By MARK RIFKIN
APRIL 25, 2015
Emily Johnson’s Shore is another beautifully organic participatory event that brings audience and performer together with the local surroundings. The last part of a trilogy that began with The Thank-you Bar and Niicugni, Shore opens in the outdoor playground of PS 11 on West Twenty-First St., where people gather near the large-scale mural by Os Gemeos and Futura of a cartoonish character wearing shorts covered in flags of the world, which is representative of the four-part work’s inclusiveness. (There are also separate volunteer, feast, and story sections of Shore.) Attendees can go on the slide, commune with a coop of chickens, shoot some hoops, or grab one of the red blankets and huddle for warmth in these cold late-April days. (Note: Get there early if you want a blanket, as there aren’t enough for everyone.) Various performers start humming and singing on the street, confusing passersby, then run around in a circle inside the playground. Johnson, wearing a masklike swipe of red ceremonial makeup over her eyes, gets atop a shaky makeshift podium and tells a story about a dream of birds and Minetta Creek, an underground stream that once snaked its way from Chelsea to the Hudson River.
Johnson then leads her large cast, including the Shore Choir, and the audience on a silent journey (except for music boxes, carried by some cast members, that play a lovely tune) following the stream’s path to New York Live Arts on Nineteenth St., where Shore continues in the theater, beginning amid dry-ice mist rising from the stage as the audience takes its seats. (Be sure to pick up a program when leaving the playground, as it contains a special treat.) Soon Aretha Aoki in red, Krista Langberg in orange, and Johnson in yellow, the first three colors of the rainbow, are moving across the stage, feet pounding hard, approaching the rest of the performers, who first line up against the back wall, then make their way to the sides. The interplay among the three dancers ranges from strong and determined to tender and intimate, set to a score that goes from stark bursts of sound to acoustic guitar playing to Marv Albert calling a Bulls-Lakers game. Never at a loss for creativity and ingenuity, Johnson has one final gift for the audience as they exit the theater, one that will touch your already soaring heart. Yes, you’ll be very cold at PS11, and the indoors NYLA section goes on a bit too long, but Shore will challenge you, captivate you, and constantly remind you that you are part of something much bigger than just yourself.