Archive for February, 2014

branching out avec erin mallon

February 21, 2014

mes amis

it is a great delight to speak of erin mallon, actor, playwright, lady extraordinaire. mallon’s latest play branched premieres at the here (and there) arts center through mar. 8 in a production by inviolet theater.

i first met ms. mallon in the great (plains) city of omaha, ne. with warmth and zest she took this kippy under her wing and showed me the ropes of conference life. (we were at the great plains theatre conference, bien sur!)

as kind as she is is beautiful!

as kind as she is is beautiful!

since then, i’ve seen erin perform in a swath of venues and roles .. a belle in a modern twist on the beast (the gal who played the candle was regrettably forgettable), the better half of brecht (in a lady f. production that also starred the starry megan gaffney); as a gumptious child (another lady f production starring the handsome jack frederick); and–ok, my favorite–as a lonely planetoid in mac wellman’s horrocks (and toutatis too). ma donna!

ma donna!

ma donna!

i’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a mallon-written production, but i have a feeling it’s going to be great. after all, she is a wordsmith  having coined such motivational aphorisms over decision making “if it’s not a hell yeah, then it’s a no,” and cautionary advice regarding work/life wisdom “careful what you get good at.”

erin and i caught up electronically when i was housebound in my pied a terre in park slop. (that’s slope to some, but slop to me!). what follows is our e-conversation.

what was the genesis/spark for branched?
I was in a writing workshop with the wonderful Andrew Ciannavei of LAByrinth Theater Company. Up until that point, I’d only written short plays. Andrea

oh my!
challenged us all to write a full-length play in a month and supported us every step of the way. I began with a disturbing scene at a Parent/Teacher conference and quickly fell in love with Tamara, the very…ahem… “passionate” parent. From there, I had a naughty bit of fun creating her highly structured world.

i love it! what is your experience with park slop and/or helicopter parenting?
Like many artistic people in NYC, when I first moved here I worked a variety of jobs to pay the rent. I learned pretty quickly that waitressing wasn’t gonna be my jam, so I experimented with different options and ended up teaching a whole lot of yoga and sign language to mothers and their offspring.

you had a fabulous downward dog in the lady farrington’s mickey and sage. loose hamstrings have always alluded me. carry on.
Indeed. Anyhow, you see a LOT of parenting techniques when you teach children languages and stretching techniques in their homes. I left all that glamour behind though and I now make my living recording erotic audiobooks.  Just a little different 😉

 ah! i belive i have seen you at the brickshop audio land in scenic sunset park! allora, will you share some fun bits or lines of dialogue to give a sense of the biting satire…?
Sure!  Here are the opening moments of the play between Tamara and her 5-year-old son, Ben.

The first movement of Vivaldi’s “Autumn” plays slowly on a violin.  Lights up on a modern dining room/kitchen in Park Slope, New York City.  Ben practices behind a music stand, while Tamara places three plates of food down at a beautifully set table.  She is pregnant-as-all-hell and dressed professionally.  Ben wears dress pants and a collared shirt. He finishes the piece and looks to Tamara.

Silence.

BEN
Mommy?

TAMARA
Yes angel?

BEN
Was that good?

TAMARA
I don’t know Benjamin, was it?

BEN
I think… maybe I played it too adagio?

TAMARA
You sure did. You’re getting so good at self-criticism sweetheart! Mommy’s so proud of you. See, Vivaldi calls for more of a grandiose style than what you played. What does it say at the top? Certainly not Adagio.

BEN
No, certainly not. It says allegro.

TAMARA
Right. Allegro. Do you think you played it allegro?

BEN
No, I think I played it adagio.

TAMARA
You sure did. Good boy.  So let me ask you, do you think Mr. Vivaldi up in Heaven feels happy listening to your adagio version of his allegro song?

BEN
No?

TAMARA.
That’s right. He’s doesn’t. Remember love, just because some people are dead doesn’t mean we can stop respecting them and their music. Should we try it again?

BEN
Yes Mommy, we should.

TAMARA
Terrific. What a determined boy I have.

