Peak Performances Presents Local Premiere of Liz Lerman’s “The Matter of Origins”

Science and dance create new partnership in “The Matter of Origins,” at The Alexander Kasser Theater, March 24-27

Liz Lerman’s The Matter of Origins, a highly original marriage of science and art, presents big questions, such as the origins of matter, transformed by the creative wit and human heart that instigate such imagination. The work, the result of three years of research, receives its local premiere at Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater March 24-27 as part of the Peak Performances @ Montclair 2011 season.

Meditative, rivetingly theatrical, and emotionally complex, this one-hour multi-media inquiry into questions that have maddened scientists—and civilians—since the dawn of man, includes—as do most of Lerman’s works—a multi-generational cast. Integrated into the work are panoramic views of New Mexico’s natural beauty, glimpses through the Hubble Telescope, a video tour of the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and a suggestion of the tea house in Los Alamos where Edith Warner served tea and chocolate cake to Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr on their breaks from their work on the Manhattan Project.

In Act II, the audience joins the performers on stage, where they will be seated at tables of ten and served chocolate cake and tea (duplicated from Edith Warner’s recipe). Conversations will be led by “provocateurs,” that is to say, artists, scientists, thinkers, religious leaders, and professors from a range of disciplines who will facilitate conversations about the issues raised in the performance.

Liz Lerman, who received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship in 2002, founded the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976. Her work, resulting from and distinguished by her collaboration with her dancers and often with the communities in which it is being performed, ranges from abstract to personal to political. From 1994-1996, she collaborated with the Music Hall of Portsmouth, New Hampshire to create the Shipyard Project, which has been widely noted as an example of the power of art to enhance such values as social capital and civic dialogue. From 1999 to 2002, she led the Hallelujah project, which engaged people in 15 cities throughout the United States in the creation of a series of dances “in praise of” topics vital to their communities. Lerman has received commissions from the American Dance Festival, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and the MetBallet, among others.

In January 2011, Lerman announced that she is passing on her leadership role of the Dance Exchange to company member and choreographer Cassie Meador beginning in July 2011. Lerman will be artist-in-residence at Harvard University in the fall, and continue to choreograph. She is presently in discussion with American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, MA, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, and Sadler’s Wells in London.

Performance times:

March 24, 25 at 7:30 p.m.
March 26 at 8 p.m.
March 27 at 3 p.m.

All tickets are $15 and are available at the Alexander Kasser Theater Box Office, by calling 973-655-5112 or online at There is no charge for Montclair State University undergraduates with valid ID. Please arrive at least 30 minutes before curtain to claim your PAF ticket.

Co-commissioned by Peak Performances @ Montclair and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at Maryland. Additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Additional funding for National Dance Project is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Community Connections Fund of the MetLife Foundation. This project is supported, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation for research to investigate the relationship of arts-based audience engagement to informal science education.

The 2010/11 Peak Performances season is made possible in part by funds from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, The National Endowment for the Arts, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Discover Jersey Arts, Alison and James T. Cirenza, and The Honorable Mary Mochary.

Released: March 2, 2011