Butler University | Guest Artist Residency

Butler University’s Theater Department invited me to be their Jordon College of the Arts artist in residence for the winter semester.

This project enabled students of all disciplines within the College of Art to participate within the residency, a first of its kind.

I led a semester long interdisciplinary performance based workshop and created an original devised evening length premiere for Butler’s Artfest “Time and Timeless” Season. The production, “Portal 1812” was in collaboration with the students. In preparation for this invitation I created a scaffolding of material as a framework.


Learning & Making

The studio course takes an interdisciplinary approach to devising performance and creating text, movement and visual material. For many, this was the first introduction and pathway to creating work generated from their own experience and design.

The students climbed the work beautifully which included many rigorous physical, mental demands and challenges.
During our time together, they learned:

  • To read, interpret and jockey ideas across a variety of modalities
  • Investigate proposed thematic research through varied lenses via prompts and creative problem sets
  • Building physical presence, addressing fundamental movement biomechanics, and expression through warm-ups, set movement, structured improvisations and movement invention
  • Identifying ideas, developing connection to the practice of generating personal work and articulating meaning
To open the residency to non-majors, I offered an additional semester long course, “Body, Time, Space.” (see workshops)






The Production
To make an original 90 minute devised work within a three week period meant that I had to build materials for the project and all areas of the production.
Butler’s ArtFest requested ideas within the frame of “Time and Timeless” be present in the work. I graphed some sections and thematics from my book project, WILDLIFE and began generating and assembling my research six months prior.
I began with a drawing of the set – with so many variables unknown – including the body of the work – it had to have vast flexibility – a container for anything, any event in any time or place. The stage elements also became clear, based on that criteria.
The Workshop
I was excited to bring in a course that I designed to both generate solo and ensemble material – creating structures and procedures as a pathway for students to create their own work through a variety of lenses and to increase dexterity and flexibility with encountering and developing material generated from their own experience.
The workshop was also designed to generate material for our production – weaving prompts, events, moments into creative investigations.


The Construction
Before my residency began, I visited Butler to observe students auditioning in the Theater Department. I needed to have a sense of physical presence, athleticism and creativity.

The first thing I did when I arrived was to create a line of Post-it notes on the wall with each of the casts name. I began building out the piece from there, integrating my research and new materials generated within the seminar.

Eventually stories emerged and developed, scene lists were created and that single row of post-it notes translated into a fifteen page libretto that I created and used as a call sheet along with media, movement, staging and lighting cues.


Program Notes

 Who are we? On the verge of something? At the edge of something? Breaking through to something?

Portal 1812 incorporates movement, text, projected image, and sound. This original ensemble performance was constructed via a scaffolding that I developed prior to arriving, and then with students over the course of the semester.

The cast find themselves selected by a lottery to learn something unlearnable, ask something un-askable, and to construct a system to ultimately find their way.




Portal 1812
Running time: 90 minutes
In Collaboration With The Cast:
Alexander Borrello, Evie Davis, Taylor Galloway, Nathan Haston, Ariel Laukins, Emma Shafer
Alannah Walterhouse, Lexy Weixel

Conceived, Designed, Directed: Darla Villani
Lighting Design: Bram Sheckels & Darla Villani
Video Projection & Sound: Jeff Gooch & Darla Villani
Still Images & Sound Score: Darla Villani
Scenic Design: conceived by Darla Villani, constructed by Glen Thoreson
Photographs: William Fisher, Glen Thorenson, Brent Smith

Interdisciplinary Artist NYC
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Built & designed / all images Darla Villani

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