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Joan Merwyn's Cho?ces one of many options at Bright Night, Providence

By Jessica Hurst

PROVIDENCE — International performance artist and Rhode Island native Joan Merwyn set out 30 years ago to spread messages through movement.

On New year's Eve, she'll bring her message home with the Rhode Island premier of Cho?ces, a one woman show of mime, music, new vaudeville and physical theater, one of over 40 acts offered at Bright Night , Providence.

"There is no right or wrong interpretation to what I do," she said in a telephone interview from her home in New York City last Thursday. "Different people will see different things ? but they're all right."

Through a series of vignettes using live performance, props, and a musical soundtrack, Merwyn hopes to illustrate some of the pivotal life choices young people encounter.

But this isn't a sermon, she said. Rather it's something of a thought-catalyst.

"It doesn't give any didactic solutions," she said. "It suggests. And I hope that it will provoke thought and discussion about making healthy choices."

Above all else, she said, the show has proven to delight audiences of all ages.

"The show is funny, it's entertaining... it's very imagistic," she said. And it's universal. "I've had two year olds up to 92 year olds... what's interesting to me is their feedback."

Merwyn, who spends four months a year at her second home in Saunderstown, has brought Cho?ces to schools, community center, senior centers, adult homes and even art galleries throughout New York.

Besides being an award winning performance artist, she is a teacher, adult workshop instructor, independent stage director and choreographer and works with the mentally and physically handicapped.

She has found that imagistic movement can reach people in ways that defy language, age, and cultural barriers. After all, her performance movements themselves have been developed from inspirations around the world.

Merwyn, who was born in Providence and summered in South County, began her movement studies in India in 1970.

"What I did, basically, was I went all over the world and trained with the masters."

She spent two years in Europe, five on the West Coast, made her way to Montreal, Canada and the Midwest. Her abstract mime and experimental movement are inspired by masters like Etienne Decroux and her style is inspired by silent movies and new vaudeville. The audience is the final ingredient in the magic.

"Through the images and the sounds and the interpretation of the two elements... the audience brings its imagination to that," she said. "As if they're looking at a painting."

Poster design: Marsian De Lellis

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