LIFE OR THEATRE?
Based on the life and work of Charlotte Salomon
Presented by Annex Theater
May 24 – June 17
Thursdays – Saturdays, 8PM
219 Park Avenue, Baltimore
Cheers in this beautiful new show with us!
$18 General Admission
$7 Student / EBT Card Holders (Door Only)
Life or Theatre? explodes the work and subconscious of the 20th century expressionist painter Charlotte Salomon on stage, fusing her autobiographical prose and expressionist painting with classical music, cinema, and theatre into a singular expression of her self – a demand by a young woman to exist in a world that demanded otherwise.
Kevin Griffin Moreno
Film and Projections Designer | Rachel Dwiggins
Movement Director | Alayna Baron
Scenic Designer | Reese Siedlecki
Costume Designer | Susan Maccorkle
Lighting Designer | Evan Moritz
Music Director | James Young
Photographer | Zachary Z Handler
THE PLAY’S BACKGROUND
Between the years of 1941 and 1943, Charlotte Salomon, an enigmatic young German-Jewish artist painted a massive autobiographical tome of 1299 individual gouache paintings chronicling her life in Berlin and exile to Cote d’Azur, France. The expansive work transformed her and the individuals in her life into characters in a melodrama, revealing a dark family inheritance of suicide and mental illness; secret obsessive loves; troubling personal relationships; and Salomon’s tumultuous struggle with fate to define her own destiny against the backdrop of Weimar and Nazi-era Berlin. In isolation, Salomon then edited the pieces down to 796 paintings with 340 vellum overlays of text and musical cues to create a unique visual work she called Leben? oder Theater?: Ein Singspiel (Life? or Theater?: A Song-play) “This is my whole life,” she said giving the work to a family friend only months before her deportation and murder at Auschwitz.
This uncategorizable, ferocious body of work survives today and dark, unresolvable questions about Charlotte’s life remain. Was she embroiled in a secret affair with a family friend? Did she murder her abusive grandfather? How believable is her story? When does the line between truth and fiction become irrelevant? While Salomon’s work parallels that of the famed Anne Frank, and the scope of her work is the largest singular body of work by a Jew during the Holocaust, her legacy remains relatively unknown to larger audiences. However, “the themes of her work are compelling, pressing, and ever-relevant nearly a century later – a woman tackling and defining her identity on her own terms, battling her supposed social inheritance and fate, and confronting what it means to create in a destructive world,” says writer/director Carly J. Bales.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE OR THEATRE?
One hundred years after Salomon’s birth, Baltimore artist Carly J. Bales is realizing a new stage work called Life or Theatre? based upon Salomon’s short life and work. “The play builds upon and expands the intention of the source material as a deeply intimate and contradictory Gesamtkunstwerk – which is an ideal ‘total work of art’ melding poetry, music, and visual arts – by incorporating new and classical compositional music, filmmaking, poetry, philosophy, and visual art into a live performance piece that explores the deeper universal existential underpinnings of the work,” says Bales. “I wanted to grab the hands of audience members and plunge them down into the depths of her subconscious as she embarked on an Orphean journey toward the creation of herself through art. I’m very excited about my artist-collaborators helping me realize this vision.”
Known for highly inventive, multi-disciplinary performance work and her fearless approach to realizing her ideas, Bales is “a perfect artist to tackle the rich and complicated world of Salomon,” says Evan Moritz, Annex Theater’s Founding Artistic Director, “and we are thrilled to bring Bales’ first full-length play as a writer and director to our intimate space.”
ABOUT THE WRITER / DIRECTOR
Carly J. Bales is a performance artist, director, and arts organizer. Bales makes plays, films, and ephemeral experiences for an array of eyes and ears. Some topics she keeps coming back to are: concepts of self and self creation; the lampooning of capitalism and the power structures it creates; and the general absurdity of human existence. Her expansive and clever performance work can be found in galleries, theaters, abandoned buildings, and spaces in between. Driven by interdisciplinary collaboration and bold risk-taking, Bales has become Baltimore’s most go-for-broke performer (Baltimore City Paper) and an integral actor/performer in both the city’s do-it-yourself theater and experimental performance art communities (The Hub) while balancing her work as an arts organizer and curator.
She is the Founding Producing Artistic Director of EMP Collective, a beloved independent art space in downtown Baltimore, and the Founding Creative Director of Le Mondo, an ambitious project that positions downtown Baltimore’s Howard Street as a center for experimental performance arts and grassroots development.
Since 2013, Bales has been honored to collaborate in concert with the bizarre and wonderful Annex Theater on an array of performance projects including: Directing: Stupid Ghost; Performer: 1-800-MICE (Aunty Lakeford; add. Co-Writer); The Tempest (Trinculo), The World is Round (Multiple), and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (Mary Hartman). Recent other theatrical works include: Red Death (Directed by Cricket Arrison) and Cleveland (Directed by Carly J. Bales, #1 Play of 2016, Baltimore City Paper).
CAST AND CREW
Development for Life or Theatre? began in mid 2017 and contributing local design artists now include Annex favorites: filmmaker Rachel Dwiggins (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; 1-800-MICE; Cook/Thief/Wife/Lover; Condo Condo Condoland), costumer Susan Maccorkle (Dark World’s Destruction; The Tempest; Flatland; Minotaur; and more), lighting designer Evan Moritz (Insurrection: Holding History; 1-800-MICE; Ebon Kojo; Cleveland) and Annex Theater newcomers: composer James Young, choreographer Alayna Baron, and scenic designer Reese Siedlecki.
Annex is also pleased to welcome an amazing cast of performers including: Caroline Preziosi (Dark World’s Destruction; Cleveland; Flatland), Kevin Griffin Moreno (Stupid Ghost), Jacob Zabawa (Dark World’s Destruction, 1-800-MICE, Shattering Frame), Katharine Vary (The Tempest) and Annex newcomers: Surasree Das, and Kerry Brady.
ABOUT ANNEX THEATER
Since 2008, the Annex Theater has produced over 50 plays, embarked on three national tours, held community workshops for performance and devising, and become the leader and go-to for experimental theater and interdisciplinary performance in Baltimore. Most importantly, the Annex has helped to create a thriving experimental performance culture in the city that extends beyond the traditional theatre space, constantly embarking into unknown creative territory where risk is everything and the strange is cherished.
Annex Theater is Baltimore’s Best Theater (Baltimore Magazine, 2016) and their “big, bold, and unendingly impressive” productions have received such accolades as: Best Company (2016, Baltimore City Paper), Top 5 Plays of the Year (2015, Baltimore Sun), Best Play (2014/2016, Baltimore City Paper), Top 10 Plays of the Year (Multiple Years, Baltimore City Paper), Best Use of Music (2014, Baltimore City Paper), Best Trend – DIY Theater (2009, Baltimore City Paper), Best Director (2010, Baltimore City Paper), Best Short Play (2015, Baltimore City Paper), among others!
2018 SEASON AT ANNEX
Written by Derek Carr
Directed by Evan Moritz
March 15 – April 8
Written and Directed by Carly J. Bales
Based on the life and work of Charlotte Salomon
May 24 – June 17
Directed by Roz Cauthen
A world-premiere performance work
Story by Eric T. Styles, Preston Andrew Patterson & Scott Patterson
Composer & Librettist Scott Patterson
Choreographer Preston Andrew Patterson
A Co-Production with Afro House