a defined type of artform just called dance or just called theater is going away," he said. "Younger artists and I think very contemporary artists are thinking about just creating performances, and it draws from many disciplines that we used to think of as separate, including visual art, and architecture, and literature and movement."

Another element which is great to see in the season is the number of performances which feature national or international figures collaborating with Minnesota artists.

"If there's opportunities for leading forces in our community to collaborate with someone nationally or internationally and the Walker can help play a role of bringing people together, we think it's a fabulous thing for us to be able to do," said Bither.

Thus Minnesota composer and director Aparna Ramaswamy, and her choreographic partner and co-artistic director, Ranee will work with award-winning jazz saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa to create a new piece called "Song of the Jasmine."

Also several local musicians including Polica lead singer Channy Leaneagh will collaborate with Seattle-based songwriter Jherek Bischoff for a piece called "Composed"


One of photographer Mitch Epstein's images for "American Power"

Cellist Erik Friedlander will perform a piece "American Power" using photographs and videos by Mitch Epstein to explore American's relationship with energy.

And in January there will be the 26th year of the Walker's exploration of the cutting edge of theater in "Out There."

"What we love about 'Out there ' is it gives people a passport to try the unexpected," Bither said. "Our audiences usually have never heard of these companies, but they know that January is a month of great adventure and great fun at the Walker."


Bither also highlights the visit by the Trisha Brown Dance Company which will disband soon, and will perform its final midwestern concert at the Walker in March. There will also be a 20th anniversary celebration of Twin Cities choreographers Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder, known as HIJACK (seen left.)

And there is the latest visit by French performer Jerome Bel who will come with Theater Hora, a Swiss company featuring actors with disabilities, who don't play characters in the production, but instread, themselves.

"And it makes I think in some ways the audience both feel quiet voyeuristic and uncomfortable and at other times you realize that the company are the voyeurs and they are all lined up looking at us," said Bither.

Bither will explain it all and provide more than a few clips at a season preview on Thursday Sept. 5.


THEATER: Nature Theater of Oklahoma Life and Times, Episode 1.

Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 26-28, 7 p.m.

MUSIC/FILM: Sam Green and Yo La Tengo, "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller."

Friday, Oct.11, 7 and 9:30 p.m.

MUSIC: "Composed," by Jherek Bischoff, with special guests Sondre Lerche, Greg Saunier, Ólöf Arnalds and Channy Leaneagh and others.

Friday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m. Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange Street, St. Paul. Co-presented with the SPCO'S Liquid Music series and in association with Minnesota Public Radio.

MUSIC: CocoRosie Saturday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m.

The Cedar, 416 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.


MUSIC/FILM: Erik Friedlander and Mitch Epstein, "American Power."

Friday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m.

World Premiere/Walker Commission

MUSIC: Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never.

Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.

Copresented with the SPCO's Liquid Music series.

DANCE: Jérôme Bel/Theater Hora Disabled Theater.

Thursday, Nov. 21; Saturday, Nov. 23, 8 p.m.

DANCE: Choreographers' Evening Curated by Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs

Saturday, Nov. 30, 7 and 9:30 p.m.


DANCE: HIJACK at 20 redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye.

Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 5-7, 8 p.m.

World Premiere/Walker Commission.


THEATER: Out There 2014: "New World Visions."

Jan. 9 - Feb. 1, 2014

Wunderbaum and LAPD Hospital

Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 9-11, 8 p.m.

Niwagekidan Penino: "The Room, Nobody Knows."

Thursday, Jan. 16, 8 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, Jan. 17-18, 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Clément Layes/Public in Private: "Allege"

Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 23-25, 8 p.m.

Lola Arias: "The Year I Was Born"

Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 30 -Feb. 1, 8 p.m.


MUSIC: Olga Bell, "Origin/Outcome" with special guests Tom Vek and Angel Deradoorian

Thursday, February 13, 8 p.m.

World premiere, co-presented with the SPCO's Liquid Music series and the American Composers Forum.

DANCE: luciana achugar: "Otro Teatro"

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 27 - March 1, 8 p.m.

Walker Commission/World Premiere


DANCE: Trisha Brown Dance Company Farewell Theatrical Tour, "Works for the Stage 1983-2011."

Wednesday-Saturday, March 12-15, 8 p.m.

DANCE: Companhia Urbana de Dança Na Pista and ID, "ENTIDADES"

Thursday-Saturday, March 27-29, 8 p.m.


MUSIC: Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile, "Intuitive Expression: A Brad Mehldau Celebration"

Tuesday, April 8, 8 p.m.

MUSIC: Brad Mehldau Trio

Wednesday, April 9, 8 p.m.

MUSIC: Burnt Sugar--The Arkestra Chamber, "Any World That I'm Welcome To: The Steely Dan Conductions."

Saturday, April or May, TBD


DANCE/MUSIC: Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa, "Song of the Jasmine

World Premiere/Walker Commission"

Thursday-Sunday, May 15-18.