In tandem in action
The raison d’etre of In Tandem Arts is to maximize collaborative capacity. ITA’s namesake explicitly states what we do – work in tandem with communities and individuals to create emergent art that could not exist without partnership. Through these projects, we shape culture with artforms based in narrative storytelling. Live storytelling may take the form of music, dance, theater, spoken word, immersive installations, the oral storytelling tradition, or hybrids of these disciplines. By giving our participants the challenge to redesign our social narratives through immediate, visible, and thoughtful action, we build shared spaces. The “stage” becomes any common ground that our learners or community members share. We do not limit our work to traditional art galleries, theaters, or auditoriums. This common ground can be created in a K-12 classroom, senior home, union hall, correctional facility, rehab facility, clinic, or social services organization. As “visiting scholars” or “artists-in-residence”, we have partnered with schools across the state, as well as organizations such as 350VT, Champlain Community Services, Counseling Services of Addison County, Vision Strength Access VT, The Miller Center for Holocaust Studies, and The Vermont Birth Network, to strengthen community voice within the populations these organization serve. Further, we have collaborated with or been influenced by Community Engagement Lab, Shelburne Museum, Conversations from the Open Road, Vermont Folklife Center, Burlington City Arts, Telling My Story, JAG Productions, Kingdom County Productions, Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center, and Shelburne Farms.
Retro Spec (2020) Created with support from BCA, Retro Spec is a live theatrical performance that premiered via live stream to an outdoor cinema in August 2020. The performance itself is best described as an immersive theater experience set to a score of original music by Kat Wright and Stephanie Wilson. Produced by In Tandem Arts, the event was a pandemic-era experiment by musicians, theater artists, dancers, visual artists to create a new model of live entertainment. The performance took the form of a socially-distanced spectacle projected on the side of a waterfront warehouse in Burlington, Vermont.
Brundibar: A Musical Tale (2016) Created in partnership with BCA, Brundibar is a children’s folk opera that was performed 55 times in the Terezin Concentration Camp during Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. This production used a modern translation of the libretto by Pulitzer-winner Tony Kushner. Directed by Trish Denton, the original score by Hans Krasa is conducted by VYSO’s Yutaka Kono. Over two weekends, the project engaged over 1500 people in Burlington’s City Hall, and reached over 600 kids in area schools and faith organizations through artist residencies.
“Kochalka said in a phone call that, while backstage at rehearsals, he occasionally became ‘teary-eyed’ thinking about the children who performed in the original productions. (…) Yet those children must have felt — if only for the duration of the performances — something similar to what audiences of this local production surely feel: a sense of exhilaration and brief triumph over oppressors.”
James Kolchaka, Seven Days, 2016
Expert Explanations of The Epoch of Great Change (2021) A collaboration between a combination of (5) 4th and 5th classes, this mockumentary is an exploration of all aspects of human civilization 150 years in the future. This is a good reference point or proof of concept for Epoch Generation, however this residency was completely virtual, so future programming will be more produced/directed. The original script was written by Trish Denton in collaboration with every student.
Example of teaching – 4th grade class (2021) Teaching artist Trish Denton visits Champlain Elementary for a discussion about utopia and what fourth graders would like to see in our future world.
The Dover Way (2019) ITA was commissioned by The Dover School, a Pre K-6 primary school in Dover, Vermont. Over the course of a month, ITA worked with specials teachers, classroom teachers, administration, parents, and students to create The Dover Way, a one-hour original performance with a full school cast of 100. Celebrating the quirks and triumphs of local culture, the show included an original narrative mash-up set to a playlist of popular music played by a live band of school staff.
“The students had a great experience with this residency. They were able to experience storytelling techniques, acting, and create an immersive set. They loved creating the stories about the future world they envisioned and exploring topics of social justice. They got to practice many skills–writing, reading fluency, storytelling, visual arts, teamwork, and collaboration.”
Aziza Malik, 5th grade teacher, 2021
The Tale of Beatrix Potter (2017)
The Tale of Beatrix Potter is a biographical, immersive play that merges the life and work of conservationist, botanist, author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. The play was part of an immersive, site specific, culinary experience at Shelburne Farms. Denton researched and wrote the biographical introductions and adapted Potter’s tales for the stage.
Counseling Services of Addison County was inspired to include a live storytelling performance as the opening and closing ceremonies of their annual meeting. In tandem with ITA, they crafted a proposal that emphasized a message of inclusion and interdependence between staff and clients. Through research, scripting, and an intensive workshop, ITA created a framework for the staff, clinicians, healthcare professionals, and clients to perform alongside one another in an immersive opening and closing ceremony.
“A huge thanks to you…our annual meeting was fabulous. The ‘Feisty Journey Crew’ did a wonderful job and everyone left with a smile on their faces. According to many it was ‘the best annual meeting’ to date. I do hope we will have a chance to work with you again.” Barbara Doyle-Which, 2018
The stories we hear shape our realities. The stories we tell shape us. Having the tools to narrate our story in this moment of unrest is both history-making and future-making. ITA uses storytelling and the performing arts to develop critical thinking skills in critical times. We are a production company that organizes participatory projects by working in tandem with schools, communities, and partnering organizations to co-create engaging, new narratives. What narrative do you imagine for yourself in the next chapter? Did you catch our socially-distanced, outdoor spectacle RETRO SPEC on Burlington’s Waterfront? If not, WATCH HERE on a chilly night and THINK. What if the themes we elucidated in Retro Spec — Applied Futures, Racial Justice, Climate Justice, and The Education of Imagination — are areas that we throw focus on in the coming years? You ready? Let’s go!