HARP

(HERE Artist Residency Program)

Stairway to Stardom Amanda Szeglowski/cakeface

Show Description

Stairway to Stardom is a mixed media dance-theatre tour of shattered dreams, from impractical to impossible. Inspired by and sourcing footage from the 1980s public-access television series by the same name, Stairway to Stardom rides the wave of the disenchanted. Synthesizing intricate choreography and original texts with the post-apocalyptic sound and visuals of Brooklyn's Prism House (Matt O'Hare + Brian Wenner), cakeface honors the contributions of the wildly passionate but questionably talented through their powerful female voice and signature style of linguistic performance art.

In watching clips from the television show which aired in New York City from 1979 to the early 1990s, I was struck by the sheer commitment of the performers and the imbalance between their self-perception and an obvious reality. “Stairway to Stardom” was described by NPR as "an amateur talent show many see as a low-rent precursor to American Idol.” Filmed "in what appeared to be a freshly carpeted Staten Island basement,” the host Frank Masi would bring on amateur singers, dancers, actresses, and comedians to show off their questionable talents. The drive and emotion behind these performers’ eyes is palpable and yet, watching them, you know they never made it. They became dental receptionists and bank tellers and life insurance salesmen. How does that happen? 

Photo by Benjamin Heller, Headshot by Maria Baranova
 

Artist Bio

Amanda Szeglowski, Artistic Director (cakeface), is a writer, director and choreographer with extensive experience in live performance, arts management, marketing and non-profit development. Formerly the Managing Director/Dancer for Ellis Wood Dance for four years, she performed with the company throughout NYC as well as on tour in locations such as Portugal, Germany, San Diego and Washington DC. Amanda launched her all-female company in 2008 with founding members Jeso O'Neill and Elle Chyun. Socially powered work, tactical collaborations, and linguistic experimentation are the ingredients of the cakeface brand. The company’s projects thread together intricate choreography and original, abstract scripts to convey one fundamental idea. Time Out NY quoted AS as saying, “We work with themes people can understand and give a damn about.” That pretty much covers it.

Soon after the company’s formation, cakeface performed with the NYC performance art presenting machine, AUNTS. The Tank presented the company’s first evening-length work at the 45th Street Theater the following spring. Since then, cakeface has been presented by Dance New Amsterdam, Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, Dixon Place, Triskelion Arts, Stony Brook University, RoofTop Dance with the Roger Smith Hotel, Going Dutch in Chicago, IL, Smith & Tinker collective writers’ group, Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, FL, Rebound Dance Festival in New Haven, CT and the Florida Dance Festival, Tampa, FL. cakeface has guest lectured at the University of South Florida, and taught master classes at the University of Tampa and Howard W. Blake School for the Arts.

Artist Statement

For Stairway to Stardom I will continue to refine the aesthetic I’ve been honing with my company cakeface for the past 6 years. My work is it’s own hybrid form, equal parts dance, theatre and performance art. Performers have specific tempos, rhythms, repetitions, overlaps, and algorithm parameters to follow when delivering their lines. Choreography is developed from the text, or from themes inherent in the script and then integrated into the larger piece in intervals and/or continuously as hyper-detailed staging. 

As the saying goes, “life flashes before your eyes”, a million images pop up for me when I think about shattered dreams, from recital videos to T-ball games. It’s an illustrative topic, which is why I feel it makes sense to have a significant media component for this work with dynamic imagery and immersive visuals. For this project I am thrilled to work with cakeface founding company member Jeso O'Neill and two brilliant collaborators: digital media designer Matt O’Hare and lighting designer Amanda K. Ringger. 
 

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photo by Theodore Samuels

cakeface performed Stairway to Stardom at the HERE Gala!

Here are some pics from HERE's May 23, 2016 ALCHEMY Gala at City Winery. We had a great time sharing an excerpt from Stairway to Stardom. Click here to see more photos from the evening.

photo by Benjamin Heller

STS photos from CULTUREMART 2016

Above are some of the photos from our CULTUREMART performances in March. Click here for lots more, all by Benjamin Heller.

STS: New Media is here!

We have some great new pics from CULTUREMART 2015 by Benjamin Heller and Maria Baranova! Click here.