Martha Clarke Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Martha Clarke is known for her extensive work as a choreographer and performer for the dance companies of Pilobolus and Crowsnest. Her dramatic works do not fall easily into any one genre. They incorporate elements of dance, music, and visual arts, as well as use of text, and involve collaborations with other artists.

Martha Clarke Achievements

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Martha Clarke was already a highly acclaimed dramatic modern dancer performing in a world-renowned dance company, Pilobolus Dance Theater, when she crossed over into creating theatrical works. Her contributions as a choreographer include, with Pilobolus, Ciona, Monkshood’s Farewell, and Untitled. These dances remain in the repertory of Pilobolus and are also presented by other major dance companies. Clarke has been compared to other experimental theater directors such as Robert Wilson, Ping Chong, and Meredith Monk for her ability to create multimedia theater pieces. Clarke’s are noted for their visual beauty and a characteristic use of movement and timing. Clarke’s innovative approach to her work encourages dancers, actors, designers, composers, and writers to work in a highly collaborative way toward a complex and richly textured performance-art object. Her first major theatrical production, The Garden of Earthly Delights, won a Village Voice Obie Award for Richard Peaslee’s lush musical score. In 1988, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship intended for travel in Europe following the run of Miracolo d’Amore. Two years later, while rehearsing Endangered Species, Clarke was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship of $285,000 over the next five years. She is regarded as one of the most original directors in theater and one of the foremost innovators in American performance art.

Martha Clarke Bibliography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Clarke, Martha. Interview by Arthur Bartow. In The Director’s Voice. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1988. An interview with Clarke made during the development of Miracolo d’Amore. Bartow says that audiences respond to Clarke’s “images in the same manner as they are created—viscerally.” The interview is concerned with the intricacies of Clarke’s creative process from the moment she conceives a work through its collaborative creation. Clarke discusses her transition to the theater from dance and each of the projects she has produced since beginning work with the Music-Theater Group.

Gussow, Mel. “Clarke Work.” The New York Times Magazine, January 18, 1987, 30-34. Gussow provides extensive biographical information and discusses Clarke’s major theatrical works, collaborations, and artistic vision. He says that “Clarke’s work is distinctive in its passion, its use of movement, its brevity and its concern with art and culture.” Also contains photographs from productions of The Garden of Earthly Delights and Vienna: Lusthaus.

Kaufman, Sarah. “Choreographer Martha Clarke, Back on Her Feet: After a Flamboyant Rise and Fall, a Daring Leap at Simplicity.” The Washington Post, October 17, 1999, G01. Kaufman interviews Clarke regarding the opening of Vers la Flamme, Clarke’s dance interpretation of five stories by Anton Chekhov. Also contains discussion of Endangered Species.

Nadotti, Maria. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” Artforum 27 (September, 1988): 117-121. A thorough critical analysis of Miracolo d’Amore that examines the various literary and artistic sources for the work and provides clear descriptions of the visual effects and stage designs. Nadotti also offers a brief overview of Clarke’s previous theater projects in order to place this piece in context.

Osterle, Hilary. “Alas, No Giraffe.” Dance Magazine 64 (October, 1990): 46-49. Osterle provides background information on the creation of Endangered Species, speaks with Clarke and the performers about this unusual theatrical adventure, and discusses the various ideas and concerns that shaped this piece over its two-year formation.

Rothstein, Mervyn. “Martha Clarke’s Thorny Garden.” The New York Times, July 12, 1988, pp. 1, 26. A feature article on Clarke following the opening of Miracolo d’Amore at the Spoleto Festival. Rothstein provides insightful glimpses at this work in particular, as well as a substantial interview with Clarke.