Founded in 1996, Vessel is a theatre company dedicated to exploring innovative intersections between devising, physical theatre, immersive theatre, public art, installation, dance, visual arts, and multi-media technology.
Founded in 1996 by Rachel Bowditch and Lea Bender, Vessel is a theatre company dedicated to exploring innovative intersections between physical theatre, public art, installation, dance, visual arts, and multi-media technology. Our combined international experience results in a style that crosses the boundaries of theatrical form. Currently based in Phoenix, Arizona, Vessel draws actors, dancers, circus artists, playwrights, poets, musicians, and designers into a single creative endeavor. From the street to the stage, our aim is to create a poetry of space that brings our stories to life in dynamic, poignant, and visceral forms while creating a sense of intimacy and connection to our audiences.
Over 25 years, Vessel has collaborated with more than 200 performers, designers, and artists from around the world and their work has been seen at theatres and venues such as Childsplay, Mixed Blood, Northwest Children's Theatre, the Denver Center, Mesa Arts Center, Phoenix Art Museum, IDEA Museum, and Scottsdale Public Art.
Vessel has been featured and reviewed in the The Director's Vision by Scott Shattuck, Digital Media, Projection Design, and Technology for Theatre by Alex Oliszewski and Daniel Fine (Routledge), New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Theatre Journal, Newsweek, American Theatre, The Sun (NYC), The Village Voice, Time Out New York, Live Design, Rolling Stone, Vogue Italia, U.S. Airways Magazine, Channel 12 News, Channel 8/PBS, ABC 15 News, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minneapolis Daily Planet, Aisle Say Twin Cities, TYA Today, the Phoenix New Times and Arizona Republic among other publications (See press for full listing).
Vessel specializes in devised, site-specific, immersive, physical theatre, tackling challenging social issues from suicide, addiction, mental health, forced relocation, the death penalty, colonization, and climate change. Vessel's original site-specific atmospheric performance Transfix has evolved into 13 different performances over time (See site-specific performances for more information).
Vessel is a not-for-profit (501c3) theatre company under the fiscal umbrella of Fractured Atlas. www.vesselproject.org
Photo: Lea Bender (right) and Rachel Bowditch (left). Transfix in Central Park, 2002. Photo by Bill Durgin.
Rachel Bowditch (PhD/Full Professor at Arizona State University): Rachel has been creating original devised, site-specific work for over twenty five years. From 2018-2022, she held the position as the Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Music, Dance, and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University overseeing 8 graduate programs: MFA in Theatre for Youth, MFA in Dance, MFA in Directing, MFA in Performance, MFA in Dramatic Writing, and MFA in Interdisciplinary Digital Media as well as the PhD in Theatre for Youth and PhD in Theatre and Performance of the Americas. From 2014-2022, she directed the MFA in Performance program that focuses on devising, actor-creator methodologies, and new work development.
She spent the first 18 years of her life growing up internationally--Rome, Italy; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Jakarta, Indonesia, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Israel, London, and Paris. She fundamentally believes theatre is a transformative art that has deep healing potential. She is a visual artist whose canvas is the street and the stage--painting visual, visceral poetic portraits through bodies, light, sound, media, and costumes.
She received her BA in Theatre (Directing) from Skidmore College, a certificate of completion from Ecole de Jacques Lecoq International School of Physical Theatre in Paris, France, and her MA and PhD in Performance Studies from New York University.
She is one of the six certified Rasaboxes teachers. In 2018, she was a Fellow at the Harvard Mellon Institute for Performance Research in “Public Humanities,” and was featured as one of the “Top 100 Creatives,” by Origins Magazine in 2015.
She is a theatre director and author of three books, On the Edge of Utopia: Performance and Ritual at Burning Man (Seagull/University of Chicago Press 2010), Performing Utopia co-edited with Pegge Vissicaro (Seagull/University of Chicago Press 2018), and Physical Dramaturgy: Perspectives from the Field co-edited with Jeff Casazza and Annette Thornton (Routledge 2018). She is currently working on her fourth book The Rasaboxes Sourcebook: Inside Richard Schechner's Performance Workshop (working title) under contract with Routledge about Richard Schechner’s performance workshop and Rasaboxes with Paula Murray Cole and Michele Minnick (expected publication 2023).
Her scholarly work has been published in TDR (The Performance Review), Performance Research, Theatre Topics, the Journal of Media and Religion, Ecumenica, and Puppetry International as well as book chapters in Festive Devils in the Americas edited by Milla Riggio and Paolo Vignolo, Playa Dust: Collected Stories from Burning Man edited by Samantha Krukowski, and Focus on World Festivals edited by Chris Newbold. She wrote the catalogue essay for two Berlin-based artists, ROMER + ROMER (translated into German) for their Burning Man: Electric Sky exhibit in Berlin in 2019 at Haus am Lutzowplatz, where she also gave a lecture. She regularly presents both her scholarship and theatre research at theatre conferences nationally and internationally.
Her performance and directing work specializes in devising, site-specific, immersive, mask performance, and physical theatre, and tackles challenging social issues from suicide, addiction, madness, forced relocation, the death penalty, and colonization. Her work has been presented at theatres and venues such as Childsplay, Mixed Blood, Northwest Children's Theatre, the Denver Center, Mesa Arts Center, Phoenix Art Museum, IDEA Museum, and Scottsdale Public Art.
Her artistic work has been featured in The Director's Vision by Scott Shattuck and Digital Media, Projection Design, and Technology for Theatre by Alex Oliszewski and Daniel Fine (Routledge). Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Theatre Journal, Newsweek, American Theatre, The Sun (NYC), The Village Voice, Time Out New York, Live Design, Rolling Stone, Vogue Italia, U.S. Airways Magazine, Channel 12 News, Channel 8/PBS, ABC 15 News, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minneapolis Daily Planet, Aisle Say Twin Cities, TYA Today, the Phoenix New Times and the Arizona Republic among other publications. In 2016, she spent a month in Bali studying mask carving with Nyoman Seitwan as part of the Dell'arte Bali program.
To see more of her directing, performance, and scholarly work, www.rachelbowditch.com