Press release

Interactive Performance Work Explores Environmental/Political/Personal Realities at UC Davis

UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dancepresents Body of Knowledge choreographed and directed by Karl Frost/Body Research Physical Theater. This interactive work explores how awareness and feeling live in our bodies, how knowledge of and debate on environmental and political issues exist alongside personal and private realities. It sits in the territory between somatic psychology, experimental theatre and human ecology with the audience participating in a behavioral experiment looking at human interaction.Body of Knowledge opens on Friday, Feb.18, and continues through Sunday, Feb. 27, at Vanderhoef Studio Theatre,Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

Body of Knowledge juxtaposes scientific knowledge with the emotions we feel in response to what we know, see and physically experience. Actors, dancers, performance artists and musicians from North America and Europe will engage with interlocking issues of how we process knowledge of the environmental and political realities that we live in, how our environment affects how we live, think and feel, and how feeling and thought manifest in the body.

Never attempting to be an answer, Body of Knowledge is an opportunity to question privacy, intimacy, access to information, global awareness, insular fixation, reality, fantasy, choice, responsibility, lack of control and the place of art in a world in crisis. Are all the threads of our lives known through our bodies? As a “post-dramatic” performance work, Body of Knowledge is an event that can be observed from many vantage points, both physically and philosophically.

The performance begins with a behavioral experiment designed to foster an atmosphere of creative curiosity and emotional exploration among audience and performers. As the experiment deconstructs, the audience chooses to either sit back and watch from a distance, or wander the stage with the performers exploring the relationship of their bodies, emotions and minds to each other and the environment in an immersive audio and video installation.

Choreographer/Director and graduating Master of Fine Arts candidate Karl Frost explains, “The performers help the audience in this exploration. Throughout rehearsals they have been learning and engaging in ways to ‘facilitate exploration’ bodily, emotionally and intellectually. Body of Knowledge blends this audience participation with an audio-visual installation to create an immersive environment for all participants. It is really a ‘happening’ involving elements of dance, theatre, music, soundscape and video, as well as conversation.”

Master of Fine Arts directing candidate John Zibell (video designer) and undergraduate student Sharmi Basu (sound designer) have been working closely with Frost to capture images and sounds for the project. Frost’s assignment for the designers was to “capture images of different kinds of landscapes in still-frame long takes.” Frost noted, “We will randomly choose different collages each evening, so each performance will have a different set of video-image triggers for memory and reflection on environmental context.”

The video will be projected over a set designed by Master of Fine Arts candidate Gian Scarabino that consists of a large open space divided by a series of curtains. The differentiations of space will be characterized as certain places using the video projection, evoking cities, towns, the wilderness and the rural. The performers will inhabit and wander through these different spaces contemplating the problems and relationships these places evoke; audience members will be invited to do the same with the possibility of encounters both ordinary and extraordinary. Frost clarifies that the level of participation is left up to the individual. “Each person determines where they are in the space… has their own experience engaging issues [at a] local, regional and global level.”

Adding to the production’s design are UC Davis graduate students Kelly Conard (lighting designer) and Maggie Chan (costume designer). Undergraduate dramatic arts major Laura Holland serves as stage manager. She comments, “This show is unique in that it is such a free-form piece. Similarly, my role changes depending on what Karl needs from me. When Karl suggested I participate in his prepared-audience workshop, I found the experience enlightening. I was more comfortable than I ever thought I’d be as a physical being interacting with others. I’m a shy and private person — I never would have participated in such a workshop if it wasn’t necessary for my job, but I’m so glad I did!”

Karl Frost is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in choreography at UC Davis as well as graduate level studies in ecology and anthropology.  He is the director of Body Research Physical Theater. His work varies between the purely kinesthetic and the psychological, between works for the stage and interactive performance works inviting audience members into greater degrees of agency in performance and life. Karl has been pursuing interdisciplinary performance work since the late 1980s and is recognized internationally as a leading teacher and innovator in the world of contact improvisation. Since 1997 Karl has directed the Dancing Wilderness Project, an ongoing laboratory into the interrelationships among wilderness experience, body-based creative process and how we choose to live our lives.

This production is rated PG-13.

What: Body of Knowledge: An interactive performance work exploring how awareness and feeling live in our bodies, how knowledge of and debate on environmental and political issues exist alongside personal and private realities. Rated PG-13.

Where: Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center, UC Davis

When: Friday-Saturday, Feb. 18-19, 8 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 24-26, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 20 & 27, 2 p.m.

Tickets: General: $17/19 Students/Seniors: $12/14

Special Youth Group Tickets: School and youth groups of 10 or more receive a special rate of $5 per ticket at the teacher or group leader’s request. Call the UC Davis Department of Theatre & Dance at 530.752.5863 to make arrangements for this discount.

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Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang

Cinema and Digital Media

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Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang

and Dance

Melody Chiang

Performance Studies

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Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang

UC Davis Arts