For Jennine Willett, space is the most important and exciting aspect of creating a performance. The Bessie-award winning choreographer is best known for her artistic work on site-specific performances that transform public spaces into immersive theatrical experiences. She is the co-artistic director of renowned Brooklyn dance company, Third Rail Projects, where her work continually blurs the lines between audience members and performers. One of her most famous projects, Then She Fell, is a fully immersive theatrical production inspired by the writing of Lewis Carroll that has been performed in NYC for the last five years.
This past July, Jennine used her craft to transform an entirely new space: the Smith Learning Theater at Teachers College. As a guest teacher at the Literacy Unbound summer institute, Jennine shared her artistic prowess for mixing art and space with high school students and teachers seeking to hone their performance skills in new ways. Literacy Unbound brings students and teachers together for a 2-week long event, culminating in an original performance inspired by a piece of literature. This year, the group of 24 people read and performed Joseph Conrad’s controversial book Heart of Darkness.
The final performance was held in the Learning Theater, where, inspired by Jennine’s guidance, the students and teachers made the space into a truly immersive environment, interacting with audience members, shuffling them in and out of various cordoned-off sections, adopting different roles and movement styles, and incorporating multimedia components. As Jennine told the group during one of her workshops, the artistic possibilities are endless in a space like the Learning Theater. When the space comes to life, so does the performance. Even when you leave the space, the performance seems to live on, if only in the echoes of wonder you’re bound to feel after a truly immersive artistic experience.
Music: 27 by Silent Strike