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VECTOR Explores Anger, Education, and Identity in “Habitus” on Jan. 8-10 and 15-17 at Manbites Dog

VECTOR will present "Habitus," an interactive installation/performance created by choreographer Leah Wilks and visual artist Jon Haas, Jan. 8-10 and 15-17 at Manbites Dog (photo by Tim Walter)

VECTOR will present “Habitus,” an interactive installation/performance created by choreographer Leah Wilks and visual artist Jon Haas, on Jan. 8-10 and 15-17 at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham (photo by Tim Walter)

Upon entering the lobby of Manbites Dog Theater in Durham, you can tell you’re in for an interesting evening. After checking in with the box office, you are presented with a clipboard and a ticket. You have assignments to complete while you wait; rows of chairs face a giant projection wall, on which video splices of news segments and found footage scroll through static shifts. A young man begins to play music, layering sections of sound. Then they begin calling you up, two by two, to the intake desk, where a bespectacled young woman checks over your sheets, asks you some questions, lays down the ground rules, and sends you on your way … to a weigh-in?

I could spend the entire review here detailing, moment by moment, what happens in VECTOR’s installation piece Habitus, playing through Jan. 17th at Manbites Dog Theater. But I don’t really want to do that, because, as an immersive experience, your journey will be different than mine — and rightfully so. We’ll all have the same beginning; but once you step through the doors, and a very official Dana Marks grants you entry into the world of the space, the trip is all yours. Or is it?

Habitusis a precursor to a larger, evening-length production to be held in March at Durham’s Cordoba Center for the Arts. It bills itself as an interactive installation/performance that “explores the intersecting arenas of anger, education, and identity.” The walls of the space are covered in questions that provoke, and chalk is provided for you to respond. A grid of objects — a gun, money, hand cuffs, a textbook, a mirror, and more — are chained with a space for you to mark your tally as to the most violent object; and there’s room to explain your answer.

Not three minutes into the experience, I was punching a punching bag, led to a back area where I was asked to write what I cared about most in the world on a piece of board, and challenged to a pushup contest. A drunken cabaret singer laments on a microphone. A woman stands on a pedestal and slowly devolves into a screaming animal as she tries to free herself. (Eventually she does, and she races throughout the space, clawing once she’s apprehended — or perhaps she cools off in the all-white Quiet Room [yes, this exists]).

A very friendly man continually offers encouragement and a helping hand if you need it. A child plays in her room (you can join her), but she has a very scared demeanor about her when the authority figure shows up.

D is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before; and while I’m not entirely sure if the piece is a total success in its mission, I think it definitely opens many avenues of conversation and dialogue, and is a unique and exhilarating way to spend an hour. It does what theater is meant to: it challenges its audience by pushing the boundaries, it asks questions that matter, and it holds a mirror up to our own selves.

There was quite a bit of self-reflection that happened before, during, and after the performance. One of the first answers you give lingers long after you leave: Are you a violent person? Are you an angry person?

Check out Habitus and find out.

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 9th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Susan Brioli:; and Jan. 7th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Chris Vitiello:

VECTOR presents HABITUS, an interactive installation/performance created by choreographer Leah Wilks and visual artist Jon Haas, at 7, 8, and 9 p.m. Jan 10 and 15-17 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $15 ($10 students 18+ and $13 seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel).

NOTE: On its website, Manbites Dog Theater writes: “Tickets have staggered admission times on the hour — 7, 8, and 9 [p.m.] — with 30 tickets per block. Pick up your tickets at the box office beginning 30 minutes prior to your block (6:30 for the 7, 7:30 for the 8, [and] 8:30 for the 9 [p.m. show].) Admission within each block is in order of arrival, with four ticket-holders admitted approximately every 2-3 minutes.”

BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or

SHOW:,, and

VIDEO PREVIEW (by Jon Haas):


VENUE:,, and



Leah Wilks (choreographer and VECTOR artistic director): (official website), (VECTOR bio), and (Facebook page).

Jon Haas (visual artist and VECTOR technical director): (Vimeo bio), (VECTOR bio), and (Facebook page).


Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. To read more of Jesse Gephart’s reviews, click

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Categorised in: A&E Dance Reviews, A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews