GROUP THERAPY (work in progress)

The members of Poor Dog Group met when they were eighteen years old, and have been making art together for more than a decade. Their newest work, Group Therapy, draws on 16 hours of audio recordings from the group’s actual therapy with a licensed professional to probe the inner workings of long-term collaboration. It is a documentary performance centered on close-knit group of friends as they process their marriages, divorces, falling outs, alcoholism, the hustle of making art together, and above all, what it is like to endure.

Guided in part by the ground-breaking Journey into Self—the 1968 documentary film in which Carl Rogers conducts a session for 8 strangers as they “try to discover the secret of being together”—Group Therapy combines reenacted moments from Poor Dog Group’s therapy with extemporaneous confrontations, chance operations and cinematic gestures. The combination results in an uncensored portrait of how individuals struggle to articulate and grapple with recurring behavioral patterns, ranging from the banal to traumatic.

By means of therapeutic methodologies from Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls and others, the members of PDG sit in a circle and delve into the most private details regarding inner relationships and sense of self. As artists in America we forge our work under the consistent sense of threat—of no longer being able to continue our practice due to desperate financial challenges and subsequent strained interpersonal dynamics. Group Therapy intimately reveals a collective crisis to elicit a conversation regarding the role of theater as an essential social encounter at the core of our communities. Our anxiety moves us beyond the stage, to questions of personal worth, entitlement, substance addiction, housing and job security, and debt. The ecstasy of Poor Dog Group’s privilege to make theater is inherently deconstructed in what could be the ensembles final work.

Group Therapy is being developed at The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. Group Therapy has received additional residency support from The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Headlands Center for the Arts. Group Therapy is produced in partnership with and managed by Los Angeles Performance Practice. Group Therapy is a project of Creative Capital. 

FIVE SMALL FIRES

Five Small Fires, began as an investigation into ancient ritual, and the nature of satyr play within Greek theater. Set in a community center, revolutionaries of an abstract New Age movement stew over life's meaning and purpose. A dark secret begins to reemerge, causing the members to seek aggressive liberation. While philosophical rhetoric builds upon itself, the members continue to seek emancipation from the troubles of contemporary life by conducting a series of lessons and tests, which they broadcast on-line. As these rituals collide in celebratory chaos, a higher community is formed through dance, initiation rites and radical apocalyptic anarchy.

FIVE SMALL FIRES was commissioned by Experimental Media Performing Arts Center & The Getty Villa Lab Theater. Project support from: 2013 Creative Capital Award, University of California Los Angeles Department of World Cultures, Center for Cultural Innovation ARC Program, and YADDO. Five Small Fires was originally produced at the Bootleg Theater. 

Five Small Fires recorded at the Bootleg Theater on March 2014.
  • Created by Poor Dog Group
  • Produced by Poor Dog Group in partnership with the Bootleg Theater
  • Performed by Jonney Ahmanson, Brad Culver, Andrew Gilbert, Cat Ventura, Jennie Liu
  • Concept, Text, and Direction by Jesse Bonnell
  • Scenic Design by Efren Delgadillo
  • Sound Design by Andrew Gilbert
  • Lighting Design by Adam Hunter
  • Sound Engineering by Martin Gimenez
  • Production Management by Caitlin Rucker and Morgan O'Hara

MURDER BALLAD 1938

With a murky mix of desire, jealousy and emancipatory yearning, Poor Dog Group's movement-based work gives forceful physical life to Jelly Roll Morton's legendary 1938 recording. Originally performed in the brothels of New Orleans’ steamy Storyville district, Morton's song revels in the nastiness of its heroine’s voice, whose feral physical energy lays claim to the violent impulses of a woman betrayed. The Murder Ballad delves into the myth of female madness and racialized representations of sexuality.

The Murder Ballad 1938 was presented as part of the 2015 Spring Season at REDCAT. 

  • Created by Poor Dog Group
  • Music by Jelly Roll Morton
  • Produced by Poor Dog Group in partnership with REDCAT
  • Performed by Jessica Emmanuell and Jesse Saler
  • Direction by Jesse Bonnell
  • Scenic Design by Efren Delgadillo
  • Sound Design by Andrew Gilbert
  • Lighting Design by Adam Hunter
  • Sound Engineering by Martin Gimenez

ATREUS

ATREUS retells the myth of Thyestes and Atreus and debunks Aristotle’s notion of theatrical drama.The House of Arteus provides the backdrop  to explore the political, social, and sexual politics of the late fifth century while ritualistic transformation reveals something inherent about our contemporary world. In Greek mythology, the half-man, half-beast creatures known as satyrs were the raucous companions of Dionysus, the god of wine and theater. "Satyr Atlas," the latest work in progress from the experimental-theater troupe Poor Dog Group, will befit the legend with a lively performance inspired by ancient drama, imagery and lore and based on text by Euripides. The play features nudity and lewd theatrics and is recommended for adult audiences.

Originally titled: Satyr Atlas

Atreus was generously commissioned and presented at The Getty Villa Theater Lab.

