Imaginary Conversations with Mary Overlie

On the passing of a mentor and how art lives after dying

Two black and white portraits of women with hair pulled back, looking into the camera.
1Image courtesy the author, including photo by Peggy Jarrell Kaplan.

Photo courtesy ImpulsTanz.


Hello, Rosemary, Steve, Wendell, Paul, Lisa, Kevin, Catherine, Terry, Raina.3 All my teachers…these faces are 15 years older, and in mourning. Can they see me crying? I’ll just turn my camera off.

“Mary collected Capricorns.” (I didn’t know that! I am a Capricorn.) I cling to this like I cling to when she asked how old Jeff, Sam, and I were. “40 is a beautiful time… full professionalhood.”

In studio. In school, that’s what we called work time. In studio, if we wanted to watch a video of our work, we would roll a giant TV on an AV cart into the room.  She showed me video of myself in a class improvisation: “I’m trying to understand how you disappeared for so long and then— Pop! You popped up right in the middle of this cluster of bodies! Where did you come from?”

In the last year of school, we finally got to sit in her office and talk about Time and Space for two hours. Then we reenacted that conversation in a Chairs/Unnecessary score on ETW “Share Day.” I thought, “This is what I always dreamed college would be.”

Mary and Wendell and Paul did this improvisation not long after 9/11, at Judson I think. I remember knowing how lucky we were to see them dance together, these long-time collaborators. They wore these cardboard hats, in the shape of other major buildings in our skyline. And I cried and cried. Because it was like these buildings in mourning for their two lost friends.

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  1. Disclosure: The editor of this publication was also scheduled to attend the residency as a collaborator.

  2. Mary Overlie, Standing in Space: The Six Viewpoints Theory & Practice (New York, 2016), 119.

  3. Rosemary Quinn, Wendell Beavers, Paul Langland, Lisa Sokolov, Kevin Kuhlke, Catherine Coray, Terry Knickerbocker, Raïna von Waldenburg.

Erin Search-Wells

Erin Search-Wells is a founding member of SuperGroup along with Jeffrey Wells and Sam Johnson. Their work has been presented at the Walker, Southern, Red Eye, Bryant Lake Bowl, Joyce Soho @ Invisible Dog NYC, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and multiple tiny cabarets and basements. We are into the horizontality of performance (as opposed to the traditional, often exploitative, hierarchical model), and we explore this both in our performance materials, and our relationship to audience. …   read more