Beth Corning’s dance “company” Corningworks launches its tenth season with The Waiting Room. I say a company in quotes because Corningworks doesn’t own a theatre, doesn’t have a staff and doesn’t have a resident corps of full-time dancers. Corning has learned during the first three decades of her career that forgoing the trappings of a traditional dance company frees her to “focus on the individual production” where she can be her creative best.
Before moving to Pittsburgh from Minneapolis, Corning launched The Glue Factory Project in 2000 at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, where it played to sold-out houses through 2003. Four years later she moved to Pittsburgh to take over leadership of Dance Alloy, bringing to it artistic and financial stability along with critical acclaim. In 2010 she left the then named Dance Alloy Theatre. A colleague suggested Corning restart The Glue Factory Project that she had started in Minneapolis before locating to Pittsburgh. Corning was convinced and launched Corningworks.
I had the opportunity to have a delightful conversation with her three weeks prior to the opening of The Waiting Room, the sixteenth full-length production of her Glue Factory Project. The project features the work of artists and dancers over the age of forty-five. Ten years is a significant milestone for any performing arts organization, I asked Corning what the biggest surprise on the tenth anniversary was. In an unusually brief response from her, she said just “Ten years!”.
As to the difference of running a traditional dance company, versus Corningworks “It is beyond apples and oranges. There are zero comparisons. One crazy, one not. This fork in the career road has been great. Sometimes you just don’t know. I love the challenges and the learning opportunities.”
The Glue Factory Project started before her tenure at Dance Alloy when it took a hiatus before launching Corningworks. “In 1998, while running Corning Dances & Co, my 20 year old dance company, I suddenly realized everyone I was working with was so much younger than myself. I longed to return to working with people my own age, to produce works that would feed me – literally and more importantly- figuratively.”
“Being “put out to pasture” is an inherent risk in the life cycle of a performing artist. However, these performing artists engaged in the Project, are in their prime, where experience and wisdom have taken root, and the most compelling artistry is yet to be discovered.”
The upcoming production of The Waiting Room got its inspiration from a story she heard on NPR about the Jewish tradition, between death and burial where the body is watched over by a Shomer who serves as its guardian in this transition time. The Shomer’s role is viewed as an honor. Usually, it is an eight-hour shift, which prompted Corning to question just what do you do, think about, and pray about during those long hours alone with a dead person.
“Death is the ultimate elephant in the room. We don’t talk about it. 98% of cultures don’t address death. Death, however, is a catalyst for what life really is.”
“Process-wise, The Waiting Room has a design dream team. All are contributing and collaborating, even this close to the opening. There’s a lot of tech in this piece, with many ideas coming from the designers (Projection: Jakob Marciso and Jessica Medenbach. Set: Stephanie Mayer-Staley, Lighting: Iain Court). It is truly a collaborative creation. The ways those ideas will manifest, three weeks out and I really have no idea.”
Come to The Waiting Room, a surreal, multi-disciplinary, transcendent dance-theater work, where death meets life. Performed by John Carson, Beth Corning, Jacob Goodman, Catherine Meredith. At the New Hazlet Theatre with performances September 5th to 9th. For tickets visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3515029