By Sarah Mansheim
If Trillium Performing Arts Collective had an alternative name for its upcoming show, it should have been “Bow Down.”
The November show, titled Honoring the Always Incredible Eileen Kramer, A Centenary Year Celebration, is set to run Nov. 7, 8 and 9 at the Lewis Theatre, and features original work by current and former Trillium performing artists. As the name indicates, the concert honors one of our area’s most prolific and talented artists; Google “Eileen Kramer dancer,” and you are treated to a trove of images, old and new, of a dancer moving her way through the 20th and 21st centuries; of books she’s written (“The Heliotropians,” “Walkabout Dancer”), and YouTube videos of Kramer performing a solo in a dance studio and in a music video dancing on the rocky beaches of Australia.
Kramer is turning 100 years old this month, and is still dancing, designing and writing. The music video? It was filmed this year.
People about town may remember her, an astonishingly beautiful woman who walked from her cottage on Court Street to downtown Lewisburg every day, her hair impossibly blond, a slash of pink lipstick, outfitted in some flowy concoction. Those more closely connected with Kramer and Trillium will also remember her choreography, her handmade costumes and masks, and most importantly, her artists’ spirit enveloped in ego, beauty, flirtatiousness, impracticality and ethereality.
“We made the decision to honor Eileen last year,” says Trillium Core Artist Devin Preston, adding that the decision to not bring in guest choreographers for the concert was a deliberate one. “We are featuring core and former core artists – people with relationships with Eileen.” The concert will reference Kramer in both abstract and direct ways, he says.
“Eileen’s style has a sense of pageantry, and ‘she’ will appear in two pieces,” Preston says.
Preston choreographed one of the pieces in the concert. “It’s a piece in two halves,” he says. The first half is a digital story referencing Kramer’s love of mythology. “We created an Eileen-esque myth,” he says.
The second half of the piece will be a “short, kind of sweet toast to Eileen as she creates this myth.” Part of the second half of the piece sends up her directing style, he says.
Kramer left West Virginia to return to her native Australia in 2013, but Preston danced in two pieces she directed before she left the area, and his upcoming concert piece references his experiences working under her direction.
When asked what it was like working with Kramer, Preston laughs. “Eileen,” he pauses to collect his words, smiling, “is very fond of the male physique; she’s very hands-on. I make a small allusion to that in my piece.”
Kramer is now living in Paddington, Australia, and while she will not be at the show itself, the lobby of the Lewis Theatre will be filled with photos of Kramer along with her costumes, masks and art work. Also, her new book, “Sappho Search,” will be available for sale in the lobby. On Saturday night, Nov. 8, Trillium will celebrate Kramer’s 100th birthday in the lobby after the show, and possibly try to Skype Kramer in Australia.
The concert features work by Trillium artists Chally Erb, Carli Mareneck, Samara Michaelson, Lorrie Monte, Devin Preston, Jo Weisbrod and Beth White, and will feature 30 community members on the stage. In honor of Veteran’s Day, all veterans will be admitted to the concert free of charge all weekend long.
Tickets may be purchased at TrilliumPerformingArts.org, at the Trillium office on Court Street adjacent to the Lewis Theatre or at the door the nights of the show.