IndyFringe: Hope – A Theatrical Dance

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson and John Lyle Belden

Gerry Shannon and Melissa Hawkes have come down from Maine to bring us a spectacular piece of theater, “Hope: A Theatrical Dance.” The story is told through the dances of the two performers onstage, as well as in a video projected behind them highlighting memories of Asher (Shannon) with his wife, Hope, and his child (both played by Mackenzie Krueger).

Asher enters the scene clearly depressed and drinking heavily. A pair of hands appear out of the curtain behind him causing him to be manipulated like a puppet. While this may sound like whimsy, the sheer heartbreak he manages to convey keeps the audience rapt with attention. Soon the strings are cut and Asher is once again left to his own devices.

Hope, as a concept, enters as an Angel (Hawkes) and dances around him, forcing him to remember and relive the happier days of his marriage. Just as he is beginning to smile, we are transported to the birth of his daughter and the loss surrounding this event.

Grief once again threatens to overtake him, but he is shown that “hope” lives on.

The entire show is presented without words, the narrative woven through dance, mime and music by various artists including The Chainsmokers, Better Than Ezra, Jason Mraz, and Ed Sheeran.

A note to anyone who saw this show at a previous Fringe: Shannon has restructured it and cut some of the songs, making it a lot less funny than you’d remember.

Wendy’s thoughts: When I first watched the show, the portrayal of Asher’s grief hit me hard. Not only was it perfectly enacted, Shannon is literally an “everyman”. He looks like the kind of guy who’d be more at home at a sports game than dancing on stage. Still, the skill of both he and Hawkes make the show tender and unforgettable.

From the program and with talking to others who have seen it at previous Fringes, this is just a portion of the full show. Knowing that, I really hope that Shannon will return to us in the future and present the entire show. The taste I was provided has me hungry for more.

John’s thoughts: I was really struck by the lack-of-control feeling illustrated at first by Shannon, a true reflection of grief. Krueger (a St. Paul, Minn., based dancer and actor) was a wonderful addition, her sparkling talent making us see and feel the love between Asher and Hope. The innovation of having the distant and departed partner on the screen communicated their separation in an impactful way. At points, he was there with her in the video, but she is never with us here.

Hawkes ties it all together nicely, portraying “hope” in a more tangible way. Her dance reflects the support of true friends, as well as that small voice that tells you to look up from your sadness and see what more the world has to show.

We “Hope” you experience this performance as well, at the IndyFringe Theatre, 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 (today, as we post this); 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28; 7:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2; and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4. 

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