April 19, 2012 | by Patrick Folliard
Wide open spaces

‘The Nautical Yards’
April 26-29
The Yards Park, 10 Water Street SE
$30 premium seating; free general admission (lawn/standing)
Force-collision.org

John Moletress, right, and company. (Photo courtesy force/collision)

For its upcoming production, force/collision has shunned details like securing rights to a play or leasing a theater.  Instead, the new interdisciplinary company has opted to devise its own material — “The Nautical Yards” — and will premiere it outdoors at the Yards Park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood located just south of Capitol Hill.

Inspired by the history and architecture of the adjacent Navy Yard, the hour-long performance blends movement, music and text to tell the story of two lovers separated by war and sea. And because it’s truly site specific, the production calls on its 30-person ensemble cast to make wide use of the open space, including its shallow canal, fountains, ultra-modern bridge and boardwalk.

“While [the performance] does draw on documented accounts of the Navy Yard civilian work force, personal war correspondence and letters and the mythology of water, it’s not a true narrative,” says John Moletress, director and force/collision founder. “I wanted to take all findings and source material and use it to respond to the architecture and the history. It’s a collage and layering of different images, musings and texts.”

Moletress, who’s gay, lives just two blocks from the park. He says when he first moved to the neighborhood four years ago, he instantly saw potential for drama. “The area was much less developed then — a lot of the big old buildings that have since repurposed were standing empty and abandoned. I asked the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District about doing a performance in one of the buildings then, but was told it was too dangerous. The structures were in bad shape and there was still a lot of scrap metal lying around from the 1950s.”

More recently, when Moletress approached the District about the Yards Park project, they were much more receptive, expressing eagerness to bring in varying kinds of arts to supplement their summer concert and movies series. Also, the late April performance dates coincide with a new residential building opening in the area as well as more restaurants and retail.

“The Nautical Yards” is the result of ongoing collaboration among director Moletress, composer Daniel Paul Lawson, choreographer Erica Rebollar, dance captain/assistant choreographer Ilana Faye Silverstein, costume designer Collin Ranney and talented force/collision company performers Karin Rosnizeck; Dane Figueroa Edidi, who typically performs by the name Lady Dane; Sue Jin Song; and Ranney, and busy local actor Frank Britton. (About 20 or so additional actors have been cast for the performance.) Britton, who’s bi, is thoroughly enjoying the entire site-specific performance experience. He describes dipping into the fountains as fun but chilly, and hopes for warm evenings during the show’s short run.

This is Moletress’ first foray into directing al fresco. Fortunately he has a loud outside voice, so giving directions to 30 performers in a well-trafficked park hasn’t been a problem. “It’s a wonderful way to engage in the arts and with your community in the outdoors, but it’s not without challenges. Because the process is very open,” he says. “You have to throw your ego out the window. All of your direction is on display. From the start, you’re getting feedback from all the locals who pass by. It’s interesting to see who chooses to be curious and engage and who runs away.”

“We have no rain dates. We’re playing it by ear,” Moletress says. “But if a performance is interrupted by bad weather, we can all wait it out in a nearby lumber shed. There’s room for everyone.”

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