Branched Disrobing

erin mallon’s “branched.”

dear me. tell me about the use of puppets.
The wonderful David Valentine created our beloved “Beatrice” for Branched. Bea is Tamara’s freakish newborn who may or may not be human and who grows in size throughout the play. It was important to us that the audience believe in her aliveness and baby-ness yet at the same time be like “Wait, what the F#%& is up with her? She scares me!” (Excuse my profanity Kippy, I am an excitable person).

non fa niente cara, it is nothing, dear.
We knew we needed a very skilled and sensitive artist to tackle her creation, and we found him!

you are very often an actor .. how does being a playwright compare? (many fans will be sad that you won’t be acting in this production)
Oh Kippy, that’s sweet of you.

i do not give empty compliments only truths.
Yes, I am an actor through and through and always will be. In fact, the more I write, the more I want to act. And… the more act, the more I want to write.

you are in good company.
Each practice teaches me so much about the other and I don’t think I could be without either now. It excites me so much when I see actresses picking up their pens.  Gals like Heidi Schreck, Jessica Dickey, Clare Barron (and Kippy!) really inspire me.

i believe you have me confused for another! what’s your history with inviolet?
I have been a member of InViolet for almost three years now. They invited me out into the woods with them for their annual retreat in 2011 where we spent four glorious days workshopping plays, one of which was Branched. I knew immediately that they “got” the play, because they cast it perfectly and went balls-to-the-wall with the weirdo comedy of it all. I’m really jazzed and grateful we decided to produce Branched this year and am excited to see where we all go together next.

do you have a secret influence or guilty pleasure when it comes to art/music?
I have many! The weirdest and secret-est (until now) is probably my compulsion to watch Michael Jackson’s epic Smooth Criminal video before I go onstage as an actor. It doesn’t matter what the world of the play is, that sucker always puts me in the right headspace. Everyone in their period costumes grooving so hard with each other? The gravity-defying “lean to the floor” move toward the end? Magic! I’m also an animal for “So You Think You Can Dance.” I could watch that Amy Yakima and Travis Wall piece until the end of time.   

brava! anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to expand or expound on?
Yes! Allow me to sing the praises of our director Robert Ross Parker and the whole team at Vampire Cowboys. We were lucky enough to bring a whole bunch of the VC family along with Robert to work on Branched, including Nick Francone on Set/Lights, Shane Rettig on Sound, David Valentine with Puppet Design, Kristina Makowski with Costume Design and Alexis Black with Fight Choreography. I’ve long been a fan of Robert and VC’s work. It’s muscular and smart and always wildly funny. It’s a dream come true that they partnered up with us for Branched. Long live Vampire Cowboys!

vive!

kippy

ps i shall be attending branched on mar. 7, dear readers, won’t you join me?

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weak in re-vieux

February 18, 2014

mes amis

in an attempt to flight le writer’s bloc, i return to you, dear readers, as i stave off the winter blues and other ailments.

allora.

it’s been a busy week–and not for the weak!–indeed.

dance pants at the roulette

on tuesday i hoofed over to a dance performance at roulette near atlantic/pacific in brooklyn where a 5-day festival was underway. i had never heard of roulette, what is this place! there were three pieces on the bill, but i shall only speak of the first, entitled fur & tulle.

the audience was forced to gather in a corner of the lovely olden theatre. i must confess that i have a soft spot for certain annoying requests of the audience like this. we piled in. i do love the dance crowd, they wear more black and stoic expressions than even theatre folk!

more please!

more please!

the piece began. one dancer, the essential rebecca warner, was in a kind of nouveau bear outfit and she did some wiggle and herk jerk moves with great precision. (i have followed warner’s moves since my youth, a longtime fan.) meanwhile, a woman wrapped in nothing but pale pink tulle tooled about dancing in a slightly less herk jerk fashion as a nude woman in a crouching position slithered slowly across the floor. i couldn’t place the music but it had a palatable 70s vibe, to my untrained ear at least, and i feel certain it was some sample (or original) of some better known tune. ah… mimesis!

bear-dance-smile

toward the the end of fur & tulle a translucent tarp fell from the balcony above so that it separated audience from stage,  boxing us in even further. what a magic moment seeing those dance volunteers march onstage and unclip the tarp. one well heeled woman in the front row seemed alarmed and kept pushing the tarp out of her lap! once the tarp fell, the choreographer (i think?) stacy grossfield (also the nude slithering dancer?) popped up and started to do some dance moves as the bear and the pink tulle rolled around. seeing these murky movements in the lens of the translucent tarp, i felt like i was in a womb.

i’m reminded of a line from the seagull, “i understood nothing” .. but i didn’t want it to end either. and the set was pretty nice.

