Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 107
August 1996

Box for a Brighter Side

A Performance by Susan Share in collaboration with Stormy Brandenberger. With music by Steven Cohen. Henry Street Settlement, Abrons Art Center Visual Arts Program. Friday, May 3, 1996.

In the performance Box for a Brighter Side, Susan Share gives her audience a wonderful gift - a glimpse into her imaginative and playful heart and soul. The performance opens with Share sitting alone on the floor, quietly in center-stage, applying the tools of her trade in the creation of one of her "percussion" or noise-making books which she makes from board, cloth, decorative papers, metal belt findings, and other "found" materials. In this part of the performance Share describes her vision of the book and its connection to performance, her passion for making things, and the influences which have motivated her (her grandfather on her mother's side was a tinsmith).

In the second segment of the performance choreographer/dancer Stormy Brandenberger and Susan Share carry onto the stage giant expandable accordion pieces and small folding screens with which they begin to create their imaginary world. The music starts - strange eerie music that is both edgy and peaceful, evoking a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, complete with the sounds of a southwestern desert, and crickets chirping at night. Many more mysterious and heavy boxes are carried, rolled and pushed on stage and gradually opened to reveal lushly decorated folding screens, books, masks, odd prickly creatures (one child chimed in, "Mommy, that's a mean porcupine"), and Venus Flytrap- or cactus-like plant forms. Together Share and Brandenberger explore the contents of the boxes and begin filling the stage with their colorful and intriguing contents. These objects then appear to come alive through the machinations of the performers who strangely enough, are quite used to dancing with books.

This is the sequence of Box for a Brighter Side which held the audience in its spell - the part in which the "books" took on a life of their own. Share and Brandenberger drew us into their world when they picked up the many flat, multi-sized, multi-colored cases, spread them around the stage and attached four to their hands with elastic straps. They then began to open and close them in a rhythmic manner, making loud, snapping sounds, and revealing dangerous, pre-historic-looking paper spikes. Slowly, other "books" and masks were donned as costumes; and before our eyes Share and Brandenberger appeared as enlarged insects, playing and exploring their paper world through what seemed like an imaginary day in their life. As impressive as the performance itself, were the many amazing booklike objects designed and constructed by Susan Share. These painted, sculptural constructions display a blend of colors, textures, and forms which are stunningly beautiful and capture the imagination.

Mindell Dubansky

Upcoming performances of Box for a Brighter Side:
September 15, 1996, Ellipse Gallery, Arlington, Virginia. tel: 703/783-6960
October 4, 1996, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC tel: 202/783-5000