Abby Bender and Jesse Jason have been doing fabulous collaborations since the fall of 2020. Right after last year’s Halloween show, which was in an old, eerie house, the pair originally thought that they would take a break and not undertake a spring season. But the pull to perform nipped at their heels. Abby Bender says about the new piece, “Wish You Were Here,” “We started with trying to find a venue since we work so venue-specific.” They searched, asking around, and reaching out on social media, looking for an interesting house or barn. Despite all the leads, nothing panned out. Bender then made a connection to the Capawock Theater through one of her dancers in the current piece, Laura Hall, whose husband’s family owns the venue. “I would never in a million years think to use the theater, and they were generous enough to say yes,” explains Bender.
Jason says that they didn’t even know where they would be performing until March: “It made it hard as far as just how to start. We had a couple of brainstorming sessions at the library and at Laura’s studio, trying to generate movement for something.” With the dancers always so influenced by the space they’re in, it’s not surprising that even when they got into the Capawock, it took a few weeks until they started figuring out what the performance was going to be. Jason says, “We were really just going at it, getting our creative juices going, and seeing what came out … and what came out was pretty absurd.”
Without exception, their thoroughly engaging collaborations have always had an appealing, absurdist edge to them. Bender describes the new piece by saying, “I still consider it dance theater. It’s sort of middle school sci-fi meets my and Jesse’s high school dance fantasies. She’s more of a product of the ’90s and I’m more of the ’80s, and there’s a lot of influence there.” Jason adds, “I’d say this is the most comedic thing we’ve done.” Their promotional materials give us a flavor of the tenor of the performance, situating it as “an otherworldly, absurdist revue made of girl power and … an over-the-top work of comedic dance theater. Whatever the heck it is, don your favorite sweater vest and get yourself there by way of the space-time continuum.”
“I think that one of the things that make the show pretty unique is that we’re in a regular proscenium theater for a change, but Jesse and I turn that concept on its head,” Bender says. “We don’t use the theater in the way you expect. It’s not your traditional dance show.”
Not wanting to give too much away, the only other bit of information the two share is that it’s a tight narrative and a smaller cast than usual, with Hannah Burbridge, Nia Dubon-Robinson, Laura Hall, and Claire Page joining Jason and Bender.
“This show is rated PG, so kids with a bit of patience might really enjoy it,” Bender says. “Audiences should bring their sense of humor. And the show is ultimately about having fun and finding one’s community.”
“Wish You Were Here,” June 10 and 11, and June 17 and 18, at the Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven. Reservations are strongly encouraged. The link for tickets is eventcreate.com/e/you.