A Glimpse Beyond: Cemetery Gaits

By DEBRA CASH  |  September 20, 2012


Two newcomers enter the paradisiacal garden that will be their final resting place. Clayton, a fallen soldier, and Alice, an elderly grandmother, walk the paths of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. As they stroll past the gravesites of noted and obscure Bostonians, and past the unique statuary and exquisitely landscaped parkland, they release the burdens of their lives. We mortals, still residing in the land of the living, are led alongside them by a quartet of angelic ushers.

A Glimpse Beyond is a site-specific 90-minute performance sponsored by the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery. Lauren MacCarthy, a member of the Friends organization, had seen a similar, less complex performance at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and immediately felt that Mount Auburn could be a setting where the public could explore images and ideas about life, death, and life beyond death, and where new collaborations among artists working in different disciplines could be born.

MacCarthy contacted noted mask-maker and theater designer Eric Bornstein, who brought in choreographer Andrea Taylor-Blenis. She, in turn, contacted composer Martin Case. In time, the project grew to encompass a multicultural and multigenerational cast of professional and community dancers, actors, costume designer Elizabeth Rocha, a poet, and musicians who sing and play everything from violin to accordion, African djembe drums, and the bowed Bulgarian gadulka.

"We're taking the old idea of the grief walk, where people walk into their troubles and back out," explains MacCarthy, "joining physicality with the process of working out grief." It's an idea with roots in many traditions that has gained some prominence in contemporary groups that support cancer patients and their families. For MacCarthy, the cemetery setting gives local artists an opportunity to be experienced against an unexpected background.

Participating artists include dancers from Urbanity Dance, Prometheus Dance, and the Prometheus Elders Ensemble, members of the Cambridge Community Chorus and the Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church, poet Patricia Caspers, and many others. And though the dancers and musicians will be visible through the trees, those who join the event may also glimpse signs of wildlife and, in particular, the birds that have made this National Historic Landmark a site of pilgrimage for ornithologists.

As MacCarthy explains, "It's a cemetery that is tremendously alive."

A GLIMPSE BEYOND | September 22, 2012 @ 4 pm | $20 | Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge | www.mountauburn.org/2012/glimpsebeyond

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