Performance Dates: March 28-30th, 2019
The Sleepwatchers, critically acclaimed and nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award following its
premiere in 2001, is inspired by the writings and research of Stanford sleep specialist Dr. William Dement. These excerpts look at sleep metaphorically and literally, examining how it affects society’s mental and physical well-being.
Note from the Directors
Deborah Slater and Jim Cave met when they both worked at the Acme Cafe on 24th Street in 1976. Jim was a barista. Deborah a waitress. Twenty years later, after getting their creative footing, Deborah asked Jim to co-direct A Hole in the World, a beautiful paean for Deborah’s dad. That collaboration led to another project called The Sleepwatchers.
Through Deborah’s sleep doctor brother, Dr. Jeremy Slater, Deborah learned of stories about patients with unusual sleep disorders – like the family who got up in the middle of the night and ate together, then woke up in the morning wondering why they were all gaining weight. They remembered nothing! The more stories he told, the more fascinated she became. Dr. Slater referred Deborah to contact Dr. William Dement, one of the pioneers in sleep research at the Stanford Sleep Research Center. The title, The Sleepwatchers, came from his book of the same name. What was so compelling besides the funny and disturbing stories, was all the research indicating that the glorification of ‘not sleeping’ was costing us our health, our ability to focus, even our economic well-being.
Deborah and Jim originally premiered The Sleepwatchers in 2001 with collaborators David Allen Jr., Jeanne Henzel, Elaine Buckholtz, Kerry Mehling, Yayoi Kambara, Lisa Okuhn (and more) with original text pulled from interviews with numerous people about sleeping and dreaming.
Flash forward about twenty years and here we are at ODC. It’s wonderful to re-imagine the piece with a different group of collaborators. Genders of characters have shifted and the text re-worked, but the heart of the matter remains the same: one long night in a sleep lab, guided by a compassionate doctor, a mischievous demon, and a sleepless patient. Sleep research has advanced in leaps and bounds since the piece’s inception, but the hypnotic allure of the polysomnographs remain the same. Our deepest thanks to the performers and interviewees who brought this piece to life in the first place and to this current group, who have made it their own funny, dramatic, heartfelt voyage into the science, mythology, and emotional realities of sleeping and dreaming. We hope you enjoy tonight’s journey.
“The [work] is chock-full of Dance Theater elements, expertly woven into a rich artistic tapestry: text, characters, scenework, set, sound, humor and movement. And by simultaneously mining these disciplines, Sleepwatchers makes some penetrating physical, psychological and emotional statements about the mysterious process of sleep.” – HeatherDance.com
Photos of Derek Harris, Vincent Hwang, Meegan Hertensteiner, Kyle Limin, Jenny McAllister, Nol Simonse by Robbie Sweeny