Art/Theater
1:05 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Torn Space Theater brings 'STOREHOUSE' to Silo City

Accolades and large crowds accompanied "Motion Picture," the site-specific piece produced for Silo City in 2013 by Torn Space Theater. Producers hope to replicate that success this weekend with "STOREHOUSE."

Writer/director Dan Shanahan adds boxing to the many elements utilized in his production of "STONEHOUSE."
Writer/director Dan Shanahan adds boxing to the many elements utilized in his production of "STONEHOUSE."
Credit Photo by Jay Moran/wbfo news

By deploying war reenactors, digital projectors, equestrian performers and a helicopter, "Motion Picture" earned rave reviews in 2013.

"I was astounded by it, to be honest. I didn't know what to expect," said Colin Dabkowski, Arts Critic for the Buffalo News.

"It was the most interesting thing I had seen because of the way they used the post-industrial space. I think that was the key element to it."

Writer/director Dan Shanahan will use the space at Silo City for STOREHOUSE (Friday through Sunday), though the elements deployed will be dramatically different. Boxing, for example, will play a prominent role in this weekend's production.

"So, the boxing will be used twofold," Shanahan explained.

"We're doing one VIP performance per night. That select audience gets access to the rooftop of the American Warehouse. You get this incredible, expansive view of the grain elevators and the waterways. And there will be a boxing match up there. The audience will be served a glass of white wine."

STOREHOUSE plans to feature more than 60 performers from the St. Joe's Athletic Department, Converge Dance and others. Artist Frank Napolski will conduct an installation performance. Lighting design will be provided again this year by Brian Milibrand.

"I've always been really fascinated by boxing and kind of how it looks and the ideas behind it. I thought for a piece that's trying to deal with these different stages of development that I wanted something that was completely physical, but also very contained," Shanahan explained during a meeting at KC's Fitness on Symphony Circle.

The basement room is scattered with assorted boxing equipment. Boxing classes are proving popular at KC's. Boxer Shawn McDonnell says classes are held each day, sometimes with as many 20 people attending. Athletes and non-athletes, men and women, all kinds, he says, are trying out boxing.

"You'll be in shape. It's definitely the most intense, aerobic sport/workout, you can do," McDonnell explained.

McDonnell is working with focus mitts, an intense timing exercise where one boxer punches while the other blocks  His partner is Pietro Muscato, who will be one of the boxers performing atop the American Warehouse during STOREHOUSE.

Shawn McConnell and Pietro Muscato train with focus mitts during a workout at KC's Fitness.
Shawn McConnell and Pietro Muscato train with focus mitts during a workout at KC's Fitness.
Credit Photo by Jay Moran/wbfo news

"From my mentor, Kevin Cunningham, I really began to appreciate the...art (of boxing)," said Muscato, who has been boxing for 17 years. "So, I just dedicated myself to learning."

While discussing boxing, McDonnell and Muscato give thoughtful answers. They talk about its "science" and the sport's "beauty." They do not meet the stereotype of the punch-drunk fighter.

"I'm excited for it. What excites me about it is the silos," Muscato said about his work this weekend in STOREHOUSE. "To bring our creation into it, it's a privilege."

It's part of the unexpected that has become expected at most productions involving Torn Space Theater.

"Admittedly, our work, when first being approached, can be complicated or outside of certain people's expectations of what performance and theater can be," Shanahan offered.

"However, what we do draw upon are archetypes and mythologies that I think are common to many people...That allows us to at one level (to) experiment with form and narrative structure, but we also provide the signposts through the archetypes and mythology that I think the wide-ranging audience can engage with. And also what we find with our site-specific performances is that we are able to reach out beyond a traditional niche audience of theater so people engage with the work from many different aspects whether it's through exploring a new site, whether it's the adventure of the event being around so many people witnessing a live event, so it reaches people on many different levels."