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ODC Theater presents a new work about time and aging

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World-premiere: Dancers of various ages rehearse “Night Falls

More than 70 million baby boomers are either on the verge of, or have recently turned, 60, a statistic that offers rich material for choreographer Deborah Slater and playwright Julie Hébert’s “Night Falls,” a theatrical-dance performance making its world premiere on the ODC Theater stage Friday.

The narrative revolves around a woman on the eve of her 60th birthday who must give a lecture the next morning about her life choices and their repercussions to a group of students she is mentoring.

Slater and Hébert who each freely admit to being in the demographic, have collaborated on dance and theater work since they first met in San Francisco in the early 1980s.

The inspiration for “Night Falls” was an earlier collaboration, “Almost Asleep,” in which their insomnia-riddled character was portrayed by five women grappling with a problem from five different perspectives.

In “Night Falls,” the character is also represented by several performers, this time male and female, multi-ethnic and ranging in age from mid- 20s to 70s.

“The topic of aging — our own, our parents, our children’s growing up — launched this piece,” says Slater. Hébert takes inspiration from the older women she grew up around in southern Louisiana. “I admire women who age with spirit and brio … yes, life and looks are changing and yes, here we are, still strong, still beautiful,” she says.

For Slater, it’s a matter of identification. “I still see myself as I was in high school. I relate to the energies of that age group.”

Slater’s theatrically inspired choreography is bolstered by a wealth of research she provides for her performers on how culture, sociology and science influence their characters.

It’s a level of investigation that resonates with Hébert, who gave up a pre-med career track to follow her theatrical passions, eventually moving with her family to Los Angeles where she developed a successful career as a television script writer and producer.

“I’ve learned a lot about structure and economy of language through television,” she says. “But I come home to the theater for its strangeness, its contradictions, paradoxes, absurdities … its flights of theatrical weirdness. They more aptly reflect real life.” Slater hints at a “big surprise” in the piece where real life intrudes on the character’s inner dialogue.

Joining the creative team is French-Mexican composer Bruno Louchouarn, who, with advanced degrees in music, visual media, language and artificial intelligence, provides an apt, timeless backdrop for the piece.


Night Falls

Presented by ODC Theater

Where: 3153 17th St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and Oct. 27, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Oct. 30
Tickets: $17 to $20
Contact: www.odctheater.org

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