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contact: Mary Armentrout

510 845 8604



Mary Armentrout Dance Theater and the Milkbar present

WHAT:  the woman invisible to herself

WHO:  Mary Armentrout Dance Theater

WHERE:  the Milkbar at the Sunshine Biscuit Factory, Oakland – go to for

              complete directions

WHEN:  July 1,2,3,8,9,10,15,16,17, 2011

NOTE:  since this show happens in conjunction with sundown, show times are a little wacky and very specific:

pre-show installations from 6:45 to 7:15

shows start promptly at 7:15

HOW MUCH:  $20, through Brown Paper Tickets only – VERY LIMITED SEATING – no tickets

          at the door

INFORMATION:  510 845 8604,,

PHOTOS:  available on request


“The woman invisible to herself” is a “solo” show that explodes both the notion of self-identity, as well as the usual proscenium model of dance theater.


          Mary Armentrout Dance Theater and Oakland’s Milkbar proudly present Mary Armentrout’s acclaimed project, “the woman invisible to herself.”  “The woman invisible to herself” is a site specific performance that is installed in and around the Milkbar, at the Sunshine Biscuit Factory in Oakland.  Since we sold out the first run of this show, we are bringing it back for three weekends this coming July.  This project represents exciting new developments for both Oakland’s Milkbar and the Mary Armentrout Dance Theater.  In addition to its long running Milkbar Salon Series and the on-going Milkbar International “Live Film” Festival, this project marks the beginning of adding the production of site-specific performance projects to the Milkbar roster of activities.

          Mary Armentrout, a dance artist who creates hybrid dance theater experiments she calls performance installations, is pleased to re-present her newest full length project for her company, the Mary Armentrout Dance Theater.  “The woman invisible to herself” is a “solo” show that explodes both the notion of self-identity, as well as the usual proscenium model of dance theater.  Firstly, it is a “solo” show in which Armentrout plays the autobiographical main character, “the woman invisible to herself,” but also has three other people play this protagonist, as the show deals with the fragmentary, discontinuous nature of self.  Secondly, this performance is installed in and around Armentrout’s home studio, the Milkbar, in the Sunshine Biscuit Factory in Oakland, and employs many different models of artist-audience interaction – proscenium, site specific, in the round, installation, partial viewing - to give the audience an embodied experience of this message of fragmentation and dislocation.  Because of viewing constraints for several of the sections of this piece, the show has an audience limit of 25 people per show.  Drawing on her successful experiences as a co-curator of the on-going Milkbar Salon performing series, which highlights the power of live installed performance in an intimate setting, Armentrout feels that sculpting both the size and the role of the audience vis-a-vis the performers has powerful, transformative effects on the audience’s experience.  The intimate nature of this show gives the audience a chance to experience the power of performance first hand and contemplate the mutable nature of identity and community for themselves.  As is a Milkbar tradition, there will be informal artist’s talks with the audience after each show.  This show will take place July 1,2,3,8,9,10,15,16,17, 2011, and will be extended to further weekends, should there be demand.

          “The woman invisible to herself” is an everywoman character, like any of us, more or less, with one unusual characteristic – she notices the ways in which her sense of self-consciousness is not continuous.  Again, she is not different than the rest of us – we are all just as discontinuous – it’s just that she notices the junctures, ruptures and bifurcations of her self-identity, the malleability of her persona.  She can’t help being aware of the ways in which she is at war with herself, of two minds about something, has many different aspects to her personality, and routinely mis-takes what her own intentions are.  Using her trademark autobiographical vulnerability, Armentrout brings out the pathos, awkwardness and humor of this heady, difficult to grasp subject.  Another layer reflects the quirks of Armentrout’s personal history:  although she is a straight white woman, she identifies strongly with gay men and Asian culture.  These peculiarities are also embedded in the piece, as the three other performers playing the woman invisible to herself include Natalie Greene, a long time member of the Mary Armentrout Dance Theater, Nol Simonse, an accomplished dance artist very comfortable in his queerness, and Frances Rosario, another Bay Area dance veteran, who is Phillipino.  By the end, “the woman invisible to herself” weaves together elements of autobiography and fiction in ways that ultimately stress and aggravate what the notion of authenticity can mean, given the instability of the contemporary notion of selfhood.

          In addition to having the protagonist played by four different people, the sound and image components of this piece also embody the concepts of fracture and discontinuity.  The sound score for this piece is fashioned by two different composers, Pamela Z and Evelyn Ficarra, each working from text material generated by Armentrout.  The multiplicity of compositional styles creates a wide range of material; this helps support the environment of collage and dislocation the piece aims to create.  In addition to working collaboratively with these composers, Armentrout also has worked with long time video collaborator Ian Winters on the media aspects of this work.  The video image, both as competing layer and as incomplete trace of the live performer, is used in several different ways to disrupt the usual audience-to-art-object relationship.  Video is installed on monitors in odd locations – in a tight corner of a small closet - as well as projected on unusual surfaces – high on the wall above the audience, in one strategy.  In addition, one section of this piece has both a live and a video component, with the audience split and only able to watch one or the other - a strategy designed to give the audience a visceral experience of partiality and incompleteness. 

