Living in Exile, An American Vicarious Production to be Performed at MCLA and Williams


NORTH ADAMS, MA - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and Williams College will present performances of American Vicarious' production of "Living in Exile," April 10-12 at Williams and April 13-15 at MCLA.

A New York-based theater company, American Vicarious explores socially relevant work and takes theater to living rooms and street corners. "Living in Exile" will be presented in the Greylock Makepeace Room on the Williams campus on April 10 and 12 at 8 p.m. and on April 11 at 6 and 9 p.m.

The production will move to 107 Main St. in downtown North Adams as part of the MCLA Presents! performance series on April 13 at 8 p.m., April 14 at 3 and 8 p.m., and April 15 at 5 p.m.

Jon Lipsky's "Living in Exile," directed by Christopher McElroen and featuring Alfred Preisser, is a two-character retelling of Homer's "Iliad." The piece, performed in the setting of a private American living room, expresses the costs of prolonged warfare, imperialist culture shock and the citizen-as-spectator. The living room setting is enhanced with technology displays to portray how people experience war through the media. Because limited seating is available at each performance, each member of the audience gains an intimate experience.

According to McElroen, "Living in Exile is an attempt to understand war through intimate acts of theatre and spectatorship.  It involves live performance, live and pre-recorded video and audience interaction, and it takes place simultaneously in the room, on TV and at times on your cell phone. It has something to do with the 'The Iliad,' something to do with Iraq and Afghanistan, and most wars between.  It also has something to do with how we consume these wars from the comfort of our living rooms."

 According to ArtsBoston, "'Living in Exile' is a compelling war story, but more importantly a story of compassion and the human heart."

Lipsky, originally from New York City, was a playwright and director who also taught acting and writing at Boston University for 28 years. He became the associate director of the Vineyard Playhouse in Martha's Vineyard and his primary works consisted of books which he adapted into plays in order to entertain and educate children and the general public.

In his 2008 book "Dreaming Together,'' Lipsky wrote that "theater is an act of collaboration: between actors and actors, actors and directors, actors and audience. It's a communal event.'' He considered "Living in Exile" to be the play of which he was most proud. Lipsky won various awards including a 2007 Elliot Norton Award for directing the play "Coming Up for Air," which he created with jazz musician Stan Strickland.

Preisser, the leading actor in "Living in Exile," is a New York-based theater director. He was the founding artistic director of the award-winning Classical Theater of Harlem from 1999 to 2009, the director of The Theater Division at the Harlem School of the Arts from 1999 to 2007, and has taught directing, acting and theater studies at City College, The Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center and Stella Adler NYU.

Preisser is the artistic director of The International Studio Theater, where he curates annual drama festivals with experimental companies from around the world.

McElroen is an award-winning, New York-based producer and director. He has received two Obie awards, the Edwin Booth Award for Outstanding Contribution to NYC Theater and also was awarded the American Theater Wing Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement. He co-founded the Classical Theater of Harlem and also served as its executive director from 1999 to 2009. He has directed over 30 professional productions, including five world premiers. His production, "The Blacks: A Clown Show," received four Obie Awards in 2003.

He co-produced and directed Waiting for Godot in New Orleans along with working on a community development project with disadvantaged post-Katrina communities. New York Times listed this project as one of the top ten national art events of 2007.  McElroen also directed Sekou Sundiatas final piece, "51st (dream) State," which premiered in New York at The Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival before it toured internationally.

He has guest lectured at many colleges and also will visit both Williams College and MCLA to lecture in fine and performing arts and arts management classes.

The production is co-presented with Williams College's off-CENTER series

MCLA Presents! is a program of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), a collaborative project with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the City of North Adams. The BCRC provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County. Through its multiple programs and presentations, BCRC brings the best of performance and art to the Berkshires and showcases the best of the Berkshires to the world. 

Tickets to "Living in Exile" are $10 for general admission. Tickets for MCLA alumni are $8, $5 for staff and faculty, and members and students from MCLA are free. For tickets, call 413-662-5204. For information, call 413-664-8718, or go to presents .