Fringe Festival: Can we find ourselves in the forest?

Photo courtesy of Plate 3 Photography

Photo courtesy of Plate 3 Photography

Into the Woods

by Heather Shayne Blakeslee

At the Fringe Festival two years ago, Birds on a Wire Dance Theatre offered audiences an abstract performance piece that retold the story of Little Red Riding Hood via a duet with dancer Kate Abernathy and cellist Rachel Icenogle. 

Wire’s artistic director Melissa Cameron says the piece stayed with her and became a launching pad for this year’s Fringe production “In the Clearing.” She relates that while we have “Disney-fied” versions of old fables, where there are clear lines between good and evil, she’s more interested in the complicated source material. 

“In a lot of these old fairy tales, it’s not quite so clear-cut,” she says. Going into the woods is a way to explore both the light and dark sides of our character. “There’s also this idea of Little Red Riding Hood also being the wolf,” she says, “not something entirely separate… but a part of her.” 

Cameron says that her work definitely comes from a female-centric experience but that, as with good and evil, there aren’t easy dividing lines when it comes to gender. 

“There is something so pervasive about these questions of gender and sexuality and the intersections of how we define ourselves and our identities,” she says. 

During part of her childhood in suburban New Jersey, she and her playmates used to dare each other to go further and further into the woods behind their homes. 

“In reality, it was probably 15 feet!” she says, but the idea of going further in to find your limits, test your boundaries and to challenge your fears persisted as she worked collaboratively to choreograph the piece.

While it’s created as a dance show for adults, the matinee performance invites children to attend without their parents fearing withering stares from fellow patrons.  They’ll encourage “noise and wandering and exploring what a theatrical setting is.”

In the Clearing
Birds on a Wire Dance Theatre

Sept 9 • 8 p.m.
Sept 10 • 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American St.
Philadelphia, Pa., 19106