Director Paul Lazar will perform a free one-man show in Ketchum on Monday like none you’ve ever seen. It will also be new to Lazar, whose choreographed “Cage Shuffle” is based on the writings and philosophy of the late avant-garde composer John Cage.
The 50-minute spoken-word show is choreographed by Annie-B Parson, Lazar’s wife and long-time collaborator at Big Dance Theater in New York City, a company known for experimental works that combine dance, drama and literature. “Cage Shuffle” has toured around the U.S. and in Europe and is produced locally by The Community Library and Sawtooth Productions, led by Jon Kane.
The event will be from 6-7 p.m. outside on the lawn at The Community Library. People are invited to bring blankets, low-back chairs, snacks and beverages to enjoy the performance.
“This may be one of the most unique presentations the library has ever been a part of,” said Martha Williams, programs and education manager at The Community Library. “Paul Lazar’s performance is hilarious, smart and oddly enlightening. Even for those not familiar with John Cage’s work, it will be a delight to experience.”
Cage was a pioneer of experimental music, steeped in Zen Buddhism and eager to push the boundaries of composition, performance and audience expectations. His 1952 composition “4’33”” is performed in the absence of scored sound at all. The musicians’ presence is punctuated by the noise of whatever else happens in the surrounding environment.
When the Express caught up with Lazar on Zoom, birdsongs could be heard clearly on the line as he described his homage to Cage, beginning with the composer’s principle of “indeterminacy,” which leaves up to chance or interpretation some aspects of a musical work—what Cage defined as “the ability of a piece to be performed in substantially different ways.”
Lazar and Parson, who choreographed David Byrne’s Broadway show and film “American Utopia,” patched together snippets of dance choreography from 20 years of collaboration with a randomized or “shuffled” mix of Cage’s one-minute monologues from his 1963 score “Indeterminacy.” The whimsical and philosophical spoken tracks are heard and performed by Lazar in a random order with no predetermined relationship to the dancing, creating an unexpected and entertaining juxtaposition of words and movement.
“There are times when the movement enhances the text, and when the text enhances the movements,” Lazar said. “The connection can be uncanny. There are also periods of time when there is no connection at all, just two simultaneous actions occurring in the world independent of one another, which is what happens all the time in reality.”
Lazar said Cage was a “playful philosopher” who always worked within similar formal restraints yet produced seemingly random results. But don’t call it improv.
“He worked with restraints and strictures, as did Jackson Pollock, yet it can look random,” Lazar said. “There is a background structure to it. And yet he was aware that everything is always happening at once. I call his work ‘profound realism.’ It’s about reality, not just art.”
In a 1957 lecture about experimental music, Cage described music as a “purposeless play” that is “an affirmation of life—not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.”
Lazar and Kane will team up after this month for a more traditional theater production when Sawtooth Productions and Laughing Stock Theater, Field Daze Summer Events and The Argyros present a workshop production of a new play from Idaho playwright and MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner Samuel D. Hunter, “A Case For the Existence of God,” which is set in Twin Falls.
For more info on that production, go to sawtoothproductionsllc.com, and check future issues of the Idaho Mountain Express.