Posts Tagged ‘EN-KNAP Group’

Pursuit of Happiness

Posted September 20th, 2019
DescriptionContextual ProgrammingAbout the ArtistsInterviewFurther ReadingVideo

September 20 + 21, 2019

A Mexican bar man. An Austrian sales rep. A trip to Baghdad. A modern-day magic potion. Unsettlingly uplifting cowboy dances. Creators Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper of Nature Theater of Oklahoma (named after the theater in Kafka’s novel Amerika) and internationally renowned Slovenian dance troupe EN-KNAP Group follow the American Dream from a Wild West saloon to the battlefields of Iraq.

Part barn dance, part movie pitch, part comedy of manners, Pursuit of Happiness plays with language, movement, setting, and genre through an endlessly morphing folk tale of ultra-violent Western expansion, taking on the myth and legacy of the American Dream and its aspirational aftermath.

All performances have open captioning.


“Trump and Chekhov joined together in a bizarre fusion of thriller and comedy.” TheaterKrant (Netherlands)

“There’s a lot of despair about what it means to be an American and an artist who desperately wants to make a difference and wishes they could change the world, but is so flawed a human being that they just make a mess of their biggest dreams.” Kelly Copper, Nature Theater of Oklahoma

$39 general
$15 students/25-and-under
$2 FringeACCESS
Member discounts available

100 minutes

Concept, text and direction Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper Performed by EN-KNAP Group: Bence Mezei (Hungary), Ida Hellsten (Sweden), Ana Štefanec Knez (Slovenia), Tamás Tuza (Hungary), Giorgia Belotti (Italy), Radoslav Piovarči (Slovakia)  EN-KNAP Artistic Director Iztok Kovač Rehearsal Director Nohemi Barriuso Light Design Luka Curk Costume design Katarina Škaper (Costumes by: Atelje d.o.o.) Technical Team Leon Curk, Gal Škrjanec Skaberne, and Špela Škulj Executive Producer Karmen Keržar Public Relations and editing Nina Smerkol Production Manager Marjeta Lavrič Originally created and performed by Luke Thomas Dunne (Great Britain); Ida Hellsten (Sweden); Bence Mezei (Hungary); Ana Štefanec Knez (Slovenia); Jeffrey Schoenaers (Belgium); Lada Petrovski Ternovšek (Croatia)

Production EN-KNAP Productions

Coproduction Théâtre de la Ville, steirischer herbst

Supported by City of Ljubljana – Department of Culture and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.

Photos and video by Andrej Lamut

Festival Executive Producers Andy & Bryna Scott Festival Producers Robert M. Dever; Edward & Anne Wagner Festival Co-Producer Christie Hartwell

Contextual Programming

Sept 21 at 4pm at the Fringe Festival Bookstore at Cherry Street Pier
Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper (Nature Theater of Oklahoma), Iztok Kovač (EN-KNAP Group), Cathryn Miller-Wilson (HIAS PA) and Yaroub Al-Obaidi (Penn Museum Global Guide, moderated by Tenara Calem (FringeArts).

Happy Hour on the Fringe

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, we chatted with Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper about their latest Fringe Festival offering, Pursuit of Happiness. Liska and Copper discuss how reality TV and the current state of American politics have influenced this part-dance, part Western movie, and part comedy of manners. Listen below or read the transcript on the FringeArts Blog.

About Nature Theater of Oklahoma

“Personnel is being hired for the Theater in Oklahoma! The Great Nature Theater of Oklahoma is calling you! It’s calling you today only! If you miss this opportunity, there will never be another! Anyone thinking of his future, your place is with us! All welcome! Anyone who wants to be an artist, step forward! We are the theatre that has a place for everyone, everyone in his place! If you decide to join us, we congratulate you here and now! But hurry, be sure not to miss the midnight deadline! We shut down at midnight, never to reopen! Accursed be anyone who doesn’t believe us!”
—Franz Kafka, Amerika

Nature Theater of Oklahoma is an OBIE-winning New York art and performance enterprise under the direction of Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper. With each new project, we attempt to set an impossible challenge for ourselves, the audience, and our collaborators—working from inside the codes and confines of established genres and exploding them. No two projects are formally the same, but the work is always full of humor, earnestness, rigor, and the audience plays an essential role—whether as spectators or—just as often—as participants in the work. Using ready-made material, found space, gifted properties, cosmic accident, extreme formal manipulation and plain hard work—Nature Theater of Oklahoma makes art to affect a shift in the perception of everyday reality that extends beyond the site of performance and into the world in which we live.

