International performer Mirenka Cechova and cellist Nancy Jo Snider mesmerized audience members at Stephens yesterday, performing snippets from “The Voice of Anne Frank,” an innovative piece that combines physical theatre with drama and music.
The lecture/demonstration was performed in Firestone Baars Chapel, a smaller venue than the full performance requires—but the performers transformed the space with light, shadows and video projection.
“I just love site specific work,” Cechova said afterwards. “It allows you to transform a performance.”
Roughly 100 people attended the demonstration, the first of what will become a new series Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts, has created. “Intersections” will bring additional innovative performances and events to campus.
Cechova and Snider received a standing ovation for their hour-long demonstration. In between scaled-down scenes, the performers explained the scenario and symbolism of the minimal sets.
Cechova created the work because she wanted to present Anne Frank’s story in a way that would speak deeply to people through movement. In her native Czech Republic, people can be ironic when it comes to tragedy, she said, so she wanted to present the story in a new way.
“It’s a voice so the oppressed will not be forgotten,” she said after the event. “It’s important to hear the voice of those forced to be silent.”
Through dance and dialogue, Cechova portrays the characters in "The Diary of Anne Frank" through the 13-year-old girl’s lens. Much of the choreography mimics that of a songbird with broken wings, she said.
Audiences get a sense of the angst, anxiety and restlessness of Anne through spoken words, and are also introduced to her parents, sister and others hiding alongside them. Snider’s cello plays the role of “Kitty,” Anne’s imaginary friend, a companion and spiritual element. The cello breaks into other characters, as well, throughout the performance. Both Cechova and Snider also add improvisational aspects to every performance to make each truly one-of-a-kind.
Cechova originally set the dance to recorded music. Mardirosiansaw the performance when she was a Fulbright Scholar in Prague. Her home institution at the time was American University, where Snider is music director. Mardirosian introduced the two, and the piece came together as it’s presented today. Later this month, the duo will perform "The Voice of Anne Frank" at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Terrace Theatre.
Cechova spent Sunday on campus, as well, working with performing arts students.
“She’s a challenging teacher,” Snider said. “It was a beautiful way to expose students to something new, or at least hearing something in a new way.”
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