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Grace Lacques: 6 Theater Performances That Took My Breath Away

Grace Lacques: 6 Theater Performances That Took My Breath Away

Armory Teaching Artist Grace Lacques is our resident theatrical expert. Grace began her theater studies in France, studying master Etienne Decroux's corporal mime techniques. She has taught children's drama classes at the Armory for more than 20 years. We asked "Miss Grace" to share her favorite live theater experiences from an audience member's perspective. What she gave us was 6 extraordinary performances. Running the gamut from apartheid-era ensembles from Johannesburg to Butoh masters from Japan, we hope Grace's list will take your breath away, too.

Banner image courtesy of Sankai Juku.

by the Market Theater at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (1985-86 Season)

"When I saw the production Asinamali in San Francisco in the 1980’s, the anti-apartheid movement was at its height; all eyes were on South Africa. This theater of struggle ensemble from Johannesburg, (using very little in the way of setting, props and costumes), combined song, movement, rhythm, story, spirit, history and culture. This ensemble brought me to tears, induced belly laughs and taught me deep lessons about exposing and mounting social justice issues in live theater. I am forever grateful to these courageous artists for their creative vision."


La Negra Esther
by Teatro del Gran Circo, Los Angeles Festival (1990)

"La Negra Esther, written by Roberto Parra Sandoval, is a tragicomic love story set in a port city brothel. In this Chilean production, a band of musicians plays popular songs onstage, including huachaca-style jazz and cuecas choras, and the cast of actors dance and sing on stage. This work was considered to be the “soul and spirit of the lower classes.” I reverted back to a delighted child as I watched this lively and touching play that challenged the ideas of gender norms and roles—all played out on the Santa Monica Pier as part of the 1990 Los Angeles Festival, produced by Peter Sellars. It fueled my lifelong love of street theater. "


Memories Before History
by Sankai Juku, UCLA Live (2015)

"I had the honor of seeing these Japanese Butoh masters. This post-Hiroshima movement theater group balances grief, sorrow and hope in ways that took my breath away. This was a sublime, meditative, and hypnotic—a performance that transports you to another dimension. And, when it is over, you ask yourself 'when can I return and how long can I remain there?' The synchronicity, timing, communication and projection of feeling combine to regenerate all the way to our very cells. Pure poetry in motion. I found my face bathed in tears more than a few times, yet I was unaware that I was crying."


Chronicles, A Lamentation
by Song of the Goat Theater Company, UCLA Live (2005)

"Sometimes theater is so uplifting that it transforms into the spiritual. This group of performers hails from the renowned theater school of Polish master Jerzy Grotowski. The training that goes into these performances is so profound and evident in every movement, every song, every collective sigh that we end up sharing with the actors. Song of the Goat training includes investigation and experimentation of the ancient voice, particularly the female voice, hailing from lamentations and chants. There is a palpable danger here as the actors risk going into the unknown and bringing us with them. I had the honor of taking workshops with this group and I strive to carry with me their advice and techniques."


Servant of Two Masters
by Piccolo Teatro di Milano, UCLA Live (2005)

"Ferruccio Soleri only recently retired the character Arlecchino (Harlequin) that he had interpreted since 1959. When I watched him perform (with this stellar company from Milan) he was well into his late seventies, and I could not take my eyes off of him. The performance seemed so fresh, so spontaneous and he moved like a thirty year old, slipping, sliding, doing cartwheels and interpreting this centuries old clown with a gleeful friskiness and joy. The Piccolo Teatro di Milano offered us a three hour performance displaying the ancient Roman slapstick clowning techniques that have trickled down to so many of our contemporary actors and clowns. Bravo Ferruccio! My gratitude at your choice of vocation overflows. "


San Francisco Mime Troupe (est. 1959)
"Influenced by popular theater forms, this anti-corporate, physical theater troupe has been around for decades and all of their original plays are presented to the public for FREE. I attended several Mime Troupe performances in parks and small theaters in San Francisco. This group, with both their manic physical energy and tender, touching scenes, continue to educate large crowds while entertaining. Their poignant music and sharp writing never ceased to surprise or inspire me. This is theater for the people! Full disclosure: my brother-in-law Joaquin Aranda was an excellent actor in this troupe for years."

This video begins with a theatrical portrayal of police brutality. Viewer discretion is advised.


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