Long Wharf shows Endurance this summer with cool Split Knuckles piece

When the International Festival of Arts & Ideas announced its line-up, you could instantly surmise what was going on at a couple of other local arts institutions:
• The Shubert will be closed all summer for renovations, as planned.
• The Long Wharf would probably have its own summer season.

You could tell because all the A&I indoor theater performances this year are either at Yale spaces or at Cooperative High School. The Shubert has been a venue for most of the 19 years that Arts & Ideas has been around. The Long Wharf has been used when its own bookings (or rentals, or galas) didn’t take precedence. Last year, the Shubert housed the 7 Fingers show Sequence 8 for A&I, while Long Wharf held the East Coast premiere of Stuck Elevator, the musical theater piece created by local playwright Aaron Jafferis and composer Byron Au Jong.

Confirmed just the other day that Long Wharf will indeed have a couple of shows on its stages this summer. One of them is still under wraps, but the other has just been officially announced.

And it’s just the kind of thing the International Festival of Arts & Ideas might consider for itself.

Endurance is an ensemble performance piece about Shackleton’s journey to the Antarctic. That century-old adventure is played against a modern-day corporate business odyssey, as an insurance executive sees the firm at which he works crumbling around him. Frozen tundra alternates with financial meltdown.

Endurance was devised by the Split Knuckle Theatre Company, an eight-person theater company whose previous works include the “feisty neighborhood” melodrama Café Goma, an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl and the neuroscientific freak show The Curious Case of Phineas Gage. The company subscribes to the improvisational and physical-theater techniques of Jacques Lecoq (1921-1999), the great French teacher and performer who taught Geoffrey Rush, Stephen Berkoff, Toby Jones, Isla Fisher, Julie Taymor and many others.

Split Knuckle artistic director and co-founder Greg Webster happens to live in New Haven. He also happens to teach in the Theater department at UConn Storrs. According to a Long Wharf press release, Split Knuckle is planning to base its operations in New Haven. UConn benefits as well from having Webster nearby—an upcoming private-eye pastiche, Band of the Black Hand, premiering in March 2015, will be jointly produced by Split Knuckle and UConn’s Connecticut Repertory Theatre.

Endurance will be at Long Wharf Stage II June 17-29. It’s performed by Greg Webster and three other Split Knuckle company members, Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie and Michael Toomey. Those four guys devised the piece along with Nick Ryan, who is billed as “collaborating writer.” There’s original music by Ken Clark and lighting by Dan Rousseau.

As a Long Wharf summer show goes, it sure beats Menopause—The Musical.