Posts Tagged ‘megan emery gaffney’

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

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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?

other elegant people of the theatre: boudreaux edition (artlog #10)

September 4, 2012

mes amis—

What is there to say about playwright and person-of-the-theatre Frank Boudreaux? Too much I’ll have you know! Tales of his talents preceded my meeting of him back in ’10. His great warmth of spirit and hearty pats on the back were naturally met with a good measure of North Eastern suspicion on my part. (“Is this guy for real?” I wondered. I shuddered to think of his plays.)

But it seems Boudreaux and I have not only some shared heritage—his is of the Cajun variety mine is of a more French Canadian persuasion—but also a shared fervor for the theatrical arts, philosophizing, and cold beverages. Those back slaps are for real and most genuine…! Frank-o’s passion and zest for all things theatrical (I recall popping into some Brooklyn College workshops and seeing him ardently argue on behalf of a play’s merits while other classmates may have rolled an eyeball or two) are indeed something to behold. Never a cheerleader, always a thoughtful considerer of work: “We’ll talk about it more at the bar,” Frank-o would say with a casual wave of his hand. It was with great plaisir that I discovered Boudreaux’s own playwriting as an amalgamation of his as a person: joyous, rigorous and provoking in the deepest of contemplations. I’d expect nothing less from a fellow philosophe!

I warned you: there is simply much too much to say! Frank-o was kind enough to take some time out of his busy pre-production work cycle for Everything that Is the Case for Two Young Women on the Eve of the Great War Among Other Elegant Lies, which premiers at the very fine Incubator Arts Project Sept. 6-16, to have a quick chat with old Kippy. Here’s what we discussed over the Internet transom.

gaffney and corbett in “other elegant lies…” photo by: Zack Rubenstein

Allora, Frank. Let us commencer.
Warning: Something about you brings out the twee in me, I do say, Kippy.

Very well. What sparked the idea for this play?
What better way to write about two dead philosophers than through two historical teenage girls?

Touché. The title is extremely long: Did someone put you up to this? Have you been using a nick name or acronym?
Alas, I need no provocation to be loquacious.

I have observed this in classrooms and in bars!
The title is mine. But my producers call it …Other Elegant Lies, for short (ellipses included).

How does this play fall into your other work? Same? Different? Contextualize us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I feel my style always suits the form. And I’ll admit to a bit of fretting that this play is SO technically complex, and SO heady, audience members may think it’s all I can do… or what I want to do. But I have other plays that are either simpler or slower or more gut than head.

Aye, your play, Lowen and Joe, which had a reading at the Bushwick Starr in fall 2011, seems to me more of this variety. Though perhaps still with subversive intellectual tones.
Yes, I would say Other Elegant Lies… achieves a theatrical energy, and the production will be a live event of a level, that I would like to think of as characteristic of my work… even if past and future productions of mine could look and sound quite different. Also, I will not always direct my own work. This is a bit of a “vision” play …realized by an AMAZING design team, by the way.

A “vision” play! I love this term…Also, your use of “live theatrical event” also reminds me a bit of Rob Berry and the ethos around the Austin Fusebox Festival. At any rate, I understand you are working en famillemais c’est vrais?!
C’est vrais, c’est vrais. But Megan Emery Gaffney and I are very careful to put on our professional hats while in the room. Just ask her co-star, Winslow Corbett. Not one moment of personal discomfort, I hope! Mon frere is also involved, John Henry Boudreaux. We try not to curse at each other too much in front of everyone else.

You have a talented and attractive family, Frank. Dimmi: what is better: your Italian, French or Cajun?
Italiano, certo. No explanation for it. Just chose Firenze to study abroad. Cajun and French heritage, but don’t speak the languages. Pathetic.

Pas de toot! There’s time yet. So, what artist/piece of art is a secret influence?
Ooo, devilish question, Kippy. Secrets, secrets. Umm, David Byrne, the pop musician and prominent weirdo. Paul Thomas Anderson, the filmmaker. Caryl Churchill is easily my favorite playwright, but that’s no secret. And Donald Barthelme is my secret author hero.

I didn’t know this about Churchill. Tres interessant. I see you are taking a note from the regions and holding two talk backs, tell me about those.
Not ‘talk-backs’. Panels.

Noted!
No one wants to hear me talk about my work–

I would disagree!–
And I wouldn’t ask such esteemed artists to talk about it either. (these include Jeff Jones and Sibyl Kempson on Sept. 9 moderated by Eliza Bent and Maria Striar and Erin Courtney moderated by Rachel Chavkin on Sept. 11). The panels will relate to the themes/world of my play, I guess, but not ABOUT the play at all. Or me. I’m interested in the theater being an evening—an entire event; giving you all kinds of perspectives and unexpected live encounters that have never happened before and will never happen again. These panels are part of that design.

You are a holistic thinker my friend. Kudos.
We also have a pre-show, improvised every night by Saint Fortune theatre company.

Ooh I love those young Saintly Fortunates! Each is more cute and lively than the last. Any thing else…?
I’ll see your two tails and raise you a tuckus! Pleasure to chat.

The plaisir is all mine. I hope we can dance in the Cajun style in Omaha and other exotic land with your lovely famille soon. A bientot, my friend.

Kippy

Everything that Is the Case for Two Young Women on the Eve of the Great War Among Other Elegant Lies premiers at the very fine Incubator Arts Project Sept. 6-16.

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!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0

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,
kiippy