“Building a Home”: A Fringe Fest Interview
by Adam Perry for Westword 9/17/2015
Boulder resident Arrow Zoe Amelia, a 29-year-old Florida native and Naropa University graduate, was a key member of the now-defunct Language of Fish Collective Arts in Boulder from 2011-2014. LOFCA, as it was affectionately known, was a “performance company” that utilized the diverse talents of numerous young local women to create original long-form pieces, some of them site-specific, incorporating dance, theater and music.
Among many other works, 2013’s powerful Francesca found the members of LOFCA building a strange home inside Naropa’s Performing Arts Center, where they told the haunting tale of late Boulder photographer Francesca Woodman with their bodies and the music of Inner Oceans’ Griff Snyder. And 2014’s Wait, a comical Beckett-inspired piece of musical theater, saw Amelia—in partnership with LOFCA co-founder Adderly Bigelow—going back to her roots as an actor and playwright.
As part of this year’s Boulder International Fringe Festival, Amelia makes her post-LOFCA debut along Boulder Creek with the musically inclined play Building a Home Despite All the Bodies, in which she and fellow Naropa alum Lily Brown (under the name Our Skins) portray a couple making its way “through the boggy swamps of middle.” With the help of a four-member chorus, the couple traverses the naïve sparks of infatuation and the banal monotony of archetypal home life, reaching something resembling a happy commitment to continue “building something together.” In advance of performances this weekend, Amelia and Brown sat down with Westword to talk about Building a Home and what it’s like to spend so much time working on art that’s unclassifiable.
Adam Perry: Where did this piece come from?
Arrow Zoe Amelia: We were neighbors and Lily lived right upstairs. I had been sort of grieving Language of Fish and not creating anything, and then I started writing something and in a burst of excitement I ran upstairs and said, “I need to make something, and it would be so cool if we could work together.” I had always admired what Lily had done at school, in her thesis and just in our workshop moments in the classroom.
Lily Brown: I think both of us were in a space where creativity had been dead for a while. We were both kind of slogging around and it felt bad.
Amelia: As we started looking for a space and would have these long walks and talk about what was going on in our lives, what kept on coming was our questions, and our curiosities and our frustrations, around romantic relationship — the different layers and complexities, and also the similarities that we were experiencing, like “How am I myself with this other person?”
Perry: Inhabiting these two characters, is it like you started a relationship with each other?
Amelia: It’s funny, because I think what we’ve created is a combination of references to our relationships to other people.
Brown: We’re hopping back and forth between ourselves and other people who we’ve related to, being in their perspective, and then doing the same thing for each other. I could be some sort of dynamic that Arrow has been in the past, or she could be replaying these things and working them out—just feeling this mysterious quality of the whole thing, not being in control of who we’re attracted to and why, and the [discomfort] of following through with something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Perry: Does the play make you question why we enter partnerships at all?
Brown: I hold that strongly. I’m not in a relationship very often. It’s really easy for me to say, “This isn’t worth it” and throw things away. So for me, yeah.
Amelia: Mostly the second half, where it becomes a little domestic, is based on my experiences. It’s funny because I don’t question why we [enter into relationships]. It just seems like the reasons why I’ve learned so much about myself and about life is because of the experiences I’ve had in my relationships.
Brown: I remember this exciting day [when] we were hanging out in Arrow’s apartment talking about these different realms that seem to pop up in relationships, and one of them we called the “How was your day?” realm. Just this realm of not really having any spark with the person, or anything to say, scraping the bottom of the pot.
Amelia: The most generic communication.
Brown: Yeah, “What are we doing together? How do we communicate? What is this?” A lot of relationships hang on in that realm for eternity.
Amelia: Neither of us [has] been in a relationship yet past a certain stage. The end of [Building a Home] is sort of like our prayer for moving through the “How is your day?” phase and the muck phase, those layers we haven’t seen our way through yet. I think if you’re both willing and passionate about the work that you have to do to continue to walk together through all that you will face, you can do it. Also, you each as individuals have to find your own autonomous center and ground in order to continue to walk together.
Perry: What’s it like being an artist in Boulder?
Amelia: I guess what’s frustrating is trying to speak to people about it, because often the work is what’s speaking. What I usually say is “multi-disciplinary performance.” I could say, “My influences are Samuel Beckett, Pina Bausch and Meredith Monk,” and if you could put those people together, this is the type of performance I’d like to be making. To be based in San Francisco or New York, where there are a lot of different types of strange new things happening all the time, there’s just a different focus.
Brown: There’s something nice about there being almost no focus, that I can see, on art in Boulder. We don’t really have to be able to articulate as much what it is, because we’re not in an artistic community and people don’t really care; they don’t resonate with those words. We can just say, “Hey, we’re a part of your community and we did this thing, and we did it for you and for us.” We don’t need to get involved with what genre it is, and if we were in San Francisco we might have to.
Amelia: What’s interesting, though, is that being in Boulder as a site-specific artist I find myself inspired all the time by our environment—the mountains and the big open spaces. The creek, especially. It’s this place that is communicating so many things [and] I find myself inspired and sort of asked to relate to this place and share it. And there are so many things that can happen with site-specific performance. It could rain. There might even be a football game happening. You’re relating to a space that you can’t control, and that’s part of what’s really scary and really beautiful about it—there’s risk and there’s magic about it.
Perry: What is it about working in collaboration that seems so necessary, that you couldn’t get out of a one-woman show?
Amelia: I have definitely wondered that, because after Language of Fish I had gone through a breakup and I was just trying to change the way I thought about how I could be with myself. I thought, “Okay, this is my lesson. I need to be doing it all by myself.” But I just don’t have any interest in doing it all by myself. I’m inspired by other people and when you can be a reflection for each other, there’s something really special about having a back and forth. It makes it so much more rich.
Perry: How do you deal with writing these pieces, rehearsing for so long, putting together the little string of performances and then letting it go?
Brown: What I feel about Arrow’s pieces is that she hammers at the wall for a long time to break through this mundane world. By inviting an audience, it kind of breaks open all of that work that she’s done, to witness it. So it’s over, but it can whisper in your ear in a way that nature always does, this possibility of being playful with phenomenon. I don’t think a DVD would have the same effect.
Amelia: That’s the thing, also, with site-specific performance: It’s hard to get that sensation on film. It’s such an experiential situation. A part of what I’m losing is what it was to be inside of it. I’m not going to get that back from seeing [a DVD]. My shared experience with the people I collaborated with, that’s sort of a dream we got to have together and share with other people. But it is a practice of letting go.
Building a Home Despite All the Bodies will be performed at 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 18 through September 20, and again September 25 through September 27, along Boulder Creek between Folsom Street and Grandview Avenue. Find more information here.