          In conclusion, in both content and form, “the woman invisible to herself” excavates some of the deep fissures in our notion of self-identity – with an eye towards bringing the wonderful, perplexing ambiguity of human life into focus.  It also involves a small audience in a potent new model of performance that can have radically empowering effects on the community, in an area of Oakland, East Oakland, that does not yet have a thriving arts scene.

          To access the considerable press coverage of the first run of this piece, just go to the “press” or “upcoming” pages at










more about Mary Armentrout Dance Theater


          Mary Armentrout is a dance artist who works primarily with repetition and duration to uncover aspects of intentionality and presence.  Influenced by contemporary philosophical concerns as well as the ongoing critical investigations started by the Judson Church dance deconstructions, she makes works that embody the contradictions of contemporary life, both our conflicted, fractured sense of self, and our discontinuous, collage sense of being-in-the-world.   She grounds her work in her ongoing investigations of the Feldenkrais mind-body practice, drawing on the rich ways its awareness practice embodies and problematizes issues of intentionality and presence.  From the conflictions and dislocations she finds there, her work spills out to build odd and compelling structures exhibiting contradictory aspects of our self-awareness and being-in-the-world.  Her choreography consists of small fragments of everyday movement, words, and environments that are distilled, distorted, polished, and stripped down to reveal the layers of ambiguity, pathos, and absurdity underneath the surface. Repetitive and deconstructed gestures, utterances, and objects/pieces of the outside world are layered and allowed to build and morph, crumble and change, creating compelling, unstable environments which allow deeper truths covered over in the everyday to surface, come into focus, and, paradoxically, display their contradictions.  Her works are puzzles, designed to imperfectly capture fragments of presence-in-performance and human intentionality.     

          Armentrout calls her works performance installations.  Drawing both raves and interested puzzlement from the critics - "a performance artist of tremendous range" (Christopher Correa, Dance View Times), "a quirky idiosyncratic choreographer who assembles works that appear illogical on the surface, but somehow her twisted humor, comic timing, and odd use of furniture and bodies coalesce into meaningful dance" (Rita Felciano, The East Bay Monthly) - she is engaged in "inventing a new kind of dance theater right before our eyes" (Dance View Times).

          She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College, concentrating particularly on dance and philosophy. After many years of making and performing work on the East and West Coasts and in Europe, she formed the Mary Armentrout Dance Theater in the Bay Area in 2000. The company currently consists of herself, Merlin Coleman, Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, Natalie Greene, April Taylor, Frances Rosario, and Nol Simonse, and is, as it has been for the last ten years, a fluid blend of dancers, actors, and sound and media artists.  Armentrout also maintains on-going collaborative relationships with sound artists Pamela Z, Evelyn Ficcara, and Merlin Coleman, and media artists Ian Winters and Bulkfoodveyor (Phil Bonner).

          She installs work in both conventional and site-specific venues, and the Mary Armentrout Dance Theater has been presented at numerous venues all over the San Francisco Bay Area, including ODC Theater, The LAB, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, as well as in less proscenium-oriented spaces including a bathroom, the beach, and a car.  Her work has also been presented at such venues as Movement Research at the Judson Church and Danspace Project in New York City, Highways in Los Angeles, the Dance Place in Washington D.C., le Centre Americain in Paris, and Tanzfabrik in Berlin, as well as in festivals including Dadafest, the Tenderloin "Festival In The Street," the Retail Dance Festival, the DUMBO (NY) Dance Festival, the SFFringe Festival, the "Women on the Edge" Series, and the Hunter Mountain (NY) Performing Series. She recently co-curated a Movement Research (NY) Studies Project on new work from the Bay Area with Trajal Harrel, and assisted Jonah Bokaer in a “Food for Thought” project on contemporary Bay Area dance at Danspace Project.