About EN-KNAP Group

EN-KNAP Group, led by its founder, the internationally renowned choreographer and dancer Iztok Kovač, is the only permanent contemporary dance company in Slovenia. Since 2009, this ensemble of remarkable dancers has been based at the Španski Borci Cultural Centre in the Moste neighbourhood of Ljubljana.

Since its establishment ten years ago, EN-KNAP Group has worked with over 30 Slovene and international choreographers and theater directors of aesthetically diverse backgrounds, and created a repertoire of 26 full-evening stage works and a dance film. In addition to making over 50 domestic appearances per year, the company regularly tours internationally.

Read our interview with EN-KNAP dancer Bence Mezei on the FringeArts Blog.

Interview with Kelly Copper of Nature Theater of Oklahoma

FringeArts: What themes and ideas did you talk about during creation and rehearsals?

Kelly Copper: We don’t really talk about ideas so much during rehearsals. We play. Hard. We test things out, we work with what’s available to us, we try to stay open in the process, not shut it down with ideas of where we want things to go too soon. If you start out knowing exactly where you want to go it’s pretty boring and ultimately predictable. We generally take longer to develop something, but we have a good time doing it.

For example the saloon came up during rehearsals because there was a ballet “barre” in the studio where we worked and we just started using it as a bar. Then the performers were getting too good at speaking the text, and we wanted to challenge them further so we asked them to speak in a southern accent and chew tobacco… in the end it all comes together to form something, and of course you’re thinking all the time—but this is subterranean. Surprising and hopefully inevitable.

FringeArts: What were those subterranean thoughts?

Kelly Copper: Obviously we took our work―and also our fun―very seriously, so I don’t want imply the show is just a hilarious yuck fest, because it’s not. There’s a lot of despair about what it means to be an American and an artist who desperately wants to make a difference and wishes they could change the world, but is so flawed a human being that they just make a mess of their biggest dreams. That’s not idle metaphor for us. It wasn’t like we came in with “this is the idea”―we remained open and playful but also open to some serious thinking and fully engaged with the world around us, the people we were working with, the country we are living in … and also the life we were living at the time and our own personal failures.

FringeArts: How did the settings and performance style contribute to exploring the themes and ideas?

Kelly Copper: We don’t set out in advance and decide “well, let’s dress them as cowboys and have them chew tobacco and set this thing in a bar and that will highlight these themes and ideas.” It’s more a playful exploration of circumstance and opportunity. It’s about what’s in the room. You just keep tossing things up in the air—one day Luke, one of the dancers, brought in a bunch of cowboy hats he had purchased at a costume shop—and then at a certain point it all starts to line up.

It’s also about what’s in the world outside the rehearsal room. In our case the making of this piece fatefully sort of lined up with the election of Donald Trump, another kind of American myth and monster… you cannot even imagine these things sometimes when you start working.

Excerpt. Read the full interview on the FringArts Blog.

Further Reading

Can Art Change the World? With Song, Dance and Cowboy Clichés Two Shows Offer Different Answers by Molly Grogan in Exeunt

Pursuit of Happiness is the very loaded title and premise of the newest show from Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper, the hyper-creative team behind Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and performed by the Slovenian dance troupe En-Knap. Loaded because Liska and Copper never take anything for granted (as evidenced by their dizzying epic of spoken-word banality, Life and Times); they have a mordant sense of humor (the clipped phrase of the show’s title is a sardonic poke at their collaborators’ stilted English, mined throughout the show for humor); and because they don’t keep their opinions to themselves. We know “the pursuit of happiness” as one of three “unalienable rights” enshrined by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence. But what is happiness, exactly, Liska and Copper want to know, an exercise that, in a country that is starting to deny basic rights to its citizens, has become a political question too. They hint at a few answers, before making it clear, with unflattering frankness, that it is definitely not how your average (narcissistic) American would define it.

Read the full article


From Central Europe to the Wild West: Interview with Bence Mezei

Posted September 16th, 2019

In a previous interview, FringeArts talked to Kelly Copper of Nature Theater of Oklahoma about Pursuit of Happiness, a work of dance-theater created in collaboration with the Slovenian dance troupe EN-KNAP Group. This piece will be performed in Philadelphia on September 20 and 21 for the 2019 Fringe Festival.

Here we talk to Bence Mezei—one of the dancers of EN-KNAP Group—who discussed his perspective on the project.

Bence Mezei en-knap group headshot

Bence Mezei

FringeArts: How did this project and collaboration come about?

