By Steve Sucato
How do mental illness, poverty and addiction relate? That is the question choreographer Marjani Forte explores in being Here … /this time. It’s her reworking of being Here, which she premiered last year to critical acclaim at New York City’s Dancespace Project.
Forte and company follow their week-long residency at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios with a work-in-progress showing of the newly re-envisioned production. The show, part of the theater’s East Liberty LIVE! series, also features a new binaural score by Forte’s husband, the electronic composer Everett Saunders.
A Los Angeles native who now lives in Harlem, Forte previously danced with New York’s Urban Bush Women and co-founded, with Nia Love, LOVE|FORTE A COLLECTIVE. Pittsburgh audiences might remember this sought-after dance teacher and choreographer’s solo work about self-acceptance, which she performed at the Kelly-Strayhorn’s newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival in 2012.
For being Here … /this time, Forte adapts being Here from its original six-member cast for a trio that includes Pittsburgh’s own Jasmine Hearn. (Forte herself does not perform.) The 50-minute, pay-what-you-can Aug. 15 showing also features new material gathered from interviews that Forte conducted, including some in conjunction with Pittsburgh’s Adaptive Behavior Services.
Both the original work and the current reworking spring from a three-year project examining the intersections of mental illness, addiction and systemic poverty. “That is a super-fancy way of saying I am telling stories about recovery,” says Forte. “How are people recovering from trauma and getting over shit.”
Forte sees recovery as a social, political and economic condition. For this work, she is collecting stories of mental illness, addition and recovery, and considering the context in which these challenges have evolved.
“I am really invested in telling stories and telling as many facets of that story, to provide as many entryways into the story, so that people might connect,” says Forte. “I want people to come and see the work and be enlivened by it.”
Forte says the new work will zero in on some of the conversations the original work brought up, including the tragic by-product of mental illness and poverty: drug addiction, in which poor individuals unable to afford conventional treatment turn to self-medicating to help stabilize their conditions.
Marjani Forte presents being Here … /this time; 8 p.m., Fri., Aug. 15, The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave, Friendship. Admission is pay-what-you-can. 412-363-3000 or kelly-strayhorn.org
This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper August 13, 2014. Copyright Steve Sucato.