Making Art in 2017: Annie-B Parson on 17c

Name: Annie-B Parson

Company: Big Dance Theater

Show in 2017 Festival: 17c

Role in Show: Co-Creator, Co-Director, Choreographer

Past Festival shows: Plan B (2004)

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show. Where did the concept develop from? What are some questions you are tackling?

Annie-B Parson: This piece is primarily an interrogation and a rendering of the 17c diaries of Samuel Pepys, perhaps one of the most hyper-graphic, non-hierarchical chroniclers of the minutiae of each day. He wasn’t a writer in the sense that he analyzed or poeticized experience as he meditated on the world— no! He was more concerned with his clothes, his boils and his libido. These diaries are monumental records of dailyiness, which is close to my heart.


Photo by Ian Douglas.



FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year? Have you found yourself taking anything new into consideration?

Annie-B Parson: The world will always create a lens or frame in which to see your work, and since January 2017, I think we will all view our society, and thus our work, differently forever. In the past year, the piece has become more about Sam’s wife Bess, whose diary was burnt by him, and at the risk of sounding trite; the effort has been to find her voice. It was always there in dance, but it became important for me to hear her speak as well. We also drew a more pointed “out-ing” of Samuel Pepys as a sexual predator. The complexity of his character did not suffer in any way by clarifying this behavior.

FringeArtsTell us about an instance from 2017 where your interaction with art—either as creator or audience—provided some much needed solace or refuge from outside troubles.



Photo by Jeff Larson.



Annie-B Parson: I felt this more during 9/11 to be sure. At that time, the word solace came up over and over again in my mind. I would notice a beautiful attention to generating material that year, as if theater were a refuge and perhaps held a sense of hope. However these six months, mostly I have seen work pushing to suddenly be political, almost agitprop, without that particular skill. The only artists who I have seen this year who were primed to make this kind of work was DanceNoise. And yes, the laughter their work elicits felt so good. But really there is no solace for what we are experiencing now.

For me as a creator, when in January 2017, I was looking for source material for a new work for a piece to be danced by older dancers in London, I gravitated toward the Theater of the Absurd immediately. That sound felt just right for what the world feels like now. The word ABSURD echoed in my head repeatedly and drew me straight to Ionesco.