Abby Bender and Jesse Jason are at it again. This, their third collaboration, is similar in that it’s far from your average proscenium-stage dance performance. The previous two highly inventive shows had a looser, much less linear narrative than their new one, “Rizing,” which will take place inside a private residence in Oak Bluffs — with both performers and audience members being masked. Since the rooms are small, they have limited the audience to eight people per performance, so it’s sure to be an intimate affair, with tickets hard to come by. In fact, dance enthusiasts may have to wait for the next collaboration, which is likely already in the making. (All weekend performances have reportedly sold out already.)
Bender and Jason are masters of creating transformative, imaginative, site-specific performances that employ immersive storytelling told through sound and movement. Bender, who doesn’t want to give anything away, shared that the origin of this piece began with a walk-through of the house.
“Jesse came up with a couple of short pieces of writing that totally inspired me,” Bender says. “I went crazy and started creating all these different characters for this place we have invented.” Jason adds, “The way we work is just getting in the space and spitballing ideas. For instance, I was inspired by a photo in the house and that stemmed into a longer story, which stemmed into some of the larger themes that we work with.”
“It’s really letting an environment speak to us,” Bender adds. “That’s something we’re both really good at in terms of doing any site-specific work — letting what the space is inform the content, and this space in particular really revealed itself because there are stories that are here and you can feel them, you can see them. The house’s role is enormous in this show.”
Jason comments, “That’s really the fun about having performances that are built to a specific site. It’s very different from making a piece in the studio and producing it in a theater. The environment plays such a role in the creative process of it for all the performers. Everybody connects with different spots, which has been a more exciting way to make work.”
Bender agrees, “When I think about making a full evening work again, I really can’t imagine going back into a theater.”
During “Rizing,” the audience will be moving about this unusual house with an even more unusual history. We will, as their press release states, “encounter things that go bump in the night. As the characters that inhabit this residence share their stories through text, dance, and theater, guests are enveloped in shifting worlds of sorrow, humor, beauty, and terror.”
However, because this almost hourlong performance requires careful attention, listening, and stillness to immerse yourself in the world they are trying to create, Bender and Jason have set an audience age limit of at least 13.
Bender and Jason don’t want to give the reason behind the title away. Bender explains, “We love keeping secrets and mysteries, and not everyone will always catch everything, but for the people who do, it’s such a delight.”
“Rizing” will be performed by Abby Bender, Sharon Brown, Molly Coogan, Nia Dubon-Robinson, Laura Hall, Jesse Jason, Roberta Kirn, Michael Lieberman, Carron Marson, Danielle Mulcahy, Melissa Petrosinelli, Xavier Powers, and Kalyan Sayre, with guest voices by Scott Crawford, Brooke Ditchfield, Scott Hershowitz, Brian Hall, Rob Myers, Nikki Patton, Katherine Reid, Cassie Tunick, and more.
“Abby and I are creating the show and steering it, but the performers themselves are so present, it creates this nice community,” Jason says.