Jack Ferver’s interdisciplinary performance, Everything Is Imaginable, will premiere at New York Live Arts April 4th - 7th. The work juxtaposes the lives, virtuosity, and fantasies of its five queer performers. In turns manic and poetic, the work addresses ideas of genre, sexuality, success, friendship, and loss. Ferver is joined by American Ballet Theater principal James Whiteside, principal dancer with Martha Graham, Lloyd Knight, dancer and costume designer Reid Bartelme, and Broadway actor Garen Scribner. Building on movement vocabularies specific to each of the performers' unique training and profession, as well as drawing inspiration from their idols in popular culture, the dancers perform movement that is at once autobiographical and fictional.
In anticipation of its opening, Joshua Lubin-Levy, the dramaturg, and Performa's Marc Arthur asked the cast four questions over email that get to the heart of the piece.
Joshua Lubin-Levy: The work is called Everything Is Imaginable—so what is unimaginable to you right now?
James Whiteside: It’s unimaginable that people still don’t accept homosexuality. I’m very confused, and I’m not sure I even want to understand.
Garen Scribner: All of the unimaginable things are already happening in our world: abuse, mass shootings, genocide, war, hate crimes, human trafficking, etc. It’s only in imagining what can be that we’ll find answers and stop wasting time hating each other and make room to love one another.
Reid Bartelme: It is unimaginable to me how greedy and uncompassionate people continue to be.
Lloyd Knight: That we as artist/humans are STILL having to prove ourselves without being judged on our personal beliefs.
Jack Ferver: Cruelty to the vulnerable and a hunger for inequality is something I’ll never be able to understand, so I am unable to truly imagine those desires. A desire to hurt people who have done nothing to you, who actually need help… to hurt children… I can’t imagine wanting to do that. Yet here we are with Trump, Betsy DeVos, the NRA, etc.
Joshua Lubin-Levy: To quote Susan Sontag, "When does travesty, impersonation, theatricality acquire the special flavor of Camp?" And to add to that, does it even matter?
James Whiteside: Camp is a magnificent mélange of the intentional and unintentional. Camp prevails when intention and execution win at failing.
Garen Scribner: Camp is punk. Camp is taking the pain, drama, extremes of our inner selves and rendering them obsolete and imperfect by letting them ooze out of us in deliciously embraceable-scrumptious-terrible-perfect ways.
Reid Bartelme: Camp requires awareness of context. Camp happens when the maker gets it. I guess it doesn’t matter because sometimes people don’t even know they are making camp, so who knows. I just contradicted myself.
Lloyd Knight: Doesn’t matter at all! If it has substance from the beginning, the point will come across.
Jack Ferver: I think it does matter because there are two forms of Camp now. Two Camps of Camp (LOL). See what I did there: utilizing "text vernacular" to break the fourth wall of this interview, and I'm also in a car writing all of this and I'm late. Anyway, there is Camp from unintentional failure, which is usually a result of self-seriousness, a kind of narcissism that actually believes its earnestness. My experience of that is more of simplistic juxtaposition between what the maker thinks they are making and what is made. A great film example of this is Black Swan. The kind of Camp I am interested in and utilize, is Neo-Camp. I understand my context, I'm hyper aware of what I am using, and I create conditions of melodrama and hyperbole that are truthful to the quotidian pettiness and horror of the human condition. Old school Camp is more of a dyad, Neo-Camp is endlessly multivalent.
Joshua Lubin-Levy: What is the most tedious thing about being a dancer?
James Whiteside: Repetition is tedious. Laundry is also tedious. Dancers wear three times as much clothing as normies.
Garen Scribner: Telling people that you’re a dancer.
Reid Bartelme: Warming up and scheduling
Lloyd Knight: Nothing at all in my opinion, I look at it all as a magical journey. You’re working on something that is so personal and I’ve gotten so much from it. It’s not work at all, you’re always working on bettering yourself, searching for something within yourself and taking others on a journey. Nothing like being an artist!
Jack Ferver: I tore my calf a couple of weeks ago in rehearsal. It’s not my first injury. The process of age takes on a more acute and vicious quality as performer.
Joshua Lubin-Levy: If your six-year-old self could come see this work, what would you say to them after the show.
James Whiteside: I’d say "You already know this because you’ve been forced to, but everything really IS imaginable, and it’s up to you to imagine. So I guess you had better get started."
Garen Scribner: You are so fierce, queen.
Reid Bartelme: What was your favorite part? Did you recognize your pony?
Lloyd Knight: I would first ask them what they got from it.... But then I would say that I hope that if anything they were able to witness five individuals who have managed to work towards goals as artists and as humans with their individual wants and needs. Everything you want is imaginable.
Jack Ferver: Well, I wouldn’t want my six-year-old, or any child to see Act 2 of this work, so I’ll answer this from Act 1: what was your favorite part?