With only brief film excerpts, written descriptions and Graham's hand-written choreographic notes of the original production, the Martha Graham Dance Company approached Bogart (Dead Man's Cell Phone, Freshwater) and Mee (Queens Boulevard, Paradise Park) to conceive an American Document for today's audiences. The genre-bending work unites Bogart's SITI Company actors with dancers from the Graham Company (the original also made use of both actors and dancers).
The 2010 American Document, which is akin to a political Our Town told through text and movement, was initially developed as part of the Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival in January.
The cast includes SITI Company actors Akiko Aizawa, Leon Ingulsrud, Ellen Lauren, Kelly Maurer, Barney O'Hanlon and Stephen Webber. Graham dancers include Tadej Brdnik, Catherine Crockett, Jennifer dePalo, Lloyd Knight, Blakeley White-McGuire, Maurizio Nardi, Miki Orihara, Samuel Pott, Ben Schultz and Carrie Elmore-Tallitsch.
Created in the summer of 1938 at Bennington College in Vermont, American Document was Graham's response to the thundercloud of German fascism that would ultimately give way to World War II. The work included excerpts from the Declaration of Independence and Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." The latest incarnation incorporates text and concepts familiar to contemporary audiences.
Bogart previously described her approach to American Document to Playbill.com: "To choose the documents that have continued to fashion us as Americans, I turned to Charles L. Mee Jr., a playwright with whom I share a constant fascination with the same question that Martha Graham was asking in 1938: 'What is an American?'" "Chuck compiled a new 'libretto' for the piece pulling from sources ranging from Walt Whitman to the Internet. But perhaps the most significant aspect of the rehearsal process was bringing together the actors in my company, SITI Company, and the dancers of the Martha Graham Company. The confluence of the actors and dancers in American Document instigated a revolution in both cultures. The dancers began to speak and the actors began to dance. To witness this marriage and the exchange of information and ideas between the actors and the dancers produced the kind of collaborative process that makes me fall in love with the art of theatrr all over again."
In 1990, at 95 years of age, Graham also re-explored her work, which included references to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. That production featured Mikhail Baryshnikov and Cecilia Peck.
Running through June 13, American Document is featured alongside Dance Is a Weapon, Appalachian Spring, Panorama and Sketches from Chronicles.
For tickets, visit Joyce. The Joyce Theatre is located at 175 8th Avenue in Manhattan.