SV Showcase: The Wait Room by Austin Forbord and Jo Kreiter

“The Wait Room” is designed to reflect upon and bear artistic witness to the experience of women with incarcerated loved ones. Embedded within the piece are verbal and physical ruminations on how these women suffer and overcome, how their lives are disrupted, their relationships challenged, their bodies policed. The dancers’ bodies register how the prison industrial complex has a reach that extends far beyond the prison bars.

“The Wait Room” is a collaboration between dancer and filmmaker Austin Forbord, and choreographer and artistic director of Flyaway Productions, Jo Kreiter. This is one of the three films to be awarded the StandardVision Showcase Award for Artistic Achievement at the Los Angeles Dance Film Festival.

How would you describe your dance film, The Wait Room, to someone who has yet to see it?

AF: As much of Flyaway [Production’s] work has been described… “ substance trumps considerable spectacle… ” SF Chronicle

The Wait Room depicts the experience of women with incarcerated loved ones through movement, and the prison system in general. How did you decide to explore these themes through movement and dance? How does dance on film enhance reflection upon this issue?

AF: From [choreographer] Jo Kreiter, who is a woman with an incarcerated loved one: “I have a lingering, miserable feeling about all the chairs I have sat in so uncomfortably in the visiting rooms of county and federal prisons. They are the metaphor for how the prison quagmire doesn’t work for anyone. This project is my effort to make physical and performative the scars that prison breeds on families, including my own.” Dance on film allows us to reach a much wider audience.

The Wait Room features the powerful element of a constructed platform in the shape of a clock that the dancers use throughout the piece. What was the process of choreographing, and what was the process of creating and building this integral set piece?

AF: The process started with the issue, then the set was designed, then we chose the location. Then the choreographer and dancers worked in collaboration to create the movement vocabulary. The music was made within the final choreographic step, though the oral histories were collected 8 months before the sound score was made, and the stories deeply shaped the arc of the piece.

The Wait Room is entirely shot in black and white, and also features elements of repetitive dialogue from women with incarcerated loved ones sharing their experiences. How did you decide to utilize these elements for this project? What is the role of dialogue and words within this project?

AF: Director Jo Kreiter has a long history of collecting oral histories of women marginalized by class, race, gender and workplace inequities. So the process for this piece, described above, is a part of our long term work to honor women. Repetition of sounds/words/language is a signature element for composer Pamela Z, who uses text as sound as she creates music. [ I ] chose black and white to reflect the stark nature of lives touched by prison.

Location plays a powerful role in this film. How did you select the filming location, and how did the location affect both the cinematography and choreography in The Wait Room?

AF: The piece is designed to be performed in proximity to prison systems. In the film we are dancing right next to the Federal Building in San Francisco where Nancy Pelosi and other government officials have their offices. We can also see City Hall from the location. The site freed us from the limitation of a brick and mortar theater, and allowed us to express, in creative language, the pain of prison’s impact out in the community where the issue actually lives.

See more of Austin Forbord’s work here. Read about Jo Kreiter and her work with apparatus-based dance company, Flyaway Productions, here.