Transforming the medium

Arts / Article

With “Manifest Destiny (there was blood on the saddle),” the Hinterlands, a Detroit-based physical theater troupe, is redefining the medium. The two-hour show was one of the most imaginative performances I have ever seen. The vaudevillian comedy, sing-alongs, pseudo-history, puppetry, feats of strength and skill, dreamlike imagery and the smell of frying bacon blend into a highly physical sensory collage that owned my entire attention. I became lost in a world and moment that writer/directors/visual artists Richard Newman, Liza Bielby and Anthony Cerrato created. The group uses wit and humor mixed with a bit of history to address some of Detroit’s most current topics: Detroit as a modern frontier town and the unspoken rivalry between Detroit natives and transplants (a pony race gives audience members a chance to settle the score once and for all). Performers utilized the entirety of the recently gutted Jam Handy Building with movable curtains that shape the stories and direct audience members through the space (be prepared to physically move around).

Inspired by the larger-than-life figures of Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill, the Spaghetti Westerns of the ’60s and the imagery of writers Cormac McCarthy and William S. Burroughs, “Manifest Destiny!” is equal parts Wild West show and cultural scavenger hunt. Audience members unknowingly become part of the adventure from the moment they walk through the door. From then on, it’s about two hours of non-stop excitement, ending with a toast to the future. “Manifest Destiny!” will make you fall in love with Detroit all over again. The show raises questions and gives people experiences that bring them together.

The Hinterlands production of “Manifest Destiny! (there was blood on the saddle)” will take place at The Jam Handy Building, 2900 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit, Mich. 48202, on Aug. 25 through 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be reserved by calling 313-454-1756 or e-mailing [email protected] Tickets will also be available at the door, cash or check only.

The Hinterlands is a Detroit-based company that creates original, multidisciplinary performance works, explores the art of the performer through explosive and ecstatic training and play and engages its community through direct collaboration and exchange. It has created and toured works throughout the U.S., as well as in Canada, China, Kosovo and Macedonia.