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Photograph: Lauren M. AndersonProduce cocurators Lauren Warnecke, left, and Timothy Russell

Produce | Pas de chat

Taking cues from lab science and reality TV, Timothy Russell and Lauren Warnecke mix and match.


You can learn only so much about ingredients without mixing them together and examining the results.

Produce, a series of four Friday performances at the [node:236525 link=Fasseas White Box Theatre;] beginning Friday 8, was imagined by cocurators Lauren Warnecke (30, active in the Chicago dance scene) and Timothy Russell (29, a Milwaukee musician) as a noncompetitive reality show for live performance, with existing works of choreography and music in place of fifteen-minute celebs with insatiable appetites for attention. The pair requested compositions of any kind and cast size, in the neighborhood of 15 minutes in length, that exemplify their creators’ visions.

Four music and three dance pieces are the pair’s groceries; they’ll cook by matching movement with music written separately, crashing songs together and forcing dances to share space. Like reality-industry “preditors” deciding which bachelorettes will be roommates, they intend to spark conflict based on how the series progresses and on audience feedback. “If we’re active in realizing how these artists work,” Russell says, “how their personalities and artistic visions work, then we can manipulate that, and create something out of that.”

“Their only instructions are to show up with the work that they submitted performance-ready,” Warnecke adds. We’re meeting in a computer lab down the hall from the Fasseas, in the Menomonee Club’s Drucker Center in Lincoln Park.

Warnecke says the idea came out of a conversation the two had about So You Think You Can Dance.

“So many people got behind it,” she muses, “but why? It’s music from the grocery store, and dance steps that have all been done before.”

The appeal of SYTYCD and its ilk, she proposes, is in the process of getting to know each season’s contestants, and hopes that Produce fans will likewise tune in more than once. Series passes are available in advance at a discount.

So what won’t vary from show to show? Lighting? The number of pieces combined in each segment? Seating in the Fasseas, which has no default arrangement, nor even walls that are always its “back” and its “front”?

“At some point, you have to put parameters on it,” Warnecke answers. “It’s like a science experiment: In order to really monitor what’s happening, you have to have some controls.” Dancer-choreographer Samantha Spriggs will light and stage-manage the shows, “and I told her nothing’s defined,” she explains, “so it’ll have to be extemporaneous in some sense.”

“I imagine we’ll choose some sort of ‘front,’” adds Russell, “just for ease of use and because there are so many artists involved.” Only one of Produce’s music makers, Sam Hertz, is a solo act; the Exponential is a duo, Existential Pilot a quintet from Ann Arbor, and Sid Yiddish will bring some of his dozen-ish Candystore Henchmen.

It’s far easier for movers to crowd a space, so it’s a good thing there are only a handful. Chloe Crade performs a solo by Fayth Caruso, who’s danced in music videos for MGMT and Sondre Lerche; local teacher-performer Jenna Dillon brings a trio; and there’s a foursome from Andrea Cerniglia’s group, Drop Shift Dance.

Russell and Warnecke produce their first of four experiments on Friday 8 at the Fasseas White Box Theatre.

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