2023 Cohen New Works Festival Projects

ZAZ: The Big Easy

A collection of electric dance practitioners, musicians and actors embark on a spiritual journey through a kinetic synthesis of percussive dance and embodied storytelling. This immersive experience propels the audience on a high-energy, immersive roller coaster, taking viewers from the depths of environmental tragedy to the heights of community triumphs and celebration. 

Exploring the events of Hurricane Katrina and comprised of intimate, first-person testimonies told from a small speakeasy in New Orleans, ZAZ serves as a living archive of history, culture and African Diasporic Percussive Dance methodologies. 

Project Lead: Ryan K. Johnson

The Seclusion

A devised audio drama centered around the themes of seclusion and artistry. This horror anthology follows an artist who has isolated themselves from the outside world. A story told through an audio tour of their new exhibit, narrated by a museum curator, The Seclusion features a diverse cast of characters that work for the museum. As the listener "moves" through the exhibit, a darker perspective begins to make its way into the world of this seclusion. 

Inspired by Eldritch horrors, queerness, old paintings with golden frames and artists, The Seclusion is an exploration of the darkness and the growing fear that your art may never be enough, and how to dive deeper into that for your own sake. 

Project Lead: Avery Brooks

The Latinx Variety Show

This piece takes a Latinx spin on the variety show that was famous in the 1960's in television as a form of entertainment that, today, takes different forms in Latin American and U.S. television. With the pretense of doing "entertainment," the artist uses the show as a platform for International Latinx Students at UT Austin to talk about some of the issues they find relevant, related to their countries of origin, using comedy and irony as a form to approach political issues. 

Project Lead: siri gurudev

Slay With Us

A representation of belonging and found community based on queer experiences, a love for fashion and slaying. We explore the feeling of being in a new space and finding your true self through kindness of your chosen community. We define "slay" as someone who is confident in their style, energy and place in the world; they are not afraid to have fun, be silly, be seen and be friendly. 

Project Lead: Joylin Wei 

Performing Environmental Counternarratives

Environmental change represents a crucial issue for many University of Texas at Austin students, as this topic intertwines with culture, well-being and aspirations. However, mainstream environmental narratives often ignore young people's voices and rely on buzzwords (ex. recycling), blame the individual (ex plastic straws), or propose solutions that exclude vulnerable communities (ex. technofixes). While scholars and practitioners increasingly recognize the importance of processing environmental change intellectually and emotionally, the body and the arts are often overlooked. 

This project addresses the sustainability aspects of environment and equity using arts-based research. 

Project Lead: Whitney Mosery

Inferno Musical

From the endlessly distressing headlines to the shocking statistics, it appears that our society has become increasingly desperate. Wealth and income inequality increases each day; classism perpetuates through a system that favors the status quo and the social structure pits people against each other rather than against the issues themselves. 

Inspired by Dante's Inferno, this musical follows a character's introduction into Hell, their placement into a circle and their struggle to escape from the faceless system. 

Project Lead: Ethan Lao

Beneath the Melanin

A visual dance film that depicts the various realities of Black women navigating the journey of adulthood. The film will touch on the struggles, resilience and persistence in finding joy in a life filled with trials and tribulations we continue to endure. We will show how to find our sense of purpose and sense of self while living in a society where we are the most unprotected. 

Project Leads: Evan Beek, Jannah Colins 

Squid Kid

Squid Kid is a surreal coming-of-age horror play that is inspired by the playwright's experiences of growing up neurodivergent. The story follows Loris, an odd fifth-grader who has a peculiar fixation on Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and The Catcher in the Rye, as well as an irrational phobia of giant squid. Squid Kid is an extreme send-up of the coming-of-age genre. Not only does Loris deal with bullies and self-esteem issues, he must also fight for his life with the ultimate manifestation of adolescent dread: the Squid. 

Project Lead: Benjamin Cervantes

Then We'll Rest

Penny and Polly take gymnastics lessons after school. One of them will win. Someone will die. Penny and Polly grow up, get in a big fight, accidentally reinvent reality, join a cult. Penny gets sad and Polly gets sick. So does a king living elsewhere. Have you read Uncle Vanya? This isn't like that. This is a play about drowning at sea and the seduction of power. It's about two friends and how each informs the other; it's about language and reality and how each informs the other; it's about power and death and how neither succeeds in informing the other despite spending eternity trying.

