The Village Voice
In Tanya Calamoneri's exhilarating dance-theater piece Art of Memory, three eccentric librarians (Cassie Terman, Heather Harpham, Tanya Calamoneri) in frilly Victorian-style dresses find themselves trapped in a cavernous library, searching for a way out. With graceful, fluid movements inspired by Japanese butoh, the women frolic on Sean Breault's imaginative set, where books are suspended in the air and stacked in dangerously teetering heaps. From the Brontë sisters to Jorge Luis Borges, Calamoneri skillfully manages to turn her many influences into a cohesive and entertaining 50 minutes. At the center of the literary chaos is the delightful Lisa Ramirez, who, from a platform above the stage, narrates dark fairy tales that the three women deftly act out. Each story shares the common theme of a female character punished for breaking the rules (the most gruesome being "Bluebeard," in which the title character violently chops off the hands of his disobedient wife to end her dream of becoming a writer). Presented by Company So Go No, the piece, named for Frances Yates's study of ancient memory techniques, will be easily remembered as a highlight of this year's Ontological-Hysteric Incubator series, which offers an array of experimental works all summer long.
(Angela Ashman, July 31, 2007)
The New York Times
There's a lot going on in Company So Go No's "Art of Memory," a 50-minute dance-theater romp conceived and directed by Tanya Calamoneri that spans several continents and decades in source materials alone. The piece, part of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater's Incubator series, takes its name from Frances Yates's study of how human beings retained knowledge before the invention of printing, and its style comes, roughly, from Butoh, the 20th-century Japanese dance form. Just as many contemporary artists in Japan are desperately trying to rid themselves of the Butoh label, many contemporary artists in America are intent on applying it. Neither is easily done with regard to such a relentlessly misunderstood art, whose idiosyncratic master practitioners seem unified only in avoiding definitions. And then there's Ms. Calamoneri's use of "The Library of Babel." That marvelous Borges story, which plays with the idea of the universe's functioning as a vast library, is fed into a rich recorded and spoken stew of text. Perhaps she figures that the two bedeviling artistic influences, Borges and Butoh, will balance each other, adding up to a complete — albeit fractured — theatrical experience. Perhaps not. Yet even if the sum doesn't quite equal the parts, the parts on Monday night were great fun. The other, more immediately satisfying tradition at work is the enduring cultural drive to satirize librarians. "Art of Memory" features a bewitching trio of nutty ladies, with white-powdered faces and complicated antique dresses. Spurred on by a wickedly enjoyable narrator, Lisa Ramirez, they skitter and sneak through Sean Breault's set, an Escher-like landscape of suspended, looping strands of books. As Ms. Ramirez moseys through various fairy tales — at first hurling books down from an overhead walkway, creating plumes of dust — the librarians (Cassie Terman, Heather Harpham, Tanya Calamoneri) move in and out of the stories. Now they are the Brontë sisters, now Bluebeard's bride and her sisters. But they always return to their meta-personas: nervous, obsessive librarians, trying to order a dizzying, unruly world of knowledge. It's hard to know exactly what system they're using. But it's safe to say it is not Dewey's. "Art of Memory" runs through Saturday at Ontological-Hysteric Theater, St. Mark's Church, 131 East 10th Street, East Village; (212) 352-3101.
(Claudio La Rocco, July 18, 2007)
The New York Times
Wry Wit and Cello Scrapings With Subtlety Always Afoot "The Smallest Country" was a perfect name for the evening of improvised physical theater presented by Cassie Terman and Shinichi Momo Koga on Friday night at the CRS studio on Fourth Avenue. The hourlong program, presented by Dharma Road Productions, began with Mr. Koga and Ms. Terman slipping quietly through the audience and into the pocket-size performing space. They stood still, watching each other for a few moments as the merest hint of a wry smile began to show on Ms. Terman's piquant face. Gradually and wordlessly, the two created a complex relationship onstage, as lovers, perhaps, who knew that they must never marry. Mr. Koga, a neatly put-together Butoh dancer, and the fuzzy-haired Ms. Terman, who trained in physical theater with Ruth Zaporah, were best when they were most subtle. Toward the end, their interplay became a little too cutely explicit. But even then the friction between the deceptively, mulishly passive Mr. Koga and the slyly assertive Ms. Terman was delicately funny, revealed in a simple walk across the stage or a contretemps over a folding chair and a noisy radiator. The arrival of Keren Rosenbaum and her cello in the program's second half rooted the two in a world of mundane line-standers and creepy events like the evaporation of Ms. Terman's soul up through a skylight. Witty intermittent words, sounds and cello scraping added to the vivid goings-on, which ended with a magical bit about bubbles. Mr. Koga and Ms. Terman are sure, charismatic performers. The sturdily subversive Ms. Rosenbaum is an inspired choice of accomplice. May the three soon perform again together.
