Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Debris

Last June we went to Joplin to help clean up the debris. On a couple of breaks, I walked around what used to be a neighborhood. I turned on my flip camera and my audio recorder. The final video is created from my visual and auditory experience from the two separate ventures- unedited audio walk and uncut video walk.

I projected this video onto the kitchen of the House in a performance about Impermanence. The House was our first location of the Place Project- a long term process in which we create a performance lab in specific locations to develop and adapt work about Place. The kitchen piece dealt with the idea of impermanence and the heartache of attachment.

I am thinking of Joplin today and of Place and Impermanence, because I am also thinking of 9/11 and the other collective crises we have suffered together. As we watch the terrible events unfold on our t.v. and internet, we feel helpless but so involved. Of course, I remember 9/11. The numb feeling of disbelief. The news footage. The images of destruction. The colossal loss. The stories. The panic. I remember the deep, profound fear that followed the event and how the world was saturated with it for a long time. Its residue remains.

But mostly today, I am thinking about resilience and our ability to continue, even after the most devastating blow, we keep moving. Life endures. Life cycles on. I marvel at this. I honor this.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    The Artist's Laboratory Theatre Needs YOU, Fayetteville!

More Info        
We are requesting submissions from the community for “found in Fayetteville” material to develop a performance, “Show and Tell: Fayetteville” to be presented at Last Night Fayetteville, the “new” New Year’s Eve party on the square.

Last April, we installed a giant Sheet Fort in Matt Miller’s art studio on the square and performed “Show and Tell: A Sheet Fort Experience,” followed by a community show and tell session. Through live interpretation (a’ la readers theatre), video, and audio performances, the show was developed from text found in the environment, Craigslist ads, love letters and lists. The show paid tribute to the stories of the anonymous people who left their legacy in forms both ephemeral and cyber.

Following the same format, we will collect, curate, and develop a multimedia variety show comprised from text that relates to the city of Fayetteville. The New Years Eve show is to be Fayetteville-focused, so the company is turning to their community for stories, anecdotes, to-do lists, diary entries, and scraps of ephemera to attach a Fayetteville story to. Example of items to featured which have already been found Fayetteville: song lyrics about a bad break-up, a Dear Santa letter from an adult woman, a desperate plea from a young lover. All content remains anonymous and the company will take creative liberties on interpretation.

“Show and Tell: Fayetteville” will premiere on December 31st 2011 and is one of many performances throughout the evening from several local groups. Born from the former “First Night” event, Last Night is a new & exciting celebration of community arts taking place on the Fayetteville Square on New Year’s Eve. The festival has been re-imagined, re-named, and is now hosted by the Creative Economy Action Group (CEAG).

To submit your found story, item, or idea:
Erika Wilhite, Artistic Director

For more information about The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre:

For more information about Last Night:

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Show and Tell: Another Sheet Fort Experience"


The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre presents

“Show and Tell: A Sheet Fort Experience. “

Fayetteville, AR- March 8th, 2011- The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre presents “Show and Tell: A Sheet Fort Experience,” on April 8th and 9th at the studio of artist Matt Miller. Doors open at 7:30 PM, show begins at 8:00 PM at 21 W. Mountain in Fayetteville (Town Center, next to Jammin Javas). Tickets are $10 and can be reserved at or cash at the door the evening of the show.

4/08/11 Friday: Doors open at 7:30 PM, Performance begins at 8:00 PM

4/09/11 Saturday: Doors open at 7:30 PM, Performance begins at 8:00 PM

The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre invites you back to another Sheet Fort Experience! The company will build a giant fort made out of sheets (like the one you made as a kid!) and will bring the audiences inside it to present “Show and Tell, “ a multimedia performance inspired by the classroom event of the same name from our school days. The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre wants to show you what they have found! Compiled from found sources, such as Craigslist ads, love letters and lists—the show will pay tribute to the stories of the anonymous people who left their legacy in forms both ephemeral and cyber. Whether it is in the form of an insightful to-do list on a post-it note or online personal ads, home movies or street art, the show will consist of “found” items which resonate with humor and poignancy. In addition to “found” and anonymous items, the company will present podcasts and videos they feel just have to be shared because of how cool they find them to be.

The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre is a company dedicated to storytelling through the process of experimentation. The company debuted in Fayetteville, as well as Oklahoma City, with “Bombs, Babes, and Bingo,” a play performed in random order, and was featured in the New Orleans Fringe Festival last November. “Show and Tell” is the second performance in a series of readings and performances held in a giant sheet fort.

