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​“The Oil Project” taps into “Bakken Boom!” exhibition

by Jack Dura | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Theatre | August 5th, 2015

Local artists are now joining the oil rush in western North Dakota. In a way.

Theatre B is collaborating with the Plains Art Museum to present “The Oil Project,” an original performance piece drawing inspiration from the lives and landscape of North Dakota’s Bakken region. This event is coordinated with “Bakken Boom!,” the museum’s six-month exhibition of artworks reacting to North Dakota’s oil rush.

Drilling in

Four shows in two days will highlight the various viewpoints of North Dakota’s modern gold rush, from the center out rather than the outside in, said Brad Delzer, Theatre B’s programs coordinator.

“We really try to be nondiscriminatory in our research—the good, the bad and the ugly. Finding all of the angles, and from that … start putting it up, seeing what comes out.”

As an original work, the company conducted its own research on North Dakota’s oil rush. The area was already familiar to some of those involved in the project, such as Delzer, who hails from central-western North Dakota.

“I can walk up the hill outside my parents’ farm, and see flares at night.”

With their own connections and the research they generated, “The Oil Project” members laced together a piece to tie all the people together – from the lifelong Williston resident to the roughneck newcomer.

“We found out what was important, what common thread was shared, how we wanted to shape the piece as a company and put that together,” Delzer said.

Staged on the Plains Art Museum’s third floor, “The Oil Project” is not the typical theatrical setting.

Interspersed throughout the space and allowing the audience to move around “semi-freely,” this performance art is a little different, but also unique to the space.

“(The audience) can choose to follow a performer or choose to stay in one space and see what they see,” Delzer said. “The audience gets to, in a way, curate their own experience.”

Ending the ‘Boom’

While “Bakken Boom!” wraps up Aug. 15, “The Oil Project” brings a “wonderful finale” to an exhibition that saw “overwhelmingly positive” reactions,” said Amy Richardson, communications director at the museum.

“It’s going to add that whole angle of performance,” she added. “Our exhibition … has video, you get to hear from these different people … so now we’re going to have performance art be a part of it.”

“Visitors will have a unique, immersive experience in ‘The Oil Project,’” curator Becky Dunham said in a press release.

Comment cards for visitors to write their reactions on have been available throughout the run of “Bakken Boom!” Many visitors have written about their appreciation for the show, while many others have voiced their opinions about the oil industry.

“Oil = Wealth, Oil = Death,” one card read.

“An oil truck almost hit me,” read another.

Seeing the show

“The Oil Project,” free and open to the public, is expected to run under an hour in length, and visitors can stay as long as they wish.

Due to fire code restrictions, a cap of 75-100 people will limit the audience, but four performances are available.

Though the setting may be unusual, the original work and the platform to connect to an unavoidable theme in North Dakota is what Theatre B and the Plains Art Museum hope draws people in, where people can “be engaged and not afraid,” said Delzer.


“The Oil Project”

Aug. 13 and 14, noon and 7 p.m. 

Plains Art Museum’s third floor

Free 701-729-8880; space is limited 

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