Celeste Miller’s Once Upon a Time Wolf is a poetic meditation on fairy tales, an exploration of the stories we tell and why we tell them. With a hypnotic musical accompaniment by Chip Epsten, Miller shifts between dance and spoken word, between embodying the characters from Little Red Riding Hood and narrating her fractured retelling of the tale. There is something enchanting about Miller’s enactment of the story. She is not concerned with mimetic representation or “acting” in a traditional sense; instead, she is engaged in the magical process of bringing the words to life, of words made flesh. A performative shape-shifter, Miller seamlessly transitions between a chain-smoking grandmother to Riding Hood fleeing through the forest to the narrator peering down on the scene with a bird’s eye view. These kaleidoscopic shifts challenge stasis and invite the audience to question and re-question their gendered assumptions about the Wolf and the manner in which women are traditionally cast as victims. As with all good fairy tales, Miller’s performance is a work about transformation, about reimagining both the past and the future.
- Craig Quintero, Artistic Director, Riverbend Theatre, Taiwan; Associate Professor Department of Theatre and Dance, Grinnell College.
Once Upon a Time Wolf begins by declaring the hackneyed opener “once upon a time”, shattered. And proceeds to announce that this story will only be told through its shards, “sharp enough to draw blood.”
Once Upon a Time Wolf is designed for small, intimate venues including domestic spaces. The audience may be seated at long tables covered in butcher paper with colored pens. They are invited to “doodle, take notes, or draw” as they watch the piece. After the twelve minutes of performance, audience may voluntarily share something from their writing/ drawing. And then we enter conversation. Like a book club...
Past discussions have covered topics such as “bordering off our wildness” to “what it means to revise, revision, resist or rewrite the stories that seem to hold on over time” to “the multiple ways in which “time” is constructed and deconstructed through the imagery”. And the ever popular prompt, “What is the wolf at your door?”
“Wolf” began its creative process in 2014, premiering at the Alternate ROOTS Annual Gathering. Since then “Wolf” has been performed at Skwirlhaus in Atlanta, Catapult in New Orleans, Home for Wayward Girls and Their Dogs in Sautee-Nacoochee, GA and a tour to domestic spaces produced by KD productions in San Francisco, Berkley, and San Diego. Wolf was also performed at the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College as part of the exhibit: “Dread & Delight”.
Below: Audience drawings gathered at the Catapult performance in New Orleans
Written, choreographed and performed by Celeste Miller, it is performed in an Act 1, Act 2 format. The first act is the performance. The second act is an audience conversation. The whole event lasts around 60 minutes.