BROKE HOUSE at Abrons Arts Center NYC April 6-22, 2012

Broke House (New Group Work)
Abrons Arts Center (NYC)
466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street)
New York, NY 10002

April 20, 2012 8:00pm
April 21, 2012 8:00pm
April 22, 2012 7:00pm

Broke House is a new group performance from Caden Manson / Big Art Group and follows a narrative about the residents of a house and their hanger-on, once a documentary filmmaker arrives to capture their lives. On a skeletal set webbed with video cameras, the characters try to recall their given roles as inevitably the foundations of their dreams collapse, and they are thrown into the desert of their own futures. Part comedy, part ritual, part love spell.

The Performance explores the process of construction, when that process becomes sharply interrupted by historical events, and dissolves into the shapelessness of an aftermath. Those processes that were “building” previous to the play’s beginning include a life, a family, architecture, or a system of beliefs, an economy of values, and the creation of the performance itself. But when events intervene— events like collapse, upheaval, disaster, abandonment, forgetting, fear, and strife— all the raw materials and the players themselves become deformed into a new formlessness, and enter a transitional state of potentiality. Like the pause loop in a video game, Broke House takes place in this marginal time zone.

Like all of Big Art Group’s works, Broke House offers our meditation on the current states of America, which we believe have been in flux for at least as long as our ensemble has been up and running. Beyond the topical symptoms of foreclosure crises, credit crises, occupy movements and extremist rhetoric, we suppose that the metaphorical heart of the country has been suffering, and perhaps has decided to rebuild the body that surrounds it.

“True to their name, Big Art Group’s performances are big in every possible way: prismatic visuals hurtle across a panoply of screens, dazzling with flashing colors; strange conjunctions of video imagery captured live by a battery of cameras and spliced together in real time, ambush the eye; digital soundscapes thrum, groan, and roar at synesthesia-inducing volumes.” – Jacob Gallagher-Ross, The Drama Review

Press from the January Showings:

Editor’s Pick in Flavorpill
Interview in Culturebot
Write up in ARTFORUM
Critique by @performaddict
NYTheater Review
Write up in Design Envy
Write up in Performance Club

Images from Jan 2012 Showings and Rehearsals:
[nggallery id=19] 

Big Art Group is a New York performance ensemble using language and media to push formal boundaries of performance, digital media and visual arts creating culturally transgressive works using original text and technology. Big Art Group’s diverse ensemble explores, develops and produces innovative new performances. The company has produced eleven original works. and in its eleven year history, the company has become a nationally and internationally prominent and critically recognized ensemble with publications in major journals, PAJ, Theater, TDR, Theater der Zeit, Theater Heute and co-productions with Festival d’Automne, Vienna Festival, Hebbel am Ufer, Le Vie de Festival, Wexner Center For The Arts, MAC Créteil, Théâtre Garonne, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Twitter: @bigartgroup

Created by Caden Manson, Jemma Nelson, Big Art Group
Direction and Scenography by Caden Manson
Sound by Jemma Nelson
Assistant Director Kathleen Amshoff and Bradley Kal Hagen
Performed by David Commander, Nicholas Gorham, Heather Litteer, Willie Mullins, Matthew Nasser, Edward Stresen-Reuter, Rebecca Sumner Burgos
Lighting Design by Hillery Makatura
Production Manager Ana Mari de Quesada
Sculpture Caden Manson and Jeffrey Ralston
Video System Design by Caden Manson and Jared Mezzocchi
Video System Tech Dan Hansell
Interns Simone Serlenga and Dries Vandrope

Broke House is produced by Big Art Group with support from King’s Fountain and NYSCA

