Deke Weaver: Elephant 

Saturday March 19 @ Salt Lake Art Center

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Elephants are known for their long memories and socially complex kinship bonds. So, after Hero—a lone, escaped circus elephant—was shot by “bored Lutherans” in South Dakota in 1916, he may have thought back fondly of his African herd: “What an odd way to die.”

This scene is one of two main stories that drives Deke Weaver’s multidisciplinary performance piece Elephant. The other covers the training of mahouts (elephant drivers). It is far from a simple Animal Planet story, though. The second chapter in Weaver’s long-term Unreliable Bestiary series, this experimental theatrical piece is various parts stop-motion, hand-held video, monologue, dance and music. It is 100 percent creativity-in-flight—a sensational and emotional joy ride.

Elephant premiered in September 2010, and months later, Weaver (pictured) was asked to show a scaled-down version—going from 40 participants in a full arena down to just four on a smaller stage—version of the performance at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier. As the performance tours to new unique stages, it’s modified to reflect aspects of each site’s faltering bonds with other living things and the natural world, Weaver says.

But the core fundamentals remain intact. The Unreliable Bestiary is inspired by the literary concept of the unreliable narrator and the medieval bestiary, which gave every living thing a spiritual purpose. Each letter of the alphabet will eventually represent an endangered animal or habitat. E is for elephant—and Elephant is funny, poignant and tragic.

Deke Weaver: Elephant @ Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple, 801-328-4201, March 19, 6 & 8:30 p.m., discussion 7:30 p.m., free. SLArtCenter.org, UnreliableBestiary.org

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