Greenwood artists to show darkness and decay in opening show

by | Nov 13, 2010

Greenwood artists Keely Isaak Meehan, Mike McCracken and Leo Mayberry of performance company Manifold Motion will present their latest interdisciplinary performance “Under” at Inscape in the International District on Nov. 12-28.

“We were playing with inspiration from things that happen on the fungal or undergrowth level — mushrooms, moss, lichens and fungal infections — the intersecting patterns of life forms,” Technical Director McCracken said at his home in Greenwood with wife Meehan.

On their homepage, Manifold Motion describes the show: “Descend into a dark and beguiling re-imagination of natural growth, decay, disease and perseverance.”


Dancers Emily German, Alexandra Baybutt and Bridgett Gunning during rehearsals on the uniquely organic set. Baybutt, temporarily living in Greenwood with Meehan and McCracken, came all the way from London to participate in “Under.”

“Our major goal was to create an otherworldly experience for those coming to the show — with some seeing it as beautiful and others grotesque,” said Meehan, company founder and artistic director. “I wanted to do it in a way that used many different art forms.”

The group’s objective is to tell fascinating stories using multiple art forms: contemporary dance, live video, original costuming, original music and “computerized robotic art.”

Primarily financed by private donations and ticket sales, Meehan said her company receives grant funding from the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and 4Culture that generates revenue from King County’s hotel-motel tax.

Manifold Motion is also an associated program with Shunpike, a partnering organization that helps artists distribute their work.

Meehan – a dancer, choreographer and certified movement analyst — started the group more than five years ago.

“I wanted to form a vehicle for creating the kind of work artists of any discipline could come together as a group to create cohesive productions,” she said.

“We’re defined by the collaborative nature of our development and the influence of the diverse artistic tools used to create each piece,” McCracken said while holding a small robotic pod he invented, which he called a calyptras, which were designed to provide an interactive atmosphere for the audience

McCracken holds his invention, the calyptras.

“They respond and react to the audience’s presence and are supposed to represent reproductive spores in nature,” he explained.

“Everyone has their one thing that they normally do,” said video specialist Mayberry, who will project live video and run the lighting system. “But, for this project everyone collaborated and had to help out with set designing.”


Meehan and Mayberry discuss video and lighting elements after dance rehearsals.

He added, “The set was just a huge overwhelming thing that everyone had a hand in — and it’s all organic — so it took a lot of upkeep.”

Formerly the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Building, Inscape was converted into an arts and cultural hub in 2004, and the space has been rented to artists and groups such as Manifold Motion ever since.

“Changing an old immigration building into a weird world definitely took a whole bunch of man hours,” said McCracken, comparing this unique set work to the maintenance of a garden that you “constantly tromp through – it’s going to need work all the time.”

Although it was challenging to convert the 78-year-old federal building into an organic world, he said Inscape was the ideal location for their project because of its size and close proximity to other artists.

Artists have decorated the front entrance to Inscape.

While Inscape has been ideal for their latest project, Meehan said, “I would love to do some work in Greenwood, but we just don’t have the kind of venue to do that.”

“We’d have to be pretty opportunistic, but we’d love to come here and do something in Greenwood,” affirmed McCracken, who has lived in the neighborhood with Meehan for seven years. “We’re keeping our eyes open for a good opportunity up here.

“Greenwood just strikes a nice balance between too much going on and not enough going on,” he continued. “We love it here — the walkability, the small businesses and the sense of community.”

Three shows are scheduled each weekend night from Nov. 12-28 at Inscape on 815 Airport Way S. in Chinatown/International District. Tickets are $18 and available through Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006, or you can get them online. The first show starts at 7 p.m. No late seating is allowed because of the show’s content, so get there early.

Tyler Steele is PhinneyWood’s intern. He is a journalism student at the University of Washington.

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