          She has received support from the Zellerbach Family Foundation and the CA$H Grant program, and has had residencies at Djerassi, The LAB, and CounterPULSE.  She teaches on-going technique, composition, and Feldenkrais classes at Danspace and Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, and has also taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Cal State East Bay (Hayward) and UC Berkeley.  She is the organizer of the Dance Discourse Project, an on-going series of artist-curated discussions of the Bay Area dance scene, co-presented by Dancers’ Group and CounterPULSE, and co-curates the mixed performance salon "The Milk Bar" at The Biscuit Factory in Oakland, along with Merlin Coleman and Ian Winters.  She is proud to be the president of the board of Dancers' Group, considered the most important dance service organization in the Bay Area, and happy to have recently obtained her Feldenkrais certification.  See more at



more about The Milkbar


          The Milkbar ( is an artist-run, cross-disciplinary cooperative studio based in East Oakland.  Our mission is to show great new work at the intersection of music, film, and performance in an intimate, artist friendly setting that promotes feedback and dialogue between audience and artists.  We are run by 3 experienced co-curators:  Mary Armentrout (choreographer, performer, president of Dancer’s Group), Ian Winters (installation filmmaker, photographer, and director of the Northern California Land Trust), and Merlin Coleman (composer, vocalist, cellist) in an intimate space that is both our research studio, and a vibrant small performance venue/series seating ~40.

          Located in East Oakland, CA in the Sunshine Biscuit Factory complex, the MilkBar has presented 7 ˝ years of artist’s salons, new performance, and debuted a wide variety of new experimental and improvisational contemporary performances/works in progress. Over that time we have curated and produced 27 salons featuring contemporary live performance, 4 ‘live’ film festivals featuring work at the intersection of live music, film/video and performance, and been host to a wide array of guest musicians and performers. Our salon evenings are curated to bring diverse artists/audiences together—to see great work at an early stage, to talk and discuss, —and to help them discover new audience/collaborators /community that they wouldn’t otherwise find.

          In addition to the salon series at the studio we also produce our International “Live Film” festival. It has grown from a working group of musicians, filmmakers, and performers experimenting with new forms to an on-going multi-evening event partnering with artists from the around the world. Our last festival was produced off-site at the Noodle Factory in Oakland, with five commissioned works and films from over 9 countries.

          We have been fortunate to host a large number of SF Bay area’s experimental performance community. A few of the artists that have performed work at the MilkBar include:  Sara Kraft, Bob Ernst, Dan Carbone, The Degenerate Art Ensemble, Dinah Emerson, Matt Ingalls, Jessica Ivry, Weasel Walter and the Satellites, Myra Melford, Laurie Amat, Dan Plonsey, Suki O’Kane, Gino Robair, Lisa Mezzacappa, Matt Volla, Michael Ferriell Zbyszynski, Pamela Z, Lisa Wymore and Sheldon Smith, MGM, Lucy HG/League of Imaginary Scientists, Sarah Klein, Andrew Lyndon, Minako Seki, and Dance Monks.



Collaborating Artists’ Biographies


A dual citizen (UK/USA), Evelyn Ficarra studied composition at the University of Sussex, the National Film and Television School, and the University of California, Berkeley, and has several years’ experience as a freelance composer, teacher and sound editor. She has a strong focus on electro-acoustic and collaborative work and has written music for dance, film, theatre, radio, installation and the concert hall. She has received support from the Arts Council of England, the London Arts Board, the Sonic Arts Network, the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust, the Hinrichsen Foundation, the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Meet the Composer and Poems on the Underground. Her music has been heard variously in concert halls, theaters, music festivals, film festivals, on television and in radio broadcasts in the UK, Europe, the Americas and the Far East. Her solo CD Frantic Mid-Atlantic is available on the Sargasso Label, and other recent music can be downloaded from Recent projects include vagues / fenętres, a string trio with electronics, supported by a Fellowship from the French American Cultural Exchange and premiered in Nice, France during the 2009 MANCA Festival, and  ‘in. apt.’, an improvisation research project in collaboration with paige starling sorvillo / blindsight.


Ian Winters, photographer, video-maker and performer, creates works at the intersection of architectural form, frozen image and time-based media, frequently collaborating with musicians, composers and choreographers to create open-ended, but unavoidable environments through the intersection of live performance, photographic/video/film media, architectural/sculptural forms and sonic environments. Winters trained in photography, film and performance at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston and Tufts University, and is based in the San Francisco Bay area.  Winters has worked extensively with choreographers Mary Armentrout, paige starling sorvillo, and Sara Kraft, and composers Merlin Coleman and Evelyn Ficarra.  He also co-curates the Milkbar salon series in Oakland.


Pamela Z is a composer/performer who makes solo works combining a wide range of vocal techniques with electronic processing, samples, and gesture activated MIDI controllers. In addition to her solo work, she has composed and recorded scores for dance, theatre, film, and new music chamber ensembles.  She has toured extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. Her work has been presented at venues and exhibitions including Bang on a Can (NY), the Japan Interlink Festival, Other Minds (SF), the Venice Biennale, and the Dakar Biennale. She's created installation works and has composed scores for dance, film, and new music chamber ensembles. Her numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Creative Capital Fund, the CalArts Alpert Award, the ASCAP Award, an Ars Electronica honorable mention and the NEA/JUSFC Fellowship.