The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre is also taking submissions for the public portion of “Show and Tell.” Do you have a really incredible story or an item you’ve held dear for years? Send your story to if you’d like to participate!

Check out past productions and Sheet Forts at

Contact for more information and production photos:

Erika Wilhite

Artistic Director



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Where We Are Going...

The Artist's Laboratory Theatre is going places.
Because we want to know more about Place. Capital P.

Our last project, "Bombs, Babes, and Bingo," opened up to us the world of memory, neurology, statistics, family, and war. We spent the summer in a performance lab researching and experimenting- just as the mad scientist/artists we became! Our work in the lab inspired and informed us, ultimately influencing our choices in the staging of Merri Biechler's fascinating and terrifically fun play. We brought in a few guest artists to collaborate, (including our Merri,) and held many Skype and phone conferences with each other from across the country. And we produced "Bombs, Babes, and Bingo" in three cities, including 3 performances in The New Orleans Fringe Festival.

What a blast! It was worth the work! But now it is time to do something different.

Not without the fruits of our labor, which I consider to be the wealth of experience. I fully expect our investigation and experimentation on the themes of Place will call upon what we now know of memory, neurology, family, etc. I expect that with every new project, we embark with the valuable memory of what just happened—the moment before always informs the moment now. Maybe we will continue to follow the thread from theme to theme, searching for a through line. As if it were possible. But I am eager to follow it just the same.

Personally, I am interested in physical place and the structures that live (and sometimes die) there. And not necessarily how they were made. I am not so much into architectural design as I am into the why and when of a building-and of course, its occupants. People are usually the most important things. But like some buildings die, some get new lives.

Take the palimpsest, for example. A building whose structure is made up in stacks and layers of years, of lives, of generations. I like to walk through the alleyways of Fayetteville and be reminded that the town has had its share of changes, development and growth. The mortars don't always match the bricks of buildings- I like that. To witness the history. To be reminded of the moment before now.

A palimpsest is building out. Building up. That is what we call progress. A promise to last forever if we just keep building on.

But we start the Place Project by going backwards. We begin with the idea that nothing is permanent (so sayeth the Buddhist), and look to the evidence of this idea in places which have disappeared—such as ghost towns, abandoned homes. We begin with the dissolution of a place, specifically home. We start with the questions: Can places go away? Why does one leave their home? Can home leave us? What is place? When does Space become Place?

We started on the Place project at the end of summer, after we closed the first run of "Bombs, Babes, and Bingo." We visited Picher, Ok, the most toxic place in America. The first field trip in a series of several Superfund sites we will visit in the course of our project. We were lucky to sit on a porch with one of seven families that remain in Picher. We were pleased to learn that people will talk, but don't always give over personal information to strangers easily. We did record an interview with a current Picher resident woman. She shared her porch with us and patiently and pleasantly obliged us the list of ten or so questions I had prepared. We also got in touch with a man who hadn't lived in Picher since 1973 and he obliged us a recorded hour- long phone interview. He was lovely and full of stories. We talked of home and leaving home. And he talked of denial—what it's like when a community is infected with it.

And I met with a Tibetan monk who also obliged me an interview. He invited me into his home. I asked him about Impermanence and accountability. But before we could really get on with my questions, he had to impress upon me the reality that there is no good or bad. When I finally mostly understood this idea (without fully accepting its truth,) we were able to move on to big stuff, like how nothing lasts forever, nor is it supposed to. And I learned that the only reason I get sad when something changes or goes away is because I have developed an unnecessary attachment to the thing, the person or the idea. The monk doesn't believe in home as a Place. But then again, he has been on exile since he was a child. So of course, I am very interested in what he has to say about Place.

So that is where we are now. Where we go from here:

The Artist's Laboratory Theatre will go to different places where the idea of Impermanence is rumored to be represented. But we will remember this:
no blaming, no taking sides, nothing is precious, and everything is meaningful.
And follow the changes of the course. Let things change.

We will continue gathering information and documenting our findings. We will catalogue our data, so we may access it later for our performance lab. We will conduct performance labs which will afford us the time and space to work things out creatively. Like the artist at the sketch pad, we will doodle until stuff starts looking and feeling right. Now the Place Project Lab will be similar in nature to the "Bombs" lab. We will bring a group of artists together to work on developing our research from ideas to story. The difference this time is that we plan to go a few steps further and produce a script from our labs. We will write the piece together. Because, ultimately, we are storytellers. I can't say how long this will take, but you can expect to see our process along the way, and eventually, our play. Which will probably have a catchier title by then.

Happy New Year!

Erika Wilhite
Artistic Director
The Artist's Laboratory Theatre