The Next Chapter

From writers to dancers to video artists, they're inventing surprising new ways to tell their tales

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In 2004 Kent commissioned journalist Victoria Brittain and novelist Gillian Slovo to create a verbatim play about British detainees at Guantánamo Bay based on interviews with released detainees, families of detainees and their lawyers. Guantánamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom' opened to wide acclaim, transferred to the West End and was also produced in New York City. Last spring a reading was staged for members of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill. "What Nick is about is, 'What can we be doing next?'" says Tricycle general manager Mary Lauder. "'What should we be tackling? What can we change?'"

Storm Stories


After Hurricane Katrina, folklorist Carl Lindahl wondered how he could help survivors from New Orleans. He found his answer while sorting through old clothes at a Houston site for evacuees. As he searched for pants to fit a bone-thin man standing 6-ft. 5, the man told his story: he'd been trapped with a group of elderly without food or water. Every day for four days he swam out a second-story window to a nearby store, dragging supplies back through the polluted waters. Lindahl was transfixed by the man's quiet heroism. And that's when it clicked. He would get survivors to interview other survivors, to keep their experiences alive for future generations.

Lindahl says the idea came from listening to Library of Congress recordings of survivors of the Dust Bowl, Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 attacks. "Really, the best of them were not collected by professionals like myself but by people talking to people who had shared the experience," he says. "Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston" is the first large-scale project in which survivors have taken the lead in documenting their lives before, during and after a major disaster. So far, more than 30 survivors have collected over 250 stories in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and even Garifuna, a Creole language. "My mission is to put the tools in their hands," Lindahl says, "so they can get their stories--on their own terms."

Choreographing Community


Choreographer Noémi Lafrance is about to take a big plunge. Her latest work, Agora II, is set in a cavernous empty pool in Brooklyn, N.Y., where more than 70 dancers, ages 8 to 60, will dance, sing, run, frolic, argue, embrace, cycle and hula-hoop. Spectators are expected to take part--they'll get cues during the performance via text messages to their cell phones. Although the show opens in a few days, Lafrance hasn't quite perfected her method of simultaneously transmitting messages to hundreds, possibly thousands, of audience members. But leaping over obstacles is her signature move.

Lafrance, 32, produces "site-specific" dances that explore our relationship with public spaces--and that require months of bureaucratic arm twisting. Sens Production, the nonprofit group she helped found in 2000, raises funds and secures the sites. "We've had to fight a lot of fights," she says.

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