2nd Message in the Bottle: What is NO WAKE, anyway?

Dear Person,

I hope you got my last note. I’m going to stop hinting around and being all mysterious, and explain to you what this thing NO WAKE is, the piece I’m making for my Public Artist residency.

Tids n trash

No job is too dirty for a Public Artist

NO WAKE is a multifaceted public art project encompassing performance, dance, community engagement, and a significant contribution of art and performance by middle-school aged children in the Charlottesville area. NO WAKE takes its name from a contemporary mythic play I wrote in 2014, which is being transformed and exploded from a more conventional playscript into a silent multimedia spectacle of performance and dance in the heart of downtown Charlottesville. Performances will take place March 17 through April 16 on the upper platform of the Ix Building and in the surrounding neighborhood. Click here to purchase tickets to NO WAKE. In tandem with the performances, City middle-school art classes will build one of the large scenic elements, and other middle-schoolers at Buford and the BRJDC will create messages in bottles which will be located around the city in February & March.

The narrative of NO WAKE, which contains both autobiographical and universal elements, tells of a widow who refuses to hold a wake or a funeral for her mysteriously deceased husband, or reveal to anyone how he died. She abandons her daughter, who is highly imaginative and susceptible to overwhelming fantasy. Lost in the woods, the daughter contemplates whether to become feral or save her mother from self-harm. At this moment a storm is unleashed, tearing their seaside home from the shore and casting it out to the ocean. In the process of saving themselves they must reckon with the isolation, guilt and anger between them and come to terms with the truth of the father’s death. The piece explores the connection between interpersonal denial and responsibility, and environmental denial and responsibility.  It’s my hope it will also uncover a lot of other related questions: What role does grieving play? How do we escape our own minds, for better and worse? What does it mean to be responsible to children? What are the stories we tell ourselves about that? How can we move beyond paralysis into action where it matters most in our lives? What does action even mean?  Despite the serious subject matter, every aspect of the project is infused with the young daughter’s raw exuberance, imagination, and outrageous trickster-like humor.

NO WAKE would not be possible without the collaboration of members of my theater company PEP (Performers Exchange Project), a large group of regionally and internationally recognized professional artists in our area, community members, teachers, schools, and local businesses. As the weeks go on, we will get into more depth about all these folks, but for now here’s a who’s who of who’s helping me create the piece:

NO WAKE production meeting

Making new work is all fun and games


Aaron Farrington & Stephen Thomas: Live and recorded filmmaking

Allyson Mellberg-Taylor & Jeremy Taylor: Costume design and sewing

Dinah Gray: Choreographer of the Water Bearers dance installation

Lisa Eller: Production & rehearsal stage management

Marianne Kubik: Fight & Dance Choreography for stage performances

Martha Mendenhall (PEP): Script translation

Miller Murray Susen: Social Media & Communications (for the Bridge)

Matthew Slaats: Financial, Logistic, and Fundraising assistance (for the Bridge)

Sian Richards (PEP): Acting coach

Ted Coffey: Composer

Thadd McQuade: Scenic Design


Deandra Irving

Jennifer Downey

LaTrina Candia

Miller Murray Susen

Sydney Wynn

Rehearsals begin in 2 weeks! More soon.


P.S. Let me know if you would like to be involved as a volunteer in some capacity: