Visiting Hours is the debut solo performance art piece by American writer and actor Shannon Kurlander. Part dystopian nightmare, part biography, Visiting Hours tells the story of something most of us are yearning for: the gift of more time. The narrative focuses on “an innovative new device” which “promises to extend human life.” It was mainly written while Kurlander was recovering from intensive heart surgery.
“The piece is inspired by my own journey with heart disease from the clinical interactions to taxing surgeries, psychological toll and complicated recovery process,” Kurlander tells Dazed. “The heartbeat of the piece is very much my own, but the text, the world and the character are elevated and fictionalised.”
Kurlander performs as the play’s only character, Kaya – a test subject taking part in an experimental trial for a new implant that guarantees to extend lifespan, regardless of your mental or physical condition. The only conditions are that subjects must undergo a strict post-surgical 100-day observation, and ask “no further questions.”
Rehearsals kicked off as Kurlander was still recovering from surgery, which she saw as a form of therapy. During this time, she was able to reconnect with her body “while also connecting to the text for the first time from an acting standpoint versus a writer.”
The performance, which will be showing at The Koppel Project Hive Gallery in Farringdon on November 17 and 18, is as much an art piece as a traditional play. Kurlander worked alongside various creative collaborators, including visual artist Luke Overin, videographer Ella Margolin (known for her work with Porridge Radio) and musicians Mandy, Indiana to create a multi-sensory and multidisciplinary world for the piece to exist in. “This piece scratches every part of my brain; a way I can dip my paintbrush into all of my interests from musical curation, collaborating with visual artists and bringing a story alive through writing and performing,” says Kurlander on the collaborative nature of the piece.
Kurlander grew up in Tucson, Arizona before moving to New York and recently relocating to London. It’s a city that has “sparked a new creative liberation” for her, which is why it’s important that it premieres in Farringdon. “I finally gave myself permission to embrace being a multidisciplinary artist and say that with confidence,” adds Kurlander, whose recent acting credits include Rosalind in As You Like It at The Globe Theatre and Soya in Homeland at the White Bear Theatre.
Visiting Hours takes place on November 17 and 18 at The Koppel Project Hive Gallery. Tickets are available online here.