Art Center debuting U.S.–Egyptian theater collaboration

Staff Writer

“Mycelial: Street Parliament,” an immersive art and theater piece inspired by social media activity in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, premiers tomorrow at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave.

The show, potentially the first of a series, is a one-to-one co-production of Ezzat Ezzat Contemporary Dance Studios in Giza, Egypt, and Erica Mott Productions in Chicago. It has been in development for nearly three years, following Egypt’s descent back into autocracy and the beginning of the Trump administration, whose State Department significantly culled the project’s funding.

Erica Mott said the project’s name comes from “mycelium,” the term for the networked colony of fungi, bacterium or plants whose form is a nearly perfect double of representations of online connectivity and social media. She called mycelium a “natural, organic, interdependent model” and a metaphor for “social justice, occupation, interdependence and protest.”

“Street Parliament” adapts data from 18 days and one million tweets during the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square into music and dance, tracking the revolution’s rise, unity at its climax, when the government was overthrown, and immediate disintegration after President Hosni Mubarak resigned. Additional performances in the series will examine revolutions elsewhere in the world.

“We’re not doing so much a reenactment of history as much as we are doing a piece that examines our digital and physical participation,” said Mott. A lot of the questions raised by the company focus on self-evaluation, communal discussion and being in the same place and time together. Guests will be prompted to download a smartphone application that will draw them into the project.

“This is one of our first forays into performance,” said Art Center Director of Exhibitions and Residency Allison Peters Quinn. “Street Parliament” uses the Center’s two-storey open space with a balcony as a performance venue.“I’m hoping this is going to be a very empowering and uplifting show, rather than something that tears people apart and puts them down,” she added.

“Mycelial: Street Parliament” begins with an opening reception on July 13 at 7 p.m., and runs through July 21. Guests are asked to donate $25.