The Box Collective doesn’t operate inside any box. In fact, the philosophy of this theater group is to push the boundaries of traditional labels, and to create a forum for creative expression that inspires performers and audiences to think outside the box.
“We are always looking to challenge the boundaries of different disciplines,” said Andrea Goldman, co-founder of The Box Collective. “People often ask: is it theater? Performance art? Dance? It’s hard to define.”
And that is kind of the point. Even though Ms. Goldman and her partner Sara George met in a classical company, they were drawn to each other because they looked at theater as an opportunity to explore different avenues of expression, and to push the envelope.
The first performance of the Box Collective was four years ago in East Hampton, when they put on La Cueca. Since then, the women have traveled the world, collaborating with choreographers, dancers, lighting designers, and other creative people. They performed “Sometimes at Night” in Berlin in the summer of 2012, and “116” at the New Ohio Theatre in New York City in the spring of 2014. Now they return to East Hampton for one show at Guild Hall.
The show, “Wild Horses,” has been called the “anti-musical”. Music is an integral part of the story, but it’s not a musical in the traditional way. Ms. Goldman, who wrote the story as well as the lyrics, collaborated closely with pianist Dani Campos.
“We had a really organic connection,” said Ms. Goldman. “The way I would say something and he’d respond through his music. There was this constant dialogue that was easy and beautiful.”
Ms. Goldman met Mr. Campos in Berlin, and they decided to work on a piece together. It started with a seed: Ms. Goldman knew she wanted to explore the idea of a carousel, and how it relates to the changes we undergo as we grow up.
“When you’re a child and you see the whole world as this magical place,” said Ms. Goldman. “It’s all shiny and glittery and then you go back and see the wood and cracked paint and the deterioration. When do we stop seeing the magic as we become adults?”
The storyline itself relates to a girl who’s trapped in her own cycles, as if she can’t get off the carousel. But it also plays with the metaphor of the wooden horse of the carousel as compared to the wild horse.
“There’s something so bittersweet about the wild horse for me,” said Ms. Goldman. “It’s the metaphor for the girl’s character in this piece. Wanting to be on a wild horse, but being on a wooden one instead. Being tamed.”
This idea expressed through interdisciplinary elements.
“The text of the play is very basic,” said. Ms. George. “The characters don’t speak about what they’re going through. The story exists in the music and the movement.”
The development of the performance is very much a collaborative effort. Through this process, the story grows and deeper layers are revealed. That’s part of the fun of it.
“We came up with the idea of a story of a girl trapped in a cycle, a carousel, and what it might look like,” said Ms. Goldman. “It began to reveal itself in the writing, but then the writing process continues into the rehearsal room. Then you work with the other elements: the director, dancers, lighting.”
The script acts as an outline, a jumping off point, from which the creative process can flourish.
“The script is a skeleton,” said Ms. George, “that we use to add different elements onto. It gives us the through line, the arc, the structure, the words. From there we work on telling the story in the space. But the script is grounding, like an anchor.”
Ms. Goldman said the troupe is looking forward to being back at Guild Hall.
“I get emotional when I return here,” said Ms. Goldman. “It’s exciting to come back after four years of being on this journey, to a place that was the beginning of that journey. It’s like coming home.”
The Box Collective will perform “Wild Horses” at Guild Hall in East Hampton one night only: Tuesday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. The performance is free, and will be followed with a meet and greet with the ensemble.