Earlier this month the Mabou Mines company descended upon Wesleyan University with its brash rearrangement of Tennessee Williams texts, tempered with Grand Guignol horror-theater posturings.
On March 1 at 8 p.m., another vaunted New York-based experimental theater company comes to a Connecticut university to shake up the student body with a mix of traditional and post-modern inspirations. Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki’s SITI Company visits Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts on that first Friday of March to present Café Variations. The piece takes words from modernist playwright Charles Mee and melodies from George Gershwin. It also references Erving Goffman, Sartre and other cultural provocateurs. The results are spoken, sung and danced by members of the SITI company.
This is a special touring version of Café Variations, funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign. The show began during a summer program at Skidmore College in 2011, then was revised in 2012 during a residency at Emerson College, where the performance involved dozens of singers, dancers, actors and musicians. The new version coming to Fairfield has a cast of six. Café Variations was apparently designed from the outset to live up to its title, being flexible and having several distinct iterations.
SITI has been around as a company for over two decades now, but Bogart and Suzuki were important presences in contemporary independent theater, as directors and as theorists, for a good 15 years before they joined forces in 1992. Bogart has taught at many important universities (and once interviewed to be dean of the Yale School of Drama); shortly after forming SITI, she settled in as a professor at Columbia University, where she still teaches and where her students have included the current artistic directors of two major New England regional theater companies, Diane Paulus (American Repertory Theatre) and Darko Tresnjak (Hartford Stage).
The March 1 performance of Café Variations will be bookended by academic talks. Before the show, there’s a lecture by Fairfield U. professor emeritus, on how SITI uses Gershwin’s music in Café Variations. After the performance, Fairfield U. Professor of Theatre Martha S. LoMonaco will moderate a discussion with members of the cast.
Tickets are $30, $35 and $40. The Quick Center is on the Fairfield University campus, 1073 North Benson Rd., Fairfield. More info at (203) 254-4010 or www.quickcenter.com