Recently, the Fayetteville-based Artist’s Laboratory Theatre launched The Place Project, a research/performance concept for investigating what “place” means to humans–how we create and change place, how we define it, and how it relates to the idea of “home.” The group’s artistic director is the multi-talented actor, producer, and teaching artist Erika Wilhite. Since Fayetteville has a compact but active arts community, Erika and I knew about each other. It was only a matter of time before we would meet. And meet we did–one humid Saturday morning a few weeks ago on the patio at Little Bread Co. We spent a good hour comparing ideas and creating the kind of inspired connection that brings with it a sense of wonder. She and I are thinking a lot about the significance of “house” and its relationship to memory, to the familiar, to love, communication, personal and public history. The Artist’s Lab is exploring those questions in their performances; I do it through photography and writing.
During the month of June, Erika and her troupe developed a site-specific performance in a private home whose residents were traveling for the summer. She asked me if the actors could use some of my miniature houses and invited me to one of the rehearsals. I took photos there and at the full performance a few nights later. The event was invitation-only and included a small audience that was led from scene to scene in two separate groups, crisscrossing the house and the yard until we all met in the living room to break bread (Erika bakes, too!) and discuss our experience.
Seeing my houses handled by other people was odd. I am not very attached to the miniatures. Most are made of paper; when I place them in various environments, they get wet, stained, and bent. One has been stepped on by an overly affectionate dog. Others have been blown off roofs of buildings or into rivers and puddles. I want the houses to bear traces of their use. Until The Place Project, however, that use had never included other people; people who showed me different understandings of what the houses can be.