press, reviews, interviews

"I recognized the tendency, particularly in young male stage electricians, to revere self-brutality. Yet they are also a smart, literate bunch in the business of creating things.... So Soft Goods looks at the reality of the hazards but also the fetishizing of them in the industry. I’ve been careful not to pathologize the field—people struggle with depression and alcoholism in every profession, and to the degree the show is looking at those issues, we’re simply using the images and tools of our work to do so. The reason I called it Soft Goods was to get at this idea. “Soft goods” is an industry term for stage curtains, but here I mean it as a reference to the humanity, vulnerability, and mortality of the crew. They are the soft goods." - From a conversation with scenic designer and dramaturg Kate Sutton-Johnson on the making of Soft Goods. [read the full interview here]

Walker Art Center blog, Soft Goods, 2016

"That moment after the show underlined the important and (to me) subtle political dimension of Sherman’s piece. It seems like a small thing, a minor distinction, a difference of a few degrees in the angle of a light, determining whether it hits a dancer or a wall, or a cart full of equipment, or a toolbox. But the distance from the center of the spotlight to just beyond the edge is actually vast and profound, and that space encompasses an entire spectrum of value, from importance to obscurity, from intense scrutiny to total ignorance, from deep emotional investment to utter ambivalence, and yes, from bright, messy, leaping and churning life (and who knows, even afterlife) all the way to the cold, dark void of absence and death.", Videographer and filmmaker Kevin Obsatz reflects on documenting Soft Goods, 2016 [Read the full essay here]

"Sherman begins with ample opportunities for humor – the roustabout language, insider jargon, theatrical war stories, rambling headset conversations about nothing in particular, the myriad ways performers and technicians drive each other crazy, the nonsensical ways of describing dance phrases. It’s the little touches that really connect – how electrical cords are coiled up and secured, the specific, almost obsessive manner of folding cloth, the way the various tools of the trade like a genie lift, toolbox, sidearm cart and lighting “meat rack” are displayed to highlight their industrial beauty. Sherman even addresses gender inequity in a field when men still dominate. Subtly, beautifully, the work evolves into something so meaningful, tender and reverent." [read the full thing here]

Caroline Palmer, Big Dance Town, Soft Goods, 2016

"Karen Sherman's 'Soft Goods,' at Walker Art Center, takes the setting of a tech rehearsal for a dance performance and transforms it into something truly moving. The stars of the show are real-life stagehands and technicians, backstage workers who give marvelous performances that illuminate their inner lives and struggles." [read the full thing here]

Sheila Regan, Star-Tribune, Soft Goods, 2016

"The Chocolate Factory’s white-walled performance space looks as if a bunch of drunken carpenters had competed in building eccentric structures with scrap lumber, wires and light bulbs. This setting reinforces the ideas that drive Karen Sherman’ 'One With Others,' a dance-theater piece that opened Wednesday night about missed connections, inappropriate strategies, shaky relationships and the need for community among artists...." [read the full thing here]

Deborah Jowitt, New York Times, One with Others, 2014

"Among the messages transmitted during Karen Sherman's arresting One With Others was this: 'Only poets have it worse than dancers.' In that case, Sherman and fellow performers Joanna Furnans and Don Mabley-Allen have it perhaps worst of all, as their brilliant articulation of the human experience was sheer poetry in motion. Incorporating text, narration, modern dance, and objets d'art, One With Others was a triumph on many fronts. ...unquestionably cerebral but also surprisingly funny. [Sherman's] sophisticated use of language is what distinguished this show and practically guarantees a broad appeal beyond the realms of theatre and dance." [read the full thing here]

Stacy Alexander Evans, The Austin Chronicle, One with Others, 2014

"If I’m not mistaken, Sherman’s underdog status has subtly shifted since she first appeared on the Minneapolis performance horizon; she now seems closer to the center of conversations about identity, pain, making, closer to everyone’s dangerous (or dangerously funny) dreams. In this light, her completed One with Others, stopping this week in Minneapolis on a national tour, seems poised to be one of the hottest shows of the year...." [read the full interview here]

Lightsey Darst,, One with Others, 2013

“The dialogue between dance and text created a space that recognized and played with the strangeness of people dealing with each other, people watching other people operate in the displacement of a stage, and people trying to make something together. As dance extends language in such a conversation, the [props] extended the dance. Some appeared flimsy or goofy at first, but in the world built on stage they served necessary, bizarre purposes. Sherman piloted the most elaborate of them through a tooth-scratchingly-raw operation…. The beauty of the show was how much sense that made once things came to that point, and how difficult it would be to explain why.” [read the full thing here]

Nim Wunnan, Oregon Arts Watch, One with Others, 2013

"If you are expecting me to change your life, forget about it," says a voice in a recording in "One With Others," a smart, witty production by Minneapolis-based artist Karen Sherman that chips away at the pretensions of art. Wait, chips away? Scratch that. "One With Others" doesn't chip, it claws huge backhoe craters out of all the hooey slung around about the transformative powers, purity and superiority of art — and artists....[read the full article here.]

Sarah Kaufman, Washington Post, One with Others, 2013

"Instead of telling a story or conveying a central thesis, copperhead sets off flares of scenes and thoughts, moments and associations.  It is, as Sherman says, "a series of images and states." Two fingers flatly clapped against an inner forearm made me think at once of needles and veins, of the sick feeling that often arises when we contemplate our insides as a nest of wormy seethings. One dancer runs at the mass of others and is caught in a crucifixion jump; several dancers bourree (shuffle on tiptoe) in poses of Christ-like ennui. Later I see St. Sebastian's twisting, helpless, languid body--or the limp necks of Audubon's beautiful birds (they wouldn't make half such obedient arabesques if they were alive). Piled bodies evoke The Raft of the Medusa, or worse: when dancers push each other's bodies in front of them, I see that footage everyone needs to see only once, of bulldozers plowing bodies at the concentration camps. All these images collect together in my mind, the horror of one jamming up against the sleek beauty of another, and all catching on the real human forms in front of me...." [read the full article here.]

Lightsey Darst,, copperhead, 2008

"Violent crime is so common that even if you've never experienced it directly, you probably know someone who has. It's omnipresent in the news, although sensational headlines and a relentless focus on the most horrible cases tend to numb us to the deeply personal nature of violence. For both victims and aggressors, however, the brutality itself is only part of the story. For every act of violence there is the before, during, and after—and the often surprising links between them. For two years choreographer Karen Sherman has been exploring these intimate relationships through a rigorous process of research and rehearsal..." [read the full article here.]

Caroline Palmer, City Pagescopperhead, 2009

"Ten audience members sit on folding chairs in the basement of a Powderhorn Park house in Minneapolis watching five performers who are sometimes only partially visible, sometimes almost nose to nose with the audience, sometimes literally dancing in the dark. The women mix ordinary gestures (telling secrets, running a sewing machine, sucking on candy) with more emotionally charged activity suggesting fear, anger and claustrophobic confinement.   While there's no overt violence in one born bad, a dance partly about perverted cult "families," the mood is creepy and sinister: the sewing machine sounds like machine-gun fire, people huddle in corners, a passive woman is gently undressed." the full article here.

Linda Shapiro,, one born bad, 2008

© 2019 Karen Sherman