The audience and the performers come in at equal bearings at Black C Art Gallery. No more than four pairs of eyes lock together at a time in the socially distanced performance of “The Stronger.”
Extended from September until Oct. 30, “The Stronger,” directed by the gallery’s artistic consultant Lauren Warhol Caldwell and performed by Ani Collier and Sara Morsey, tells different truths through text and dance.
“It’s not a play, it’s not a dance piece, it’s not a movement piece,” Morsey said. “But it’s got all the different parts that slip by really quickly.”
“The Stronger,” originally written in 1889 by Swedish playwright August Strindberg, sees two nameless women clash in their certainties. After one cheats with the other’s husband, the duo confront their thoughts on adultery stemming from their foiled social classes. Mrs. X and Miss Y allow for the audience to embody themselves into the anonymous characters’ predicament.
The gallery’s rendition brings this dramatic monologue into an updated setting built around several artistic modes including dance and song.
Morsey, a local actor and performer, first read a bit from the Strindberg play to Collier, the owner of the gallery. That snippet turned into a summer 2019 submission at Etud Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria. They performed the piece again Nov. 20 and 21 before letting it sit for almost a year.
Originally bringing it back for September at the gallery, the trio didn’t want to wait and disappear afterward, Caldwell said. She said they wanted to keep it going through uncertain months slumbered by COVID-19.
“And yet it updates it to 2020, so I'm very glad that we got back into it and asked harder questions and found a different route,” Caldwell said.
Having been gifted the namesake by Andy Warhol in a New York bar, Caldwell wears her name proudly. She said she has artistically nurtured Gainesville through positions with the Hippodrome Theatre for about two decades. Her contributions varied from work in the education department to acting and directing.
Now at Black C Art Gallery, her efforts are more intimate.
“My relationship with the audience is very important to me,” she said. “I spend a lot of time cultivating that. It’s just a part of who I am.”
Their 30-minute adaptation pulls from parts of the original play. Patrons are seated apart and asked to wear masks while the two performers and two technicians work the black box set.
Caldwell said the feeling one gets from the many opinions swirling in the world today resonates through the performance.
“We’re faced with a lot right now,” she said. “It’s not just a presidential election, we got the COVID-19, and racism is being looked at again with all the protests. The American people are trying to discover their truth, and those truths don’t always align with each other.”
Even in its relevance, Caldwell said the performance is not bogged down by politics. She said it carries its own wit, fun and theatricality.
The audience can ask questions and give their interpretation to the performers after its one-act conclusion.
“When people actually see it, there's an element of surprise,” Morsey said. “Sometimes there’s something that never particularly crossed any of our minds. That’s kind of the story of art as far as I’m concerned.”
Cast and ticket information for “The Stronger” can be found here now through Oct. 30.