The X Performance Group (XPG) was founded in 1997 by Rachel Finan and Greg Bliss. They came together with a common vision after working on several community theatre productions at Ladies Literary Club Classical Theatre and Master Arts Theatre. (warning: those links are VERY BORING) After working on these productions they felt that what Grand Rapids was lacking was challenging original and underground theatre. XPG was born.
Their first production was Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot with Jason Stamp, Leah Sevigny, Francis Gentile, Greg Bliss and David Greene, directed by Rachel Finan. Godot was produced at the 10 Weston Gallery, the now-defunct Morningstar 75 coffee shop on Weston Street in downtown Grand Rapids. The play received great reviews from the Grand Rapids Press and established their legitimacy in the theatre community.
In July of 1998 XPG teamed up with the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. This was the start of a 9-year partnership with the UICA. They soon became the UICA's resident performance group and started producing work there on a regular basis. Their first production was a lofty vision called the Human Zoo. In July of 1998, group took over the large event space at 41 Sheldon Blvd and built a performance art maze that featured oddities of human behavior. Small groups of audience members traveled through each room to experience commentaries of our modern life. Some of the more memorable pieces included: Abraham Lincoln on the john, a dirty-limerick lolly pop girl, a crack mother, women who love men who kill talk show and a padded room of childhood memories. They were featured on NPR and the Associated Press picked up the story only to land them an article in some strange Japanese magazine.
During this time the group also produced smaller independent work at 10 Weston which was operated by the impossible Jean Doll. In August of 1998 the group produced Sam Shepard's "Cowboy Mouth." A short play written by Patti Smith and Sam Shepard during their brief and torrid love affair. XPG used a shadowing technique between 4 actors where the one actor would whisper their lines to the speaking actor and subsequently the performers never held a script. Actors included Cindi----, Dominick, Jonathan Elsenbroek, Rachel Finan, Jason Stamp and Greg Bliss. Visual Art by Gail Philbin was featured at this event.
"The House of Yes" by Wendy MacLeod was produced in July of 1999 at 10 Weston Theatre, by Holland director Stacey Decker. The play dealt with a wealthy incestual family slightly obsessed with the Kennedy's. Actors: Kristina Rae, Greg Bliss, Jason Masters, Rachel Finan...and who played the girlfriend?
In November 1999 the group took on Peter Weiss's "Marat/Sade" at the UICA. The play is a fictional account or the Marquis de Sade's time in prison. A play within a play that included music and dance. This was the group's first venture into ensemble work influenced by Jerzy Grotowski, Augusto Boal and Peter Brook. They collected a large cast of actors and non-actors, focused childhood memory work and deep character study in a laboratory type setting. Some of the players included: Kristina Rea, Dan Falicki, Nathan Stout, Jennifer Schild, Sam Vandenberg, Cathy Bouwsma, Greg Bliss, Rachel Finan and Jason Stamp.
In 2005-2006 this group operated their own performance space on Market St. SW called Space Vs Time where they produced monthly shows. SVT is currently active and producing work in Grand Rapids including the Super Happy Funtime Burlesque and the Black Hills Theatre