Posts Tagged ‘mark sitko’

quit yer harpin’! (a record of paul’s experience)

February 7, 2015
mes amis
far too long has passed since our last communique! where to start? a year has come and gone. a pair of snoopy pants has debuted in the kitchen and in the forum. most importantly perhaps i have been reminded of the importance / indulgence of going somewhere warm in the cold winter months. a dose of sunshine from an archipelago does a body good! not that i ever get too much soleil, mind you. they don’t make an SPF high enough for this kippy!
is this enough protection?

is this enough protection?

anyhoo, we are here to talk about a one paul ketchum. there are many things to say about paul.
he is tall.
he has a beard. (one sense he would sport one regardless of current fashions.)
he bakes bread.
he is famously a virgo.


the sixth sign

most of all paul is a thoughtful and hilarious human and friend which is in part what makes him a fabulous playwright. i recall a time when paul showed some of us hooligans pages of a new piece that were absolutely beyond my comprehension. i believe they were an adaptation of something greek. paul is that level smart.

i mean, duh.

i mean, duh.

his latest piece, the harper’s play, is (perhaps not surprisingly) an adaptation of an issue of harper’s magazine. now go back and read that sentence again! the show premieres at jack this month. ketchum and i caught up over gmail to discuss the show’s origins and other important matters. here’s what we wrote.

what prompted this theatrical adaptation? pourquoi harper’s and not .. let us say .. the atlantic or the economist or — gasp! — the new yorker? did you ever consider, for example, harper’s bazaar? (har har)
Too many people think that the Harper’s Play actually is about Harper’s Bazaar. Maybe some day Kippy. Maybe someday.
we can hope!
Truly, I don’t read many magazines. Harper’s is pretty much it. I remember reading an issue of the New Yorker from the 1940s for a report I did for a freshman comp course while I was in college. When asked what the New Yorker was like in the 1940s, I said it seemed like it was written by a stuffy boy’s club who think their inside jokes are really funny. The professor said that not much has changed.
So, that’s why Harper’s. In the March 2013 issue, there’s an excerpt from a guide to playing the video game Dwarf Fortress. It’s an incredible piece of writing that actually started this whole idea. Allow me to just excerpt a part of it: “Finally, dead dwarves who aren’t appropriately respected by their surviving brethren will come back as ghosts and haunt your fortress. We can avoid these problems by building coffins at a Mason’s Workshop in which to place our dead dwarves, and installing the coffins somewhere convenient. Once this is done, you will probably also want to toggle “Allow Pets” to “(N)” so that your coffins aren’t filled with dead cats.” Amazing! There’s an entire play right there just waiting to be written!
you are an optimist i take it! well then. might you tell us a bit about your process? how did you go about making your adaptation?
I knew that I wanted to get at least one piece from each page of the magazine. I read through the magazine a dozen times, writing new adaptations of each part each time. At the end, I put together the parts that were the most interesting. There’s a lot in the play that isn’t in the magazine. Sometimes, the text veers into my own opinions on what I’m reading. There are places that are linguistic adaptations of the pictures. There are even parts that have nothing to do with the magazine at all. It’s really more of a record of my experience reading the magazine.
ah ha. a fine and fascinating distinction! i recall a short viewing presented at prelude festival .. what new bits does this iteration include?
All of the bites from Prelude are returning! Oh yes! Favorite new parts include a romp through the first annual Romance Novel Convention in Las Vegas, a mash up of public speaker extraordinaire Dale Carnegie and mega-rich mega-church pastor Creflo Dollar (that’s his real name), and lots of punctuating with forked sausages.
i cannot imagine what that means…
you went to brooklyn college with the greats (wellman and courtney) of our day .. can you tell me a couple of your fave mac-isms? i understand you and le sitko kept a running tab of mac koans, c’est vrais?
This one I really took to heart:
It is good to write stuff that worries the reader about the writer’s sanity.
oh yes
Mac describing exactly how I felt about Les Mis the first time I saw it:
This is a normal play: “I’m the important emotions of this play, the other emotions are not important, and my shoes look good.”
i recall one of the best naps of my life while enduring that one, why did they never stop singing?!
And when it comes to talking about and understanding plays:
Talk about plays on your own terms. If you employ others’ language you will become part of their system. You don’t invest in a play. It’s not a fucking bank.

i reference that one a lot .. so true.
what is your secret inspiration and guilty pleasure?
I really really really love video games. Can’t help it. Not really the shoot em up ones so much. The ones with deep worlds and loose narratives that let you create as you play. I have no doubt that playing video games developed my ability to be creative within well-defined and unbreakable constraints, which is very important when I am writing plays.
My secret inspiration remains Buster Keaton. What pacing. Such flailing limbs. So good.
ma che c'e buster?

ma che c’e buster?

mmm he and i had a love affair back in the day…
what do you when you’re not changing the face of the american theatre?
Am I doing that? Well, I usually am walking my dogs and cooking food for Alaina. Except when Erin Courtney demands that I bake bread for her. You don’t say no Erin Courtney. Have you seen her plays? Horrifying.

