(In Collaboration) – BARDO

This event has already happened.

Winter/2020 Collaboration: Jeffrey Puukka collaborated with Lyra Butler-Denman, focusing on the text and spoken segments of her devised, dance theater piece BARDO, which premieres 27 February, 2020 at Shaking The Tree.

About Bardo – A conversation and a conjuring, BARDO embodies the transition states of dying, of grieving, of a relationship moving from the physical plane to existing, maybe (we hope), somewhere else. It reckons with the lack of guideposts, the emptiness and loneliness after a death, and with the active process of filling that space, of making a map where there is none. (BARDO is a little over an hour long and includes an original score by Ahmond)  

About The EventIn the stall of winter, two solo pieces, “BARDO”, a dance theater piece by Lyra Butler-Denman, and “Delicate Fish”, a dance piece by Jess Evans, are presented alongside and in communication with one another. 

To die is a process whose edges are feathered in all directions. 

To grieve is to feel love that has nowhere to go. 

To heal is to touch with love that which was previously touched by fear. 

Somewhere beneath ground, under leaves too wet to stir, there is movement.

7:30P on Feb 27, 28, 29, and March 5, 6, 7, 2020.
At Shaking the Tree Theatre

Tickets, Images, and Information: lyraandjess.com

. . .

Lyra Butler-Denman in BARDO. Photo by Jess Evans.

Notes from Jeffrey Re. Bardo

FOR ALL of my adult life, I have had an uneasy relationship with the holiday season. In particular, the 2019 navigation through those December days tiptoeing toward the blurry notion of a new decade were even more anxious for me. Self-critical. Packed so full with unexpected memory that it was almost haunted. Wintery blues and a kind of ghostliness hovered intensely around the edges of daily life.

Serendipitously, the New Year gave me a gift: collaborating with Lyra Butler-Denman, (Blanche Dubois when I directed A Streetcar Named Desire a few months ago), in support of her devised, dance-theatre piece BARDO. Being a piece about dying, death, and grief; about the visceral awareness of a hole in one’s world; about the power and strangeness of one’s memories…? Those 1:1 sessions experimenting with how Lyra’s poetic, densely packed and deliciously quirky choices for text might be unraveled was a shockingly good match for all the ‘in between-ness’ of my winter blues.

I did not direct BARDO—I know nothing about dance, and BARDO weaves multiple mediums for storytelling into a single thread. But my own little corner of collaboration on the monologuing component of something so bold, unique, and authentically crafted was fun and nourishing, and I feel quite grateful for the work.

Having seen BARDO in its full production now, I have three observations:

1. The shape BARDO makes as a performance piece is very interesting to me, because its arc does not hammer you on the head with messaging packaged in a tidy lump sum. There is an old idea I very much appreciate, about the painful edges of grief being leftover love, trapped, with no clear destination or application after one’s world has changed. Watching BARDO is like sitting quietly with a frightened friend—the truths in BARDO’S arc expand and contract, sometimes delicately, sometimes frenetically, sometimes gracefully; very much the way people do when they grieve.

2. Watching last Friday with participants from the Monday Night Acting Lab, I was deeply inspired by what artists can accomplish from their own initiative. Solo shows are difficult to conceive, support, and manifest. But just as people can ‘make their own fun’, artists can make their own work, should they feel that pull.

3. This photo (credit to Jess Evans) is from my favorite moment in BARDO. From my perspective, this was the most difficult piece of text to unravel because of diabolically subtle, hair-pin shifts in the function of the language. Watching the performance last Friday, I was thrilled to see how much it became a solid, deeply moving anchor for BARDO’S journey from start to finish. It provided me with a beautiful reminder about work: when the work is not necessarily easy, the decision to keep doing the work pays off.

. . .


“As an actor, Butler-Denman executed the storytelling with ease. In each section of BARDO, the story recalled the days leading to and after her father’s death. With growing emotion and candor, the apex of the work, “on the day you died,” brought me to tears. BARDO’s story is raw and cuts deep. For those of us who have experienced deep loss, Butler-Denman’s recount is honest, vulnerable, and true to the reality of death’s grasp on the people it leaves behind.”  (Elizabeth Whelan, review, Oregon Arts Watch.)

Bardo takes us from grief to rage to anguished acceptance—a destination illuminated in images of haunting stillness, like Butler-Denman kneeling before a bouquet of purple flowers.” 
(Bennett Campbell Ferguson, review, Willamette Week.)

Published by Jeffrey Puukka

Jeffrey Puukka is an award winning theatre director, living and working in Portland, Oregon.