Reflections on Morning: Grupo Krapp at the Arthur Miller

I love the morning. I don’t love getting up in the morning, but I really love the morning. The air is different in the morning. It is dense with possibilities. Maybe I’m a gushing romantic, but the air makes getting up a whole lot easier.

This past Friday I took a bus up to North Campus, my lukewarm tea in hand, and walked to the Walgreen Drama Center. It was rainy, but not yet miserable yet. Only a sprinkle. Inside of the Arthur Miller Theatre, there was a large projection screen with the image of a man walking back and forth projected on to it. On the left of the stage was an intricate set up of electronics, to the right, a few miscellaneous items strewn about the floor in a line. I noticed two balls, roughly the size of a bowling ball. One was a globe, and the other was just black.

The Argentinian Dance Company, Grupo Krapp, has been in residence for the past couple weeks. I’ve been sick and busy (for a number of reasons) and couldn’t make the various workshops and talks they had around campus. But this Friday show was my final shot to see them. And so I did.

Grupo Krapp is named after a Samuel Beckett play, Krapp’s Last Tape. This particular play happens to be one of the two Beckett plays I’ve ever seen, which means I was able to brag about this to my girlfriend and pretend that I know more about theatre than her (I don’t). Krapp’s Last Tape is a one man show, a piece about an old man looking back at his life through a serious of tape recordings. The main character, Krapp, makes one recording a year on his birthday, chronicling the events of his life. Before he makes his tape for his 69th birthday, he listens to one from his 39th birthday. It’s a really remarkable and emotional play. Samuel Beckett never struck me as the most inviting or emotional playwright, but in Krapp’s Last Tape, Beckett takes a firm look at life, laughs at its inconsistencies, and cries at its tragedies. I think Grupo Krapp tries to do the same thing.

It’s difficult to call what Grupo Krapp does dance. There was a lot of acting, a lot of feats of physical strength, a lot of multimedia components, but never so much dancing in a traditional sense. In one awkward scene, titled “Duet A,” two dancers paced around stage replicating the first experience they had dancing. Their shoulders were raised, their movements sharp and stiff. It was a peculiar kind of dancing, but after some observation, really quite beautiful. These performers were replicating a beautiful point in life, a point of no expectation and only passion. Or maybe lust. Or maybe boredom. I’m not quite sure. Either way, it was beautiful.

The piece they performed was called “Adonde van los muertos (Lado B).” The performers told us it was about death, but only a in few scenes did the show actually simulate death. The rest of the show was…well, it was incapable of description. It involved a game of soccer played onstage (an audience volunteer joined the cast, as they were down a member). It involved two performers below a large cloth and replicating (to an unsettlingly successful degree) the movements of a horse. It involved a performer simulating the motions of a robot, complete with sound effects. The dialogue was sparse, but biting and confounding. It reminded me very much of the twists of Beckett’s language in “Waiting for Godot” (the other Beckett play that I’ve seen). The piece opened with a projection of a short film, where several people were interviewed about their thoughts concerning death. They asked these interviewees what they imagined death would look like, should it be captured in a physical object. One person said death couldn’t be an object, that death was the opposite of an object. Another paused, perplexed by the question. He quietly answered that death looks like a black ball.

The question of meaning always comes up when I see a production like this. I don’t think I understood a lot of what Grupo Krapp put on stage. I only remarked in the beauty of it, in the entertainment of it, and in the absurdity of it. But when the production finished and all of the cast members had left the stage, I noticed that the black ball that was lying there since the very beginning was still there. They hadn’t oddslot touched it during the whole production. It was subtle. It was small. And it was terrifying. But it made sense. There was indeed a logic to this performance – that was the black ball of death that the young man in the opening sequence had mentioned. The performance didn’t have to mean anything specific. But it meant something. The fact that the work had an internal logic was the important part.

I thought a lot about Grupo Krapp this morning. How they are pushing the boundary of what dance is and what art is and what a performance is. How I would have loved to play soccer with them put probably would have done so horribly that they would have picked someone else instead and started the show over. How they are so incredibly deliciously esoteric and I love it. How the air in that theatre was dense with sunrise and dense with possibility. Maybe I’m a gushing romantic, but the air makes getting up and going off and doing work that much more inspiring and exciting.

Corey Smith

I'm Corey. I like music and cats and modern art.

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