Edes Prize winner explores themes of empathy through multimedia project

Theater director, performer and visual artist dado gyure, MFA’14, is this year’s recipient of the Claire Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists, for her multimedia project based on a short story by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Edes Prize provides a one-year, $30,000 award to a recent alum from four universities, including the University of Chicago, and helps provide an emerging artist the means to substantially advance their practice.

Dado’s winning entry is based on a 2014 live sculptural installation she staged at the Gray Center Lab. It was part of her MFA thesis project focused on The Little Match Girl Passion, a 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition based on the Andersen story by composer David Lang. The original short story, first published in 1845, details a poor young girl selling matches on New Year’s Eve.

“In these wildly politically charged times, I am interested in revising the Match Girl project in order to closely examine the shifting terrain of American empathy,” dado wrote in her project proposal to the jury of the Edes Prize.

The proposal stood out for its ambitious scope and for the “wildness of her imagination,” according to Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, assistant professor in Theater & Performance Studies, who sat on the Edes Prize selection committee. 

“We’re excited to see where she takes this project and where this project will take her, particularly in terms of opening up new processes of creating work and new relationships with collaborators, spaces and audiences,” Danzig said.

Dado is excited to utilize the prize to hire professional vocalists and musicians, but also to dig deeper into the questions of human behavior at the center of her performance piece.

“I’m interested in why things are valuable in a given moment,” dado said. “What really drives Match Girl is that there’s systemic empathy behavior that I need to understand and somehow translate to the people performing.”    

In addition to building a more robust cast, dado is scouting potential venues throughout Chicago. Beyond looking for a unique space with appropriate acoustics, she is also hoping to make the project a sustained presence.  

“I would really like Match Girl to have a future, even beyond the Edes,” dado said. “I think we need to find a place or institution or program that needs something like Match Girl. It’s really about finding the right place for it and then working with the community.”