i have never felt more dread than when watching a one map of virtue, simple marvelous!
back to you, after the grand success of your play .. what is next for you?
Maybe I’ll become an attorney.
But before that, I’ll be acting in William Burke’s Comfort Dogs, also at JACK. So go see that.
I most certainly shall.
a bientot,
The Harper’s Play runs through Feb. 14 at JACK.
pretty cute toots

pretty cute toots


boob toob [artlog]

November 27, 2012

mes amis–

i first met mark sitko at ps 122 years ago. i was wearing my hair loose back then and he mistook me for a lively theatrical performer whose reputation preceded  her. au contraire! needless to say, i was intrigued by this straight white man–an anomaly amidst a morass of downtown weirdos and freak boxes.

but don’t be fooled.

mark–or sitko as he is known to intimates–is a freak box of high form. and a delightful one at that! his company, which he helms with the as-smart-as-she-is-beautiful erica rippy, is called van cougar.


the script from the group’s first theatrical foray rocky philly, earned sitko a spot in the highly prized playwriting section at brooklyn college where svengalis mac wellman and erin courtney instruct. i caught that play and considered it a beautiful bonsai tree. rambling tales about philadelphia were set to the physical scenes of rocky, which i’ve never seen. (al pacino and i are too close for me to judge his work. ) gonna see a movie called gunga din was a mediation on war (stories from real life vets were set to the moves of famous war movies, none of which i’ve ever seen) and now sitkocity takes on Youtube at the incubator arts project. clearly he has a problem with ambition!

i’ve been stuck in karachi but got in touch with erica and mark, who always signs his emails “love sitko” over the interwebs about their latest project. here’s what we discussed.

each more dreamy than the last in this photo!

tell me about the name van cougar… it is so genie.
Well, the simple answer is that it’s a riff on the name of a Canadian city.

mais bien sur!
Van Cougar began when two artists (Ned Buskirk, and Mark Sitko) from San Francisco, and New York traveled to Vancouver to visit a third artist (Erin Shea) that usually resides in LA. Erin was working on a horrible reality television show and we went to take advantage of the apartment her company had put her up in.  Over many glasses of wine, the group started sharing stories and recording them for posterity. After everyone returned to their lives, they started creating theater out of the stories: Van Cougar was born.

Van Cougar’s logo is riff on the name–an awesome cougar painted on the side of a van.

tell me about your writing process. i understand you assemble text from various interviews, c’est vrais?
We don’t like to call them “interviews” per se since they are conversations between multiple people. The idea is to get four to five people together, give them food and alcohol, and let them share stories about their lives.

knowing you, i’m sure some green herbs  are served in addition to libations! why stories?
When someone tells a story they express a great deal about themselves, as well as the people they are talking about.  It’s a beautiful thing, direct human connection. This is, in essence, what Van Cougar is trying to recreate through its theater. We record stories and ask our actors to retell them verbatim. The written text looks more like an epic poem than a play.

how it tube similar/different from your previous works rocky philly and gunga wunga... ?
Tube is very joyful.

the world needs more joy.
Rocky Philly is a love story, Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din is a drama, and Tube is a comedy. It’s also the first time we’ve used a lot of the original text from the visual source (YouTube videos). It features live music, which we haven’t had in our earlier plays AND it’s a choose-your-own-adventure play.  The audience will determine the order in which the YouTube videos will be performed.

good lord. i understand you use the term “cheadle it out” in rehearsals, elaborate!
“Cheadle it out” is a shout-out to the inimitable actor, Donald Cheadle. In Gunga Din we recreated a scene from the movie Hamburger Hill and asked the actor playing Cheadle to cheat out towards the audience. “Cheadle it out” was born and is still used today in our rehearsal room.

i recall the term-in-homage was already in use when i popped in to say hello at your very first read through of gunga, but perhaps my memory serves me incorrectly. (it wouldn’t be the first time!)
allora. my research indicates that are reinventing the theatrical form, what say you?
That is a lofty phrase–reinventing the theatrical form.

i aim for the stars!
I’d say that we are challenging the conventions of narrative as commonly practiced in theater. Van Cougar has little interest in plot, character development or prescriptive morality. Instead we focus on giving our performers enough direction to struggle in their performance, so they have no time to “pretend” their character is struggling through some emotional arc.

 gracious. i feel bad for actors who “pretend”..! poor fellows. so basta plot, eh?
An audience can follow a show with no plot as long as there is structure. We are interested in creating theatrical structures that offer just as much comfort and organization as a traditional narrative would. In the end everything humans do is based on ritual. As Mac Wellman would say, when you take everything away all that you are left with is ritual.  Plot falls away long before that, character even sooner–we do not believe that these are essential elements of live performance.

if only we were at cypress bar i might needle (and cheadle) you further on this point!
why youtube? if i don’t know the internet sensations will i be lost?
The most popular YouTube videos are simple and unpremeditated. Someone can post a video of themselves sitting on the toilet or falling off a table, or a video of their dog or cat and have the potential for millions of people to watch it. Amazing! With almost no investment, these videos can become pop culture sensations.

aye. shit floats.
We’re interested in exploring this entertainment medium since it is so unlike what we’ve looked at before: film. And, the size of the audience poses another paradox for art-makers: why is it that theater takes so much time and resources yet only a few hundred people will experience it, while someone can post a simple video and reach millions of people?

