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On the Cranial Nerves of Barbarians

performed at: Dixon Place

collaborators: Panoply Performance Laboratory, Esther Neff, Ashley Kelly-Tata

On the Cranial Nerves of Barbarians

On the Cranial Nerves of Barbarians combines the electro-tin pan alley compositions of Brian McCorkle, jerky, fish-inspired choreography, and a dense, structural text/libretto to perform a heated and often absurd debate over an individual’s relationship with zeitgeist and socio-epistemic evolution.

From 1834 to his death in February 1837, German playwright and comparative anatomist Georg Büchner dissects hundreds of fish in the basement of his girlfriend’s home, attempts to express ideas that don’t yet exist, distributes vague political leaflets that get his friends tortured and killed, translates Victor Hugo, and writes what we now consider the first expressionist plays. Born the year Bavaria joined the Austrian Alliance to defeat Napoleon, and dying of typhus and confusion right before many “Modern” ideas that came with Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution hit the fan, Büchner’s short, violent life and his bizarre medical thesis on the cranial nerves of the barbus catfish are impossible evolutionary creatures, fish with legs, fat dinosaurs with budding wings.

We ask, can a society go through a liminal phase? How does it feel to live in the fuzzy, distorted periods on the verge of “important” ideas such as Darwinism, fascism, and psychoanalysis? Are we in a phase like this now? The Panoply Performance Laboratory’s signature blend of information overload and rococo aesthetic melds thought and emotion into a kind of rhythmic, barbaric understanding.

Here are some excerpts recorded by the ensemble:




Text/Libretto/Direction: Esther Neff Music/Music Direction: Brian McCorkle Visual Artist: Shawna Ferrato Dramaturgy: Ashley Kelly-Tata Performers: Alexis Thomason Katie Johnston Matthew Stephen Smith Mikey Barringer Paul Pinto Orchestra: Daniella Fischetti Michael Hanf Brian McCorkle Ari Swan David Tam