  • Created by Poor Dog Group
  • Produced by Poor Dog Group in partnership with The Getty Villa Theater Lab
  • Performed by Jessica Emmanuell, Jesse Saler, Andrew Gilbert, Cat Ventura, John Kern, Jonney Ahmanson, Brad Culver, Adam Hunter, Condola Rashad
  • Concept, Text, and Direction by Jesse Bonnell
  • Scenic Design by Efren Delgadillo
  • Sound Design by Andrew Gilbert
  • Lighting Design by Adam Hunter
  • Costume design by Leah Piel
  • Sound Engineering by Martin Gimenez
  • Original Music by Peter Mayer
  • Production Management by Marisa Blankier   

DIONYSIA

Based on fragments of imagery on ancient clay pots, Dionysia delves into the ritualistic, unstable, and sometimes hilarious behavior of an Appalachian choir. The work draws upon Greek mythology, and early American folklore. Performed only three times, Dionysia is Poor Dog Group's hidden gem fought with oodles of technology, cars, pianos, 44 foot babies, gallons of milk, pine coffins, wine sacks, cooked meat, and audience participation. 

This project was generously supported and commissioned by EMPAC and was presented as part of the Fall Season. 

 

  • Created by Poor Dog Group
  • Produced by Poor Dog Group in partnership with EMPAC
  • Performed by Jonney Ahmanson, Brad Culver, Andrew Gilbert, Cat Ventura, Jessica Emmanuell, Jesse Saler, and John Kern
  • Concept, Text, and Direction by Jesse Bonnell
  • Scenic Design by Efren Delgadillo
  • Sound Design by Andrew Gilbert and Justin Sachs
  • Lighting Design by Justin Sachs, Chris Kuhl, and Adam Hunter
  • Sound Engineering by Justin Sachs
  • Video Design by Grant McDonald
  • Production Management by Itamar Stern 

 

BREWSIE AND WILLIE

Written by author Gertrude Stein as a short novel almost exclusively in dialogue form, Brewsie and Willie is a portrait of class anxiety – the class that fights our wars and is then left to grapple with the anxiety of return to the larger American culture. World War II has just ended, and Brewsie, Willie, and an array of their fellow soldiers and nurses are in some border-less, undefined space, waiting to return to the United States and civilian life. This period of aimless R&R becomes a space of reflection and thoughtfulness – and of vast concern over their future lives back in the US.

Produced by CalArts Center for New Performance in association with Poor Dog Group.

Brewsie and Willie was presented at the inaugural RADAR L.A. Festival

Awards: Best Production, and Best Lighting at the LA WEEKLY Awards.

Writen by Gertrude Stein

  • Directed by Travis Preston
  • Adaptation by Marissa Chibas, Erik Ehn, Travis Preston
  • Original Music by Andrew Conrad and Andrew Gilbert
  • Choreography by Mira Kingsley
  • Dramaturgy by Juli Crockett 
  • Scenic Design by Efren Delgadillo Jr. 
  • Costume Design by E.B. Brooks
  • Lighting Design BY Efren Delgadillo, Jr. and Adam Hunter
  • Video Design by Jeff Teeter, Jesse Bonnell, and John Kern 
  • Technical Direction by Oscar Arevelo
  • Stage Management by Justin D. Schlegel
  • Produced by Carol Bixler
  • Performed by Jonney Ahmanson, Jesse Bonnell, Caitlyn Conlin, Brad Culver, Andrew Gilbert, Matthew Goodrich, Lucy Griffin, Adam Hunter, John Kern, Jesse Saler, Catherine Ventura, 
  • Itamar Stern, Assistant Director
  • Asta Hostetter, Assistant Costume Designer
  • Laura Kay Swanson, Associate Producer

THE INTERNATIONALISTS

Poor Dog Group reenacts NASA's famous 1958 Mercury Seven press conference, while mocking the former Soviet Union in this farcical attack on outer space dominance. Vintage newsreels, NASA’s flight records and information delivery systems all collide to give a glimpse into our cyber-reality. The Internationalists was commissioned by the Contemporary Art Museum of Santa Barbara and toured throughout Eastern Europe including Croatia, Poland, and Serbia.  

The Internationalists was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara and received generous support from Theater Communications Group ITI Grant, Foundation of Contemporary Art Emergency Grant, The Growtoski Institute, Ulysses Theater, The United States Embassy, and REDCAT. 

  • Created by Poor Dog Group
  • Produced by Poor Dog Group
  • Performed by Jonney Ahmanson, Brad Culver, Andrew Gilbert, Cat Ventura, Jessica Emmanuell, Jesse Saler, Itamar Stern, and John Kern
  • Concept, Text, and Direction by Jesse Bonnell
  • Scenic Design by Efren Delgadillo and Jesse Bonnell
  • Sound Design by Andrew Gilbert 
  • Lighting Design by Adam Hunter
  • Video Design by Matt Mellinger
  • Production Management by Itamar Stern