Spinning stories

by Shannon Rae Gentry
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Supplied photo by Jeremy Mimnagh 

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Arts in Action Performance Series will present Evalyn Parry’s “SPIN” at Thalian Hall on Thursday, April 4. 

After the first bicycle or “walking machine” eventually was given pedals then changed from wood to steel, and from high wheel to low, it also evolved from being a gentleman’s hobby to a woman’s vehicle to social freedom. Now, Toronto’s Evalyn Parry celebrates the bicycle as a muse, musical instrument and agent of social change.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Arts in Action Performance Series presents Evalyn Parry’s “SPIN,” which features the artist’s award-winning music, spoken word and social commentary revolving around the bicycle.

In an interview on Wednesday, March 20, Parry said that this will be her first appearance in the United States to kick off a six-week tour of performances that merge history and the modern world. Parry’s songs and monologues cover topics from 19th century women’s emancipation to 21st century consumer culture.

“The first half of the show circles around the 1890s … when the bike really rose in great popularity in the U.S. and Canada. It incorporates several stories of women for whom the bike was really a metaphor for freedom in their lives,” she said.

Inspired in part by her own love for cycling and research of historic figures, Parry tells the stories of women like Annie Londonderry, the first woman to ride around the world on a bicycle in 1894, and Francis Willard, president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

“With these two women in particular, I tell their story and how cycling kind of set them free, how they became emblems for this age where women enjoyed a new kind of literal, physical, as well as metaphoric freedom,” Parry said.

Parry describes each story as an individual spoke of a wheel, and together they make something that is stronger and larger. “It’s the way that all of the stories combine to explore the theme and some of the messages of the play that makes it what it is,” she said.

While the second act moves into the 21st century and into contemporary themes, Parry said the wheel eventually makes a full evolutionary circle. 

Parry’s “co-star” is a vintage bicycle, which is suspended in a mechanic’s stand on stage and outfitted with electronic pick-ups, played by percussionist Brad Hart. Parry said that the bike and Hart are one in the performance as he plays with his hands, brushes and sticks, which together embody the spirit and innovation of the bike.

“The bike comes to life as a musical instrument and … there are surprisingly musical elements that the bike can produce, and the show in a way is like a duet between me and the bike,” she said.

“I could tell all the stories and sing all the songs that are in this show without the bike, and I think the message wouldn’t be different,” Parry said. “But it’s really part of the delight and inventiveness of the show and the style in which we tell it that makes it fun and effective.”

To learn more about Evalyn Parry and “SPIN,” visit www.evalynparry.com

For tickets to “SPIN,” visit www.thalianhall.org

email shannon@luminanews.com

Want to go?

Evalyn Parry’s “SPIN”

Thursday, April 4 at 8 p.m.

Thalian Hall

$14 - $25

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