play dough and plato

March 14, 2014

mes amis

In my salad days as a philosophy major, I often wiggled out of end of semester essays with the following proposal to my teachers. “May I take a creative approach and write a dialogue between Rousseau and Nietzsche and Pascal?” I was no secret I yearned for the theatre.

huba huba

huba huba

Inevitably my professors acquiesced, perhaps if only because such a proposal would result in a different kind of paper. One free of the dry and academic verbiage most coeds try on for size. Naturally, my paper was rife with other problems but I prefer to think of them fondly. In these philosophical playlets I always took liberties to set the philosophers in some French café amidst copious cappuccinos and cigarettes. A plethora puns and long monologues, with straight up quotations lifted from the ancient texts were other features of these mini-plays. There was also always a sassy-yet-wise waitress named Daisy whose off hand remarks would send the philosophers into thought tail spins. I was writing roles for myself even then!

...this was in my salad days, mind you

…this was in my salad days, mind you

None of these playlets survive my cannon. These were written on type writers in a pre-computer age after all! And now that I am retired I wish I could go back and read them.

In any case, it was with great zest and zeal that I visited JACK the other night to soak in Republic, a take on Plato’s great oevre directed by downtown scamp Alec Duffy. Mamma mia! I cannot write about it because I don’t want to spoil it for readers unlucky enough to have not yet seen it. Don’t wait, hurry yourselves!

sbrigati!

sbrigati!

In the meantime, dear readers, I urge to you take a look at this fine TDF article at Republic in which there are no spoils only toils of labor and love of wisdom.

a bientot!
kippy

p.s. working at the town rec department in my beloved brookline, ma, i recall an older gentleman with a delicious boston accent saying, “ooh shu-ah. phil-aw-sa-fee. that’s with umm ahh, plato and his little friend aris-taw-tle, right?” ooh how i miss the patois of my childhood homeland!

oh my lawd

oh my lawd

megan emery gaffney

March 7, 2014

Mes amis

In theatre there are actors and schmactors; (h)acktors and performers.

qu'est ce que c'est?

qu’est ce que c’est?

Megan Emery Gaffney is a cut above. She rises above such descriptives. She is a lady and an artist. Sui generis!

As funny as she is smart and as loyal as she is kind, Megan is a modern day Anne Shirley, a kindred spirit who is pluckily pursuing a life in the theatre (and a life well lived) with wit and verve.

oh anne!

oh anne!

I have had the pleasure of drinking the occasional glass of white wine with Ms. Gaffney over the years in Brooklyn and beyond. She’s never failed to impress me as a stage actor and I am honored to call her my friend.

megan emery gaffney

megan emery gaffney!

Megan and I caught up about her latest project, Near Vicksburg, electronically (for I have been in Japan of late).  A Civil War play written by The Lady Farrington, Near Vicksburg bows at the Incubator Arts Project through March 16.

tell me about the herstory of your involvement with near vicksburg?
I was there from the beginning for this one, which has been incredible. We were nearing the end of the rehearsal process for Sara’s production of Requiem for Black Marie last spring when Sara began panicking, as she, and I (and I suspect many artists) do when one project is ending and the next has yet to manifest. However, when I panic and think “no one will ever want me to be in a play again!” it makes me want to lie on the couch with a glass of red wine and Cheetos and watch reruns of Friends. Sara’s panic, luckily, is this amazing motivating and artistically inspiring force so she declared, “I’m gonna write a Civil War play!”

my, my.
With some people you might think, okay, sure, sounds good, can’t wait to read it in a couple years, but Sara finished a draft by July.

Sara, and her husband Reid, and my husband Frank, and I sat around and read the first draft on a mini vacation in Pennsylvania and I was already in love. Sara is always eager for feedback, and we are an opinionated lot, so we gave her tons, and then she goes away and comes back with a whole new draft, I think a day later. She had a working final-ish draft by August, we held auditions in September (which I sat in on—an incredible opportunity to see things from the other side of the table), and started rehearsing in October.  She felt strongly that she wanted to direct this one, and I think she’s done a beautiful job. We did a workshop run in November at Sara’s loft at Foxy Films, and then transferred the workshop to WalkerSpace in December. When we parted ways at the end of 2013, we all hoped the play would go on. Sara called in January and said, “we’re premiering at Incubator in March!” —and here we are.

 what are the particular challenges to this role?
I recognized Jane as soon as I read her, so I didn’t ever struggle with her why’s—her motives, as complex as they are, felt intuitive to me. Sara’s characters are always so very complicated and human. She writes her characters from this place of deep love and honesty but they are not always easy people to like and I struggled a lot with that. I kept wondering, does the audience need to like Jane? I love her, I get her, but some of her behavior, though in my eyes understandable and justifiable and human, is hard to swallow.

