The Project:

To adapt the essence – beginning with character in dialogue with space – of the novel The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James into a theatrical language.


Mission Statement for the Project:

We are committed to a process that will see multiple periods of exploration followed by reflection.


Henry James' seminal novel The Portrait of a Lady was experiemntal in its day for its unconventional structure and focus. James wondered what a novel could do if it did not center itself on plot but instead focused on the momentous event of a single thought. In structure it resembles a short story, or a lyric poem. But its duration references the rich, intertwining stories available in the form of a novel. This seemingly subtle distinction within the field of literature has a revolutionary weight similar to Duchamp or Raushenberg's recontextualizing of pedestrian objects as visual art, or Cage's composition using the natural sounds filling the concert hall. These pieces are asking us to revaluate how we see, hear and read: in fact, how we comprehend using the medium of art.

The field of theater is going though a similar sea-change. In this era of self-reflection, theater is not just asking itself what it is, it is asking where, who and how it is. Performances happen in warehouses and on websites. They are raves, text messages, and scavenger hunts. Our work lives in the landscape of new performance, a genre of live arts that pushes beyond seats and proscenium frames, and invites the audience to participate in a first-person engagement with the narrative. They engage not as witnesses but as interlopers capable of creating their own chronology as they explore the space, and are called upon for their opinions and alliance by the characters they meet.

a.m.p.'s exploration of James' work allows us to ask fundamental questions of the field of theater itself. How can we engage with this form in a different way in order to learn something more about what it does? Our mission is to both explore and disregard expectations about how an audience interacts with a piece of theater, and to facilitate an environment of courageous exploration of both material and medium in the service of honest investigation.

- Alexis Macnab, Artistic Director a.m.p.