— the artistic collaboration of Jenna Kirk and Jeremy Goren — grew out of necessity as an umbrella for the devised work Wistaria initiated and directed by Jeremy — which had grown out of his previous creation, You Will Make a Difference (performed at West-Park Presbyterian Church, created via the AliveWire A/M/P Residency and LEIMAY Fellowship). Our working together began out of five years in Terra Incognita Theatre, under the tutelage and in collaboration with veteran director/teacher Polina Klimovitskaya and a deep work in her Kinetic Mind Practice. (In total, Jeremy spent more than a decade as Polina’s assistant as well as performer and managing director of the company.) The collaboration includes our work leading the NYC Seed Group, a shared endeavor Jeremy began in 2013 with the Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, the legendary director’s final company. Seed Group comprises a facet of the Open Choir Movement, which also includes the Open Choir, One Day: A Festival, Public Conversations, and the presentation of performances like Will Be Heard — as well as long-term work on traditional song, primarily of African-American traditions, as a tool for building both ephemeral and long-term community, including with communities with living traditions in the Bronx. As Wistaria Project we also taught a four-day workshop for actors in Havana, Cuba, in 2017 and did a four-day work exchange with XOXO performance collective in Charlotte, NC.
Together, we work from a shared desire to create performances/events that are alive and disruptive (even while looking to the past), that are not story-based, that aim to rankle accepted ideas, that have moments of beauty — and that bring performers and spectators to try to do something together — with an eye towards nothing less than justice and equity and the mysteries of human existence.
We often work through collisions of: performance/social encounter, ancient forms/contemporary society, virtuosity/failure, aliveness/mechanicity, and the extratheatrical/the banal — through experiments with immersiveness, disruption, the audience-spectator relationship, societal norms, economic conventions, intertextuality, interactions of digital and traditional technologies, and a rigorous exploration of the craft of the actor.
Experiments with various folk and religious practices, song, structures and dynamics in You Will Make A Difference and Wistaria will now stretch further into the questions of the previous pieces — including the work of the Seed Group in the creation of both ephemeral and long-last community bonds through traditional song and moving in the seams between cultures, practices, and performer/spectator relationships — leaning into creating more-radical performative interrogations of our current society. And to explore further how to do this without creating propaganda but rather art that reaches beyond the superficiality of politics and social activism into the expansiveness, depth, and mystery of human life. An art that is not moralizing but rather transformative.
Looked at another way, having worked deeply for years with youth and older populations across societal divisions and demographics — and having created and produced a myriad of performances and other kinds of events — we want to extend the confrontation with U.S. mythologies and society of our previous work into a more intersectional, communally creative real — and ask again, now in such a widely fraught moment in U.S. society and worldwide: How are we here? What have we wrought? What can we do together now?
Of 2012’s You Will Make A Difference:
“[An] unconventional, refreshing theatrical experience…. an art happening in which one enters into a brave, passionate, stimulating world that forces the viewer to contemplate who they are in relation to others.” –NYTheatre.com
Conceived and Directed by Jeremy Goren.
Created by: Stephanie Eiss, Jeremy Goren, Jenna Kirk, Tommy Schell.
Other artists who have performed in Wistaria: Derek Spaldo, Rishika Mehrishi, Casey Lange, Kyra Sims, Lemur Onkyokei, Angeli, Alexandra Zajaczkowski, Laura Bernas, Richard Sheinmel.
Wistaria was begun in during the 2013-2014 LEIMAY Fellowship, CAVE, Brooklyn, NY, and through the generosity of Terra Incognita Theater.