It’s actually only recently that I have come to terms with this struggle, and it was reading something Phillip Seymour Hoffman said about owing it to our characters to show all of their ugliness and all of their beauty, not focusing on making sure that the audience likes or relates to them, but trusting that by revealing that three dimensional ugly-beauty and not shying away from it, the audience will connect to the characters as human. I love that. And it liberated me and Jane.

i saw an early workshop and you have a marvelous southern accent, where does it come from?
Sara was very nervous about the accents because she was concerned about Near Vicksburg turning into a play about actors talking in a Southern accent. She is so committed to her story being as unobstructed as it can be, that she fights for the craft and the design to be as hidden and seamless as possible. Now, Kippy, I’m an actor. I loooove a good accent.

moi aussi! and i love to do Aussie accents aussi!
I love to go to Idea Dialects Archives, I will get out my IPA and mark up my script, I will watch dozens of movies from the era and time. But I had to tread lightly because anytime the accent started to feel in the way Sara was like, “forget it! No accent!” And I was like, “I have to do an accent! We’re in Mississippi! This is how they talk!” So then I would pull back, and pepper it in so she wouldn’t notice. I admire and respect her ideas on this so much. She is very anti-museum pieces. For her, I think theater is about how we are all human and alike, not how different Civil War era people from Mississippi are with their strange accents and antiquated behavior. Her work always has a surprisingly contemporary feel, although it is often set in an earlier time. But I mean, Kippy, as I said, I looove a good accent and I’m not above some trickery to get it in…

brava! the results are splendid. this marks your third (?) lady farrington play .. what characterizes her plays + what keeps you coming back for more?
I hate to gush.

go on!
It’s quite simple: I love Sara’s work. She makes plays that I want to see and be in and think about. Her work is both inherently theatrical and breathtakingly simple. She writes about complicated, conflicted women at a time (forever?) when there is a dearth of roles like that out there. Plus, she’s a true believer. She is an evangelist for the theater and being around that energy is so inspiring and fortifying. The other truly impressive thing about Sara is she is a serious risk taker. She HAS to make theater so she does what people tell her not to — don’t go into debt to make a play, don’t self-produce, don’t put up plays in your loft, you can’t write and self-produce 2 plays the first year of your son’s life, don’t do a play with 9 characters. She does it all. I aspire to that kind of bravery and fuck-it-ness.

there is a great deal to be said of that. also your character has to get naked (or at least it was so in the workshop) .. how on earth do you navigate that? so brave!
This is the second time I have done full nudity, so it’s getting more familiar. (Both times in Sara’s plays!) I think I am strangely immodest so that helps. I was always the kid who just stripped down naked in front of all her friends and then, when they went into the bathroom stall to change, was like, “oh maybe that was weird of me?”

But, I’m still human so it’s still scary. When I did it last time in Requiem, I felt so very different from the character I was playing, Margarete, that I really felt like it wasn’t my body. She was younger and flightier and just so different from me that I felt like Margarete got naked, but not Megan. This time is different because Jane is my age and I feel more similar to her so there’s a vulnerability there.

The silly answer is I am scared that people will think my pubic hair is weird. Do I have too much? Too little? Is it weird that it’s reddish? These are the thoughts that I fight during my bad performances.

