On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Endure: A Run Woman Show

Do yourself a favor: before you read the rest of my review of this performance, click over to the website and buy your tickets before they sell out. Shows are at 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays through at least the first and, weather pending, the second weekend in November.

Got your tickets? Now, let me explain the show to you as best I can.

I had no idea what to expect. I read the website and watched the preview and still wasn't sure what to expect. Complicating things, I read two reviews of the piece, neither of which gave me any clue as to what I would be seeing. 

Samantha yawning at the start. Our "tickets"
were mock race bibs. Cute, no?
I'll be frank: I was skeptical. Those who know me well would rightly expect me to roll my eyes if you suggested that I go see anything that could fall into the category of "interpretative, modern dance." But throw running in the mix? I'm game. Skeptical, but game.

I loved it. I even - oh, I'm embarrassed to admit this - I even got choked up in the middle. Yes. Me, who laughed at my brother when he cried during the Joy Luck Club (and a few years later, when Leonardo DiCaprio died during Titanic), I held back tears. Me, who was rooting for Emile Hirsch to just die already in Into the Wild, I felt tears. The piece is emotional.

Checking in to start the show.
So what is the piece, exactly? It is a performance that takes the listener/watcher along on the journey of a metaphorical marathon. At the start, the audience is each given an ipod that's queued to the soundtrack of the show. Music and the spoken words of Melanie Jones, the artist, play continually for the 75 minutes of the show, choreographed to accompany a walking tour through Prospect Park.

Jones leads us through the Park.
The setting at the start of the piece is the start line of a marathon. Over the hour, Jones' character ruminates on what in her life brought her to the start of this marathon, on her training, on her life outside of training, and on her thoughts during the race. Although her story is unique, any runner who has ever trained for a race will recognize not only her anecdotes (about being the token marathoner at a party, for instance) but also the rambling way that one's thoughts propel you through a race or a long run. The story unfolds as Jones' character moves through the imagined race and while Jones moves through Prospect Park. And, fair warning: her story may generate pathos. The kind that makes you very nearly cry, even if you have a heart of ice like me.

Here, Jones is doing a headstand. She is
a very, very talented artist.
It doesn't hurt that it was an absolutely beautiful, crisp November day, the kind of amazing fall day that makes you open to the wonders of the world. The experience would have been different - but also good - had the weather been gloomy.

The credits in chalk on the sidewalk at the end.
Who should see it: runners and those who love them. I think that non-runners would certainly enjoy the piece and would get something out of it, but those who have ever run a marathon (or supported someone through their training) will appreciate it fully.

Logistics: the website stresses the idea of wearing something comfortable, which is important. However, although we covered about 3m like it says, there was never a point during the show where we ran more than maybe 100-300 meters at a time, and the pace we ran was entirely up to the individual (essentially you are chasing the artist). There's a lot of standing around. I wore full on running clothes, but those of the group who were wearing jeans seemed equally comfortable.

In other words, it's appropriate for the day before the NYCM.

Another thing: the music is awesome. So awesome that I went home and immediately bought the artist's album from iTunes. The composer was at our performance, and I kind of wish I'd been a groupie and gotten her signature.

Full disclosure: when she saw me tweeting about it, Melanie (the artist) offered me a free ticket to come and see the show. I then recruited Samantha to come, and she and I split the cost of her ticket. I would have happily paid full price.


  1. Thanks for forcing me to go with you :)

  2. some of the greatest beauty of this performance lies in the not knowing what to expect or what you're getting yourself into...i think that's the point of it, to be kind of blindsided by its poignancy.

  3. I do agree. I tried to give an idea of the performance without too much detail - I hope you don't feel like I gave too much away! I know that my initial skepticism was in part because I had absolutely NO idea what to expect of it, at all.

  4. Thanks for explaining what exactly it is. I'd heard people talking about it but had no idea what or where it was. (Seeing a table promoting it/selling tickets outside that Stone House park/playground only confused me more.)