Rotkin, creator and star of THE GREAT GREEN, resides in Jamestown, which was just about destroyed by the flood. The town was completely cut off, and many in the town were evacuated by helicopter and taken to Niwot High School. I spoke with Samuelson just after she'd picked up Rotkin at the high school so that they could rehearse.
Samuelson is a Boulder native who moved to the East Coast and never imagined she would end up back in Boulder. "I didn't feel as though there was enough interest or support of the arts for me to grow here," explains Samuelson. "I came back for a short period to work on a show with local dance artist and friend Kelsey Kempfer, and realized that there was so much room for me to create and an awesome community of dedicated artists to work with."
Shortly after that she met Rotkin, artistic director of TinHOUSE Experimental Dance Theater, and "and we immediately began collaborating with one another," Samuelson recalls. Rotkin had been performing original dance and theater work since 1988, and was known for having "an eye towards the absurd," she adds. In 2004 Rotkin had created TinHOUSE, which uses contemporary and experimental dance to teach diverse audiences through performance, creative research and education.
"They work diligently to codify upheaval as a personal, familial, cultural and political gesture by reminding themselves how to unearth, dispute, enhance, abandon and expose qualities, habits, customs and perceptions," explains Samuelson.
To further support original dance and collaboration, Samuelson started Hoarded Stuff this past January. The work is quite progressive, she says, and "our performances are absurd, non-linear and filled with characters slightly off-kilter."
THE GREAT GREEN is Samuelson and Rotkin's fourth collaboration over the last two years. Their first project, LET THEM EAT CAKE, won the ENCORE! Performance Award at last year's Fringe festival. Samuelson directs THE GREAT GREEN, a solo show for Rotkin; she created it after years of research on greed, ownership, authority and power, themes she has used in the past.
The effects of the recent flood are now part of the performance, too, according to Samuelson. "THE GREAT GREEN has come out of how Joanna reacts to and creates relationship with her environment, what she feels she has power over and what she does not," she explains. "Joanna's immediate experience with this flood has very much affected the content of this work. Her experience seeing the instability of the land and how the whole landscape can change in seconds is absolutely present in THE GREAT GREEN."
Joining Rotkin on stage is a cooler, strips of sod, a fan, raw meat and a baby doll. By using "the body as a site for political negotiation," the show's description proclaims, "frantic birds caw and bite their way onto the great green lawn. This is a call to arms...To vacuum the hell out of this astro turf we call home."
THE GREAT GREEN opens at 6 p.m. Friday, September 20, at the Community Dance Collective, 2020B 21st Street, in Boulder; performances continue through Saturday, September 28. Find a complete schedule and how to get tickets here.