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Shadow Play

Ancient roots run deep under Boulderite Betsy Tobin's multi-layered performance works, which unfold in an eerie, non-linear combination of shadow play and silhouette, puppetry and superimposed video imagery. And despite the use of modern technology, it's not hard to imagine such works being acted out around campfires thousands of years ago: Like smoky handprints left on a cave wall, they are murky clues that suggest, but don't present outright, the machinery of the human condition. Tobin's latest creation, Shadows and Journeys, is even meant to be performed against rock canyon walls, though local restrictions imposed by Boulder Open Space have yet to allow it.

"I was hiking through a slot canyon that had natural niches, and I thought it would be so neat to have actors in those niches, performing scenes from throughout history," Tobin says, explaining the genesis of Shadows. But then reality took her down. Situational and safety issues, she realized, precluded the possibility of such a performance ever taking place. Practicality moved her to decide that she could film actors in the niches and insinuate the footage into a cohesive piece.

For now, the walls of the Naropa Institute have to suffice as a canvas for the ultimate pastiche: Tobin and a cast of six will perform the work-in-progress outdoors in Naropa's courtyard this week as part of the Boulder International Fringe Festival, including shows at 8:15 p.m. tonight and tomorrow. And a year from now, Shadows will unfurl against some of the best canyon walls on the planet — in the Grand Canyon — in a more complete form, for which Tobin promises "more actors, more music and visuals, fire spinners and the whole deal."

See Shadows on the Naropa Green, 2130 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder; for tickets, $10 to $12, go to www.boulderfringe.com.
Sat., Aug. 18; Tue., Aug. 21; Wed., Aug. 22; Fri., Aug. 24; Sat., Aug. 25; Fri., Sept. 14, 7:17 p.m.

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