For the ninth year, at various spots on campus, alumni in the performing arts and current drama students will once again bring live theater-in-progress to the Upper Valley. VoxLab has changed its name, but its mission as an incubator for new work has remained constant since its founding, as VoxFest, in 2013 by Matthew Cohn ’08, Kate Mulley ’05, and Thom Pasculli ’05.
Cohn says the new name more accurately describes the workshop, which has increasingly been stretching the boundary of live arts.
“We’re more of a residency than a festival, and we emphasize process over product,” says Cohn. “We’ve also expanded the kinds of pieces that we bring.”
This summer’s lineup includes the livestreaming of an off-campus performance art installation, a multimedia opera, a dance piece, a theatrical experience using virtual reality, and a staged reading of a new play by Gina Femia, winner of the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting.
Undergraduates who participate in VoxLab enroll in “Theater 65: Summer Theater Lab.” This year, says co-producer Emma Orme ’15, the class is twice as large as usual.
“You can just feel the students’ raw energy and desire for engagement in live arts,” she says. “Most of us have not collaborated in person since before the pandemic.” Driving from New York to Hanover, she says, “felt like flying towards something I’ve missed so much.”
VoxLab’s other co-producers are Nicolle Allen ’16 and, new to the project this year, Mykel Nairne ’16, a Brooklyn-based dance artist and arts administrator who performs with Dance Heginbotham, founded by John Heginbotham, a lecturer in the Department of Theater and director of the Dartmouth College Dance Ensemble.
“I feel very ready and excited to have the opportunity to show that there are spaces for student dancers at Dartmouth to try things out and build material with professionals,” says Nairne.
Some of the alumni and students will be creating Interior, a dance work conceived by Veronica Sofia Burt ’16 and Shaye Swanson, based on Maurice Maeterlinck’s 19th-century play of the same name.
“Interior examines grief,” says Orme. “It responds in an incredibly innovative way to something that I think we’ve all been traveling through.”
Other soul-searching works probe the power of memory and the nature of human existence.
“Inevitably, that’s the realm of questions artists have been asking,” says Cohn. “It’s hard to go through the last year and a half and not think about grief and being, memory and place.”
And yet, even while exploring dark themes, VoxLab participants say they are thrilled to be gathering not on Zoom, but in Hanover, enlivening the Hopkin Center’s Darling Courtyard, the Bentley Theater, a tent at Wheeler, and, yes, YouTube.
“I think it’s important that we are here, bringing our community together,” Cohn says.