But the honest answer is that it is sooooo liberating. It’s a great acting challenge because I can’t let a hint of discomfort show or the effect is ruined. I never want people thinking, ‘oh that actress is uncomfortable, I feel embarrassed for her’, so I have to sink in to this level of focus and presence in the moment that feels so good.

what are your secret actor influences + tricks?
Forgive the moment and move on.

sounds cryptic, i like it! do you have a pre-show ritual?
Exact same physical and vocal warm up in the same order before every performance for the last ten years, with some post grad school additions, and a couple show specific elements. I aspire to eat fresh raspberries before every show.

a healthy treat

a healthy treat

Fruit is nature’s candy. Bon appetite!

a bientot,
kippy

la gould is gold (and dangerous sincerity in the theatrical landscape ecology)

March 4, 2014

mes amis,

la dernière semaine, i had the grand plaisir of a last minute theatre outing chez helix, helix by morgan gould + friends. my beloved had promised me a home cooked meal of fish, my favourite, but la gould advised me that her show was just an hour, so off i trotted to the here and there arts center down in my old neighborhood la soho.

the here and the there

the here and the there

readers should be aware of the tricks (and antics) gould traffics in. take, for example the full title of the show helix, helix: the story of you, me, us and them (a sloan commission). evidently some kind souls have even congratulated gould on her grant via text (!) to that, i say “lol” and not lightly!

sloan drone

sloan drone

the pre-show curtain speech starts off commonly enough (“look to your right and left for the exit signs. these are your best options in case you need to leave the theatre”) but soon the business of pre-show curtain speech  turns deliciously meta-theatrical. a dangerously sincere plea to vote for the troupe for the new york theatre innovative awards is announced: “helping new york city devising theatre artists grow.” perhaps some onlookers wrinkled their brows, but this kippy clutched her sides from laughter.

ah! self important theatre makers… a rich subject to lampoon! gould and co go after the self aggrandizing with gleeful abandon. the icing of course is the new york theatre innovative award–an award so arbitrary that it is a running joke. anyone worth their salt in downtown theatre does not take such an accolade seriously, no offense.

celebrating the off off and more off

celebrating the off off and more off

i mean .. j/k.

gould and friends don’t seem too concerned about offending people and thank heavens! not that the troupe’s humor was particularly tangled up in blue, mind you. just that it was full tilt and unabashed. the writing (and set up) of the show is so close to a ’90s sitcom-cum-sloany-science-report that a less aware viewer might consider the writing bad. of course, the writing is good-bad and what saves it from being bad bad is gould’s choice of actors and deft directorial hand. the performers devour the mellow drama and megan hill is so good as the put-upon-yet-warm-hearted mother, it is unsettling.

hill knows the value of a natural brow, brava!

hill knows the value of a natural brow, brava!

i cannot lie. toward the end i got distracted by reading the program bios some of which, hill’s for instance, were also plays within themselves. (hill cited a long roster of “favorite roles” from corny musicals). ho ho! so in my zeal for the printed word i missed some bits about the incest (?) between the brothers. no matter. the curtain call more than made up for it. the wide eyed lucy devito, who played a scientist with a wonderfully bad (ie good) british accent, did a sullen half courtesy as others lept into broadway style swan dives. in a fun twist, hill and the fellow who played her son embraced in a brazen swapping of spit.

ferrell5f-12-web

though i darted home hungering for le possoin which awaited me, my belly was full of this new vicious and victorious smart satire. gould + company are up to something, mes amis, may the pious theatre makers be ware! i look forward to gould + friends’s next theatrical foray.

a bientot,
kippy

ps re the title of this post: “landscape” and “ecology” are two words i love applying to theatre, lol!

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?

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. 

-1

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.

-1

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

climb me to the moon, i am a ladder

October 29, 2013

Mes amis

It has been an unforgivably long since I last corresponded with you, my fan. Fall is wooshing by, n’est pas?

I do hope you are stopping now and then to fill your lungs with crisp autumnal air, to admire the clear nights, and of course to peep your eyes at the colorful leaves.

What better season than to take in some new plays and by a new playwright group no less! Smith + Tinker, the aforementioned new playwriting group, is a creation of Sarah Rose Leonard and Pete McCabe and the group’s first series of work, Ladder to the Moon, goes up tomorrow evening at the HERE (and there) Arts Center. I caught up with the inimitable Sarah Rose Leonard, whose style is as spunky as her heart, over email recently when I was in Bangalore. The following is a transcription of our e-conversation.

ladder_graphic

Why did you found this group of emerging writers?
This group was formed in June 2013.

The question is why not when!
Things really began back in November, 2012 when Pete McCabe (HERE’s dramaturg) saw Guadalupe, a performance event about femininity that featured up and coming writers and directors that Sarah curated/produced at the Segal Center, CUNY.

