triste bien Engaging Despite
by CHANNING JOSEPH
Last weekend in
Fisher Hall, senior Antonia Alvarez presented her hour long Honors
Interdisciplinary Performance Project, triste bien, to the delight of much
of her audience.
Roughly meaning “Good Sadness,” the title of
the piece captured the essence of the performance, which consisted of
spoken and recorded poetry, live instrumental music and choreographed
movement pieces, all of which, by themselves, intended to evoke a mood of
The set included a blank, white wall, above
which hung a pane of glass, against which water pattered throughout the
performance. The lighting was dim and as the piece opened, Alvarez lay at
center stage on a collection of pillows, where she remained for nearly the
Alvarez suddenly awakened from a slumber and gasped for
air. This went on for so long that the audience might have wondered
whether Alvarez was just performing or having an asthmatic attack. The
uncertainty added to the ambiance of the work as she eventually caught her
breath and began to read selections of poetry, in a soft monotone out of a
book which hung from a rope around her neck.
The poetry was
excerpted from such works as Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen
and 27 Wagons Full of Cotton by Tennessee Williams, Loose Women, by Sandra
Cisneros and Bone Black by bell hooks. The slow, almost hypnotic manner
with which Alvarez read provoked a feeling of calm sleepiness and quiet
Interspersed between bouts of reading were periods
of silence where only the pattering of rain was heard. At other times, the
audience heard a recorded dialogue of a male and a female whispering
quietly to one another, adding to the sensation of tranquility, and
paralleling Alvarez, who remained alone.
At other times,
performers entered the space playing mordant tunes on flute and guitar.
With ropes around their arms or legs, they hauled small wooden platforms
carrying anything from sliced potatoes, to other performers to nine glass
bottles of cow’s blood behind them. They moved and interacted within the
space in a disturbingly torpid and deliberate way.
of the performance seemed never to resolve themselves into a coherent plot
structure, and their darkly surreal quality created the mood of being
inside a dream. Overall, the piece conjured a feeling of being hypnotized
into a quiet hallucination.
Alvarez stated in the performance’s program
that triste bien is “A series of numbers that has no end, no beginning… a
work in progress…a beginning of an understanding.” She continued to say,
presumably to the audience, “sit back. listen to the words, the rain, the
breath, the silence.”
Later, she re-emphasized the
performance’s lack of beginning or ending, and voiced that the goal of the
piece was simply to capture or to “create a moment” for her audience to
experience and ponder.
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