A New Residency Program Supporting New Work By Six Local Artists

Open Eye Figure Theatre is thrilled to announce the launch of FUSEBOX, a new artist-in-residence program geared toward developing multi-disciplinary work that explores new intersections in performance, dance, song, puppetry, and object theater.

“FUSEBOX is our way of formalizing and expanding a key part of what we’ve always done here at Open Eye, which is to support artists who develop and create their own work,” says Susan Haas, Executive Artistic Director.  

Associate Producer Joel Sass, who recently joined the Open Eye staff, describes FUSEBOX as “a gravity-free laboratory for multi-disciplinary artists who want to develop the spark of a new idea—test it, break it, rewire it, discover how it can fly. We give them space, time, funding, and permission to try anything.”

The inaugural cohort of FUSEBOX features an exciting roster of six eclectic, mid-career, and established artists each seeking to expand their own creative vocabulary, branch into new territory, or collaborate across disciplines. FUSEBOX artists for 2017-2018 include Sally Rousse, Annie Enneking, Jeremy Wilhelm, and Luverne Seifert; Open Eye resident artists Michael Sommers and Joel Sass will also participate. The combined insights and feedback of the cohort will further define the program, and enrich the work that emerges from FUSEBOX.

“Our intention,” says Sass, “is that the FUSEBOX artists will inspire, influence and challenge each other creatively. As much as we’re nurturing individual projects, we want to influence deeper conversations, networks, and future collaborations.”

Learn more about the inaugural cohort and the work they are exploring in FUSEBOX:

Annie Enneking is an actor, dancer, fight choreographer, musician, songwriter and front woman for her popular rock band Annie and the Bang Bang. For FUSEBOX, Annie will work in collaboration with sound designer/performer Sean Healy to create a concert/music play that imagines a Neil Diamond-esque entertainer/ex-CIA operative having breakdown in the middle of a concert.  Enneking anticipates using the residency to script text and write songs that she says “expose and investigate sleaze, slick fame, covert and overt violence, using the trope of the singer-songwriter to weave monologues throughout a set-list, to make a bleak comedy about a faded entertainer as the bloated killer of culture.”

Jeremy Wilhelm is a noted director, writer, and musician whose work has been seen locally at the Guthrie, Mixed Blood Theatre, Walker Art Center, Workhaus Collective, and regionally at the Ontological Hysteric, New York Theater Workshop, and the Sadie Arts Center in Montreal, among others.  He has collaborated and co-created numerous projects with Lucidity Suitcase, including Red Eye to Havre de Grace, a meditation on the last days of Edgar Allen Poe.  Jeremy’s time with FUSEBOX will allow him to work on a new song cycle/mono-opera/solo performance that examines “red state” voters, the working class, mega-churches, golfers, big-game trophy hunters, the Boy Scouts of America, gun ownership, and a few creatures from various folklore traditions. As a member of the inaugural cohort, Wilhelm says “I’m specifically interested in the kind of colleague-driven support and feedback that FUSEBOX will provide.”

Sally Rousse is an award-winning independent dance-maker, producer, and curator who, in addition to being a co-founder and artistic associate of the James Sewell Ballet, has been a principal dancer with New Amsterdam Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Chicago Ballet and Omaha Ballet among others.  While in residence with FUSEBOX, Sally will develop scenes and community engagement activities for her original new work ICON SAM: Temple Dances by choreographing in non-traditional spaces in and around Open Eye that explore using puppets, dancers, and aerialists in environments that are both doll-sized and human-scale.  Says Rousse, “The artistic community at FUSEBOX will allow me to take the necessary risks critical to creating this unusual project.  It is exactly what I need, right now.”

Luverne Seifert is a performer and teaching artist with local and regional credits including the Guthrie, 10,000 Things, Workhaus Collective, Children’s Theater, and as a company member with the celebrated Theatre de la Jeune Lune.  He is also the co-founder of Sod House Theater, which creates immersive plays that tour to rural communities. Seifert will use FUSEBOX as a laboratory to create an original new work utilizing the European clown traditions handed down from master teachers Jacques Lecoq, Pierre Byland, and Phillipe Gaulier.  Using the archetypal setting of “a garage” as his playground and launch pad, Seifert’s character will investigate the history of Americana: license plates, household objects, tools, recordings, costumes, weapons, flags, plaques, tape players, statues.  According to Seifert, “The garage provides a private setting to explore the deeply personal and grander themes of a country facing extraordinary challenges in politics and culture."

Michael Sommers is a co-founder of Open Eye Figure Theatre where he has created over forty original works for the stage. He is an Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Minnesota and the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Ford Fellowship, the Bush Enduring Vision Award and the Doris Duke Impact Award. Sommers will use FUSEBOX to make a new dance/object/puppet theater work inspired by his deep fascination with the life and art of Alfred Jarry, the French symbolist writer best known for creating the grotesque and wild satirical farce Ubu Roi.  Sommers explains, “We create personal monsters, ideas. actions, gestures that we carry to our grave. For this new piece, I’m seeing Alfred Jarry on his deathbed, and his creation Ubu pays him a last visit. It is dance,object, puppet. It celebrates the monster.”

Joel Sass is an award-winning writer/director/designer whose work has been seen many times at the Guthrie, the Jungle, Park Square, Theatre Latte Da, and Open Eye, where he previously created The Red Shoes, an iconoclastic film-noir riff on a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale.  FUSEBOX will support Sass in developing a companion piece called The Golden Thread, another contemporary spin on folklore, this time inspired by an urban legend about a nearly-forgotten rock star who vanishes one night in a motel fire.  Sass says, “Dedicated fans and acolytes make pilgrimages to the empty site, seeking solace, sharing memories, building shrines...and in this manner the motel room appears again and we come to witness and know the glamorous-troubled-contradictory figure of the fans' obsession.”