'Everyday Hustle' Attempts to Captivate with Commonplace at 2014 Minn. Fringe Festival

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(Photo: Courtesy of the Minnesota Fringe Festival)

(Photo: Courtesy of the Minnesota Fringe Festival)

If I’ve learned one thing at the 2014 Minnesota Fringe Festival, it is that this year’s participants — artists and attendees alike — find the commonplace captivating.

Erin Shepphard’s Everyday Hustle is no exception to this rule.

A blend of dance and theater, the piece explores the ups and downs of each day of the week.

Co-choreographed by Sheppard and Jessica Schilling, and featuring text written by Twin Cities author Sam L. Landman and read by Katy McEwen, performer and associate artistic director of the Brave New Workshop TheatreEveryday Hustle relies on showing and telling the audience what the daily grind looks like.

Kind of.

The themes addressed — clubbing, flirting, bar-hopping, the pros and cons of hitting the snooze button, masturbation, and the absurd manner that the cell phone has infiltrated and perhaps stunted everyday social interaction — paint a thin picture of the quotidian. And they mostly resonate with a very small target audience…maybe upper-middle class, United States American audience, early to mid-twenties?

The title of the work had me looking for more physicality in the movement, which was largely pedestrian, performed at an even tempo, and embellished with theatrical poses and facial expressions. Most of the time, the dancers faced the audience arranged in two lines, a circle, or a V-shape.

Each piece followed the compositional structure and thematic content of the musical piece to which it was set, mainly contemporary dance and pop music.

The bold, solid-colored costumes paired with the angular, appendage-based movement vocabulary briefly reminded me of Sean Curran.

Shepphard separated the text and dance sections. This was a wise move as mixing or layering them would have been distracting, but why was this text included at all?

Landman’s text, a self-proclaimed rant, was colored with obscenities and combative tone of voice. McEwen addressed the audience directly as she read the words, expressing the reasons her character loved or hated each day of the week.

The program notes said Landman’s text was inspired by the movement. But that didn’t translate in the performance.

And McEwen’s delivery was impacted by her dependence on a script as well as her inconsistent diction. Since the text was full of material that relied heavily on shock value and crude humor, quick glances at the script skewed timing and unclear pronunciations made it hard to follow.

As a result, I didn’t laugh very much.

Some audience members laughed after jokes were delivered. But the laughter was abbreviated and seemed restrained. It lacked dynamics, remaining at a level 10 throughout, so its lewdness didn’t work for me.

Everyday Hustle‘s central theme, though accessible, is overdone.

While Shepphard and Landman demonstrate enthusiasm, their handling of the subject is superficial.

Can they tell us anything new about the day-to-day?  Or find a fresh way to illustrate what we already know? Perhaps they could increase the work’s profundity by zooming in on a specific aspect of everyday life or, alternately, by considering the topic from a much broader perspective.

If Shepphard and Landman continue to develop Everyday Hustle, I hope they explore a more diverse scope.

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