If you don’t know the videos, you won’t be lost because the action and text will speak for themselves. Everyone should be be able to follow along and enjoy the experience.  Hopefully our performance will inspire you to go check out any of the videos you don’t immediately recognize.

any other lingering thoughts???
The play has a “choose-your-own-adventure” format. This means that the actors will give audience members a selection of videos to choose from. Each show will be slightly different; you could see a show and see it again and see videos you didn’t see on the first night. So, come see the show twice or three times! You’ll get a different piece of the algorithm each time.

the regional theaters would note your business acumen, my friend.
Thank you so much for taking an interest in us–we love your work as well.

Tube, directed by Mark Sitko, opens tonight, Nov. 27 at the Incubator Arts Project.
 All star actors include:  Samuel Traylor, Martin Brown, Derek Loehr, Sam Soghor and Lucy Kaminsky with design by such genies as Ásta Hostetter, Alaina Ferris and Paul Ketchum.



and the banned plays on! (artlog #7)

August 21, 2012

amici miei—

it was with great pleasure i took in the recent weasel festival. mama mia. what a joy.  i have long had connections to the brooklyn college coterie. i attended the school briefly as a lass in the ancient 90s… pte
(pre tibet era).
((if you don’t know about the time i spent in tibet and nepal–not to mention my amorous relations with a certain salvador dali llama!–you will have to ask me about it at my next live conference in geneva.))
(((yes my friends, i have been invited to attend the davos conference in 2013 (!) i can hardly believe it … its about time!)))

1. weasel festival

anyway, the weasel festival offered four ruminations on maurizio malaparte’s writings by playwrights Paul Ketchum, LaShea Delaney, Megan Murtha and Mark Sitko with direction by Jose Zayas. Each playwright was more pugnacious and punctilious than the last (in the best of ways, mind you!) and the evening had a surprisingly coherent air to it—despite the tricky nature of presenting 4 short pieces on a theme.

I was most taken with the fellow playing malaparte. though his Italian accent was not of the real life sumptuous kind, it also was not dreadful or offensive to those who speak la lingua del bel paese. it was—to put a word on it—passable. and I say this as a complimento totale! so many who take on an accent for a role do so to absurd effects forcing listeners to bypass the content of the speech and focus solely on the character of delivery. hmph! this malaparte, on the other hand, gave a proper blend or rolled rs and understandable vowels. a suggestion of an accent that placed viewers in the land of la dolce vita but reminded us to listen and pay attention to what we were hearing and now how it was being said.

allora! a nazi party, young women sneaking into a nazi party, poetic whores and wounded men from battle were the backdrops to this most pleasurable evening. I should say fascism has always held a certain fascination for me so it was no surprise i enjoyed myself. and having insight into the stellar team of artists made me enjoy it all the more (I understand they rehearsed for a mere two weeks … che miracolo!)

props must also go to producers Amina Henry and Dennis Allen: Bravi!

2. the banned and brecht

now then .. about the banned, i mean band. i recently took in sara farrington’s untitled play about brecht’s girlfriends & boyfriend & wife at foxy films, a fine brooklyn establishment that might be mistaken for a black box apartment. while the play was a bold and impressive undertaking, i found myself most swept away with the musings of les musiciennes, a band (!) of cute toots (johnny gasper, gavin price and jack frederick) who retreated up to a quivering loft and played strange tunes from things like TK and TK. their quiet sounds were of a most curious nature and transported the audience back in old weimar germ. though there were no nazis in this spettacolo, i certainly felt the nefarious presence of fascism. bravi a tutti. the two main gal actresses megan emery gaffney and erin mallon were quite fine in what were challenging roles and i look forward to seeing this play grow and expand in other venues.

his head floats!

(i should mention in my younger and more vulnerable years i often confused brecht with beckett. be warned: the two are not the same!)

3. other banneds 

while speaking of the banned i must mention this fine feathered fellow who has been–you guessed it–banned from his native country!

quel domage. for gangnam style is indeed a most delicious fashion and should be sported the world over! i cannot say the same for the excellent horse-like lady, which to my ears sounds like propaganda with a capital kim jong un! if i may offer a suggestion to the young leader, take a cue from your southern better half and squirt some gangnam style into your excellent horse like lady tunes. hmph!

my friends–c’est tout for now. but a word to the wise. when you go on a little sojourn or vacanza try to take the tranquility with you as you know you won’t find it on a herky jerky manhattan bounding bus sans internet!

restively yours,