Then We'll Rest is an experimental play about two girls and the people who surround them. It is preoccupied with questions about life and death; meaning; childhood, play and bodies - how bodies change over time and, especially, how feminized bodies move through space and how those changes and movements impact the people the bodies house. 

Project Leads: Caley Chase, Eliya Smith 

Sea of Stars

Sea of Stars is a nonverbal theatre piece for very young audiences (ages 0-5) and their adults. It follows two clown-like fishermen seeking to capture the moon and stars. The piece plays with a simple aesthetic palette, physical performance and gentle invitations to audience members, who participate throughout the show to create moments of visual surprise and delight. 

Project Lead: Claire Derriennic 

Spoons

Spoons is an interactive theatrical art exhibit exploring the concept of the "Spoon Theory" and it's relation to the disabled or mentally ill communities. The Spoon Theory is a terminology created to easily explain the daily struggles that disabled and/or mentally ill people face when trying to complete tasks. Each day, you wake up with a certain number of spoons, and every task throughout the day will take a number of spoons. Types of tasks that require spoons, and the number of spoons, are variable. They vary both from person to person and from day to day. 

Spoons is a multi-day, varying experience where participants will be given a set number of "spoons" to begin with and are faced with the task of choosing how they would spend their spoons for the day. 

Project Lead: Ezra Rose

Pertrificationology

Pertrificationology is a site-specific, immersive music theatre performance that will be staged in the wildlife diorama hall of the Texas Memorial Museum. Nestled between the disciplines of geology and biology is the small and perpetually underfunded sub-field of Pertrificationology: the study of those who have been turned to stone by the Gods. Sometimes petrification happens because the Gods are punishing that person for their sins. Sometimes the Gods are trying to save them from a worse fate. Sometimes - and this happens more often than we'd like to admit - petrification just happens. And we never learn why. Petrificationology is a study of stillness; of breath-taking; of the sudden and irreversible losses that occur unseen every day across the face of our planet. 

Project Lead: Emma Watkins

Contrapasto

An experimental dance piece that investigates preserving memories and/or conscious renderings of materialized space through gesture and scenic play. Using a 3D scanning program called Lidar, the artist has been able to preserve 3D renderings of herself in motion in a way that has abstracted the body and taken new forms. Using the weaknesses of the program to convey movement as both artifact and notation, this is a truly hybrid exploration as both digital and live performance to be viewed in real time. 

Project Lead: Venese Alcantar

Mine: Not Yours

A dance piece about the artist's personal experience with PTSD, the unhealthy ways they coped and the non-linear healing process. It takes lots of work to dig deep to understand where you need to grow and what you need to relearn. Join Ashleigh for a look into PTSD. 

Project Lead: Ashleigh Taylor

Baby Rave

Part lullaby, part puppet show part immersive experience! A one-of-a-kind experience specially made for babies 0-18 months. Based on empathy development research and theatre ideology, Baby Rave is a nurturing theatrical adventure full of wonders and surprises. Captivating lights, original music and tactile experiences, Baby Rave is a theatrical experience for the wee-est among us. 

Project Lead: Jenny Lavery

GendTent

GendTent is an interactive installation exploring the presentation, perception and negotiations of one's own gender through their clothing style and fashion. The actual GendTent is a tent built from thrifted, recycled, donated clothes/garments wherein folks can enter and engage in the colorful space of the tent at any time during the festival. Inside the tent, audiences are invited to try on and play with racks and bins of clothes. Definitions of gender, gender identity, gender expression and perception are found throughout the space as well as other gender resources on campus and from the Austin community. Audiences can also engage with prompts written on mirrors throughout the space. 

The idea of the tent is borrowed from activist and protest spaces where a medical tent is usually found to offer medical assistance, water/food, mental health resources, etc. GendTent offers a space for folks to safely explore their own ideas of gender, the way they interact with gender and how/if their clothing/style play a role in that conversation. 

Project Lead: Mateo Hernandez

La Liga de la Decencia

La Liga de la Decencia combines live performance (cabaret) and video art to explore the following question: How do WWII era politics continue to affect the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico today? Through their whimsical costumes, irreverent jokes and sensuous dances, La Liga de la Decencia 's entertainers invite the audience to come, sit down and relax in this atmosphere of social and gender transgression. 

How revealing will the vendette's costumes be? Who will the comedians target in their jokes? Will the latest political events be discussed? Or will they try to distract the audience with dance, lights and spectacle? Moreover, what are the entertainers trying to distract the audience from? And what exactly is going on beyond the walls of the cabaret during a time of political instability for two neighboring countries? 

