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Unseen City at TheatreWorks

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"Also in Raissa, city of sadness, there runs an invisible thread that binds one living being to another for a moment, then unravels, then is stretched again between moving points as it draws new and rapid patterns so that at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence." — Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

Where do we live? How is it usually described? How might it be understood? These are just a few of the questions posed by Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe's latest offering, Unseen City. The new work, written and directed by Alex Skitolsky and choreographed by Kimberly Barksdale Baker, is inspired by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, a brief novel short on narrative but rich in substance.

If on a summer’s night
  • If on a summer’s night

Invisible Cities tells the story of Venetian explorer Marco Polo entertaining the great Kublai Khan with exotic descriptions of cities he's visited. Polo's colorful, often fantastical accounts contradict the Mongol ruler's advisors and magistrates because of Polo's tendencies to look beyond brick, mortar, and statistics to describe the real building blocks of every place in the world: ideas.

Unseen City is a collaborative work that began with tours through Memphis neighborhoods and conversations with residents. The theatrical event attempts to reimagine Memphis as a place that's greater than "its past and popular associations" by telling the story of an "otherworldly conqueror" who wants to understand his latest acquisition. But the more he learns about the Bluff City and its people, the less he understands.

Unseen City's action isn't confined to the stage or even the theater. Although the show's first half employs dance and storytelling, the second act becomes an interactive tour of Overton Square.

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