Written & performed by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller, based on workshops with the Eye’s Genesis Ensemble and Philadelphia Playback Theatre
Directed by Conrad Bishop, music by Elizabeth Fuller
Designed by Conrad Bishop & Elise Viola
Lighting by Craig Young
Costumes by Margaret McCarty
Creative consultants: Fred Curchack, Robert Smythe, Harriet Power, Eric Schoefer, Arturo Castillo, Jean Brody
Full-length; 1m/1w, multi-character; unit set.
Produced by The Independent Eye, premiering April 1, 1999, at Old City Stage Works (Philadelphia, PA). Revised & produced at Spreckels Performing Arts Center (Rohnert Park, CA), premiering March 15, 2002. Total of 18 performances. Radio adaptation serialized on Hitchhiking off the Map.
An engrossing spiritual drama that seems a fitting culmination of five years of exciting, provocative theatre from The Independent Eye. . . . With theatrical ingenuity and a surprising amount of wit, Bishop and Fuller use puppets, masks, movement and music to show Inanna’s story. It’s a mesmerizing journey.
—Mark Cofta, Main Line Times
From the oldest written myth of ancient Sumer, to the contemporary plight of modern madness, this play bridges 5,000 years of human existence, rekindling our link to ancient traditions, and bringing archetypal dimension to everyday experience. A stunning performance, mythical and magical. Not to be missed!
—Anodea Judith, author, Wheels of Life, Sebastopol, CA
Well-crafted puppets, masks and costumes. The lighting is evocative, and the music and sound are wonderfully atmospheric. Bishop’s set of burlap scrims hanging from a frame of iron pipes adds depth and complexity not only to the small performance area but to the story itself.
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
To me, this riveting theatrical experience amounted to a great psalm of praise to the human spirit’s myth-making, meaning-seeking impulse. It is both as close to everyday experience as would be the mental breakdown of a loved one, and as universal as the myth of eternal return. I was profoundly moved—beyond explanation—the otherness evoked by the incantatory and hieratic language, the masks, the music. And I was led to recognize that the truest way to what is universal in human experience is through total immersion in the particular. Inanna lives!
—Robert D. Webber, Professor of New Testament,
Lancaster Theological Seminary
Our students sat in awe, watching you both move as if tethered by an unknown force. The unique blending of the Epic scope with the intimate playing style really challenged and redefined our idea of the theatrical event.
—Nyalls Hartman, Director of Theatre, Wichita State University
The Independent Eye has once again done what few theatre companies these days would dare to do. Descent of Inanna is risky, dangerous, challenging, and beautiful, and beyond anything else, it does what the very best theatre always does—it transports us, shows us new worlds, and makes us sit up and take notice. Who else is doing that kind of work?
—Dr. Michael Phillips, Professor of Drama, Millersville University, PA
Unlike most dramas where I come away thinking about my own mortality, Inanna left me thinking about my immortality. That’s what I call pushing the envelope.
—J.C. Todd, poet, Philadelphia
I really enjoyed the performance and found it, as usual from the Eye, important work—brave, honest, beautifully made....I was deeply touched and feel you’ve effectively made the mythical/divine real at several levels.
—Bill George, performance artist and Co-Director, Little Pond Retreat, Bethlehem, PA
Descent of the Goddess Inanna, a play based on a 5,000-year-old Sumerian myth, was performed last month at The Independent Eye theatre in Philadelphia. The performance team of Bishop & Fuller combines sculpture and theater with ingenious puppetry to convey deep and serious human knowledge. The play, about Inanna’s search for her twin sister, weaves ties between heaven and earth, and conveys an ancient message about our human condition.
Many characters are portrayed by life-size plaster and resin puppets with strong facial expressions which combine sculptural realism and theatrical drama. Conrad Bishop’s puppets, illuminated by subtle stage lighting, appear simultaneously awesome, haunting, and real. The heads are attached to loosely rendered costumes, and their hollowed interiors are inhabited by human actors, who carefully navigate gestures and movements. That humans are completely hidden behind the costumes and heads of the puppets is part of the message that Bishop & Fuller try to convey: that puppetry in theatre is often a metaphor for the political reality of contemporary life. Because the cast is made up of gifted actors, the movement of the puppets goes beyond mere craft.
The stage emphasizes the remarkable performance of the team. At one point, they are performing on a thin platform installed above stage-level. Conrad Bishop transforms himself into a wise god with splendid, massive long white hair who draws an infinte cord of gifts from his palm. Elizabeth Fuller’s characterization of Inanna is sensitive and subtle, and suggests that birth is not just an individual process; it is as if there is an umbilical cord which links all of humankind, the splendor of nature and the universe. In addition to the visual effects, the play is enhanced by Elizabeth Fuller’s fine voice and acoustic work.
The play resonates with themes found in classic works from biblical wisdom and Moliere to the cutting-edge poetic truth found in Peter Handke’s contemporary writing.
Handke’s work transcends truth and illuminates human fate with poetic meaning. It would be fascinating to see what would emerge from a collaboration between Handke and Bishop & Fuller, because they are concerned with humanity, human evolution, resurrection, and the desire to understand violence. Descent of Inanna significantly reveals their concerns.
—Silya Kiese, sculptor, New York
Wow!!!!! Yes .... Keep on! .... You’re shapers, reshapers of humanity .... Wonderful show! ... Ambitious, and it works! ... Inanna has great meaning to me .... Powerful .... Intense work of art .... Wonderful!!! is all I can say .... Awesome .... Terrific & powerful .... From sorrow to sex to sanctification—we should all be so blessed!
—Comments in our guest book