Liberty Falls 54321
Photo by DOMINIQUE SERRAND
It’s been eight years now since the shuttering of the artistically towering Theatre de la Jeune Lune, whose work embraced thrilling high-mindedness as well as Dada-laced humor (often in the same scene), which felt like the end of an era and in many ways has turned out to be. But a core of its principal artists have been working together since—albeit without the consistent visibility afforded by their gorgeous former North Loop space and season-based infrastructure.
It’s tempting to say they’ve gone insurgent, but there was always something anarchic about Jeune Lune even at its most institutional. Co-artistic directors Dominique Serrand and Steven Epp today call themselves the Moving Company, and in recent years you might have even seen one of their shows—Come Hell and High Water, The House Can’t Stand, Werther and Lotte—without being specifically aware of the lineage of its creators (which include artistic associates Nathan Keepers and Christina Baldwin).
They’re pretty much calling it home wherever they hang their hats, and pursuing a strategy for developing work that’s a unique national model: partnering with schools such as the University of Texas at Austin and the U of M to create original works with student actors, then producing the shows professionally on a low budget in venues such as the Lab Theater in Minneapolis in hopes of being picked up by regional theaters such as Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
“We get parachuted in there,” Serrand says of his company going to work at universities. “And we impose all of our systems of creating work, which is often very and new and foreign to them. We see the students as partners, which can be a fantastic shock.”
With this focus on developing new work, the Moving Company is also virally transmitting the heady, company-driven Jeune Lune, exposing a new generation of performers to a model that demands, and can yield, more than the traditional memorize-the-script-and-learn-the-blocking approach to theater.
“The only flaw is that locally we aren’t as present as we would be if we had a traditional season,” Serrand admits. “But we’re trying to do one or two pieces a year in the Twin Cities.”
For 2017, this means two productions in Minneapolis before summertime. The first is Liberty Falls 54321, a send-up of rural Wisconsin that includes elements of civic pageant with strains of Weekend at Bernie’s (asked to describe it, Serrand and Keepers declare in unison, “It’s just so wrong”). The second is Refugia, a new work at the Guthrie in May based on multiple storylines centering around refugees throughout history.
The latter will be the most ambitious effort in the Moving Company’s history. Serrand talks about developing it with students in Austin in early 2015, how asking actors to play multiple roles across time and circumstance produced what he describes as odd correspondences. Here’s hoping Twin Cities audiences see the same—within Refugia as well as the artistic heritage of its creators’ incarnations past and present.
Liberty Falls 54321
January 5 – February 5
The Lab Theater