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The eternal question: ‘Can I Help You?’

By Aaron Short

atharine Dill was editing transcripts from videos at the medical reality TV show she worked at, when something caught her eye. A woman who was the victim of a drunk-driving accident was trying to explain what happened to the emergency room attendants, but no one was listening.

“When I was watching this one woman, I realized that nobody was putting the pieces together,” Dill said. “Even the woman in the accident didn’t really know what was going on. I was the only one with access to the footage and I felt I was the only one who understood what happened to her.”

The discombobulating nature of the video inspired Dill to crop the story and several other transcribed videos to form the basis of her new experimental play, “Can I Help You?” Her production company, Exploding Moment, featuring six performers and a number of consultants who compose music, design sound effects, and edit video, will perform the show at the Bushwick Starr (207 Wyckoff Street) on July 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 at 8 p.m.

“I love the venue,” Dill said. “It’s a very modular space and there are different opportunities to change the space around. I like that they have a focus on innovative theater work and they seem to have developed an audience for that.”

Dill grew up in Santa Barbara before moving at age 11 to Harrison, Ark., a small town in the Ozarks with a population of about 8,000. Harrison was recently the subject of a Frontline Public Television profile on racial politics in the Deep South, due to its reputation as a sundown town with a history of lynching and segregation. An active young Democrat growing up, Dill has become more optimistic about politics in the state and believes that Barack Obama has a chance to win there.

“It’s a beautiful state,” Dill said. “[Governor Hillary] Clinton spent a lot of time in Fayetteville when I was in college. My next production might be about moving to Arkansas as a kid.”

After attending college at the University of Arkansas, Dill moved to Brooklyn in 1988 and worked in a variety of theater productions. Her seven-year tenure at Red Dive, a group performing multidisciplinary arts events, won her a Bessie from the DTW for her installation work.

Her current production makes use of video monitors that show prerecorded videos and live camera video showing other sides of movement happening on the stage. According to Dill, everything on the tape is being performed, including rewinds, jump cuts, fast forwards, and other edits.

“The actors have been extremely adept at moving between the tapes,” Dill said.

“Can I Help You?” is completely different from medical soap operas such as “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” though it does not resemble the reality of treatment in an ER either. Dill’s production instead highlights the parts of reality that she is interested in.

“The show is a puzzle,” Dill said. “Some people will let it wash over them and enjoy watching it. Some will put the pieces together and some people could get frustrated. I don’t want to put the pieces together for the audience.”

“Can I Help You?” and its easy rhythm derived from its transcribed dialogue belies the strange nature of the stories involved. Even the play’s title stands for something different than its innocuous meaning.

“It’s a question that is used to get rid of somebody not to help somebody, say if someone is belligerent,” Dill said. “In the woman’s case in the play, the doctors couldn’t address her at all much less really help her.”

Exploding Moment Presents “Can I Help You?” at The Bushwick Starr on 207 Starr Street on July 18, 19, 24, 25, and 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. For reservations for Can I Help You, go to http://www.theatermania.com/content/show.cfm/show/143199 or call 866-811-4111 For more information, visit www.thebushwickstarr.org.

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