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'Elsewhere' combines music, choreography, spoken word

A woman behind a screen wrestles with a cello, making it sound more like an electric guitar than a classical instrument.

The world premiere performance of “Elsewhere” is a collaboration between cellist Maya Beiser and director Robert Woodruff, commissioned by Carolina Performing Arts.

The show combines three songs, choreography and spoken word as well as multimedia forms such as video.

Emil Kang, UNC executive director for the arts, said CPA focuses on leading their audiences to explore the uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

“We’re only going to touch a fraction of students — but we want to reach those students for whom this is actually meaningful,” Kang said.

“These things are more important to me because they are more lasting.”

Kang said “Elsewhere” is called a CelloOpera because the cello is a character in the work.

The performance is inspired by the story of Lot’s wife from the Bible, and focuses on the voices of women.

Beiser said that after working with Woodruff on their first project together, “Provenance,” she immediately wanted to collaborate with him on another project.

Woodruff said he and Beiser brainstormed several ideas together before Beiser brought up Lot’s wife as inspiration after showing him a poem, and he found someone to write text in response to the poem.

“Maya suggested Lot’s wife as a response to the other piece. I have no idea why,” Woodruff said.

Beiser said the inspiration came from a trip to Israel when she saw the pillar of salt that is supposedly Lot’s wife.

“The Bible is full of these stories about this patriarchal, punishing God,” Beiser said.

“It’s just something about her story that is really powerful.”

Kang said he heard about the collaboration nearly two years ago and, after meeting with Beiser, he decided that CPA would commission the work.

Kang said that in commissioning works, the artist’s exploration is more important than whether the end product is a success.

“It’s in the process of discovery and creation that we stake our claim,” Kang said.

“The idea of this being a research university — this is our research.”

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