Bence Mezei: As far as I know, Kelly and Pavol met Iztok [Kovač, artistic director of EN-KNAP] in some party somewhere some years ago where he invited them to work with his company. I remember that we had a sort of short audition talk with them in Ljubljana where Pavol gave all of us a piece of paper with their address on asking if we would write to him and become pen-pals. So from then on we began to correspond with each other via handwritten letters which we kept on doing throughout the entire process and even after.

The second time we met they came to have a two week workshop with us and brought a book which was a collection of cowboy dances describing in detail how to dance those dances and so we made a very long choreography using that book. During that process we also began to practice working with language.

After that there was a quite long break, can’t say exactly how long, but long, and so we took the initiative and began to organize evenings for ourselves outside of work, calling it ‘speech nights’, where we would all pick a monologue or some fragment from a play or film, memorise it and perform it to each other for fun and further practice. At times, also, we would  meet up and read to each other out loud to strengthen our voices.

Then the next time we met, a couple of weeks before that, we received a mailing with a script, called Pursuit of Happiness, and when they came we began to work on a theater play. That was again a two or three week long process, and I remember we had an open rehearsal at the end which took about four hours.

Then again there was a break, and when the third time we met in Ljubljana, that was the last period of the process, about four weeks, in which the show got a heavy cut and took its final shape. This took about two years altogether.

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Following the American Dream: Kelly Copper on Pursuit of Happiness

Posted August 19th, 2019

What is happiness, and to what ends will we pursue it? Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska, co-directers of the OBIE-winning Nature Theater of Oklahoma, explore this question in Pursuit of Happiness, a work of dance-theater made in collaboration with Slovenia-based dance troupe EN-KNAP Group. The dancers follow the American dream from the American West to the Middle East, along the way bending and challenging genres and perceptions of reality. This piece comes to Philadelphia on September 20 and 21 for the 2019 Fringe Festival. FringeArts talked to Kelly Copper in May 2019 about the creation of and ideas behind this wild, wild work.

Kelly Copper. © Nature Theater of Oklahoma

FringeArts: What inspired this piece?

Kelly Copper: We don’t typically work from inspiration—but from opportunity. We had had an invitation before from EnKnap in Ljubljana to come and work with their dancers on a project, but at the time we were at work on Life and Times, and struggling with the impossible task of keeping our own company going and that project moving forward. We couldn’t take a time out. Thankfully Iztok Kovac, the company’s director, did not give up. And he finally did hit us at the perfect time. We had finished Life and Times, had no company of actors of our own and were at a moment of personally questioning whether we were interested anymore in making theater—where the pleasure was exactly, in our work and in our life—where was the greater purpose—and whether were we kidding ourselves that there could be a utopian vision for all that. We were disillusioned and broken a bit when we met the dancers of EnKnap, and the process of making this piece was a process of remaking and reimagining ourselves and our work.

Up until this project we had been working with recorded phone conversations as text. Though Pavol and I started as playwrights, we felt we had to disable ourselves in order to discover anything new, so we worked with “found” materials, audio recordings, etc. This piece was part of a process of rediscovering language, finding pleasure in writing again. And also, for the dancers—none of whom had spoken on stage before—a discovery of the voice and its physicality and its relationship to audience.

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2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Accessibility

Posted August 15th, 2019

FringeArts is committed to being of Philadelphia, for Philadelphia. As an artistic and cultural institution in this city, we take seriously our responsibility to be accessible to every Philadelphian, at every entryway. From our ticket-buying process to arriving at an event, the performances themselves to our post-show experiences, we are working hard to continuously improve our accessibility and that of our participating Fringe Festival artists and venues. These 2019 Fringe Festival accessible shows are opening up performing arts to a larger audience by offering various services.

Look out for accessibility icons in the Fringe Festival guide show and on show webpages for more listings. For information on wheelchair accessibility, select the “wheelchair accessible” category (under features) on the shows page.

Kanez Schaal and Christopher Myers
Five young people from around the world map their histories, their memories, and their futures. Combining simple storytelling and interactive video technology, this is theater for our times, theater for all ages, theater at its most relevant.
Relaxed Performance on September 15
More information and tickets

Gay Mis
Eric Jaffe
If you like Les Misérables, you’ll LOVE Gay Mis! Join us for a queer, drag queen–infused parody of everyone’s favorite musical! Join Parmesan, Jabear, Fontina, Epanini and the whole gang as they go on a journey through time, space, and cheese. Visit theericjaffe.com for more information.
ASL interpretation on September 8 (at 7pm)
More information and tickets

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