Performance the work of a cardboard house full of artists

A performance piece about real estate? Well, yes. Our homes, and all that they represent to us, are the themes of "Threshold," an original multimedia work at the intersection of dance and architecture.

It's a collaboration between Lucky Penny, one of Atlanta's most imaginative arts organizations, Georgia Tech and the award-winning firm Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects.

The work, which opens Thursday, takes place in a life-size house of more than 50,000 square feet of custom cardboard. This creates a contradiction, as explained by Blake Beckham of Lucky Penny, who conceived and choreographed the project: "Our homes represent stability and security, while cardboard boxes suggest transiency, packing, moving, leaving, even homelessness." This provides a rich terrain for Beckham and her dancers to explore, working together with "an amazing mash-up of artists, architects, paper scientists, musicians and a team of interns from Georgia Tech who've spent the summer working on the project."

While Lucky Penny has had some great successes in the year since it formed, "this is the biggest," Beckham said. To head up the design of the house, she turned to Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam. "Working with them has been the greatest honor and opportunity of my career," she said. "Their insights have propelled me."

Scogin, in turn, talked about the relationship between architects and dance: "By nature, we are fascinated with dancers and dancing. It's such a spatial thing, which is what we deal with. And they struggle with gravity, as do we. They give the perception of defying gravity in magical ways."

Because the house must safely support the weight of dancers and others, paper scientists from Tech became part of the project, designing and testing the specialized cardboard.

An original score for the work was created by composer/musician Santiago Paramo. It's an electronic/acoustic blend, performed by Paramo from inside the house using a keyboard and laptop. And there will be sculptures and installations from a team of four artists.

The core design team of 30 people also includes video designer Chelsea Raflo, artistic director Malina Rodriguez and the normal complement of costume, lighting and other professionals for a theater/dance project.

Georgia Tech's DramaTech Theater has been an indispensable partner in this. DramaTech, which is Tech's "drama club," is the oldest continuously operating theater in Atlanta, said Melissa Foulger, its artistic director. (Foulger was careful to point out that there's a rivalry with Georgia State's GSU Players, who also claim this title.) The company has been doing business as DramaTech Theater since 1947, but before that it operated as the "Marionettes," dating to 1915.

The center of all this is dance. Beckham's choreography will be performed by dancers Alex Abarca, Alisa Mittin and Claire Molla. Beckham said the house will be "cracked open like a dollhouse" so the audience can see the action.

There will be no late seating at this event.

Dance preview


8 p.m. Aug. 16-18. 2 p.m. Aug. 19. $14 students and artists; $25 general admission. DramaTech Theater, 349 Ferst Drive, entrance on northeast corner of the Ferst Center.