By Jon Potter

The Brattleboro Reformer, June 13, 2013

MARLBORO -- Obie Award-winning writer-director-performer Ain Gordon needed a tour guide for a trip back into Marlboro's past, and boy did he find the right one.

Connected by Sara Coffey of the Vermont Performance Lab, Gordon met local historian and photographer Forrest Holzapfel, and the two hit it off.

The time Gordon spent in Marlboro in 2011, visiting historic buildings, homesites and cellar holes, examining artifacts, talking local history with Holzapfel and working with Marlboro College faculty and students as part of a seminar course "Presence of the Past," guided the development of a new theater piece.

On Friday and Saturday, the Vermont Performance Lab will present Gordon's "Not What Happened" at 8 p.m., at the New England Youth Theatre, 100 Flat St., in Brattleboro. General admission is $15, $10 for students. Opening night party tickets (Friday night) are $50 and include a pre-show party with the artists with seasonal delicacies provided by Elizabethan Fare, plus premium seating for the performance. To purchase tickets visit www.vermontperformancelab.org/events. For information, call 802-361-3361.

"Not What Happened" is a contrapuntal duet for two people who can't meet: the historical re-enactor and the woman she re-enacts. It is history, but not the kind you studied in school about presidents, generals and movers and shakers.

Gordon's unique approach to developing new work is a deep investigation into "place." He used the human history, natural history and present day life in our area to develop a piece that explores how we look at the past.
Along the way, he and Holzapfel became friends and artistic collaborators.

"He and I spent quite a number of days in Marlboro and spent a lot of time absorbing period information," said Holzapfel. "He and I see history in the same way. We want the facts, but we also want to be able to dream a little bit about what it might be like."

"Not What Happened" calls into question who gets written into the historical record and who gets forgotten. Holzapfel's photographs became a crucial element in the piece whose central character is a woman who might have lived in Marlboro in 1804.

"I started photographing objects that a woman in 1804 would have used," said Holzapfel. "My pictures kind of spring from that and kind of try to enter the psychology of a woman like that."

Not merely documentary, Holzapfel's images, which are projected behind the performers throughout "Not What Happened," strive to connect the viewer with every day life.

He photographed objects like a pitcher and a corn husker, an old mill ledger book, old portraits of people, a beehive oven, the fires people used for cooking and heat and the worn arm rest of a favorite chair.

"Most of my pictures have to do with how we relate to an object," he said.

The images Holzapfel made for "Not What Happened" are also featured in an exhibit titled "The Labors of Silence," which runs through July 26 at the Catherine Dianich Gallery, 139 Main St., in Brattleboro. The gallery is open by appointment at 802-380-1607. Visit www.catherinedianichgallery.com.