Ah, j’adore the Segal Center. I was Frank Henkshker’s dance partner in my salad days…go on.

it takes two to tango

it takes two to tango


Pete liked the artists Sarah picked and the event she put together and he invited her to create a writers’ group that would be hosted by HERE. Pete and Sarah talked for a couple months about their ideas and landed on the creation of a writers’ group dedicated to writers who are writing in inseparable collaboration with a fellow artist. They invited writers working with musicians, dancers, directors, and whole companies to be a part of the group and starting meeting and rehearsing in the summer.

Ca c’est bon.

[at this point in the interview I begin to wonder why Sarah refers to herself in the 3rd person, Does she have a ghost writer?? I keep the question to myself]

Anyhoo, where does the name Smith + Tinker come from?

A central idea about Smith+Tinker is that it is about playing. When rehearsals for a play are at their best they feel like a child’s game of make believe. And rehearsals should be fun with this writers’ group because they are all about exploration, not product. These ideas about ideal rehearsals and playtime led Sarah to think about when she read the Oz books and obsessively studied the map of Oz in order to imagine where she would like to live. Grown up Sarah then read about the characters in the Land of Oz on Wikipedia and stumbled upon Smith and Tinker.

In the Land of Oz, Smith, an inventor, and Tinker, an artist, created many fantastical inventions. But they are only referenced in the books; these two characters don’t  actually appear. That’s because, long before you, the reader, showed up Tinker painted a river so real he fell in and drowned and Smith created a ladder to the moon and never came back down.

Molto poetico.
Right?! Smith + Tinker are writers who are creating work that can only be made in collaboration. As the Oz story tells us, they would perish alone. These are artists who are creating whole universes with their fellow creators. They are creating work they want to climb inside and live in.

What led you to selecting these particular artisti?
Well Kippy. Pete and Sarah choose artists who fulfilled the following criteria:

  1. Hungry!
  2. Actively playing in rehearsals
  3. Engaged in a deep artistic bond with consistent collaborators
  4. Not writing at a desk and then bringing the pages into rehearsal. These are people who are writing in rehearsal, after, during, sideways, upside down, etc.
  5. Not afraid of failure
  6. Have exciting, fresh, zany voices

All the artists have these criteria, and are also veryyy different from each other in terms of artist approach. Another ‘must’ for us was the idea of cross-pollination. Each writer comes from a different artistic background and social circles.

If the playwrights are hungry I hope you are feeding them at the meetings. Alloratell me more about the showing .. what can audiences expect?
Well Kippy these are short, early pieces about fear, reinvention, and how we tell stories.

Let me break it down.

Ok, but only if you break dance too!
The poet Francis Weiss Rabkin will be showing a performance essay on queer gender, martyrdom, and whistle blowing entitled WON’T BE A GHOST: A PERFORMED, directed by Anna Brenner.

Ah, I know of Ms. Brenner. She directed that marvelous show at the Bushwick Starr in the spring, didn’t you dramaturg that? Something about a hostel in Rome?
Yes!

meraviglioso!

meraviglioso!

But getting back to your festival…
In the full length haunting drama THE GREY MAN, by playwright Andrew Farmer and directed by Andrew Neisler, a young man is revisited by the ghost stories of his childhood in turn-of-the-century Manhattan.

Sounds spooky.
Amanda Szeglowski, artistic director of the dance/theatre company cakeface, presents the full length snarky, twisted HAROLD, I HATE YOU, a darkly humorous, physical theatre investigation of omnipresent insecurities, that are, perhaps, imaginary.

GHOST STORIES created by Tiny Little Band/Co-created by Jerry Lieblich and Stefanie Abel Horowitz is a genre-bending, mind-bending song-and-story-infused look at just what it means to believe in ghosts, in fate, or in anything at all.

And!

The fabulous dynamic duo – Ryann Weir (writer) and Annie Tippe (director) – will show the beginnings of THE DINOSAUR PLAY, in which Catherine and Martin work at a dinosaur theme park in the Bronx Zoo, but they kind of wish they were anywhere else.

Why would they wish that?! I guess one will just have to see the showings. What is your secret artistic influence?
Judy Garland.

who doesn't love her?

who doesn’t love her?

