If you like your theater experience a bit outside the box, while still upholding the highest quality of drama, movement and sound then Anam Cara Theatre Company’s experimental ensemble, Accordion Time Machine, is for you. A selection from the group’s series of ensemble shows is presented every other month at the Toy Boat Community Arts Space for two nights only.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the rehearsal of the latest installment, Silent Ballroom. I got to witness the creation process, from preparation to collaboration, as the short vignettes were assembled. Each show is based on a different theme, and ensemble members write pieces inspired by homework assignments and a group workshop process.
ATM has a rotating ensemble of creators and performers. In Silent Ballroom, Kristen Aldrich, Peter Lundblad, Tom Vinson, Molly Graves and Skyler Goff are directed by Erinn Hartley. They work together to create a tapestry of sights and sounds. It feels a bit like sketch comedy, but it isn’t all comedic. In fact, some of the pieces are profoundly moving. I witnessed scenes of the actors dancing around Goff — who was dressed as a bunny — shoving marshmallows in his mouth as they passed by him on each turn. In another scene, the entire ensemble moved hypnotically to music without uttering a word.
In one sketch, Lundblad and Goff mused over an actual accordion — symbolic of the time travel vehicle in performance troupe’s name. Goff suggested going to the future to find out if the audience liked the show, to which Lundblad countered that he would go to the end of his own life to see if he liked it. It was amusing, yet deeply philosophical, as is much of this creative journey.
Founder Kristen Aldrich was inspired by the non-illusory theater aesthetic of the neo-futurists in Chicago. Because of this foundation, pieces are often personal and there is no “fourth wall” separating audience and performers. The ensemble meet just once per week to create and rehearse the show, plus a tech rehearsal. This keeps the shows feeling fresh and organic for the cast and audience.
Accordion Time Machine’s Silent Ballroom runs Friday and Saturday, Aug. 14 and 15, at 8 p.m. at Toy Boat Community Arts Space. $10-$12.