Supported by James Davison, Desi Santiago, Ted Henigson, theARTcorps, Ryan Davis, Alan Cumming, joan Raspo, Drew Brody, William Lynn, Julie Tolentino, Hill Family, Ivan Gothner and Betsy Davison, Alyssa Fannick, Robert Litteer, Jen Parker-Starbuck, Sean Pierce and Lucy Pierce and Theo Kogan, paul gardner, John Issendorf, Grant Shaffer, Jill Emerson, Brian Bauman, Amy Sadao, Mambo Movers, Ryan Sorkin, Linsey Bostwick, Mikeah Ernest Jennings, Ilaria Mancia, Hillery Makatura, Justin Vivian Bond, Davis Freeman

Thank You to Barbara and Henry Pilsbury, James Davison, Culture Hub, Abrons Arts Center and Staff, American Realness Staff and Crew. Diane White, Theo Kogan and Sean Pierce, Nathan Carrera, Sean Bumgarner, La MaMa, La Galleria, and

@CadenManson #cofounder @BigArtGroup #curator #editor @pformart #director #VisualArtist #scenographer #teacher #FromTheFuture

#JemmaNelson #cofounder @bigartgroup #writer #painter #SoundDesigner #teacher #cinematographer #published #TheaterJournal @TheaterHeute @Mouvementrevue

#KathleenAmshoff #assistantdirector @bigartgroup #director #upcomingwork #womencenterstage

#DavidComander @MouthCommander #writer #performer #director #showswithdolls #12yrswithbigartgroup #onyoutube #onvimeo #nowebsite #findmeonFaceBook

#AnaMarideQuesada @adqnyc #GeneralManager #FreelanceProductionManager

#NicholasGorham #actor #performer #artist #creatorofthespectrumartspace #canadian #onyoutube #andfacebook #upcomingjan30th

@Dan_Hansell #lightingdesigner #backstagetroll #draftsman #computeraddict #worldtraveler #politicsarguer #loveroffastfood #loverofbadjokes

#HeatherLitteer @redrabbitnyc #Actress #PerformanceArtist #Chanteuse Film #RequiemForaDream #BalladofBettiePage #IntheCut #NewTwenty. #DanceSingle #Apokalips #Curated W.O.(e).R.D. #LegendJackieFactory

@HilleryMakatura #TechnicalDirector @BigArtGroup #TechnicalDirectorActorsStudio #TechnicalDirector @trishabrown #LightingDesigner #MasterElectrician @NS4DRAMA #Organizer #BikeRider #LoveroffineBBQ

@JaredMezzocchi #VideoProgramsDesign @BigArtGroup #MediaDesigner @ThreeLeggedDog #MultiMedia_Director&Designer

#WillieFarradMullins @FarradMusic #actor #singer #dancer #songwriter #popstar #leftbrainrightbrain #makingmoves #peaceandlove

@MattNasser #actor #singer #director #filmmaker #curator @lamamagalleria #performanceartist #companymember @LaMaMaETC #singleandlooking #availableforhire

#JeffreyRalston #VisualArtist #Teacher #CoProducerandDj #InstallationsandLighting #Lighting

#RebeccaSumnerBurgos #PerformedWith @Carmelita Tropicana #Chicas2000 #MemberOf #DazzleDancers #ChillingSocialRealist #CocoFrio #VoicedActed #CocoFusco #IncredibleDisappearingWoman #FilmWork #LatinBoysGoToHell #FoundingMember @BigArtGroup @MastersIn American Studies @NYU #Translation @UniversidaddePuertoRico

#EdwardStresen-Reuter #actor #filmmaker #editor #photographer #formergapmodel @neddershred

In Print: Jemma Nelson and Caden Manson included in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art’s 100th Issue

Jemma Nelson and Caden Manson are included in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art’s 100th issue.  Performance makers in New York we’re asked to write essays in one of three thematic groupings; Belief, Being Contemporary, Performance & Science, and Writing & Performance. Mr. Nelson and Manson’s essay can be found on pages 57-58. Others asked to participate are Mac Wellman, Richard Foreman, Barbara Hammer, Yvonne Rainer, Joan Jonas, Robert Wilson, RoseLee Goldberg, and Richard Schechner.