Project Lead: Jessica Peña Torres

Rite of Passage

A live performance piece that pushes the limits of experimental trance music to examine the dynamics of the relationship between society and their traditions. 

Project Lead: Ben Randall

Ritual

An installation - at the center is a baptismal font with a speaker underneath the water. It reflects back. On the outskirts are invitations. Pick up an iPad. Choose a projection. Record your voice. Will it play out loud? Decide alone. Decide with a friend. Do nothing. These are all choices we make. You can turn back. Can you forget? Radiating inward are translucent fabrics, on which different projections are played at different times. On which poetry is digitally written. 

See them and see through them. Walk through them if you like. Through audience participation and multimedia; through live music and spoken word; through archival home video footage ands elf portraiture, this project explores cycles of consent, shame and silence that young people face in community theatre spaces. 

Project Lead: Lily Odekirk

Paper Fangs: A Stop-Motion Film

A short, stop-motion film that endeavors collaboration between the Department of Theatre and Dance and Radio-Television-Film, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The film will be followed by a short behind-the-scenes documentary that aims to highlight the skills and talents of the designers, technicians, fabricators and filmmakers it takes to bring stop-motion to life. 

Project Lead: California Thorson

Recuerdos de tu Voz

Project Lead: Fabiana Muñoz

[untitled dj project]

[untitled dj project] is a live event with music, movement and and story, formally inspired by the Berlin DANSTHEATRE style. The story explores the chemically erosive qualities of memory, modern gaslighting and the challenges feminine people face in trying to hold on to their own narratives. 

Project Lead: Malena Pennycook

More Blackberries Please

A restaging of Crystal Wilkinson's Blackberries, Blackberries through a Black feminist lens in line with the legacies of the Department of Theatre and Dance's own Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones. This process of staging Dr. Abell's adaptation of Blackberries, Blackberries as a chore poem alongside the radio drama adaptation will explore activism by questioning how perceptions of identity (via movement) infludence ideas of race, place, class and gender. 

Project Lead: Yunina Barbor-Payne

Or not to be

An immersive art installation and multimedia performance centering queer exploration and an inquisition into why we embrace and abstract feminine presentations of ourselves. Viewers are invited to witness and experience the installation in a gallery-like structure. One side of the room hosts a large canvas to collaboratively paint and draw on, while the other side of the room displays a pole dance short film playing on loop for spectators to enjoy at their own pace. At various scheduled times throughout the festival, the installation will be activated by live performance. These scenes of live performance operate in the center of the room while the installation remains in place. 

Project Leads: Kayla Senter, Aida Hernandez Reyes

ReSourced: Portals of Possibilities

ReSourced: Portals of Possibility is a durational dance installation experience that explores the pulls between oppression and liberation and the tensions that fall between the two. It is a journey of acknowledgement confrontation, shedding and expansion through the body. This experience uses dance performance, embodied facilitation, projection and sound to take the performer and audience on a journey to reconnect to their physical body and expand the possibilities of our future world. ReSourced: Portals of Possibility asks: what are we holding that is not ours to carry? What does it feel like to be in a liberated body? What practices can we create to make a liberated body sustainable? 

Project Lead: Love Muwwakkil

Soldadera: A Mariachi Musical

Soldadera is a theatrical work that loosely adapts the ancient Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, drawing from the real life history of soldaderas, the female soldiers who were vital in the Mexican Revolution. The show uses mariachi music and Mexican folklorico dance to tell the story of Elena, a young girl living in Northern Mexico at the start of the Mexican Revolution who is inspired by her grandmother's tales to follow the call to arms and make change, in spite of the resistance she meets from her family and other soldiers. 

Project Lead: Demian Chavez

OH, BUDDY

Set in a surreal mashup of all stereotypical offices, OH, BUDDY follows four coworkers: Dude, a cis man; Lady, a cis woman; New Guy, a trans man; and Buddy, a cis large furry monster. When New Guy returns from having a gender affirming procedure, he navigates his coworkers' awkward attempts to make sense of his transition and how it's affected their relationships. Dude seems overeager to make New guy "one of the guys," while Lady can't help but ask invasive questions about New Guy's procedure. Buddy announces a new promotion, but isn't considering New Guy for the job - Buddy thinks New Guy is actually new to the company, instead of just being new to being a guy.

