Sometimes getting older really does mean getting better. Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe, an independent group dedicated to exploring the many possibilities and permutations of performance, is celebrating an unlikely 20 years of inspiration, originality, and relative obscurity. They are commemorating their second decade with Ephemera II: You Can’t Do That Again, a dandy deconstruction of a play that doesn’t exist. As the title implies, the troupe’s bizarre anniversary show focuses on the mysterious “here today, gone tomorrow” nature of live performance.
It explores the meanings of “character,” the relationship between “character” and “actor,” and ultimately bridges the divide between performer and spectator. If this sounds terribly academic, well it is. It is also a little rough around the edges but still very funny, even more so if you follow local theater.
If any of the above words seem familiar to you, then you must be a longtime reader. I used practically the same lead 10 years ago when writing about the original Ephemera, which is extremely similar but not quite the same as the new version. Like the original, it’s an occasionally caustic clown show that moves backward in time, employing song, dance, and theater games to comment on song, dance, and theater. Children play easily recognizable authority figures from the local theater community such as Playhouse on the Square founder Jackie Nichols and retired U of M theater professor Josie Helming. There are even references to a cold-blooded theater critic named Sivad.
Our Own Voice’s work is steeped in mental-health advocacy, but, as Bill Baker, the experimental company’s founding director explained before Saturday night’s performance, the group has expanded its mission to help anyone find their unique voice as an artist in a confusing, hyper-mediated world. — Chris Davis