You can download the kindle version here –>
PAJ 100 (January 2012) – Performance New York (PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art)

Alexis Soloski did a nice article in the Village Voice about Multimedia in Theater. Here are our responses to her questions.

Alexis Soloski wrote an article in the Village Voice about Multimedia in Theater. Here are Jemma Nelson and my full responses to her interview questions.


AS–> I understand this piece, like much of your work, makes ample use of live video. How does the video story intersect with the form)?

B!G–> The use of live video continues Big Art Group’s investigation into the construction of the Image and the gap between Realness and the Real. In this particular piece, a roving tethered “documentary filmmaker” provides a framed point of view, while surveillance cameras provide shots of otherwise unseeable spaces. There is no separation of content of the piece from form, this is an ancient division of labor to which we do not subscribe. In our performance model, all information, from the biographies of the actors to the sound effects, interact to construct the Image-Event.


AS–> With marked technological content what makes the work theater, theatrical

B!G–> We make performance, so providing theatrical justification doesn’t interest us. Big Art Group focuses on the breaks and fissures in the constructed image. A question of framing (who is framing  and what is beyond the frame) runs throughout the work.


AS–> What attracts you to use video in the theater? What does it permit that unmediated performance wouldn’t allow?

B!G–> We are all voracious image eaters and producers. We create and consume images daily. It is the international language of commerce and anti-commerce. We video-chat, blog, tweet, and post images to our friends and family. Big Art Group understands that our audience has a facility with technology and reflects that in the construction of our live work. Its important for us to speak the language of the everyday and that language is Image.


AS–> Are there any drawbacks? Theater’s selling point has always been its liveness, the idea that living spectators and living actors together create and event in a particular moment, what theorists like Grotowski call “communion.” Film and video can interrupt that liveness. What do you do to bring the audience back? To make sure they’re communally engaged?

B!G–> ‘Communal engagement’ has a different meaning today, considering the rise of social media and online networking, and by that measure traditional theatre that spurns technology fails to address a whole host of contemporary social issues from new conceptions of identity to power and economic structures that shape current experience. We created our performance ensemble in order to speak a contemporary language, and so we feel compelled to engage and confront these issues either by technological strategies or by whatever tools we find useful. For those who have a preconceived idea of what theatre ‘should’ be, I would not recommend one of our events; we make work for the curious, the queer, the rebels, and the monsters.


AS–> What are the things you would like to do in the theater in terms of effects and possibilities that technology doesn’t yet allow?

B!G–> We are from the future. We hope that our work will lead us back there, soon.

In Print – Essay by Big Art Group in the Book, Performing Politics: Political Art After The 20th Century

Big Art Group essay “After Spectacularity”  by Jemma Nelson and Caden Manson has been published in Theater der Zeit’s new book, Performing Politics: Politisch Kunst machen nach dem 20. Jahrhundert. The Book is in German and can be purchased from Amazon

Is there a return of politics in the arts?  And if so, what does it mean to make political art, whether in theater, performance or painting? In the last decade, many experiments in the arts have showed a new interest in questions of the political, “Politics” and political intervention – all left over from the twentieth century and its catastrophes. This edition of Theater der Zeit features essays from Big Art Group, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Philippe Quesne and more.

In Print: Big Art Included in “New Theater, New Media: Theories and Practices of Theater and The Digital.”

Big Art Group is included in “New Theater, New Media: Theories and Practices of Theater and The Digital” just released by the publisher Franco Angeli in Italian (Milan) by Anna Maria Monteverdi with an introductory essay by Oliviero Ponte di Pino.

“The book illustrates the most interesting experiments related to the use of audio-visual technologies in live performance and video theater from the eighties to the interactive multimedia experiments of recent years. In the third part of the book some interviews with international artists (Antunez Roca Marcel.lí; Konic THTR, Roberto Paci Dalò, Big Art Group, Builders Association; Jaromil).”

Party Pics From Last Night’s Holiday Performance Blow Out!

