Jonathan Young

Kidd Pivot: A confusion deep and meaningful

The Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre collaboration digs into trauma in an illuminating way

The newest work from Vancouver, BC-based Kidd Pivot, Betroffenheit, which White Bird presented in Portland this weekend, is a collaboration with the Electric Company Theatre, featuring ECT’s director, Jonathan Young. Young wrote the script, provides voice-overs for all the performers and is the central performer in both acts. Kidd Pivot’s Crystal Pite choreographed the movement in this theater/dance hybrid. Any collaboration between the directors of these two accomplished companies would be impressive, but the deeply personal and difficult premise of this show has made Betroffenheit into a strange and special thing.

Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theatre in Betroffenheit. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theatre in Betroffenheit. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

The title is a German word for “the state of having been met, stopped, struck or perplexed in the face of a particular event… a space and time where language ceases,” as translated by avant-garde theater director Anne Bogart. Though it is never directly explained in the performance, a real and horrific event is at the heart of the production: Six years to the day before the world premiere of Betroffenheit, Young’s only child, Azra, and two of her cousins died when the cabin in which they were sleeping caught fire during a family vacation. Young was sleeping in an adjacent cabin, but by the time he arrived at the fire, there was nothing he could do.

While Young feels that he never acquired full-blown PTSD, the tragedy understandably set him adrift in a state requiring a custom-built word like “betroffenheit.” During his recovery, Young researched (and perhaps experienced) some of the patterns and stages that survivors of trauma go through, and these contributed narrative structure to Betroffenheit. Kidd Pivot’s ability to tinker up macabre devices that dig into the darker parts of the human psyche make them uniquely qualified to bring these mental spaces to life.

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