Button Wagon is a performance so unique it defies categorization—but we'll try. It's a whimsical mash of circus and theater, starring contortionist Ember Bria and master of balance and illusion Matt "Poki" McCorkle, patterned in the spirit of the earliest films, and coming to the Railyard Performance Center.
"There's no dialogue," McCorkle tells SFR. "It's sort of a live silent film, presenting a story set to music through movement and images."
The show is primarily the tale of a burgeoning friendship between its two stars, who meet and integrate their acts.
The title refers to giant buttons, which are strewn across the stage and used as props, along with over-sized sewing materials and a giant burlap rabbit. Buttons themselves were the impetus for the show's conception.
"Ember's a button-hoarder in real life, with an extensive collection," McCorkle says. "So I guess her love of buttons is in some way the inspiration."
Before Bria and McCorkle bring the magic, sway to the rhythms of MORIA West African Dance and Drum Ensemble, a roughly 20-person outfit who opens the event, performing with Button Wagon for the first time ever. Inspiration to unite with MORIA came not only from a need to break up the evening, but also to expose audiences to two vastly different performance groups.
"Button Wagon is an hour long and it runs without break, so we wanted to have something before, then a short break, then our show," McCorkle says. "But it's especially nice because we get to kind of share audiences."
Button Wagon debuted in California over six months ago.
"Some parts of it we spent our whole lives working on, you know? Ember's the contortionist and she trained for 10 years before we did the show," McCorkle says. "Other parts of the show come from other performances we've done together, and some of it was only finished in the last two months before the first show."
Performing Button Wagon has taken Bria and McCorkle all over the country since last summer. It started in Oakland and moved through Berkeley, Davis and Arcata, Calif., then across state lines into Washington, Oregon and Colorado before it led them to New Mexico.
The travel-heavy performance schedule is no accident.
"We felt like we wanted to make something for just the two of us that would also allow us to travel; load up a van with a show and leave Oakland," McCorkle says. "That didn't inform it artistically, but some inspiration certainly came from using it as a vessel for travel."
Find some inspiration yourself at Button Wagon this weekend.
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26
Railyard Performance Center
1611A Paseo de Peralta