Hajj

Debra Richardson

April, 1983
PREMIERE: Public Theater

A performance poem conceived in collaboration
Video – Craig Jones
Poem – Lee Breuer
Set and Lighting – Julie Archer
Performance – Ruth Maleczech

DESCRIPTION

Hajj is one of Mabou Mines’ signature pieces Ruth Maleczech stars in this one woman performance poem designed with state-of-the-art video and audio technology. Set at a dressing table in front of a triad of mirrors a woman takes a journey through her past to repay a debt she can never repay. The mirrors reflect enlarged images of the woman as well as pre-recorded images which reflect her thoughts and remembrances.

The production was one of the first combinations of video technology and live performances in the United States. It was developed with the help of SONY, performed at the American Film Institute\′s Festival in Washington DC and later at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The premiere was held at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York City.

Julie Archer’s design for Hajj won the Maharam Award from the American Theater Wing. Ruth Maleczech received an OBIE Award for her performance in Hajj as well as a Villager Award for Solo Performance.

There is no visible technology in Hajj. True to its poetic form, the imagery on three video monitors seems to rise from behind the bronze-tinted one-way mirrors that comprise a dressing table. In front of the table the woman changes make-up and persona to represent three characters. The title of the play is taken from the Muslim tradition of a pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim makes once in a lifetime.

The poem/play is a metaphor for this pilgrimage. Hajj follows an American woman’s journey into her past to settle her debts, financial as well as emotional. The piece threads these thematic strands using psychology and sophisticated technology.

Hajj is one of Mabou Mines’ most moving and intimate works which allows for a deeply personal exchange between audience and actor.

PRODUCTION HISTORY

Developed at:
The Performing Garage
American Film Institure National Video Festival, Kennedy Center, Washington DC (June, 1982)
California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA (March 29-April 2, 1983)
Premiere: The Public Theater, NYC (April-May, 1983)
Dance Theater Workshop, Economy Tires Theater at Bessie Schonberg Theater, NYC (May 7-18, 1986)
Japan Tour, Togamora and Tokyo
International Chekov Festival, Moscow, Russia (1998)
Maly Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia (April, 2000)
Seoul Theatre Festival, Munye Small Theater in Seoul, Korea (September, 2000)

 

“The pictures in this mysterious piece – contrasting, overlapping, coalescing -demonstrate the virtuosity of video as an instrument in live performance art.”
—Mel Gussow, NY Times
Hajj Gallery 1
Hajj Gallery 2