Universal Donor (in-progress)

Tenderness and violence, donation and discrimination, how we keep each other alive and destroy each other are central themes in Universal Donor, which explores blood donation, fugue states, heat waves, domestic violence, laboratory animals, guns, AIDS, family, astronomy, and the body. Together, they create a latticework of images that plumb the consanguinity between humans, events, animals, objects, and beliefs.

It consist of three parts—a visual art show, a dance, and a book—each in conversation with and containing elements of the other (e.g., the dance has text and visuals; the art show requires bodily engagement; the book is an interactive art object). The dance is commissioned by Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University through their Caroline Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence program.

Part one, Minor Bodies, a solo visual art show consisting of objects, drawings, video, and interactive sculpture, was presented by Hair+Nails gallery in Minneapolis, March 2018. Images are below (photos by Sean Smuda and Karen Sherman).

  Read more about this show in the Hair+Nails magazine, here.

Soft Goods (2016)

An examination of lives lived backstage, Soft Goods illuminates the choreographic elegance of manual labor, the lonesomeness of theaters, the spectral beauty of a lighting focus, and the human hand behind stage art. Created in collaboration with an ensemble of stage technicians and dancers, and structured as a live load-in and technical rehearsal for a performance that never happens, Soft Goods is a meditation on work, life, loss, and occupational self-obliteration.

Created with and performed by Jessica Cressey, Andy Kedl, Emily McGillicuddy, Krista Langberg, Ross Orenstein, Max Wirsing, Zachary Humes, Joanna Furnans, Roderick Murray, and Karen Sherman.

Premiered December 8-10, 2016, Walker Art Center (Mpls) and tours to Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (Los Angeles) and TBA Festival (Portland, OR) in 2017-2018. Co-commissioned by Walker Art Center, P.S. 122, CAP UCLA.

Click here to read an interview by Kate Sutton-Johnson or here for a video interview by Walker curator Philip Bither. Click here, here, here, here, and here for reviews and responses.

Go here to learn about the Behind the Scenes Counseling Fund, a mental health and addiction counseling fund for stagehands that was created in conjunction with this project.

Photos by Sean Smuda and Gene Pittman/Walker Art Center

Commissioned by the Walker Art Center with support provided by the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund; The McKnight Foundation; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the National Endowment for the Arts. The work is supported by the National Performance Network’s (NPN) Forth Fund and is an NPN Creation Fund project created in partnership with the Walker Art Center, P.S. 122, The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, and NPN. Presentation, production, and production residency support provided by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Karen Sherman is a fiscal year 2016 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Karen Sherman is a recipient of a 2013 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Choreographers, administered by The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts and funded by The McKnight Foundation. Soft Goods received production development support from LUMBERYARD's (formerly American Dance Institute) Incubator program, Alverno Presents, Concordia University, and Walker Art Center. Soft Goods was supported by a grant from the Jerome Foundation, as well as by The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital, primarily supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

One with Others (2013)

is a dance/performance project that considers biography, choice, communication, affinities, art, and what it means to be seen, handled, used and needed. It uses choreography, carpentry, and text to explore legacy, what we hand down to one another or lure each other into. It considers how dance and language are taught to us by others yet ways we mark our individuality in the world. It willfully confuses private and public selves, and encourages hiding within others and behind actions. It looks to crude, handmade objects to extend, express, and make sense of our bodies, interactions, desires, and identities.

OwO premiered in April 2013 at Dance Place (Washington, D.C.) with tours to TBA Festival (Portland, OR), Red Eye Theater (Mpls), Fusebox Festival (Austin), DiverseWorks (Houston), The Chocolate Factory (NYC), and American Realness Festival (NYC). It was developed through the support of Studio 206 (Mpls), the Jerome Foundation, the National Dance Project, the MAP Fund, MN State Arts Board, and Vermont Performance Lab.

