a FEAST for sore theatrical eyes (artlog #5)

My friends and fellow world citizens—

I first met Andrew Ondrejcak in a ratty college classroom while swapping stories about recent real life theatrical moments. Most people in the room (tutti studenti, I should say) traded tales with juicy bits of dialogue they’d overheard while waiting in line at the grocer or shuttling into the subway.

All fine stories but Andrew’s tale marched to a different colour. With a flip of his flaxen hair, and an imperceptible eye roll, Ondrejcak described a far flung road trip with friends and how, circling through the cliffs of—California? or was it Cardiff??—he listened to French hip hop while watching borgonvilla flap furiously in the wind. “You know, just really hot pink,” Andrew said in his distinctive matter- of-fact clipped manner. I do believe he was the only person in the room to mention a color in his story. And what a color it was.

bougainvillea grows in tunis, not in brooklyn

It was therefore unsurprising that when I sped off some questions about his upcoming project FEAST at Incubator Arts Project (July 13-21) he responded in signature style.

I understand FEAST is a retelling of the ancient story of “The Writing on the Wall” … Can you re-familiarize us with that tale? What about it inspired you to put pen to paper? 
I wanted to make a really high-concept play about language and philosophy and history and death and love and hate and then I told Mac Wellman the idea and he was like, “Well why don’t you write a domestic drama at a dinner table instead.”  And so I remembered this old story about a feast with some concubines and I thought that it could be fun to have a stage full of concubines. In the bible, in the book of Daniel, there is a story about a feast held by king Belshazzar and this king took some sacred cups from the temple and that pissed off God, so God brought down his wrath. The tale has been retold and illustrated by artists (most famously by Rembrandt and Handel) yet my version has one foot in the circumstance of the story and the other foot in a very contemporary view of it. 

Oh  my. I still want you to write a domestic drama at a dinner table. But enough about me. Are there other Old Testament tales you’ve adapted or is this your first? 
This is my first and, perhaps, last.

Sacre  bleu! Tell us about your all star cast, what has the rehearsal process been like? 
Our rehearsal process was brief, but 4 of the 5 primary characters have been in a number of my plays so we have a very good understanding of how I work; they were able to cut to the chance and not complain too much and not ask too many questions and that made it all pretty great for me.  

I love to cut to the chance when I can. The Incubator website says your show “focuses on the formal qualities of words and punctuation” … will non-grammarians be lost? I’m already Confucious! 
I like punctuation and I also like when actors do something interesting and unexpected with punctuation. I prefer to give punctuation as a problem to solve rather than some sort of emotional or psychological motivation. In typing this, I realize that I do not know how to spell psychological. 

My governess used a method of inventive spelling with me…You were saying?
Language is dissected into monosyllabic words and then put back together into complex phrases and run-on sentences. And there are a lot of guttural sounds people make when they are eating which I remember from sitting at the dinner table with my father and his father before him. 

The set is done by Leong Leong architecture, what’s that about? 
I am a production designer for the fashion industry and I have a strong emphasis on stage images which can often override my text. In order to force myself to focus on text rather than image, I invited some architect friends to make the stage design.

What are your secret guilty pleasure influences? 
Spreadsheets and other ways of organizing information.

That oddly makes sense to me. So will your fans Robert Wilson and Marina Abramama be in attendance? What other VIPs can we expect to spy at performances? 
My mother will be there and everyone seems to like her a lot.  

Mothers are always the best audience. At least mine sure is. Since you are a man of the continent I will wish you merde as opposed to a broken leg.
Thanks Kippy.

 

yum


FEAST runs at the Incubator Arts Project July 13–21.

with performances by Okwui Okpokwasili, Yuki Kawahisa, Cara Francis, Jenn Dees, Peter Cullen & Jason Robert Winfield

Written and Directed by Andrew Ondrejcak
Stage Design by LEONG LEONG Architecture
Lights by Scott Bolman
Costumes by Adam Selman

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