Western students and community members are exploring family life through dance and movement in a unique piece of performance art. “The Parent Project”, written and directed by Pam Kuntz, tells stories about parenting by combining music, video, images, and dance with spoken word.

The performers are not actors, but people telling their own true stories, Kuntz said.

“There are parents sharing what it has been like having a child who has special needs, and a parent sharing what it has been like having her child killed,” Kuntz said. “It's all true.”

To write the script, Kuntz recorded an interview with each parent or pair of parents and then edited the interviews to create monologues and dialogues. The script is sometimes recited onstage by the performers, and at other times it is played from a recording while the parents themselves dance on stage.

“There is dance in every story,” Kuntz said. “All the parents are dancing. Movement is the main vehicle for telling the stories. I see it as the thread that holds the whole thing together.”

Western students Lena Traenkenshuh, Sarah Schermer, Paige Fredlund, and Ben Estes also dance in the show.

“We sort of represent all the parents and all the children,” Schermer said. “In one the stories I play a mom, and in another story I play a son, and in another I play a daughter.”

Schermer, who is a dance major at Western, says Kuntz collaborates with the parents and the dancers to choreograph the performance.

“She's the best sort of choreographer because she allows people to be who they are as artists and as people,” Schermer said.

In addition to the live dancing, images and videos will be projected behind the performers during the show.

“The images are all of human beings,” Kuntz said. “Pictures of the parents and of their children.”

One couple even video documented their pregnancy for nine months, and the entire video will be shown during the performance, Kuntz said.

Western student William Coogan composed the soundtrack, which features acoustic guitar, piano, flute, and electronic sounds.

“I hadn't seen the choreography ahead of the time,” Coogan said. “So she'd tell me all she could about the person the story was about, and I went from there. I listened to the dialogue over and over and tried to come up with themes based on that.”

The music is prerecorded and played during the performance.

“The Parent Project” is Kuntz's third community performance creation. She started “The Mom Project,” which she also performed in, when she was seven months pregnant.

“Selfishly I wanted to hear from other parents about how they were doing it,” Kuntz said. “There was never any official lesson or schooling on being a mom or a parent, and it's by far the most important thing I've done yet, and I'm only in year three.”

“The Mom Project” was followed by “That One Curve”, a performance piece about women and body image, in 2005.

Though “The Parent Project” is emotional for the performers involved, it is rewarding, Kuntz said.

“We've had a couple moments in the rehearsal process that have been a little difficult to get through,” Kuntz said. “It's an opportunity for them to share their experiences with other people. I know they've said those very words to me.”

“The Parent Project” runs Friday and Saturday, and Oct 12 and 13 at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center at 1314 Harris Ave.