Performed by Joanna Furnans, Karen Sherman, Jeffrey Wells/Don Mabley-Allen/Aaron Mattocks
Lighting by Carrie Wood
Props and Set Designed and Built by Karen Sherman
Sound by Karen Sherman
Tour Carpentry by Janet Clancy
Photos by Aaron Rosenblum, Karen Sherman, Carrie Wood

One with Others was made possible in part with a research and development residency and co-production support by Vermont Performance Lab with funding support from the New England Foundation for the Art’s National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and VPL’s Creation Fund donors. The creation and presentation of One with Others is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with the New England Foundation for the Arts through the National Dance Project. Major support for NDP is provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Community Connections Fund of the MetLife Foundation. Support from the NEA provides funding for choreographers in the early stages of their careers. General Operating support was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. NY premiere commissioned and presented by The Chocolate Factory Theater. This project was also made possible through the generous support of The Jerome Foundation, The Map Fund, InRez at Studio 206, the MN State Arts Board, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago / MCA Stage, and many generous individuals.



Service Animal (2013)

A live book report on the filthiest audiobook I’ve ever heard, Full Service written by Scotty Bowers, a bisexual ex-marine who sexually serviced and arranged tricks for the Hollywood elite from the mid ‘40s through the 1980s. His life directly intersected with and drew parallels to Ronald Reagan’s, which was serendipitously underscored by the fact that the actor reading the book sounded eerily like Reagan, even while spewing the most downright disgusting sexual anecdotes you can imagine. In a nod to Reagan's career in Westerns and Bower's kink, I lasso an audience member. As an antidote to Bowers' spectacularly unimaginative use of language, I project a lexicon of sexual slang using invented and reappropriated words while building a mini corral.

Performed June 2013 at Queertopia at Intermedia Arts (Mpls)

Photos by Farrington Llewellyn and video still

Third Persons (2011)

An early exploration of what became One with Others, this project addressed the dance in the room and the dance in the dancer through self-debasement/glorification, heroism, deflection, choreography as punishment, literary dream interpretation, and assorted spokespeople.

Developed at the Liguria Study Center, Bogliasco, Italy through a fellowship from the Bogliasco Foundation. Presented January 2011 at Danspace Project, NYC.

Performed by Karen Sherman and Morgan Thorson.
Voices by Claude Bleton and Hope Forstenzer.
Interpretations by Nami Mun and Hope Forstenzer.

Photos by Ryutaro Mishima.

Demolition Boy (2009)

A multimedia solo questioning what it means - and feels like - to be alone onstage. Demolition Boy debates the usefulness of a muse. It seeks guidance from Gilbert & George but displays an identification with Tyra Banks. It subjects the artist to judgement and failure.

Performed at Fusebox Festival (Austin), Bedlam/Queertopia (Mpls), Highways Performance Space (LA), Studio 303 @ Tangente (Montreal), Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater (Mpls)

copperhead (2008)

A dance/performance work exceedingly intimate and larger-than-life, copperhead probes the bonds forged during violence and imagines victim, aggressor and place as three strands of a braid, forever interwoven by shared experience. A disquieting meditation on the social experience of personal trauma.

Performed by Joanna Furnans, Justin Jones, Emily Johnson, Hannah Kramer, Karen Sherman, Anna Marie Shogren, Morgan Thorson, and Max Wirsing

Lights by Lenore Doxsee
Costumes by Sarah Baumert
Set by Jeremy Wilhelm and Karen Sherman

Premiered October 2008, The Southern Theater, Mpls
Performance photos by Sean Smuda

click here to read an article by Caroline Palmer in the Minneapolis-St.Paul City Pages.

click here to read an article by Lightsey Darst for mnartists.org.

measuring the chop (2008)

A draft from the research for copperhead. Presented February 2008 at the Southern Theater (Mpls) as part of the SCUBA Touring Network. Performed by Hannah Kramer, Karen Sherman, Anna Marie Shogren and Morgan Thorson.

Photos by Sean Smuda.

one born bad (2007)

A distillation of violence and intimacy. one born bad ventures deep into group experience, aligning and derailing connections between watchers and performers. Performed by Hannah Kramer, Joanna Furnans, Anna Marie Shogren and Emily King, this project is a companion piece to copperhead.

Presented in the basement of a private home in Minneapolis.

Photos by Sean Smuda.

© 2019 Karen Sherman