To try to set the record straight, New Guy accepts an invitation from Dude to "hang with the guys" after work. Their drinks take them back to Buddy's place, which leads to an unhinged evening of pushing each other's boundaries, testing who can and can't share personal details with their work friends and upsetting existing gendered workplace alliances. 

Project Lead: Hal Cosentino

this

In a typical performance, an audience member is able to come into the space and sit down and do as they should: watch and perceive. The dancers will come out onto the stage for the allotted time of the work and dance. Frankly, we do this in life. Existing in most of the institutionalized standards that have been ingrained in us. Only fighting against the ones that are unjust. We were raised to always be right and perfect. Go to college after high school and, after college, get a salaried job. During this, find love, get married and have kids. It's time to end all of this. 

Project Lead: Anna Valdman

Womanhood

A contemporary dance piece that elaborates on the highs and lows of being a woman. It features different characteristics and experiences to highlight the real life duality of womanhood. 

Project Lead: Payge Garcia

For Dinner, We Had Reciprocity

An exhibition of queerness, the grotesque beauty of being and sharing meals. It is a collision of queer poetry and media - a nebulous cloud of self discovery and the art of being beautiful. the project consists of a collection of short film vignettes and photo collections of queer students in Austin. Some will be more mundane, slice-of-life sequences. Other vignettes and photo series will lean more towards the avant-garde using themes, costumes and short stories as interpretations of classic queer poetry (both contemporary and modern). 

Project Leads: Chloe Whitehead

The Usher

A performance art piece that merges reality and the digital in an improvisational, audience interaction based work. A robot usher, featuring a TV style contraption on their head that will be capable of playing videos, music and images on screen to audiences on command, will be able to respond to audience members as they wait for other shows to begin. 

Find The Usher all around New Works Festival! 

Project Leads: Fedor Aglyamov

Raised on Estrangement

This dance film will utilize the power of filmmaking and movement composition in order to tell the artist's story and the story of many other first-generation Asian Americans growing up in predominantly white communities. This film touches on the internal conflict of wanting to honor one's heritage and the people who came before but also longing to fit in and feeling like an outsider. 

Raised on Estrangement explores the struggle with internalized racism as an adolescent and how it heavily influences the development of one's character as well as how the model minority myth can influence how one experiences oneself. 

Project Lead: Ava Tran 

The Aardvark

A hilarious mockumentary that follows one socially-nebulous, hopelessly-romantic man, a.k.a. The Aardvark. Have you ever looked at someone and thought "There is no way they are real." That is who Jamie is. Jamie has never found where he belongs. He bounces around different friend groups, can never seem to find that special someone and belongs to that mental gray area between total self-confidence and complete ego death. While he may seem like an "NPC" to some, this mockumentary follows Jamie as he figures out what is blocking him from becoming the person he wants to be.

Through failed auditions, awry kisses and pathetic attempts at casual stand-up, Jamie confronts his fears and rediscovers the boundaries that are keeping him from forming meaningful relationships. 

Project Lead: Dominic Gross

Red Blue Yellow, Magenta Teal Amber, Orange Violet Green

A dance piece is about triadic relationships as it relates to people in groups of three as well as triadic color relationships on the color wheel like red/blue/yellow. Set in a bucolic place of nature, the piece embodies the aesthetics of a mystical grove where dancing nymphs and magical entities give life to a beautiful story. 

Project Lead: Brock Gayaut 

I can't tell You

Taking up the outline of Reggie Watts' 2015 piece Audio Abramovic, this piece is interested in exploring what happens when one artist revisions another artist's revisioning of one of the greatest pieces of performance art ever devised. I can't tell You is a musical performance for one - the audience member will join Daphne at an audio work station, don a pair of headphones and listen as she improvises a wholly original piece of music for them using a drum machine, a sample sequencer and a loop station. 

Project Lead: Daphne Silbiger

The Scholarship or Almost is Never Enough

A devised docu-theatre piece focusing on first-generation university students and the experiences that inspire their drive to attend a respected institution. This show follows eight 18-year-old students that are being called in for a final interview at a prestigious university. What these kids don't know is that the institution's psychology department is conducting an experiment on them, evaluating to what extent they'll go in order to earn something that most first-generations students dream of: a full ride scholarship. Once they all arrive, they are told they will be competing for a singular full scholarship. But in order to earn it, the group must unanimously decide on ONE person among them to receive it. 

Project Lead: Yobany Pizano

Showtimes, titles and project information subject to change.