Imagine this: you’re taken to another place, and before your mind and your thoughts have a chance to get in the way, for just a moment, what you know is staged, you decide is real. This is what Liz Lerman does in her latest work Healing Wars which premiered at Peak Performances (September 25-27). The 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Lerman asks, "What lingers in the wounds of the body, and how do our minds accommodate what has happned?” From the start, when the sign at the entrance to the theatre directed the audience backstage in small groups, we are immersed into her world. We negotiate our way through small, dimly-lit rooms and experience Civil War nurse Clara Barton sifting through letters, a pensive young man shifting around his lone bed, as he prepares to leave for the war, and get really close to some intricate burial details of those lost in the war. This museum was only the beginning. We are then led across the stage to our seats, but not before eavesdropping on a conversation by a "doctor" and an injured soldier about how he copes with his prosthetic leg. Once seated and not "inside" the museum anymore, Lerman and cast help us to recall a history that we learn is still tangible. Shifting roles, the performers deliver words and movement that underscore the fact that this was a devastating time. Drums would introduce the "Spirit" (Samantha Spies) whose cry begun with "My office is the battlefield...it got very busy…" referring to the many dead bodies she tended to. Ted Johnson quietly sings the Civil War song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again," we learn about the plight of surgeons (played by Michael Scott) on whether not they should use anesthesia to help soldiers, and Tamara Hurwitz Pullman as Barton recalls the discomfort of going home to a soft bed after caring for the wounded. The ensemble dances a dance of struggle, falling and pushing to the floor, and in the end they help shed new light on this very dark topic. Healing Wars is co-choreographed by Lerman and Keith A. Thompson in collaboration with the performers which also includes Meghan Frederick, George Hirsch and Paul Hurley. The original text is co-written by Lerman and Bill Pullman.
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I am a performer, historian, consultant and dance writer. I am a faculty member at Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College (Guest), Empire State College's online program Center for Distance Learning. I am also a former faculty member of The Ailey School and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University dance major program, Kean University and The Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. I write on dance for The Amsterdam News, Dance Magazine and various publications. Click below to read more about me at my home page - "About Me."