November 19, 2022
For Immediate Release
Institute on Disabilities at Temple University Awarded 2022 Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Project Grant for Rhythm Bath
Lead artists Susan Marshall and Mimi Lien to present a suite of immersive dance performance-installations developed in conversation and collaboration with neurodiverse communities.
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Philadelphia, PA: The Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $345,348 project grant, including $57,560 in general operating support, from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The support will be used to present the world premiere of Rhythm Bath, a suite of immersive, durational dance performance-installations by choreographer Susan Marshall and set designer Mimi Lien. Produced by the Institute on Disabilities, the project builds on Marshall's 30+ years of renowned dance work and is informed by her experience as a parent to her art-loving adult neurodiverse son and member of a community of neurodiverse individuals, families, and advocates. Rhythm Bath will premiere at the 2023 Philadelphia Fringe Festival at Christ Church Neighborhood House.
"The Institute is thrilled to partner with acclaimed artists Susan Marshall and Mimi Lien to present this important work," notes Lisa Sonneborn, Director, Media Arts and Culture, Institute on Disabilities. "We are deeply grateful to The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for the opportunity to bring accessible, boundary-pushing performance to audiences in Philadelphia and beyond."
Rhythm Bath blends performance, adventure, and reflection, inviting art-loving audiences with and without disabilities to gather and enjoy art, in an environment where there's no "right" way to be a "good" audience. The project will explore questions of audience invitation and exclusion, with the aim of creating a level playing field where a certain way of being in—or controlling—one's body is not preconceived.
"This work is an extension of the Institute's social justice mission and Susan Marshall's advocacy as an artist and a parent," said Sally Gould-Taylor, PhD, Executive Director, Institute on Disabilities.
James Earl Davis, PhD, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Temple University, where the Institute on Disabilities is located, is excited about the upcoming program. "Through this unique vehicle of contemporary performance, Rhythm Bath reflects the shared interest of the Institute and the College in agency and interdependency."
Professional dancers will perform within and through three set installations and amongst the audience who may move through the spaces. Current ideas include an environment constructed top to bottom in white fabric, with a soft billowing ceiling; a dark space in which the audience may interact with and animate sculptural elements; and rolling chairs to sit in and move, to increase audiences' comfort without dictating a specific viewing area or perspective. A large dance ensemble will move through shifting rhythms and patterns; solos and duets also appear and reappear in different areas. The dancing need not be watched sequentially; the performance-installations will repeat over several hours, during which audiences may come and go.
"With Rhythm Bath, I'm inviting audiences to gather and enjoy performance in an environment where there’s no 'right' way to be and you can come as you are to share an experience of art with others," notes Susan Marshall. "Our creative team is hoping to create a level playing field in which a certain way of being in—or controlling—one’s body is not privileged."
Rhythm Bath is being developed in conversation and collaboration with those who identify as neurodiverse. The artists and producers use the term "neurodiverse" to primarily describe people with disabilities that affect motor control and vocalization, including autism, apraxia, Parkinson's disease, Tourette's syndrome and a range of developmental disabilities. With these individuals in mind, Rhythm Bath examines long-established and outdated norms of audience engagement within contemporary performance, and aims to imagine new, more inclusive ways to experience art. It is designed to be welcoming and accessible to—not just adapted for—the neurodiverse and neurotypical communities. Presenting Partners for Rhythm Bath are Christ Church Neighborhood House and FringeArts.
Major support for Rhythm Bath has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and PEAK Performances at Montclair State University.
Susan Marshall: Susan Marshall is a choreographer known for employing modest means to resonant effect. Her movement vocabularies, which often include everyday gestures, are distilled to near-abstraction and finely calibrated into evolving structures. Freedom within constraints, and humor, are constants in Marshall’s work and process. Her dance company has performed nationally and internationally since 1985, and her work is in the repertory of prominent dance companies. Marshall’s focus has recently expanded to creating arts experiences that prioritize access for the neurodiverse community. The parent of an art-loving adult neurodiverse son, and member of a community of neurodiverse individuals, families and advocates, she aims to design complex contemporary arts experiences that are welcoming for neurodiverse and neurotypical audiences. Marshall also is developing dance classes for neurodiverse individuals to experience self-expression, agency, freedom and community. Marshall has received MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, and three "Bessie" Awards, among others. Marshall is a professor and Director of Dance at Princeton University. www.studiosusanmarshall.org
Mimi Lien: Mimi Lien is a Brooklyn-based designer of sets/environments for theater, dance, and opera. Arriving at set design from a background in architecture, her work often focuses on the interaction between audience/environment and object/performer. In 2015, she was named a MacArthur Fellow, the first set designer ever to achieve this distinction. Selected work includes Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 (Broadway, TONY Award, Lortel Award, 2013 Hewes Design Award), John (Signature Theatre, 2016 Hewes Design Award), Appropriate (Mark Taper Forum, LA Drama Critics Circle Award), Preludes, The Oldest Boy (Lincoln Center), An Octoroon (Soho Rep/TFANA, Drama Desk and Lortel nominations), Black Mountain Songs (BAM Next Wave). Her stage designs have been exhibited in the Prague Quadrennial in 2011 and 2015, and her sculptures were featured in the exhibition, LANDSCAPES OF QUARANTINE, at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Her designs for theater, dance, and opera have been seen around the U.S. at such venues as Lincoln Center Theater, Signature Theatre, Playwright's Horizons, the Public Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Joyce Theater, Goodman Theatre, Soho Rep, and internationally at Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre (Russia), Intradans (Netherlands), National Theatre (Taiwan), among many others. Mimi Lien received a B.A. in Architecture from Yale University (1997) and an M.F.A. in Stage Design from New York University (2003).
She is a company member of Pig Iron Theatre Company and co-founder of the performance space JACK.
Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, College of Education and Human Development: The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University is one of the sixty-seven University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Established in 1974, the Institute has mirrored the changes in the field of developmental disabilities, evolving into a model of self-determination and individualized supports in the community.
Now located within the College of Education and Human Development at Temple University, the Institute is a vibrant, diverse organization with more than 40 staff members, including students and is considered a national leader in leadership development, assistive technology, Disability Studies, justice for people with disabilities, policy analysis and inclusive education.
Much of our success in reaching the community and our constituents can be attributed to our close partnerships with statewide advocacy and self-advocacy groups, centers for independent living, Pennsylvania's Developmental Disabilities Council, Disability Rights Pennsylvania, state government, specialized and generic service providers, the criminal justice system, and universities throughout Pennsylvania.
The scope of work and dedication to our constituents continues to grow, touching more people with disabilities, families, communities, students, educators, employers and policy makers. Our more than 20 programs have an impact on people's lives throughout Pennsylvania, nationally and internationally.
Choreography: Susan Marshall
Set Design: Mimi Lien
PEAK Performances, Montclair State University, NJ, August 2022.
Photos: Lila Hurwitz