A New York dance company is looking for 39 people, and it hopes to find them Saturday at Kansas University.
Bill T. Jones Dance/Arnie Zane & Company, which will perform here Feb. 5 as part of the Kansas University New Directions Series, wants 39 local performers to augment the company in a performance of "The Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin." The multi-media piece is loosely based on the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel, using it to examine themes of race, religion and freedom.
The local performers, once auditioned and selected, may participate in a moment of nudity at the end of the four-movement dance and theater production developed by Jones, a well-received New York choreographer. The auditions will be from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday in 242 Robinson Center on the KU campus. Anyone from the community can audition.
THE LOCAL people chosen for the company perform in all four movements of "The Last Supper." At the end of the fourth movement, called "The Promised Land," Jones stages a moment in which members of the company stand naked.
Performers can choose to be nude or clothed, said Johari Briggs, the executive director of the company.
"The performers can be undressed or dressed," Briggs said in a Wednesday telephone interview.
"But Bill's ideal situation is to have everyone stand in the nude, and he hopes that after the rehearsal process and once the performers understand the themes of the piece, they will feel comfortable standing in the nude. They also have the choice of staying in the background onstage. They don't have to walk out in the front of the stage."
In previous interviews, Jones has said the nudity is intended to show that all people have a common humanity despite the barriers society builds between them.
"The Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin" has been performed in Minneapolis and Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as in several other cities across the United States, said Jacqueline Davis, director of the KU Concert, Chamber Music and New Directions Series.
THE COMPANY has gone through the process of auditioning local performers in other places Burlington, Vt., Ann Arbor, Mich., Tucson, Ariz., and at Pennsylvania State University, Briggs said. In each of those cities, the company's auditions drew more people than were needed.
One of the concerns Davis had when booking the group was the availability of people to participate at that time, she said.
"There were a lot of factors, including the time of the year and the number of people available,'' Davis said Wednesday.
If fewer than 39 people audition, Jones will work with the group, Briggs said. But in other auditions, that situation hasn't arisen.
"In some places we had more than 100 people audition," Briggs said.