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Press Releases Walker Art Center Presents French Choreographer Jérôme Bel and Switzerland’s Theater Hora’s Disabled Theater

“There is a kind of defiance, a challenge to theatrical conventions, but even more so to social ones…. the form of the piece is incredibly simple. Watching it is anything but.” – Culturebot



Minneapolis, September 24, 2013—Through three works over 8 years, acclaimed French conceptual performance star Jérôme Bel has challenged and charmed us. With Disabled Theater, his deceptively straight-forward theatrical collaboration with Theater Hora, a Swiss company of professional actors with disabilities, his work reaches a new height. Disabled Theater will be performed Thursday, November 21–Saturday, November 23, at 8 pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Probing troubling questions around identity, discrimination and the narrowness of our own preconceptions, the show features 11 members of Theater Hora, simply being themselves. The work’s carefully constructed tension is balanced with humor and life-affirming joy. Sparking both debate and awe across Europe, the work was the sensation at both prominent theater festivals like Avignon and Brussels’ Kunsten-Arts as well as Germany’s 2012 dOCUMENTA (13). Frieze praised its “simple, stripped down conceptual clarity” and its “90 minutes of uneasy, preconception-probing estrangement and empathy.” And, for New York Times’ chief visual art critic Roberta Smith it was simply “transcendent art.”

Jérôme Bel
Jérôme Bel lives in Paris and works worldwide. nom donné par l’auteur (1994) is a choreography of objects. Jérôme Bel (1995) is based on the total nudity of the performers. Shirtology (1997) presents an actor wearing many T-shirts. The last performance (1998) quotes a solo by the choreographer Susanne Linke, as well as Hamlet and André Agassi. Xavier Le Roy (2000) was claimed by Jérôme Bel as his own, but was actually choreographed by Xavier Le Roy. The show must go on (2001) brings together twenty performers, nineteen pop songs and one DJ. Véronique Doisneau (2004) is a solo on the work of the dancer Véronique Doisneau, from the Paris Opera. Isabel Torres (2005), for the ballet of the Teatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, is its Brazilian version. Pichet Klunchun and myself (2005) was created in Bangkok with the Thai traditional dancer Pichet Klunchun. Cédric Andrieux (2009), a performance by a Merce Cunningham dancer/student. 3Abschied (2010) is a collaboration between Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Jérôme Bel based on The Song of the Earth by Gustav Malher. Disabled Theater (2012) is a piece with the performers of Theater Hora, a Zurich-based company consisting of professional actors with learning disabilities.

Theater
Theater HORA was established in 1993 in Zürich (Switzerland) by the theatre-pedagogue Michael Elber. Its objective was and still is to promote the artistic development of people with learning difficulties, and to give them the opportunity to exhibit their extraordinary abilities to a wide audience, at a professional level.

The first HORA production evolved freely out of Michael Ende’s novel Momo; the figure of Master Hora in this work gave the theater its name. Since then, Theatre HORA has presented about fifty theater productions of all kinds (also with guest directors and choreographers since 1998). In addition, it has organized art exhibitions, music projects (the HORA’BAND was formed in 2005), and international theater festivals. Theatre HORA became part of the Züriwerk foundation in 2003. To this day it is the only cultural workshop for people with learning disabilities working at a professional level in Switzerland. Since 2009 the theater offers people with learning difficulties a state-recognized theatrical training program.

Among the most important of the group’s past productions are: Lennie und George (1997), a free interpretation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men; the fashion show Drehum: La Mode Folie (1998); an adaption of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All The World Is A Stage (1999); the total theatre 3D (2002), inspired by Dante, Dalí and Disney; Amanzi (2005), together with cultural workers from Zimbabwe; Faust 1+2 (2008), created in ten rehearsal days; the musical Quasimodo Geniti (2009); and the first piece of the training program Die Geschichte vom Baum (2010). However, at the heart of Theatre HORA’s artistic self-image remains the freely-improvised Die Lust am Scheitern (created in 2000) – a theater evening open in all directions, in which the HORA actors together with musicians from Beat Fäh’s theatre project “Blauzone” work together on stage.

Theater HORA believes that people with learning disabilities are endowed with abilities and strengths which can be used to produce a competent sociocultural result in an artistic field. The unfiltered perception of the HORA artists reveals hidden worlds which the observer can understand intuitively. Anchoring this belief in the public consciousness is therefore the goal of all Theater HORA’s activities.

Tickets to Jérôme Bel/Theater Hora’s Disabled Theater are Thursday, $20 ($18); Friday–Saturday, $28 ($24) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600

Make a Night of It!
Balcony Bar

Open one hour prior to and after performances.

Postshow Reception, Thursday, November 21
Meet the artists, talk about the show, and enjoy drinks in the Balcony Bar, located on the upper balcony of the elegant William and Nadine McGuire Theater.

Postshow Q & A, Friday, November 22
Stay after the show for a Q&A with Jérôme Bel and Theater Hora, moderated by Philip Bither, Senior Curator of Performing Arts.

SpeakEasy, Saturday, November 23
It’s like a book club for the performing arts—your questions, your answers, risk-free. After the show, head to the Balcony Bar to jump into a discussion or just listen in as others hash it out. Led by Walker tour guides and local choreographers and theater artists, SpeakEasy takes place on Saturdays after every dance and Out There performance.

Acknowledgments

Support provided by Producers’ Council members Nor Hall and Roger Hale and Leni and David Moore, Jr.

The Walker Art Center’s performing arts programs are made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through the Doris Duke Performing Arts Fund, the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Producers’ Council
Performing Arts programs and commissions at the Walker are generously supported by members of the Producers’ Council: Russell Cowles; Sage Cowles; Nor Hall and Roger Hale; King’s Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury; Emily Maltz; Dr. William W. and Nadine M. McGuire; Leni and David Moore, Jr.; Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney; and Frances and Frank Wilkinson.

Theater HORA

Photo: courtesy the artist