Tell it to the world Sarah Rose! This is something to wear as a badge of honour. In any case, I’ll be curious to hear how your third person approach to interviews bodes in subsequent press, friend! Kudos and kairos to you!

Ladder to the Moon runs Oct 30-Nov 2 at the HERE (and there) Arts Center, brought to you by Smith + Tinker.

Kippy

ma donna! the minstrel and the weasel

September 4, 2013

mes amis

it is with great excitement that i look forward to this year’s bring a weasel and a pint of your own blood festival, a mini-celebration of those kooky-yet-loveable brooklyn college playwrights. last year the playlets were inspired by curzio malaparte, everyone’s favorite Italian giornalista who survived fascismo. this year wellman and courtney, who are known for being contrary marys on occasion and inciting debates and dialogue, have assigned a no less thorny theme. i caught up with the three featured playwrights to hear not only about their oeuvre(s) but also to discuss this year’s theme: the American Minstrel show. one thing’s certain: there will be blood!

an image associated with this year's weasel festival

image for this year’s weasel festival

Amina Henry

tell me about your piece.
My piece, The Minstrel Show, is about a white newlywed couple who go on a destination honeymoon weekend to Detroit where they’ve paid $6000 to have a “real black experience”. The play explores minstrelsy as it relates to cultural tourism and the complicated exploitation of race in a media-fueled, capitalist society.

what was your take on minstrelsy? what were the challenges in taking on this theme?
My take on minstrelsy was an exploration of the ways both the consumer and the performer gain—and lose—something for this particular cultural exchange. To this day, black performers play on certain black cultural stereotypes that have been established by white culture for financial or social gain, and it’s a complicated thing because it shows, among other things, a lot of internalized racism amongst black people. It was challenging to take this theme on because it’s painful to look at the part that some black people have played—or had to play—in order to survive and prosper. Initially, it was hard for me to justify black performers performing in blackface for the pleasure of white—and black—audiences. I just didn’t get it. But then I began to see pockets of empowerment, even within this deeply racist and sexist form. I also began to consider the psychological implications of being told who you are and who you’re allowed to be, by someone else, and what that might do to a person.

why does this play at this moment?
I don’t believe that we’re living in a “post racial” society.

me neither, alas.
Also, we’re still trying to figure out our national identity in America. The minstrel show is a very American art form and elements of it persist today as evidenced by Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMA’s in which she “appropriated” “black culture” in order to shock and entertain. Tyler Perry uses black cultural stereotypes with great financial success. And there are many other examples of minstrelsy today, even without the blackface that generally accompanied it in the past. I think it’s always important to ask questions like: What is Black culture? What is American culture and how does it relate? Who ARE we today in this country? Who do we want to be? What can we take from our American cultural heritage and what can we leave at the door?

such fine questions. Merci Amina for your ruminations!

as prolific as she is bella!

as prolific as she is bella!

Dennis A Allen II

tell me about your weasel piece.
“Are You Not Entertained?” explores the world of minstrelsy by imagining if a popular competition reality television show called America’s Top Minstrel Group existed. (similar to American Idol or The Voice or well, the list goes on and on)

what was your take on minstrelsy? what were the challenges in taking this theme on?

The challenges I faced were one; how to effectively tackle the historically weighted and emotionally weighted image of a person in blackface makeup and make relevant art from it and two; how to research, explore and internalize this subject matter and not come away so injured that I walk around constantly angry at the world around me. Whether or not I was successful at either still remains to be seen.

pshaw. you are already a success! allora, why does this play matter at this moment?
My first response to that question is Trayvon Martin. My next response is Stop and Frisk. I think of the limited and one dimensional roles for Blacks in theater and hollywood. The next thought after that is the constant debate in the black community; whether or not Tyler Perry’s films and plays are empowering or damaging.  Really the question of why the play “matters” is a bit of a rabbit hole for me. Generally speaking I find that we (the collective “we”) seem to believe that societal norms, belief systems, prejudices, and stereotypes just evolved out of thin air. So when we talk about solving some of our societal ills, we discuss them either in a very abstract generalized way or in a very targeted specific way that misses the bigger picture. Everything has an origin and I think it’s important to know and to explore where something came from; that knowledge can provide the tools needed to start the healing process. This play, this year’s festival won’t “matter” to everyone but in this moment it matters to me.

it matters to me too Dennis, keep up the good work!

he's not only playwright, but a fine performer too!

he’s not only playwright, but a fine performer too!

