Push play in a café and listen to a sensory story from Solas Nua, ‘One Moment Now’

The uniquely personal audio experience in a public place was created by Murmuration, a Dublin-based theater collective.

It’s a pleasant August day in Northwest Washington. Traffic hums, lunchtime pedestrians meander along.

Just after lunchtime rush, I find a café table at Baker’s Daughter on K Street NW. A reserved sign, a paper bag, and headphones mark my space. As the low rumble of traffic, pierced by an occasional siren, competes with the counter conversation going on behind me, I don the headset. Push play.

‘One Moment Now’ tabletop photographed by Lisa Traiger for DCTA.

A soothing voice — John King’s — reassures me: “Some people find it hard to sit in a café. Alone. With just their thoughts. Don’t worry, we’re going to keep you company this next while.”

But I’m not worried. I’ve long been a soloist in cafés, and life.

For the next 20 minutes, a story unwinds about a son, a mother, and an ailing grandmother. But stories, like life, are never so simple. And this one eggs the listener in through a series of instructive tasks using items from the paper bag.

One Moment Now may not feel like theater to purists who expect a stage, lights, costumes, an audience to applaud, and the like. Rather, this singular moment is an exploration of one’s self and one’s experiences. The story told through dialogue and narration is one of relationships, memory, love, and loss. Ask me now to recount the plot points and I couldn’t do it. But ask me how I felt, what I thought, how those 20 minutes alone but amid the bustle of a public café reflected and refracted my own life, and I could speak for an hour, pinpointing highs and dips in my own meandering lifeline that have nothing — and everything — to do with the script composed by John King and Finbarr Doyle and performed by Casey, Helen Roche, and Bairbre Ní Chaoimh. Along with the storytelling, sound was conceived by Jenny O’Malley and designed by Leon Henry, and the piece was produced by Tilly Taylor.

This “table-top audio experience” was created by Murmuration, a Dublin-based theater collective that has been experimenting with narrative sound installations in public spaces. This work, Murmuration’s fourth, premiered at the historic Bewley’s Café in Dublin where everyone from playwright Richard Sheridan to Thomas Moore to James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Bob Geldof drank coffee and wrote. DC’s Irish arts organization Solas Nua is no stranger to producing site-specific works; One Moment Now marks its U.S. premiere with Solas Nua’s presentation, which runs through September 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays between noon and 1:30 p.m. Only four people can be accommodated for each 20-minute session, so advance booking is required.

The ‘One Moment Now’ table-top audio experience. Photos by Charlotte La Nasa.

This performative and participatory experience — I don’t want to describe too much and spoil the surprises — draws on the senses — aural, visual, olfactory, and tactile. I suppose if one buys a cup of coffee (it’s Julius Meinl, a Viennese brew for coffee aficionados), taste would come into play, though I don’t recommend drinking or eating while you listen and participate. To get the full effect of Murmuration’s work, full attention is required. During my 20 minutes, I closed my eyes on occasion. I allowed my body to shift and settle, grounding myself in the space, feeling my arms on the table, feet on the floor. The narration and conversations sometimes felt like eavesdropping, other times like Proustian remembrances, or half dreams. When it was over. I didn’t want it to end, but I didn’t need more. I remained at the table for I don’t know how long. Reluctant to leave my meditative state.

If all of this sounds elliptical, that’s purposeful and necessary to not hinder each person’s unique experiences with this work. My advice, if you have a free lunch and can make it downtown to the corner of 12th and K Streets this month, take the chance. It’s only 20 minutes — a moment in time. One coffee bean, as it were, in a hill of them. One Moment Now may change you, delight you, frustrate you, or make you reflect on life in a way that hasn’t occurred to you before. It may take you to a place you need to go, or you may be exactly where you should be after listening. It’s time well spent.

Left: Baker’s Daughter Café photo by 101 Hospitality; right: ‘One Moment Now’ display photographed by Lisa Traiger for DCTA.

Running Time: 20 minutes.

One Moment Now by Murmuration plays through August 31, 2023, on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11 am and 2 pm presented by Solas Nua at Baker’s Daughter, 1201 K Street NW, Washington, DC. Free reservations are available online.

The program for One Moment Now is online here.

In a coffee shop, Solas Nua and Dublin’s Murmuration present an audio-play
(news story, July 27, 2023)

Previous articleSetting ‘Cyrano’ in a world of clowns, Synetic nose what it’s doing
Next articleFolger Shakespeare Library postpones public reopening until 2024
Lisa Traiger
An arts journalist since 1985, Lisa Traiger writes frequently on the performing arts for Washington Jewish Week and other local and national publications, including Dance, Pointe, and Dance Teacher. She also edits From the Green Room, Dance/USA’s online eJournal. She was a freelance dance critic for The Washington Post Style section from 1997-2006. As arts correspondent, her pieces on the cultural and performing arts appear regularly in the Washington Jewish Week where she has reported on Jewish drum circles, Israeli folk dance, Holocaust survivors, Jewish Freedom Riders, and Jewish American artists from Ben Shahn to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim to Y Love, Anna Sokolow to Liz Lerman. Her dance writing can also be read on DanceViewTimes.com. She has written for Washingtonian, The Forward, Moment, Dance Studio Life, Stagebill, Sondheim Review, Asian Week, New Jersey Jewish News, Atlanta Jewish Times, and Washington Review. She received two Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Arts Criticism from the American Jewish Press Association; a 2009 shared Rockower for reporting; and in 2007 first-place recognition from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. In 2003, Traiger was a New York Times Fellow in the Institute for Dance Criticism at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C. She holds an M.F.A. in choreography from the University of Maryland, College Park, and has taught dance appreciation at the University of Maryland and Montgomery College, Rockville, Md. Traiger served on the Dance Critics Association Board of Directors from 1991-93, returned to the board in 2005, and served as co-president in 2006-2007. She was a member of the advisory board of the Dance Notation Bureau from 2008-2009.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here