Mad River Union
BLUE LAKE – “Sometimes we have to celebrate ourselves,” Joan Schirle said at the opening of the Prize of Hope ceremony recently in the Carlos Theater. She’s the Founding Artistic Director of Dell’Arte.
Schirle, Michael Fields, Dell’Arte’s Producing Director, and representatives from Denmark, Birthe Rosenfeldt-Olsen and Moqi Trollein, proceeded to do just that: celebrate everyone in the room.
In the Danish tradition, wine and other libations were poured for each member of the audience and the four took turns introducing those attending, telling their names, a little bit about them, and their connection with Dell’Arte. After each person was introduced, everyone raised their glasses and called “Skoal!”
Sitting in the audience were the honorees for The Prize of Hope, an international theatre award, members of Universes. Universes is an ensemble theater company that “fuses theater, poetry, dance, jazz, hip hop, politics, down home blues, and Spanish boleros.” It was founded in The Bronx in 1995. Members present were Mildred Ruiz, Steven Sapp, Gamal Chasten, and Quest Sapp.
The company is now based in Ashland, Oregon.
Steven Sapp reminisced about their early days in New York. “We had a van and we would rehearse in the van and then go into the gig. We did that for years,” he said. “Sometimes we would do three gigs a night – Brooklyn, The Bronx and Manhattan.”
“We try to revolutionize what American theater is,” Ruiz said. She dedicated the award to the children and grandchildren of the members of the company. “They have been part of our life as part of the journey and have sacrificed the most,” she explained.
The Prize of Hope has been given for 28 years to a “person or company who works for the hope of humankind daringly, lovingly, vulgarly, seriously, poetically... with sparkling energy against conventional thinking...” according to the Institut for Folkeligt Teater. Dell’Arte and the institute have been collaborating for 10 years, alternating the prize every other year.
To celebrate that collaboration, the Danes shipped two birch columns carved by a mask maker in the style of 900 year old Norwegian churches. The faces carved on the columns are timeless and beautiful.
“We may incorporate the columns into a doorway or entrance way in the building,” Fields said.
The Prize of Hope awards were also artistic works of art, constructed by Dell’Arte’s Technical Director, James Hildebrandt. The awards were a homage to the tenements and brownstones of New York. When opened, a beautiful face was revealed.
Then the entire group – the honorees, the Danes, and Dell’Artians gathered around a large redwood plank that had been signed by all the previous winners of the award. The Danes also brought wooden puzzle pieces for the members of Universes to sign. Those pieces will be taken back to Denmark and fitted into their “plank.”
Definitely not your usual awards ceremony. This one included tears, hilarity, and good spirits for all.