stop hitting me

the following evening i alighted to lincoln center after an arduous day of text messaging. a dear old poetical pal of mine was my companion for the evening and i was looking forward to introducing him to the work of austin’s rude mechanicals, a favorite troupe of mine. i’d seen an in-development showing of stop hitting yourself last april while i was in austin, my spirit city. i was anxious to see what had evolved.

more please!

can’t talk, i’m performing!

the show began promisingly with some toe tapping moves.. in tap shoes no less!  the themes about capitalism were once again present with the actors offering audience members $20 bills. the story, about a competition for the aging queen, plodded along. there was more finger wagging about capitalism and the environment. more dollar bills were auctioned off. (it was great when the likes of laura von hottie got to passionately kiss one of the actors!) later another audience member undressed for a dollar and an older gentleman called out “you’re worth more than that!” it was kind of amazing. and yet.

i love being told i am a bad capitalist, yes. punish me! brandish me! reprimand me! but please do so with more than just sophomoric stunts and jibes. i couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that these events were heavy handed. i felt a bit bopped on the head. what with the various winks and self references. so in that sense, the show succeeds.

i did quite like it when the actors came to the front of the stage and did these kind of confessional moments.

my poetical friend, an ardent non-capitalist, sat with his backpack in his lap. throughout the evening he was calling out in low tones, “uh uh”, “oh no”, “whaaaaat?” and “jesus” in response to the stage antics. i appreciated this subversive tactic. later, at one point i looked over at him and he had his head in his lap, eyes closed. it was amazing.

zzzzz avec le sac

zzzzz avec le sac

some performers, particularly lana lesley, hannah kenah and paul soileau, were frighteningly good in their roles and for that the show is entirely worth it. some very good tunes too. the end moment involves more tap dancing, but i yearned for something more dangerous, a 20-minute exhaustion of exertion on par with the level of choreographer sarah michelson, instead of 2 minutes. and while i love contemporary parlance i yearned for more moments with heightened olden language. but i’ll stop prescribing.

the doctor is in

speaking of doctors, on the eve of valentine’s day i got to use my medical degree–in love–at rady & bloom‘s valentine’s day promenade. and what a walk it was!

thump bump!

thump bump!

wonderful love poems and letters were read aloud throughout the evening and i even took a heart rate. thump thump! the evening culminated in a marriage proposal .. so heartfelt and beautiful! there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. he went down on one knee and the other fella said yes. i threw the confetti. what magic!

this kippy’s heart was very full.

c’est tout for now.

kippy

if you can get to buffalo (wing dings)

February 12, 2014

mes amis—

I’ll save my very belated 2014 apologies and winter festival musings for another post. For time is of the essence. Trish Harnetiaux’s If You Can Get to Buffalo: An exploration of ‘A Rape in Cyberspace’ by Julian Dibbell is due to open at the Incubator Arts Project on Thursday.

I met Trish years ago when she was living above Tina Satter in a cute Williamsburgish loft owned by an older Italian gentleman. Still remember the aromas of that mahogonay hallway and the lace on the front door. Trish’s warmth matches her wit and it was with great pleasure that I found out more about her latest progetto…via the interwebs of course! Ours was an emailed interview. 

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initiate, for our readers, just what the “rape in cyber space” story is about
“A Rape in Cyberspace” is an article that Julian Dibbell wrote in the Village Voice in 1993, about one of the very first online communities called LambdaMoo.  It was a virtual mansion where members created characters, entirely through text, and created a community that interacted socially online.

my, my! I recall the chat rooms of my youth .. a snowy saturday, a young man from kentucky, and my mother’s expression concern as my father made me a grilled cheese.
well then, tell me more about how you adapted/riffed on dibbell’s oevre.
I was doing research into the beginnings of the Internet, was really interested in the origins of online social interactions and found Julian Dibbell’s article from a 1993 Village Voice article called “A Rape in Cyberspace.” It was not only a fascinating story of the demise of one of the very first online ‘utopia’s’ but the article was written in this amazing voice that somehow captured the spirit of this new world—both the freedom and the dangers of it. Then, poking around Julian’s personal site (… total stalker)

…aren’t we all!
I stumbled upon a subsequent Charlie Rose Show episode that he was on.

