IU alumna uses theater to depict life as baby boomer
Improvisational show plays Friday and Saturday night
Diane Kondrat would not tell you to walk, jog, skip or hop to see a performance and show by Nell Weatherwax. Instead, she recommends you run.
"If someone has never seen one of her performances, my advice is to run to see it because Weatherwax's artistic quality is top of the line," said Kondrat, a longtime friend of Weatherwax.
The opportunity to see a show of Weatherwax's is at a prime, as she will perform at a fundraiser for the Bloomington Playwrights Project at 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors. No reservation is required.
Her show "Boomer" is an improvised autobiographical movement theater performance.
"I combine movement, sound and words to bring to life experiences from my past and present as one of the last baby boomers," Weatherwax said. "Each performance has had strong elements of humor, pathos and personal story that are carried by my extremely physical, expressive style of delivery."
Weatherwax, who has done solo impromptu theater since 2003, said she hopes people come away from her shows feeling completely blown away by the fact that she's improvising every second on stage.
"Everything I say is true," she said. "I am 100 percent committed to each and every moment of each and every expression on the stage."
Kondrat toured the state with Weatherwax, using theater to educate students and prisoners about HIV/AIDS. While on the tour, she watched the audience watch Weatherwax.
"Nell has a way of using specific details from her life and associating them in unexpected ways," Kondrat said. "I've heard her literally make audiences gasp with surprise and recognition."
Weatherwax's show this weekend will help raise funds for the Bloomington Playwrights Project, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to furthering original plays and theater.
"The BPP represents to me one of the great cultural resources in the U.S.," Weatherwax said. "Theater is one of the last havens for unfettered free speech."
Weatherwax, who said she did a great deal of work in her early 20s at the playwright's project, is very grateful for all the performance opportunities it gave her.
The first improv show she did with the groups was in the fall of 2003.
"It was (set in) a dark alley, and it was both the most terrified I have ever been and then the most fun I have ever had on stage in my life," Weatherwax said.
Having fallen in love with theater while performing in high school plays, Weatherwax said she later fell in love with physical theater and mime in the 80s when she saw the Boulder Mime Theater.
A 1988 IU graduate , Weatherwax created her own major in Movement Theater through the Individualized Major Program.
"I needed to be able to study physical theater and keep performing, and IU didn't offer a major in mime," she said.
What Weatherwax said she likes most about performing is working in a setting in which she has total reign over the experience of imagination and memory.
"In my improvised show, I can be as totally expressive as my heart desires," Weatherwax said. "Early on, I learned to be very, very intense and stay connected to the audience. We go on a ride together into my specific stories."
That is exactly what Weatherwax said she plans to do this weekend with her show "Boomer".
Weatherwax themed the show "Boomer" because while in a locker room at a gym, she thought she heard a woman ask her to do her a favor. Replying with, "Sure, what do you need?" she then realized as the woman turned around that she had been talking on her cell phone and not to Weatherwax.
"I realized I had a Baby Boomer moment a la 'dork-style,' so I thought it would be fun to call the show 'Boomer' in honor of the side of me that is one of the last baby boomers," she said.
Kondrat said if audiences members take away one thing from Weatherwax's performances, it is "a sense of the integration between suffering, growth and humor."
"She works through paradox," Kondrat said. "Things seem not to match, but then, as if by magic, she creates complete sense out of them."
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