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Dan Hurlin's Disfarmer. Photo by Richard Termine.^8 Detail of Dan Hurlin's Disfarmer. Photo by Richard Termine.^8 Dan Hurlin's Disfarmer. Photo by Richard Termine.^8 Mike Disfarmer photo. ^8 Detail of Dan Hurlin's Disfarmer. Photo by Richard Termine.^8

Dan Hurlin

"Such artistry, innovation, deep thought and sense of play! One of the most elegant, technically polished and emotionally rich pieces of theater I've seen. Magical." - Audience member

Being introduced to Mike Disfarmer's photographs and learning his enigmatic history, Dan Hurlin felt compelled to decode both the images and the man who made them. How did Disfarmer, who was by all accounts the town "Boo Radley," manage to get his subjects to lower their guard for him so completely? How could this misanthropic outcast live his life resenting the rural isolation of Heber Springs, Arkansas, without ever making an attempt to break away?   Dan Hurlin's Disfarmer is a piece of puppet theater that examines these contradictions in the life of an American hermit. Disfarmer is represented by a series of puppets, each an exact reprint of the last, except two inches smaller. During the course of the play, Disfarmer shrinks like the rest of rural America, until he is completely gone, and we are left with the quiet and nervous expectancy of standing perfectly still for a long exposure. Using the direct manipulation style of American puppetry known as "table-top," five puppeteers reveal our shrinking hero in his studio as he categorizes his every possession, barricades himself from the outside world, and compulsively measures constantly expanding distances between things.  Set to an evocative score for violin, banjo, and accordion, and a sound scape of oddly funny music from old Edison Wax disks and haunting Ozark Mountain music re-contextualized by Dan Moses Schreier and with text by playwright Sally Oswald, Disfarmer is a haunting tale of transience and perseverance.

Collaborators: Dan Moses Schreier (Composer/Sound Designer), Sally Oswald (Playwright), David Soll (Film Sequence), Tyler Micoleau (Lighting Design), Anna Thomford (Costumes, Large and Small and Soft Furnishings). Performers: Darius Mannino, Matthew Acheson, Eric Wright, Chris M. Green, and Tom Lee.

Engagements of Disfarmer were accompanied by several humanities activities to provide context including the films Puppet (directed by David Soll) and DisFarmer: A Portrait of America (directed by Martin Lavut and Produced by Dennis Mohr); exhibitions of Mike Disfarmer images from the collection of Peter Miller or the Steven Kasher Gallery; and special post-show conversations about Mike Disfarmer's portraits in relation to photographic history and practice and the ethical questions about the initial discovery and subsequent art world fervor over his portraits.

Disfarmer had its World Premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn, NY), in January-February 2009. Presenters of Disfarmer included St. Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn, NY); Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland (College Park, MD); Wesleyan University Center for the Arts (Middletown, CT); MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA); and the Institute for Contemporary Art (Boston, MA).

Lead commissioning support for Disfarmer was provided by Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland with support from the Leading College and University Presenters Program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and St. Ann's Warehouse. Disfarmer received generous support from The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation; Association of Performing Arts Presenters Ensemble Theater Collaborations Grant Program (a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Theatre Initiative); Helios Foundation; New York State Council on the Arts; National Endowment for the Arts; Meet the Composer's Commissioning Music/USA, made possible by generous support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund; The Jim Henson Foundation; Sarah Lawrence College. Disfarmer was made possible by generous gifts from Cheryl Henson, Marin Kanter, Linda Jacob, Dave King & Franklin Tartaglione, Robert Flynt & Jeff McMahon.