220 E. Chicago Ave.
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The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago opens the MCA Stage season with The Fever by 600 HIGHWAYMEN, a performance that tests the limits of individual and collective responsibility and invites the audience to become part of the work. The performance begins with writers and directors Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone taking turns as narrator, describing an unremarkable party hosted by a woman named Marianne before an intimate audience of 75 people seated on an empty stage. As time passes, the performers slowly call upon volunteers to take part in the story, facilitating simple interactions that evolve the spectators into participants who influence the direction of the show. The Fever is 600 HIGHWAYMEN's most evocative study about the empathetic feelings between strangers, and how everyone is dependent on one another. The Fever runs from Thursday to Sunday, September 7 to 10, at the MCA Stage.
The Fever grows organically with every interaction, with the audience both producing and experiencing the work in a new way each time it is performed. A performer asks audience volunteers to catch him as he falls; the audience has to make real-time decisions on whether or not they will help. The spotlight is on participation, and mutual responsibility to one another, illuminating the power of community, and its limitations. At another point, audience members are asked to move a performer from one end of the stage to another, forming a group procession that demands not only contact, but coordination among strangers
MCA Associate Curator of Performance Tara Aisha Willis says of The Fever, "This subtle but remarkable performance experience leaves each audience member with insistent, open-ended questions about our participation as individuals in the room and, by extension, society and the world. I'm excited to open this MCA Stage season - as the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary and unveils newly designed gathering spaces - with a work that asks us to attend to how we participate in community and common space.
Over the course of The Fever, the empty stage becomes the focus of a sophisticated lighting and sound design. Reflecting their own collaborative approach, Browde and Silverstone's performances blur the boundaries between performer and audience, allowing participation to feel unforced while pushing participants' willingness to be vulnerable together.
600 HIGHWAYMEN is a contemporary theater group based in Brooklyn, New York, founded in 2009 by directors Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone. They have created eight original works that have been presented at national and international venues including the Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival in New York; Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio; On The Boards in Seattle; Centre Pompidou and Parc de la Villette in France; Festival Theaterformen in Germany; Noorderzon Festival in the Netherlands; Zürcher Theater Spektakel in Switzerland; Onassis Cultural Centre in Greece; In BetweenTime International Festival in the United Kingdom; and the OzAsia Festival in Australia, among others. In 2014, the duo won an Obie Award, followed by Zurich's ZKB Patronage Prize in 2015. In 2016, Browde and Silverstone were named artist fellows by the New York Foundation for the Arts.