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How to Build a Raft: A Performance in Three Acts by CAVE DOGS

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NEW PALTZ -- The collaborative group Cave Dogs will present its latest work of large-scale shadow and sound storytelling, How to Build a Raft, on Saturday, February 17 at 8pm in the Julien J. Studley Theatre, SUNY New Paltz. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $5 for students and senior citizens. This "family-friendly" event is sponsored and presented by The Student Art Alliance at SUNY New Paltz, a funded member of the Student Association.

Cave Dogs brings together visual artists, musicians, dancers and writers in the spirit of experimental collaboration. Throughout the performance, the senses are delighted by a decidedly low-fi approach to creating startling visual and audio effects. Innovative shadow projections and video imagery move in concert with spoken narrative and an original soundtrack derived from experimental and traditional musical instruments. Cave Dogs works with a variety of artistic mediums to tell stories, create visual tableaus, and produce effects that approach the dreamlike quality of early experimental film. How to Build a Raft explores the rough waters of migration, movement, acquisition, work, and the creation and dispersal of families and communities.

Often delivered in a comedic vein, How to Build a Raft, takes the form of three vignettes: "Puller?s Pull" explores migrant farm labor and the effects of dispersal on community; "Charting a Path" is a comical and surreal portrait of a young woman, her rabbit, a missing ring and choices that need to be made; "Reservoir Hill" is the story of an eccentric elementary school teacher, a young brother and sister, a fancy French dinner and some mysterious guests.

In these unique stories a city may waltz in shadow or an apple picker step from a colorful field of trees onto a ladder made of shadow, or a woman might gently catch animated rabbits that descend like snowflakes. Each of these stories is at times linked and at other times interrupted by a chorus that tells its own story: How to build a raft from bamboo.

Originally established in the Hudson Valley (the cave referenced in their name is located in Rosendale, New York), Cave Dogs has developed a large and loyal following in Boston and New York City, performing at museums, art spaces, and public art events.

Suzanne Stokes, artistic director and performer, created Cave Dogs in 1992 while living in New York's Hudson Valley. The performance work continues with long-distance collaboration with artists in New York, California and throughout the United States. Past performances include "Shadows of Doubt and Other Precarious Truths," "Fall of Perception," "Sustenance" and "Emily's Circus."

Stokes is currently a faculty member in the Art Department at SUNY New Paltz where she directs the Foundation program. Other members include Jeanne Scheper, Christopher Wiley, Trudy Trutwin, Tracy Spadafora, Arnaldo Hernandez, Mira Frielaender, James Fossett, Luke Walker and Nathalie Miebach. The original soundtrack was created by Dean Jones and Warren Perrins.

Albin Zack of the Woodstock Times says: "The visual and dramatic effects - created through laborious artifice - that evoke the realm of dreams and fantasy in Cocteau films such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Orphee" seem to be naturally inherent in the shadow medium....[I]t's magical, like watching dreams cross into the conscious world and render an evocative portrait of life through a dance of light" (14 July 1994). Phillip Farber of the Huguenot Herald says, "It's difficult to say just what genre these performances fall into, but it's easy enough to say that they will be wildly imaginative, surprising and fun." (15 July 1994).

Cave Dogs has received grants for two consecutive years from Franklin Furnace and their New York performances include P.S. 122, Henry Street Settlement, The Woodstock Comeau Property, The Widow Jane Mine and SUNY New Paltz. Boston venues have included Mobius and Massachusetts College of Art.

Tickets are available at the door of the theatre, one-hour prior to performance. For additional information please call 257-3872.


Images from "How to Build a Raft" are available online at