Theater archives

Medieval Torture Meets Contemporary Composition in Evocative Production


Choreographer Christopher Williams’s Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins displayed a unique combination of intellectual ambition and creative virtuosity. Eleven women of different ages and body types—each representing a medieval Catholic saint—bent, twisted, genuflected, writhed, pulled out their tongues, and suffered every conceivable incarnation of bodily abuse. Live musicians delivered a superb, eerie early-music performance on voice, bass, viola de gamba, and recorder, as well as rendering original music by Peter Kirn. Williams melds release technique with a deliberate awkwardness of movement that successfuly evokes some of the horrifying punishments the church and the aristocracy imposed on these women. Wendy Perron as Saint Catherine presented an eloquent baroque court dance, while Vicky Shick as Saint Agnes combined a clean line and sense of internal gravity with a delicate and quirky puppet presentation. Some viewers found the imagery jarringly violent, yet each performance left its own individual, powerfully indelible mark.