A big art thank you to everyone that came out last night! We had such a good time performing with our friends. Thank you to Matthew Nasser and Eastern Bloc for hosting us. Thank you to the Big Art performers; Heather Litteer (I will never think of santa clause the same again), FARRAD (turned us out!), Nicholas Gorham ( A very dark christmas carol [Channing] ), and David Commander (action toy Chekhov and the messiest gogo every, I think I still have goo on me). Take a look at the gallery below and check out our online (anti-Kickstarter) fundraiser. Our next group work, Broke House opens in NYC Jan 5th at the American Realness Festival.

[nggallery id=16]

The People – SF Tableaux #2, Terrorism and Democracy Interview Videos

Below is the second Tableaux built by the phenomenal preformance community in San Francisco followed by the final 4 interview videos on Terrorism and Democracy.

4 Channel Tableaux screened during the Iphigenia’s Monologue of The People – SF. Made by local SF performers during the workshop Hybrid Bodies the week before the performance. Participants included Atosa Babaoff, Ben Randle, Beth Grossman, brian gibbs, christine marie, DIA vergados / DIAmanda Kallas, Ernesto Sopprani, Evan Johnson, Honey McMoney, Justin Morrison, Kate Elswit, Kevin O’Connor, Laura Arrington, Malinda Trimble, maryam rostami, Mica Sigourney, Minna Harri, Nina Otis Haft, Rachael Dichter, Sara Kraft

Terrorism Interviews:

Democracy Interviews:

Hybrid Bodies Workshop Tableaux For The People – SF

Photo: Jared Mezzocchi


As part of Big Art Group’s creation residency for The People – SF, Caden Manson lead a week long workshop in the company’s practice called Hybrid Bodies/Simultaneous Presence. The final two days were spent creating 4 tableaux that were incorporated into the live performance of The People – SF inside and on a 200 foot portion of the building facade. Below are the first two without sound. Origianlly played during the messenger monologue (included below)

(Text Excerpt form THE PEOPLE – SF)


I admit, I lost myself on the way homeward. It wasn’t that the open ocean, arms flung wide, had no landmarks to lead us back to our home. We lost a sense of purpose, we lost our resolution.

What we feared most of all— us the amputees, the gravel-faced, the lettuce-skinned and prosthetic-emotioned— what we dreaded with apprehension now stitched up inside of us, this dread…

We feared– We knew something about ourselves that was irrevocable. We had stepped lightly over a threshold, and now, with regret, cast a glance back.

Where is your queen, your empress? She set the trip wires of the fire, the chain that would rush across mountains and tell you we were coming home, this cursed signal. That was apt, that flame after flame would signal our approach, now from Polverigi, from Halle, watch Salzburg burning, set fire if you don’t mind, to the whole valley floor, and let the summer fill with smoke, let them choke on it, through the intervening space and landscape and you think you can control these things but how easily a spark and cinder escapes and starts its own tyranny, and I watched the fires in Cairo, I watched the fires in Kuwait, I watched the fires in LA and Oakland, I saw the buildings ablaze downtown and felt them singe and called the pyroclast my herald to let them know that we are coming home from the great purpose of our lives we are coming home in clouds and smolders and we are bearing down like wildfire on our homeland—

The People – SF Time Lapse and Justice Interviews

As promised, here is the second set of interviews from the American premiere of THE PEOPLE – San Francisco with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts & Z Space with residency support by Headlands Center For The Arts. Over the next two weeks we will upload each of the four sections (Greek Chorus) created for the performance at Z Space on September 16 & 17, 2011.

Also Here is a short 1 minute time lapse of the show by David Szlasa from Z Space. (Thanks David!)

Justice Interviews:

The People – San Francisco (Video Interviews – War Greek Chorus)

We just finished up our creation and American premiere of THE PEOPLE – San Francisco with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts & Z Space with residency support by Headlands Center For The Arts. Over the next two weeks we will upload each of the four sections (Greek Chorus) created for the performance at Z Space on September 16 & 17, 2011. Thank you again to all the local Bay Area people that took time out to take part in the interview process.