branching out avec erin mallon

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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