Death comes for us all, and thus provides an endless source of fascination for artists of all stripes seeking to make sense of it. The latest production from Lineage Dance weaves together live music and original choreography by the company’s artistic director, Hilary Thomas, to tell the true stories of three women struggling to process their own grief after the loss of a loved one.
“It was inspired by one of my best friends growing up, since I watched her experience a couple of very significant losses in her life,” says Thomas. “One of the people she lost was the love of her life, an artist who worked with Lineage quite a bit and passed away six years ago from esophageal cancer.
“He wanted to put together a performance with dance, live music and art about being forced to face your mortality faster than you expected due to terminal illness and the importance of living large and being unafraid to talk about death,” she continues. “My childhood friend Emily made that her new life’s mission: to open up about the experience of death and loss and to get people to talk about it because it’s such an incredibly taboo subject in our society.”
Thomas’ creative process on the daunting endeavor was to interview numerous people about their experiences and feelings about death. She found that “half the time, people just don’t want to talk about it.” Yet she found that the experience of winning over her reticent subjects ultimately made her much more comfortable in dealing with death than she had ever been before.
Thomas also hosted workshops leading up to the show called “Staging Your Grand Exit,” which encouraged attendees to think of five final wishes and consider end-of-life planning. Such topics as what music do you want playing as you die, who do you want there, and whether people should be praying or not praying were addressed. Those discussions will be continued throughout the two-weekend run, as post-show discussions further guide audience members through considerations of these issues.
“It’s kind of my hope that it will not only be a tribute to the friend we lost and carry out his vision of getting this discussion started, but also to just let people think about this in maybe a little bit more in a practical and less terrifying way,” says Thomas. “We’ll have a bioethicist and a grief counselor among the panel leaders after each performance.”
“Life After Death for the Living” runs Saturday through April 15 at 8 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays at Lineage Performing Arts Center, 89 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $15 to $25. Visit lineagepac.org or call (626) 844-7008.