Last Meadow (2009)

“I would like to write about nicer things or fiction but we shouldn’t avoid reality should we? The things I have just written are the truth. They are very hard to write about. I am lonely. Forgive me. I am lonely.”
-James Dean, 1953

Last Meadow is an evening-length trio using original choreography and writing mixed with movement, characters and text from James Dean’s three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Michelle Boulé plays James Dean, Tarek Halaby plays a composite of the female characters from the films, and Miguel Gutierrez plays a composite of the “third heel” characters, echoing the films’ love triangles. The figure of James Dean stands in for the collapse of two mythical strongholds: America and the family unit, as all of the films deal with the idea of America in boom or decline and the challenges of family dynamics, particularly father/son relationships. The aggressive layering of text and movement work with or conflict with the sound score, created by Neal Medlyn, and the lighting design, created by Lenore Doxsee, to creates states of transformative, sensory-enlivened confusion. The material from the movies is abstracted to construct an intricate choreography of incoherence, where meaning aggregates from the accumulation of and association between seemingly unrelated scenes. Hallucinatory passages give way to frenzy, duration, and the decay that emerges from continual, undisguised effort. The title of the piece comes a term used in agriculture to describe the farthest part of the farm that receives the least amount of irrigation water. Consequently, in neurology this term is used to describe a kind of stroke where the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygenated blood due to a weakened heart. Last Meadow suggests that we are living in a time of disintegration and regeneration, where communication, nationhood and heroes never live up to our expectations. All of the creative collaborators involved in Last Meadow received a 2009 New York Dance and Performance Award – Bessie – for the piece, and performer Michelle Boulé received a Bessie for her performance as James Dean.

Created by Miguel Gutierrez in collaboration with the performers,
with assistance from Alex Anfanger and Neal Medlyn
Performed by: Michelle Boulé, Miguel Gutierrez, and Tarek Halaby
Sound Design: Neal Medlyn
Lighting Design by: Lenore Doxsee
Costume Styling by: David Tabbert
Technical Director: Mike Inwood

music sources: Lucas Reginald Grant – Physical Attraction; Madonna, Joe Henry and Stuart Price – Jump (Jacques Le Cont Edit); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Requiem (Marie McLaughlin/Maria Ewing/Jerry Hadley/Cornelius Hauptmann/Leonard Bernstein, Bavarian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra); Leonard Rosenman, score for East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause; Dimitri Tiomkin, score for Giant
text sources: Miguel Gutierrez and East of Eden: Paul Osborn (sreenplay) adapted from John Steinbeck; Rebel Without a Cause: Stewart Stern (screenplay), Irving Shulman (adaptation) from a story by Nicholas Ray; Giant: Ivan Moffett (screenplay) adapted from Edna Ferber
Duration: 90 Minutes

Last Meadow is commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop’s Commissioning and Creative Residency Program with support from The Jerome Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal Agency, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Jerome Robbins Foundation and commissioning support from the New York State Council on the Arts Dance Program. Last Meadow is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop in partnership with Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts and NPN. Major contributors of NPN are the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, MetLife Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information: Last Meadow is a project of Creative Capital, which currently receives support from the Andy Warhol Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The TOBY Fund, The James Irvine Foundation, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, and other individual and institutional donors. Additional support for Last Meadow has been provided by The Jerome Foundation, The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, Lambent Fellowship, a project of Tides Foundation, New York, the Josephine Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Choreography and the generous support of individual donors. Last Meadow was developed in the following residencies: Workspace at Abrons Art Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center and Hollins University, Texas Woman’s University.

background and performance photos by Ian Douglas