YB05_rose_720

charlie rose and i used to play tennis you know. carry on.
Again, in 1993 people, of course, didn’t have the vocabulary we do now (except for people like Julian) when talking about how things worked on the internet. It was amazing. So I took the idea of a Charlie Rose show being part of the structure of this play (there are actually fictionalized Charlie Rose scenes) and mashed it all together also including a look inside the odd, beautiful and occasionally disturbing relationships we find online. It’s been 20 years since the article has come out and as a society we’re in a much different place, we like to think that we “know” how the internet story ends, but what’s been so interesting is seeing how confusing the anonymity aspect still is.

fascinating!
I mean, we still argue over the question of whether we are responsible for our own online experiences… Interestingly enough, the episode of Charlie Rose that I reference has since been completely erased from the web.

i smell a conspiracy theory.
Then, director Eric Nightengale and I began the real work over the last four years of drafts, readings, workshops, long hiatuses and basically trying to find a way to tell this complicated story theatrically. Which I really believe we’ve accomplished with If You Can Get To Buffalo. It’s funny though, it’s probably not the play I thought I was writing back at the beginning, the process has been as much about elimination as it has been about crafting.

aye, the mark of a true artist is knowing what to edit. allora, what were your first experiences like with the internet?
Well, early on, I remember trying to hack the White House website.

c’est vrais?!
I spent hours thinking I could find something, some evidence or something, that was hidden… But, of course, I didn’t find anything, probably because I’m not a hacker, and probably because what I was actually doing was just clicking on links. But I didn’t really know that. Besides some early chat room dabblings however, I haven’t ever committed myself to an online community, so researching this one has been eventful. I definitely consider myself in the generation that uses email as a huge tool and also aware enough to recognize it’s full of tonal dysfunctions, but that’s different. Or is it?  I mean, in a way when you’re using the Internet as a basis for communication, which is partially what we’re examining, I’ve found in my life that it’s easier to be bolder or more measured or it can easily go the other way and the immediacy of your actions can be more hasty and reactionary.

what has changed/developed since when you did it back in may?
The production we did with the Acme Corporation in Baltimore was instrumental in the show we have today. I’ve made a healthy amount of rewrites and Eric and I took everything we learned—both good and bad—and made major adjustments. Besides this, I think that us working with Rob Erickson on the mostly original music has been huge!

love me a lumberbob!
Not only in finding a new tone, but Rob’s helped us fill out the world of the play through a sound that’s so authentic to the time period. And, not to give anything away, but he’s also contributed some sly choreography.

stop! now i am on tenterhooks. well then. he’s not the only star in your cast, why there’s starr busby [wink!] and julia sirna-frest among others. what’s working with them been like?
I can’t say enough good things about our cast. I mean, did you know that Starr Busby is actually playing Charlie Rose?

busby in a rady & bloom production

busby in a rady & bloom production

shut up. this means that by the theatrical transitive property starr and i must play some tennis together!
And playing the role like an absolute badass.

i’d expect no less from such a starr.
And Rob, aside from all his other artistic contributions, is playing the role of Mr. Bungle—

i know a Mr. Burgle! Who is your Mr. Bungle?
Well, he’s our strangely poetic puppet master who… well, I can’t really ruin it, right?

ruin us!
Kippy, you temptress! All I can say is that we’re definitely tapping into Julia’s songstress superpowers.

s

...from sirna-frest's myspace era

…from sirna-frest’s myspace era

she of the magic pipes.
The rest of the cast—Demetri Bonaros, Greg Carere, Ifitaz Haroon, Minna Taylor & Alex Viola are a goddamn JOY. So much talent.

an embarrassment of riches. what is your secret artistic inspiration or guilty pleasure?
Secret… hmm. Oh god, I like to back myself into corners and then crawl out of them.

how did you survive winter festival and why should people see your show?
Man, so many great shows the last month—most of which I missed being in rehearsal. But I was so glad to have seen both Eliza Bent’s wizardly show and Tina Satter’s House of Dance before all the madness began!

aye, the house of dance was toe tapping fun.
People should see our show because it’s about them—since they all use the World Wide Web, and this is an origin story about other people, just like them, maybe even them, that did too. Only before, say, Twitter.

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Well mes amis, you heard it here first. If You Can Get to Buffalo runs Feb 13-23 at the Incubator Arts Project. The cast is killer so shake your tail feather and buy a ticket. I will attend Sunday evening .. that is, if I am not paralyzed by the cold and winter travel travails!

Kippy