Sundance scene: Sibylle Szaggars Redford’s love letter to the Earth

First Published      Last Updated Jan 27 2015 10:22 am

"The Way of the Rain," a special event offered as part of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, is artist/director Sibylle Szaggers Redford's love letter to the Earth.

And like the planet, the show is primitive and abstract yet also mesmerizing and serene. It depicts air, water, Earth and fire through music, dance, song, visual art and video.

The multi-dimensional piece also has star power, as it includes a spoken word performance by actor/director and film festival founder Robert Redford — and Szaggers Redford's husband.

Almost all 500-plus seats were filled for Monday night's show, the first of two 75-minute performances at The Complex in Salt Lake City. Besides many of Utah's art leaders, the audience included actresses Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. (Tomlin's film "Grandmother" premieres at Sundance on Friday, Jan. 30.)

"The Way of the Rain" has a second performance Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. (See box for ticket information.)

Integral to show, which is performed in the round, are the luxurious and colorful Dessert Silks, which hang from the ceiling. Musicians and dancers from the award-winning Complexions Contemporary Ballet weave in and out of the flowing fabric, while lights and videos of Szaggers Redford's "rain paintings" are reflected upon them.

For the paintings, the artist applied pigment to paper and set it out in New Mexico's lively monsoon rains. As the drops interacted with the paint she took video on her smartphone.

While that was the impetus for "The Way of The Rain" project, it has evolved over the years, with Szaggers Redford collaborating with other artists, including Will Calhoun, co-founder of the band Living Colour, and composers Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer.

Together they brought on Iranian American vocalist Sussan Deyhim, who plays Mother Earth. Deyhim brings her unique sonic and vocal language to the show, similar to what she has done on various movie soundtracks such as "Argo," "Last Temptation of Christ" and "The Kite Runner."

Two members of the American rock band O.A.R also are part of the cast: vocalist Marc Roberge and guitarist Richard On.

Robert Redford's part comes near the near they end. Dressed in all white, he reads environmental excerpts from the writings Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee's "Spiritual Ecology," and Thomas Berry's "The Sacred Universe." The writings implore us to listen to the Earth and "renew our relationship with the planet."

Festival Director John Cooper, who wanted to include "The Way of the Rain" in this year's festival, was happy with his decision.

"I'm proud of us for stretching the idea of what storytelling is," he said after the show. "I didn't know what to expect, but it was beautiful, abstract and lively."



‘The Way of the Rain’

The live performance work “The Way of the Rain,” directed by Sibylle Szaggars Redford, has its final showing on Tuesday

When » Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Where » The Complex, 536 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets » People with the SLC Grand Pass can get into the show free. Admission is available at the door via the usual Sundance waitlist system.