‘We want to have people think’: Project Wild Edge offers immersive theater experience | TheUnion.com

‘We want to have people think’: Project Wild Edge offers immersive theater experience

Community art project to premiere in Spring 2022

Community artists Jenny Hale and Lisa Barker’s first iteration of Project Wild Edge, an immersive theater performance meant to explore the complicated nature of the wild urban interface, will take place from noon to 12:50 p.m. Saturday on the Wolf Creek Trail in Grass Valley.

The event coincides with the Bear Yuba Land Trust’s NatureFest, which will take place that same day from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cascade Canal, Litton, Wolf Creek and Alan Thiesen trails.

Hale, Project Wild Edge’s co-creative director, said the first practice performance this weekend will give actor-dancers and viewers alike an opportunity to connect with the life and art source before the final performance takes place in spring 2022.

The first formal performance is expected this fall.

Hale said although Grass Valley’s urban features don’t compare to those of Los Angeles or Berkeley, the wastewater treatment plant, North Star Mining Museum and the nearby animal control center pose important questions to those living on “wild edges.” She wants these facilities to serve as entry points to a conversation.

“We are not quite a city, but still we are a community living among the forest,” Hale explained. “We have a history of extraction that has left a huge toxic legacy.”

Hale said she and her co-director Barker were inspired by how Wolf Creek’s sinkhole — formed during the rain events of late 2016 and early 2017 — created a natural amphitheater of sorts.

Hale said the core of the project will highlight how the community manages natural resources. Hale, who has worked with the Nisenan for previous articles, said Shelly Covert, Nevada City Rancheria representative, is offering input on the project.

Hale said the region’s contemporary residents have a lot to learn from the land’s ancestors about ecologically sound stewardship of the forest and watersheds.

“The Nisenan did prescribed burns, outlawed in the 1880s, as a way to keep undergrowth clear,” Hale said. “Their land management practices created a more resilient forest. They’re an example of how this group of people worked with nature. They aligned their systems to work with nature.”

She added that authorities have since recognized the wisdom in using prescribed burns.


Hale said through the performance, the region’s residents may be able to see a “visual tableau” via performers at key locations along the Wolf Creek Trail to invite reflection on local water sources and their treatment of the watershed.

“This is not just hippy people going out being spirits in nature,” Hale added, “There’s a conceptual foundation for what the performers are doing. It is based in being aware of how we’re managing natural resources. This is where we’re working for good of nature and good of community.”

Hale said her co-director is not necessary offering specific choreography, but has engaged performers in a process where first and foremost, they go outside and experience nature.

“They are meant to connect with essence and feeling — the wind, trees — to connect deeply and then move from that inner connection,” Hale said.

Hale said there will be a specific concept behind each station where they will have a performance — and is particularly excited for the performances to take place along the wastewater treatment plant and the sinkhole.

“We want to have people think — where does the water come from that you’re flushing down the toilet,” Hale said. “All the water comes from our drinking water source. It’s important to know that those are industrial, natural edges.”

Hale said that decision invites residents to reflect on a holistic picture of their existence at the base of the Sierra.

For that reason, Hale said that the project will be taking community feedback until the final performance a year from now.

In the meantime, Hale invites locals to breathe deeply and get involved in the art and costume workshops to come this fall affiliated with the project.

If interested in participating in Project Wild Edge, dancers, performers and critics may email projectwildedges@gmail.com.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com.

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