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“Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host” Features Dueling Dancers, Radio Skits, and a Trio of Themes

The July 18th American Dance Festival presentation of "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host" starred Monica Bill Barnes (left), Ira Glass, and Anna Bass (photo by David Bazemore)

The July 18th American Dance Festival presentation of “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host” starred Monica Bill Barnes (left), Ira Glass, and Anna Bass (photo by David Bazemore)

Ira Glass is well known as the National Public Radio host of “This American Life,” which he developed and began broadcasting 20 years ago. Monica Bill Barnes & Company is a dance troupe consisting of two dancers, director/choreographer Monica Bill Barnes and associate artistic director Anna Bass, as well as their supporting crew. Both readily extol the weirdness of their collaboration in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, presented on Saturday, July 18th, at the Durham Performing Arts Center as part of the 2015 American Dance Festival. In this collaboration, a storytelling medium that is notably absent words works parallel to a medium with no visual component. In fact, they fit like gloves.

A synergy is readily apparent as the performances move through tales in which humor and ultimate drama intermingle in three acts, each independently themed. Ira Glass’ stories are essentially of the same type that comprise his radio show, vignettes that point up the idiosyncrasies of life in this vast and disparate country that range here from middle-school angst to death from cancer. The music is from the pop genre, mostly not currently on the charts.

The dances are very physical, and almost completely synchronized; and there is a certain awkwardness built in, choreographed in, that unites us with them, makes their precisely programmed movements seem like our own meager attempts. MMB&CO’s mission statement says “to celebrate individuality, humor and the innate theatricality of everyday life and to uncover and delight the underdog in all of us,” a goal fulfilled in this performance.

The show is highly entertaining, can hardly be adequately described beyond saying it is unique, perky and touching. We were surprised to find Ira Glass joining the dancers a couple of times with uncanny ability, and were impressed with the dancers’ wide emotional range. The show travels and has few performances scheduled, the next one in our state with be in Charlotte next June 25th. It’s worth trying to see.

SECOND OPINION: July 15th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Tommy Noonan:; and July 11th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks:

THREE ACTS, TWO DANCERS, ONE RADIO HOST, featuring “This American Life” host Ira Glass and Monica Bill Barnes & Company (American Dance Festival, July 18 at the Durham Performing Arts Center).

SHOW: and



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Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host (2013 dance-and-radio piece): and (official websites).

Ira Glass (NPR radio host of “This American Life”): (“This American Life” bio), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Monica Bill Barnes & Company (New York City-based contemporary dance company ): (official website), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).


EDITOR’S NOTE: Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Dance Reviews, Dance, Reviews