Shentai - The Kindled Flame
The Unwelcome Overture
I caught “Shentai” last week, at the exquisite, nearly open-air venue called Frank IX. This was my first experience with the sort of fringe festival put on by the Zen Monkey Project, and a few other groups.
The Frank IX building is in itself an experience. It’s a really large ex-textile factory of two stories (although the second story is at least twice the height of the first) with also huge window spaces. They really are spaces as all the traces of the original windows, frames and all, are missing. No kids are allowed, which is good, considering the windows.
It’s a theatre experience more like the “fringe festival” than anything else I can think of. Think: surreal humor. There’s a way that it really adds something to Charlottesville’s art credentials.
In particular, a play (Dido vs. the Squid Monster) had a great sense of pacing, excellent acting. Very funny. The real kicker is the fire dancing at the end of the night. Hey, fire dancing is exciting by nature, but the dancers also had grace and presence.
Christian Breeden fronts some of the spectacles, and keeps a running/flaming presence going during the final conflagration.
I can only hope the performers don’t tire of this, at least for a few years.