Last year, for the Sacrifice Cliff Theatre Company’s New Works Festival, company co-founder Patrick Wilson went out on a limb and asked two non-writers to submit a piece for the collection of 10-minute one-act plays.
The collaboration between Krista Leigh Pasini, a dancer and choreographer, and Matt Taggart, a musician and sound artist, resulted in “All Together Now,” which used music and movement, and no dialogue, to explore the dynamics of a family coming together for Sunday dinner.
Last summer, Wilson and Shad Scott, the co-founder of Sacrifice Cliff, approached Pasini about creating and directing a full-length production of “All Together Now,” in keeping with the theater company’s determination to push the envelope and to push artists in new directions.
“Being involved with the piece and watching it develop has been a reward,” said Wilson, who also acts in it. “I think for all of us it has been a huge risk.”
The play will premiere Friday at 7:30 p.m. at 2905, the new event and performance space at 2905 Montana Ave. It will run again Saturday and then on April 29 and 30, with all performances at 7:30.
Pasini, who started with the School of Classical Ballet in Montana when she was 7, has studied and performed in Walla Walla, Wash., Seattle and Salt Lake City. In Billings, she was a founding dancer of the Terpsichore Dance Company, as well as a contributing choreographer.
To create a full-length piece, she worked closely with the cast members: actors Wilson, Dina Brophy and Dan Nickerson, poet Dave Caserio and dancer Carly Green. There is dialogue in this longer piece, but much of the drama plays out wordlessly.
And though Taggart was not involved in this production, his score from the shorter play provides the basis for the often-haunting music. Green speaks not a word during the play, but she is at the center of it, her wraith-like figure covering virtually every inch of the performance space as she confronts, consoles, embraces and admonishes the other characters.
Pasini said the others all contributed dialogue, and Brophy, wrote her own extended monologues.
The finished script is in many ways a series of suggestions rather than a blueprint, Pasini said. She encouraged her actors to be improvisational, so sometimes a passage of dialogue contains just one word, to cue the next actor’s response.
“It keeps it pretty raw and exciting and live in that regard,” Pasini said.
So does the setting in the long, narrow performance space at 2905, which just opened in early April. Pasini had decided early on to make the play an immersive experience, so that audience members were not merely watching a family dinner but feeling almost a part of it.
She had checked out a few downtown spaces when she discovered 2905 by serendipity. She and her husband, Mike Pasini, were having dinner at Bistro Enzo one evening and so was Dr. Grace Kim, who developed 2905 with her husband, Bryan Stafford.
Krista Pasini had danced once at a performance at Billings Open Studio, which Kim and her husband also developed and own, so Kim went over to the Pasinis’ table to ask Krista for her advice on a dancer-friendly floor they could install at 2905.
Pasini soon scouted out 2905 with her lighting and sound designer and they knew it was the right space. “We actually planned the show with that space in mind,” she said. The seats are arranged in two long, crescent-shaped rows that run the length of the room.
Depending on where you sit, the action might be alarmingly close. During one dress rehearsal, Pasini said, one of the actor’s hands went into the lap of an audience member. During a dress rehearsal Wednesday night, Brophy handed a wine bottle and two glasses to a member of the audience while she set the dining room table.
In addition to Green’s dancing, the other actors rely heavily on movement to convey emotion, often in the form of what Pasini called repetitive “gestural movements.”
All in all, it’s an impressive debut for a director and for a new theater space in Billings.
Details: For tickets, call Patrick Wilson at 672-9291.