Kim Davies

tell me about your piece.
My minstrel-inspired piece is called “Miss Authenticity.”  It’s a Lena Dunham-esque character experiencing an existential crisis about accusations of racism after the first season of her TV show.  Except that she’s played by a forty-something black male actor (the fantastic James Scruggs), and she spends most of the time talking about her twenty-something white girl problems.

what was your take on minstrelsy? what were the challenges in taking this theme on?

One of the challenges in taking on minstrelsy as a theme was that I didn’t have much of a connection with it.  I grew up in a predominantly white and Asian suburb of Detroit, Michigan, and I think the only time I saw blackface or minstrel-related imagery was when studying American history or viewing “Bamboozled” in a film studies class.  After researching for this project and talking to Dennis A. Allen and Amina Henry about their processes in building their plays, it’s been really surprising to me just how pervasive the minstrel show still is in American culture—there’s so much that’s descended from it.

The playwright Gary Winter lent us a book of academic readings on minstrelsy, and one of the things that stood out to me was the strong tradition of having “female impersonators” perform with a minstrel troupe—the female impersonator would often be the top-billed “star,” but his performance wasn’t necessarily camp or drag as we’d recognize it today. He would perform dramatic monologues or sad songs, and his goal was to give as an “authentically” female performance as possible, showing how, with practice, a man could be better, more perfectly feminine, than any woman. One of the most famous female impersonators billed himself as “The Only Leon” because other female impersonators were pretending to be him so they could benefit from his publicity. He would give interviews in which he discussed the fashion he was wearing, much as Julia Roberts would discuss what designers she wears, and there were news profiles that would report on how “convincingly” female he was. Minstrel shows operated to push various ethnic groups into rigid stereotypical boxes, constricting their agency—but even though the stereotype designed for women was about “positive” qualities like purity, gentility, and “authentic” emotion, it was also a constricting box.

At the time that I was doing this reading, I was also revisiting “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver, a book that was tremendously important to me when I first read it in high school, and I was also thinking about the bonfire of internet criticism that had descended on Lena Dunham after the first season of “Girls” came out and featured almost no non-white characters. The way this criticism functioned was really interesting to me; to me it makes more sense to ask why HBO is choosing not to greenlight more shows written by showrunners and writers of color. I’m not sure what it gains to criticize an apolitical show that operates more like a younger, modern Seinfeld—I mean, all the characters are terrible people. I think it’s a great show, but it’s very much in the tradition of shows with unlikeable (but lovable!) ensemble casts, and I don’t know that anyone is going around asking why there aren’t more people of color in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (which is such a great show).

I think I experienced the whole process as another example of how white people tend to co-opt conversations about race so that they occur in a framework that still upholds the white-dominated system everyone’s supposed to be critiquing. I mean, I’d rather see a show from a non-white, non-upper class perspective than see a show in which people of color have to act out the words and actions written for them by a super-privileged white writer. A lot of the time, it seems like all the complex structures of oppression and restriction that people are experiencing get boxed into a single issue of representation, as if all our problems would be solved if there were just more people of color on television doing the things that white showrunners decide they will do, or if there were more people of color in theater doing the things that white artistic directors or directors or writers have decided they will do. And often it feels like these conversations become more about making liberal white people feel better about being liberal white people and less about actual change.

So—this is getting terribly long-winded, sorry!

indeed! carry on.
I was very much thinking about that, and about how Eldridge Cleaver engages with the cultural idea of white woman as this ideal of beauty and femininity, and how Lena Dunham’s character struggles with this idea/goal of “authenticity” on “Girls.” And I’d just had a year in which I’d seen a lot of theater that engaged with race, especially stuff like “Clybourne Park” on Broadway. And it felt like I was seeing stuff that, while it was great on some levels, was essentially functioning to show privileged, liberal white audiences depictions of less liberal white characters so that the audiences could pat themselves on the back and say to themselves, “At least I am not like that annoying white person up there,” so that they could feel enlightened for going to the theater in the first place. And as a white person, you come into these conversations with so much privilege that it is really hard to not make a conversation about race function, at least on some level, to demonstrate what a good liberal white person you are—I definitely felt that way when writing “Miss Authenticity”—but I don’t think that means that we get to stop trying to get out of the way of what really needs to be said.

