From May 20-22, 2016, 150+ performance artists occupied the Knockdown Center in Queens for what was hailed as "a massive choreography of obedient relationships." From co-directors Monica Mirabile and Sarah Kinlaw, and producer Christine McCharen-Tran, Authority Figure brought together ten choreographers, each with their own set of performers, to choreograph movements across seven installations. “We wanted to point out particularly dark scenarios while also enticing people to find their sense of agency. So it began with establishing trust,” Mirabile told The Creators Project over email. "At the beginning of the process, I was thinking a lot about Milgrim’s 'Authority and Obedience' social experiment first done in the 60s. In this experiment, he uses volunteers to shed light on how authority and obedience plays a part in social experience."
Today on The Creators Project's Facebook, you can watch a short video of Authority Figure coming to life. "The experiment aspect was everywhere: how were the artists going to respond? How were the performers going to change? Will the audience be provoked by the personality of endurance quiz? Would the audience be scared or would they be underwhelmed? Would they feel this deeply? Would they take something with them? Would they cry? Would they understand that this is the learned psychology of the choices we make?" Mirabile asked. "In the end, what happened was incredible. We developed a family of 150+ people. It provided a lot of insight on what people want and need. We need to feel like we can live actually and that we have support doing that."
Every twenty minutes, a group of twenty moved into another scenario, from protest scenes to prisons, bathrooms, and the liminal spaces in between. Not just any audience, either: audience members were required to take a “Personality of Endurance” quiz beforehand, with questions such as What best describes your level of endurance? and You see a police officer violently arresting someone, what do you do?
"Authority Figure was made real by observing and analyzing the psychology of our day-to-day while also specifically a project that took time, hard work, care and discussion to develop," Kinlaw told us. "These themes of authority and obedience were obviously prevalent pre-show but honing in and exploring the physical manifestation of these concepts felt emotional and endless. It opened doors for communication and therapy, for something more than just a desire to collaborate through performance."
With With choreography by Mirabile, Kinlaw, Signe Pierce, Juri Onuki, Colin Self Tara-Jo Tashna, India Salvor Menuez, Kathleen Dycaico, Richard Kennedy, and Sigrid Lauren, installations by Ilana Savdie, Jerome Bwire, Kathleen Dycaico, Nitemind, and Yulan Grant, and original music from Blood Orange, Dan Deacon, Caroline Polachek, SOPHIE and others, Authority Figure quite literally brought down the house using its own tools. "It felt like everything and nothing at the same time. Which is scary and realistic for everyone involved. People want concrete answers to secure them short term, which is not what AF was up to," said Kellian Delice, who performed both "The Pharmacy" and "The Family Vignette" scenes. "It's such a real experience to be placed in, and to have to deal with yourself within that context really shaves down and questions the core of being 'yourself.' The trouble people felt was real and was so visible."
Check out photos from Authority Figure and witness moments from the performance below, only on The Creators Project.
Authority Figure took place May 20-22, 2016. Click here for more info.
India Salvor Menuez
Jen Monroe (Bad Taste)