International Nisville Jazz Theatre Festival 2017 Under The Rhythms Of Longings”

6-9 August 2017 Niš, Serbia

Lyrics, paintings and vocals by: Ruth Margraff

Café Antarsia Ensemble (Chicago USA) in collaboration with local Serbian musicians, ____ from Dah Teatar with very special thanks to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dijana Milosevic, Maja Mitic, Lauren Steinberg, Elyse Singer, Del Hamilton, Faye Allen, Karen Yates, Suleman Shanawaz, Kate Hendrickson/Trap Door Theater, Red Tape/Walkabout Theater and Links Hall.

Music composed by: Nikos Brisco/ Pink Velvet for Ruth’s Previously Blue and Ambergris / Apothecary;  Richard Marriott for Ruth’s Passion of Leyla; dakhabraka w/Lucia Thomas for Thom Pasculli/Red Tape/Walkabout’s Mother of Smoke, Senyawa field recording Krems Artist Residency, and Graham Haynes in collaboration with Haleh Abghari, Mathias Kunzli for Peggy Choy Dance Co.’s Flight: torn like a rose.

Vocal art.  A passion trilogy of surreal songlines and song objects, are painted as gifts for the sky and sea. The ground is toxic, the sky has gone dark.  Natural bodies of water have been recycled into gaudy plastic trash. A survivor interrogates disaster’s lovers, searching for a beloved rose of infinity.

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While writing PREVIOUSLY BLUE a poetic summit on the mysteries of disaster, resilience and beauty with Dah Teatar  (Belgrade) and 7 Stages (Atlanta), Ruth Margraff began to explore what director Dijana Milosevic calls the “greenness of human nature,” looking for artistic and environmental sustainability.  This led her to a new practice of reusing, recycling and reducing her writing into painted song objects with materials usually wasted or discarded from her performances. Margraff’s soliloquies are layered in seams of dissent, emotional vibrato, brocaded folly, centrifugal labor and strange fruit. She lets her writing biodegrade with each use into poetry, into paint, until she can sing their renewal from  “devising the salvage of beauty.”

Unlike American realistic theater over-packaged with ready-made, “fast food” dialogue, Ruth Margraff’s techniques for devising vocal art are unprocessed, hand-made and instinctual.  She is seeking a more “green” way to repurpose the poetic debris of trauma, passion and endurance. Songlines of water and skies—that were previously blue—transcend everyday distractions. Margraff repurposes and reduces chance arias into operatic glances of water and fire. From the cries and horror of surviving, she translates some who did not survive. From the madness of loving disaster, she searches for abundance in moments of unbridled presence, no matter how small.


After singing for Sarah & Joseph Belknap’s “All At One Point” exhibition at Museum Of Contemporary Art November 26, 2013, Margraff painted a series of transient frescos for Sullivan Galleries December 13, 2013 – February 16, 2014 (Chicago) to recycle her texts as potentially fertile compost for performing.  She wanted to translate her time-based writing for black box theaters for the white box space of the gallery.  She gave a research performance “Fieldwork Blue” for the exhibition closing of her “Anger/Fly/Temptation of the Fresh Voluptuous” at the Sullivan Galleries, Art Institute of Chicago on February 13, 2013 in response to parapanel studio visits with University of Michigan Stamps School of Design.  She then sang a compression of excerpts from her NIGHT VISION and six operas written with the late composer Fred Ho as an operatic moment when a two thousand year-old Vampire crashes like a meteor into a shepherd boy’s heart. She performed the first movement of “Temptation of the Fresh Voluptuous” for an Afterglow garden installation salon performance at The Arts Club Of Chicago on April 8, 2014 as Fred Ho, Ruth’s long-time collaborator was going into hospice, passing away on April 12, 2014.

Video projections will include footage from the live painting/fly-in-the-soup riot of Margraff’s 2012 play ANGER/FLY at Trap Door Theater and from PREVIOUSLY BLUE Dah Teatar  August 21-22, 2015 (Belgrade, Serbia); 7 Stages August 28-30, 2015 (Atlanta, Georgia); Coe College Marquis Series, Dows Theatre September 5 & 8, 2015 (Cedar Rapids, Iowa); Links Hall September 11- 13, 2015 (Chicago, Illinois) supported by Ministarstvo kulture Republike Srbije; Trust for Mutual Understanding of New York; Theater Communications Group Global Connections; and the Hatch Fund.

Projections will include details from Margraff’s transient frescos from Sullivan Galleries December 13, 2013 – February 16, 2014 (Chicago); recycled tin, plastic and glass trash paintings and song objects from her installation AMBERGRIS / APOTHECARY (psalmody to cheer the windlass)  30″ x 34.5″ x 4.5″ acrylic, candle on household screen, plastic; Dec 4, 2015-January 8, 2016 for Columbus Cultural Arts Center “Whiteness of the Whale” exhibition curated by Andrea Meyer as part of Margraff’s performances for the 2015 Amok Festival at Link’s Hall in Chicago December 4-6, 2015.

Margraff decided to recycle and salvage only household materials which included a window screen torn by wild squirrels, and glitter glaze left over from a Taylor Mac show she performed with drag queens at Steppenwolf Theater the previous winter.