why this play now?
I think this play matters at this moment because of what I mentioned earlier, this sort of “Operation Margarine” (yeah, Roland Barthes!)…

he and I had a brief love affair you know…

RolandBarthes
…process that is happening in the theater and the larger culture in which people of privilege get the opportunity for a little self-criticism in order to inoculate themselves from asking the big, scary questions of themselves.  Because the biggest part of privilege is getting to build your identity on qualities, like “I am a good person,” or “I am a liberal person,” or “I am not a racist person,” and getting to identify with those qualities rather than identifying with the actions that correspond to them.

how d’do! i am much looking forward to this year’s weasel festival.

Bring a Weasel and a Pint of Your Own Blood Festival will take place Thurs-Sunday (Sept. 5-8) at Classic Stage Company. Ecco biglietti!

a bientot!
kippy

time marches on, mr. chips, beginnings and the radish

September 3, 2013

mes amis,

1. non ci sono piu le mezze stagioni

has another season come and gone? my how swiftly flies the time! just hier soir i was at a fête for poets in the outer reaches of the borough, a place called bathtub beach. most strange and marvelous! like being on vacation in one’s own city.

rosé was on tap and a blueberry cobbler was not eating itself(!) though the air was muggy, topics circulated about the season past and the academic year to come. i found myself asking, “so, what about you, handsome fellow? did you have a good summer?” my ears could barely believe it!

nothing says a change in season like rosé

nothing says a change in season like rosé

i know that stalwarts  and sticklers will say, “but kippy, summer technically doesn’t end until later this month!” to them i say, “sorry friend, you are wrong.” for i bow to a higher power than paper calendars. i bow to truth! i bow to the sun! anyhoo. off we dive into autumn. fall into the gap.

2. the potato chip of choice

today i am at the office-i-frequent-mondays-through-fridays, though this too is about to change. my new fall schedule dictates that i work from home on mondays and wednesdays to coincide with my academic dealings (also afoot in the outer borough).

allora, i went on one of my solitary walks and found, even after getting my soup card punched, that i was still chilled from the office air. i ambled onward and found myself in a deli i pop into from time to time. i often get a 50 cent potato chip bag, but today i spotted cape cod potato chips. dear sweet creations, my heart sang! so too did it pang! for i recall, as a youth, going to the cape cod potato chip factory. oui mes amis c’est vrais!

mmm

mmm

i am not sure what prompted my parents to take me to this location, but i watched in both awe and terror as we proceeded along the factory floor. the potato machines, to my whippersnapper stature at least, were massive. most striking of all though was watching people rake the potato chips to ensure they were covered in the proper amount of salt. and the hairnets, oh! the employees looked so morose raking those chips and wearing those uniforms. i don’t recall it whether it was mère or père winston who leaned down to tell me a waggish warning “careful. if you don’t study hard, you may end up having to work here!”

these words have echoed in my brain ever since! and yet, i wonder: would i be happier raking potato chips or attending an office mondays through fridays? one can never know.

3. beginnings

it was with great relish i attended a saturday evening viewing of hank willenbrink’s the boat in the tiger suit, my first official public relations media mogul client. mama mia! what joy. the audience was full to the brim and it was exciting to spot hank and director jose zayas buzzing about. i even spotted the stage manager teddy nicholas whom i’d recently caught singing (and strumming) at dixon place lounge. so many stars in attendance. noel allain of the bushwick starr, morgan jenness of dramturgy street and alice reagan a director par excellence. the play was a hoot–expertly written, directed and performed–but also deeply philosophical with underpinnings that left me mulling in the coming days. bravi a tutti (not that i’m biased, zing!)

a very tony photo of the week

a very tony photo of the week

4. the radish

coming to a cuny near you, look for it at prelude 2013!

a bientot!
kippy

KIPPY WINSTON MEDIA!

July 23, 2013

mes amis–

my website devoted entirely to media is impending and happening.
this site will become a storehouse for thoughts, musings and ramblings.
watch this space!!!

yours in media moguldom,
kippy