Glass House | In Conversation with Volta Director Mamie Green

Home No Longer Is Where The Heart Is

Written by

Palmer Dean

Photographed by

No items found.

Styled by

No items found.
No items found.
Images Courtesy Volta Collective

Maybe it’s a Spanish style villa in the Hollywood Hills. Or the cabin your grandfather built in the mountains. It could be your table at the coffee shop down the street or that roof you snuck onto in high school. Places that feel like home are precious, and more. “Home is heaven for beginners”, said sage clergyman Charles Henry Pankhurst.

 Of course, your home, your heaven, can be where you make it. And it’s that psychological fabrication of home that  Volta explores in their upcoming immersive dance performance Glass House, presented by Central Server.

The show diverges from conventional dance, opting for an interdisciplinary and interactive production instead. Complementing the physical elements of the show are reflections on home from writers including Joan Didion, Marguerite Duras, and Adania Shibli. Director Mamie Green combines figurative and physical elements into a seamless progression of movement. Audience members are sure to return from Green’s show more fascinated by spaces that feel uniquely like home - and newly happy to be there.

FLAUNT spoke with Volta’s Director Mamie Green on the upcoming show and her larger vision. 

The show grapples with themes of nostalgia and organic decay, how do you feel those two themes intersect?

In imagining telling this story of home, I knew that I wanted the world of the performance to be crumbling around us. At that time, things felt very unstable and I wanted to see how I could replicate this in the show. By using organic materials like fabric, clay, and soil-based installations created by Gbenga Komolaf, everything is impermanent and affected by performer and audience interaction. For example, dancers will wear water-soluble garments and audiences may pour water on them, disintegrating the clothing and revealing the skin beneath. The ephemeral nature of these pieces evokes nostalgia, loss, and longing which is central to my understanding of home. 

You explore physical manifestations of nostalgia and their disappearance as well. Do you feel it is important to have material manifestations of nostalgia in one’s life?

I think of a performance as a microcosm of a real issue I’m grappling with. In a greedy sense, it is my own personal way of working something out, processing it, and perhaps changing the results. Since the performance is happening live with audiences and outside forces, there are many variables and unknowns that will shape the outcome. This precarious experiment is what I find interesting about performance, so my answer is, “I don’t know, but maybe I’ll figure it out in the show.” 

What excites you about LA's dance community at present?

While NYC and Europe have more institutional support for dance, I am excited by the experimentation I see happening in the LA artists’ communities. The lack of structure means less rigidity and more room for exploration. The city’s sprawl and actual abundance of space lends itself to putting on shows in different types of places and contexts. 

In my mind, there is no distinction between the artist communities and the dance communities. I want to bridge this gap because I think it makes dance unnecessarily inaccessible. Many of us know that “only dancers go to dance shows.” I am excited by working with actors, visual artists, writers, etc, to make performances that exist in many spheres and feel relevant to wider audiences. I’m inspired by the underground art and literary scenes in LA like Casual Encountersz run by my fiance Sammy Loren, who also wrote the script for Glass House, and I find many of my collaborators through those scenes. 

How has your definition of home shifted throughout your life? Do you feel it is possible to have multiple “homes” and how can that be defined? 

More interesting to me than my definition of home is how my collaborators engage with and bring their ideas of home and family to the piece. I find myself drawn to creating performances with these large casts. In part, I think this is my way of feeling less alone in the work. For example, Patrick Shiroishi who is scoring Glass House live, has a recent album titled “I was too young to hear silence” which felt urgently connected to this research on home. In rehearsal, I asked the dancers to create movement based on their own interpretation of Patrick’s album title. In this way, we all bring our home to the performance and we ask the same of the audiences. 

Is it important for dance to be abstract and interpretative or is there a balance of clear significance and abstract symbolism?

I want to allow many ways in for my audiences. I am most captivated by artists who play between the literal and the abstract in their work. In dance you can’t escape meaning – there is so much information held in the body, especially when put in relation to other bodies. A handshake is different than a caress is different than a punch and the organization of bodies in these ways creates meaning. 

Since I don’t only make dance for dance audiences, I often work with actors and a script to tell these stories. I find working with dialogue in addition to movement is something that most of us can connect to and allows for a generosity to the audience’s experiences and backgrounds. This intersection of dance and poetry, sculpture, food, architecture, and on and on is what is exciting to me right now. 

Do you think it's important for your physical home to be a greater representation of your metaphysical home? How do you create a sense of home in your own physical space and on the stage?

What drew me to Jung’s theory of the ‘dream house’ is the idea that the architecture of our psyches are built upon our unique experiences. I thought this was a beautiful metaphor for projection, misunderstanding, and personalities. We all walk around with these imaginary houses that each look different and no one else can see. Your home is sterile while mine is warm and inviting, for example. Glass House is this way to create a shared internal psychological home, inviting you to impact our home, and see where that leads. 

Since my work is often outside a traditional theater context, there is no “off-stage.” This means that as performers we are embodied as these characters the whole time. I believe this deepens the experience for both the performers and the viewers because there is no on vs. off, onstage vs. offstage; everything is happening all the time. 

Tell us about your decision to make this performance interactive? What feeling or emotion do you hope people leave the show with or hold on to?

I think it’s easy for audiences (including myself!) to be sitting in their seats outside/apart from the performance and feel disconnected from what’s happening onstage. I’d like to question this separation between the viewer and the world of the performance. By asking audiences to engage directly with the work, it also complicates the narrative. Not only are the performers telling this story, but so are the audiences. It is surprising to let audiences inhabit and affect the world in this way, and it creates an important element of chaos that keeps the performance alive.  

Purchase tickets to Glass House on February 29th, March 1st, March 2nd, and March 3rd HERE.

No items found.
No items found.
mamie green, dance, immersive, volta, glasshouse