The Better Half is a dance-theater spin on the 1944 psychological thriller Gaslight, directed by George Cukor. Launching from this classic film, layers of fiction and reality accumulate, revealing the elusive boundaries between performer and character, actual and scripted relationships, life versus borrowed plotlines. Ultimately a new narrative emerges, capturing the habitual patterns, escapist tendencies, and resilience in contemporary relationships through a complex mix of dance and theater languages.
Rhoads and Danzig approached the staging of The Better Half with a commitment to actual experience. The performers are first and foremost themselves. They are assigned characters. The thriller plot is handed to them. The imposed elements cause the performers to react, and their reactions further the plot. The actual effects on the performers in trafficking between the composed plot and the live circumstances deliver a coherent narrative arc that grapples with fact and illusion, life and art and the way these opposites can get entangled.
The Better Half is the first of three collaborations between two leading Chicago creators. Rhoads and Danzig are excited to bring a fresh perspective with new ensemble members and draw from discoveries made during the premiere run and tours. They have learned that audiences are drawn to their use of humor in unexpected tension with complex themes, and respond to the authenticity of presence and spontaneity that triggers questions about what is planned and what is improvised.
The creation, presentation, and touring of the premiere version of The Better Half (2011-2014) was made possible through the support of many generous individuals, partners, and awards, including: National Dance Project, with support from New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with National Endowment for the Arts; National Performance Network Creation Fund, with commissioning partners Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center; Audience Architects’ New Stages for Dance, with leadership from Dance/USA and MetLife Foundation; Pamela Crutchfield; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; and Boeing.