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Falling Out

A multi-disciplinary theatrical event exploring humanity’s relationship to water and climate change focused on Fukushima, Japan.

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Work-in-progress video

Posted on February 2, 2018 by Mara Isaacs
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We’re delighted to share this short video that features excerpts from our initial developmental residency hosted by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Process Space Program.  Stay tuned for updates from our early 2018 residency at CalArts Center for New Performance.


FALLING OUT is the final installment in Phantom Limb Company’s multi-disciplinary environmental trilogy, creating theatrical and emotional calls to agency around climate crisis. Conceived and directed by visual artist and Phantom Limb Artistic Director Jessica Grindstaff, the story of FALLING OUT pivots on the myriad environmental ramifications of the 2011 tsunami that struck the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

This live theatrical performance, which will tour nationally in 2017-2018, features an ensemble of actor/dancer/puppeteers performing to an evocative and complex original musical score by composer Erik Sanko. Through music, we will be identifying places and cultures where the relationship to water is critical – either in lack of or impending rises.  The music of the Vanuatu women water drumming, the music of New Orleans, Traditional Tahitian music, and Okinawan will be sonically woven and layered into the narrative so that the audience feels immersed in the soundscape, as if they were swimming in a global environment.  A key element of the development of this piece is travel to Japan to record natural sounds, portions of interviews and recordings of traditional folk music from the Fukushima region which will all be interwoven into the score for the piece.We are also researching the science of radiation in order to find a way to identify it musically.

Chanteuse Jennifer Charles (of Elysian Fields) and Erik Sanko will give voice to the metaphoric female and male characters in the play, bringing the theoretical effigies of the future into the present world. In both consonance and dissonance, our future selves navigate the uncertain seas of relationship both to one another and to our ever-shifting environment.

Into our musical exploration we will weave concrete stories of a romantic break up (or a falling out) as a metaphor for the loss of deep connection we once had to the earth. Crinoline mountains moving slowly across the stage by invisible forces will serve as the physical manifestations of water and radiation. The end result will be a beautiful and meditative piece of theater that will seep into the consciousness of our audiences to ignite in them an emotional call to action.

With this production, Phantom Limb will continue to deepen our practice of non-verbal storytelling through puppetry, design installation, music, and dance. This hybrid performance form will allow us access to a new emotional well from which we can cast light upon our connection to and responsibility toward water and the environment.

We know from our past work that the best way to awaken people to these topics is through poetry and storytelling. The abundance of data and empirical evidence supporting the rapid onset of climate change has done little to impact human behavior.  It is, we believe, up to the artists to find new ways to broach the topic. We are confident that this production will creatively redefine the limits of the various art forms it employs, ultimately helping to change public discourse around climate change.

Project Media

“Animals” from MEMORY RINGS
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“Animals” was recorded in 2013 and features Erik Sanko. The song is representative of how Sanko writes music for theater. First, it is a new iteration of a lyric piece that is used as a leitmotif throughout the play, serving in place of words to gently guide audiences through the narrative. It also utilizes source material sounds that are related to the subject matter such as the sound of an axe falling and the field recordings of the actual Methuselah Tree.

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These two musical excerpts from Phantom Limb Company’s’ MEMORY RINGS – currently on tour – demonstrate the way we imbed cultural and environmental cues in the music. There are elements of the Balinese “Ketjak” – a piece in which 100 performers imitate monkeys coming to the aid of Prince Rama, as well as the singing of the Baka pygmies. The second excerpt has former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler playing over the sound of a recording of crickets slowed down 100 times.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

1 update
Last update on February 2, 2018

Project Created By

New York, New York
Phantom Limb Company, New York City-based, is known for its work with marionette-puppetry and focus on collaborative, multi-media theatrical production and design. Co-founded in 2007 by installation artist, painter and set designer Jessica Grindstaff and composer and puppet maker Erik Sanko, Phantom Limb has been lauded for its unconventional approach to this venerable format. Phantom Limb includes a…

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New York, New York
Princeton, New Jersey
Brooklyn, New York
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