(Jennifer Dunning, January 9, 2006)
San Francisco Bay Guardian
"There are a thousand ways to escape a life." The phrase, in writer-performer Cassie Terman's solo work, sounds strangely admonitory and boastful at the same time, but then contradiction is her theme. With a frequently enthralling blend of movement, gesture, music, and monologue, Terman assumes the guises of women and men caught between competing poles of desire. At turns comical and macabre, she explores with the moody reflexes of a clown, and sly references to archetypes of Greek mythology, a life not entered as much as endlessly negotiated in the disorienting stream of time. In the bittersweet metamorphosis of a young woman into a tree (an answer to her cry for rescue from an ensuing attacker), the paradox of escape meets simple, untroubled being. Inspired by a series of disparate Action Theater-style improvisations, there's no escaping a certain desultory aspect to the piece as a whole, which makes the ending seem a little forced. But Terman is a skillful and magnetic performer, and director Allen Willner, with the aid of his lush lighting design, ably underscores her transformations with arresting shifts in tone. Citizen of Trees; Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa; 621-7978. $15-20. Fri-Sun, 8pm.
(Robert Avila, January 2004)
San Francisco Weekly
It was one of those rare down-the-rabbit-hole experiences. Perhaps there are deeper psychological reasons why, from the moment I walked into Noh Space to see Cassie Terman and Allen Willner's "Citizen of Trees" last Friday, I felt as if I had escaped the regular world and stepped into an alternate universe. The moss and earth from the set had created an organic greenhouse-y smell that wafted into the lobby and made the theater moist and warm. (I know that sounds sort of terrible, but it was both comforting and delightfully disorienting, kind of like when you wake up after falling asleep face down in a sunny patch of grass.) Anyway, where do creatures such as Terman come from? Her solo performance, conceived with and directed/lit by Willner, is a combination of dance and monologue that feels in the ether but is articulated with precision, the beautifully unsettling stuff of dreams and discipline co-existing. A waiflike woman with enormous eyes -- and hands more expressive than many people I've met -- Terman walks the line between natural and supernatural, physical and philosophical, while maximizing her great senses of humor and timing throughout. Check out the final shows this Friday through Sunday at 8 pm. For reservations, call (415) 621-7978.
(Beth Lisick, January 29, 2004)
San Francisco Tribune
"Cassie Terman shows a great display of energy, harmony and subtlety with her monologues in 'Citizen of Trees.' In this beautiful abstract piece, much like the feminine mind, Terman passes through a series of unexpected transformations that deal with the impossibility of being able to choose knowledgeably which road to follow in a world full of suffering. Will we exchange one prison for another? We have a scene with earth, trees, and bushes which we might call a series of beings unto themselves: the flora and fauna, the ethereal music, the shape of a beautiful woman in the shadows, a suggestion of emotions and feelings by means of sound. The set at first is completely hidden. The light appears suddenly, completely illuminating the shadows hiding the woman. She interprets a series of indescribable actions and emotions. We see her enjoy fully, hate with all her being, terrifyingly her body takes a distinct shape, her arms and hands are life itself imitating the shapes of trees, branches, leaves, and everything intermixed. The scene darkens again, the light returns, and she speaks to us always with physical movements, her eyes and hands revealing to us her emotional state. Opposites fasten themselves to each other and a series of metamorphoses take place in the search for an inalienable truth. Her agony is total, it belongs to us all, and the audience doesn't breathe. She loves and she hates at the same time, she evokes memories of the ghostlike Golem of the Lord of the Rings. The combination of lights, sounds and set give vibrancy to the artistic ambience, Terman changes constantly, nothing repeats itself as she contradicts herself and opposes herself to her own being. She converts life into death and vice versa, love and desire confuse themselves, her movement is beautiful, her dance invites but appears to be immobile at the same time, and while suggestions hypnotize us, light and darkness are interchangeable. Nothing is what it appears to be, although she finally accepts choices as inevitable, we are present like witnesses to an epitaph, until finally she escapes to ordinary life, as she implores. This piece, beautifully directed by Allen Willner and written by Cassie Terman, is presented at the Noh Space.
(Mario Echevarria, January 2004)