Staycee Pearl began reading the work of acclaimed African American science fiction writer, Octavia Butler, in her twenties. Originally inspired by one of Butler’s lead characters, Anyanwu, she decided to use the writings to develop her latest piece, “OCTAVIA.”
Of Butler’s work, Pearl says, “I love her real world references. She often puts her characters in situations that mirror what’s going on here on earth socially, politically and in the community.”
The hour long piece abstracts two of Butler’s story lines, with each of the eight dancers embodying a different character from the books. Adil Mansoor, Pearl’s theatrical director on the project, is helping the dancers with character development.
But the movement isn’t overdramatic or affected. Dancer, Jessica Marino, worked through her solo at a rehearsal late in the afternoon the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Her character, a “sexual facilitator between humans and aliens” has inspired very interesting movement. She steals across the diagonal with her head bowed low, creeping and crawling forward with sinuous back undulations. She describes her character as having “trunks for arms and tentacles coming off the trunks.” Her solo shows that flawlessly.
Another character, played by Renee Smith, is Shori. Shori is a vampire who is fifty-eight-years old (a child in her world) and has been genetically engineered to withstand sunlight.
In a duet between Smith and Cara Alexander, a push-pull relationship develops with partnering that results in a clear vampire feeding.
All of the movement elicits some sort of supernatural image. With curved spines, sharp claw-like hands and spindly, prowling legs, one clearly imagines the dancers as creatures.
As always, Pearl’s husband and sound engineer, Herman Pearl, has been working hard to create the perfect soundscape. He says, “This piece has a very other-worldly feel…very saturated and evocative.”
To match that feel, he has chosen a Jimi Hendrix song called “1983 (A merman I should turn to be).”
Using specialized software, he has been working to extract elements of the song as the basis for the overall composition. He says, “It lends a continuity to the sound design of the piece.” Also, interspersed, will be bits of Butler speaking about her work.
To experience the magical work of Pearl and her collaborators, tickets may be purchased HERE. Show details and ticket pricing as follows:
“OCTAVIA” will run this Friday, December 2nd and Saturday, December 3rd, 8:00 pm at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty (5941 Penn Avenue).
Advance Tickets for $20 | At the Door $25 | Residents of 15206 $15 | Student/Artist $10.
To purchase advance tickets you may also call 412.363.3000. To purchase 10 or more tickets at a special discounted rate, please call 412.363.3000.