Daily Postings
theater : interview

Tina Satter

by Richard Maxwell

Listening Party

Playwrights/directors Tina Satter and Richard Maxwell listen to the music that inspires Half Straddle’s latest production, Ghost Rings, which runs at New York Live Arts from April 22–30, 2016.

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Lisa Dwan & Walter Asmus

by Michael Coffey

”I am not a human being up there, true, and I am not a woman. I’m consciousness.”

Samuel Beckett returned to writing in English in his mid-60s—not that he had ever completely left it. But he had certainly shed the rhythms and unavoidable inheritances of his native tongue after completing the mad and brilliant novel Watt while hiding out during the German occupation of France. For the next frenzied decade, Beckett turned to French, and wrote the works that established his fame and earned him the 1969 Nobel Prize: the plays En Attendant Godot and Fin de Partie, and the trilogy of novels, Molloy, Malone meurt, and L’Innommable. Of course, he was always the brilliant (if reluctant) English translator of nearly all his French work, and from time to time he composed original works in English: Krapp’s Last Tape (1958) and Happy Days (1960) are prime examples. But as his prose grew more spare and abstract, and his plays began to remove setting, lighting, sound, and bodies, Beckett increasingly wrote in his mother tongue—and, more interestingly, in a woman’s voice.

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Nicky Paraiso

by Zachary Small

“I hope it’s not a masochistic impulse within me, but I will always stay until the end to see how a creative thought completes itself.”

We convened for drinks at a bar called Pangea. It was in celebration of the opening of Imagining the Imaginary Invalid, which had its premier at La MaMa in late January. As guests flooded in, the actress Marylouise Burke reached across the table to whisper introductions between Nicky Paraiso and myself. Before she could, I quickly realized that we had met before—not once or twice, but six times in the past two weeks. At every theater and gallery opening I attended, he was there.

Perhaps Nicky’s omnipresence suggests an oncoming apotheosis. He is a steward of experimental theater, guiding it toward a more inclusive future that stretches across artistic disciplines and identities—especially during his time as La MaMa’s programming director. Later this April, he will receive top honors at Movement Research’s spring gala, an event that will also inaugurate an ethnic diversity fund bearing his name.

Nicky’s work as an actor is part of theater history. His collaborations with luminaries such as Meredith Monk and Jeff Weiss put him in the center of the thriving theater scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Indeed, he makes a cameo appearance in BOMB’s 1984 interview with Weiss; they were rehearsing for That’s How the Rent Gets Paid, Part IV. As a solo performer, Nicky’s work is an ongoing investigation of his Asian identity, an excavation of queer history, and a reverie in the persistent voice of the theater.  

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Sharon Fogarty

by Zachary Small

“They said, ‘You’ll be in charge of the children and the dogs.’ And I said, ‘Okay! But what does that even mean?’”

In a 1996 BOMB interview, Lee Breuer—the founder of Mabou Mines—proclaimed that the avant-garde theater company’s days were numbered. “We don’t have any money to keep the studio rent paid, or to keep the phones hooked up, or to pay the taxes.” But Mabou Mines, founded in 1970, has certainly flourished for much longer than most radical ensembles. For nearly five decades, the collective has taught American theater artists how to engage with the conditions of postmodern flux through the embrace of medium multiplicity and other visual arts methodologies. The group represents the forefront of innovation both across and between the arts.

In early 2016, Mabou Mines will move into a newly renovated space at PS 122, replete with a theater, rehearsal space, and new artist residency. The organization’s ongoing survival is due in large part to Sharon Fogarty, who became an artistic director in 1999 and helped guide the company’s way toward financial stability.

My first encounter with Fogarty was in 2014, as an actor playing Mephistopheles in Faust 2.0—her techno-feminist adaptation of Goethe. I can say that Fogarty’s work brazenly engages with the beautiful and impossible aspects of theater, pulling at the ruptures of the modernist aesthetic, but forever indulging in the humor and conceit of the theatrical form. During our callback, for example, she directed the actors in an impromptu choral work, converting an academic article’s description of the erotic into music.

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Annie Dorsen

by Nick Hallett

“I always nuance the algorithm.”

Theater creator and director Annie Dorsen recently completed a trilogy of stage works in which customized, algorithm-driven computer software controls the transformation of dramatic content in real-time. The results—different each night—are surprisingly human. This past autumn, I joined the cast of her latest, Yesterday Tomorrow, for a run of shows in France (picking up the role originated by the excellent Jeff Gavett). The piece is a one-liner par excellence—or perhaps the most experimental jukebox musical ever conceived. Three vocalists are surrounded by a projected score of the Lennon-McCartney classic, “Yesterday.” As they sight-read their way through each new iteration of the song, more and more of the melodic and lyrical material from Charles Strouse’s tween anthem, “Tomorrow,” enters the picture. By the end of the night, “Yesterday” is gone and we are left with the finale from Annie. I wanted to work with Annie (Dorsen, not the orphan) and experience what it would feel like to exist as an artist inside the machinery of her imagination. Would it be cold and mimetic, or might it indulge the performative mind and a sense of embodied expression? I ended up feeling like both were true—but productively so at each extreme. Furthermore, I became increasingly intrigued by the idea of a theater that engages so directly with the tools and structures of what is generally thought of as rigorous or difficult music—and what it means when its results are put in front of an audience—and, more to the point, which audience? I came away with a sense of the Dorsen universe—wonderfully rational yet magical at the same time. I wanted to unpack the experience with her and to learn more about what generates her impulse to render theater in this way.

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Oleg Dubson

by Charles Krezell

“Artists as pornographers. It all became clear.”

Charles Krezell You were very brave to do this play. It will be interpreted in many ways… mostly unflattering.

Oleg Dubson Well… thanks.

CK I brought a date to the show… our second date.

OD Oh no! How could you?

CK I didn’t know.

OD Oh no! You should never have done that!

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Gare St. Lazare Ireland

by Michael Coffey

“There’s the scientific and mathematical—how stuff is—and there’s the prosaic, the poetic—how people are.”

There is a Samuel Beckett season nearly upon us, thanks to a small theater company that is slowly building an unprecedented repertory of his works. The company’s founders are Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty Lovett, both natives of Cork, Ireland. A French name for their company seems particularly apt in light of Beckett’s bilingual prowess as playwright, poet, and prose writer. Gare St. Lazare Ireland will perform Waiting for Godot at the Skirball Theater at NYU this week. They’re also part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, with their performance of the short story “The End” (written in 1946) over two nights, followed by three evenings of Beckett texts and original music, Here All Night. I spoke to Conor Lovett during a break from Godot rehearsals, about these New York programs, their ambitions with respect to the Beckett canon, and the challenges and delights of working through some famously difficult texts.

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Object Collection

by Aaron Schimberg

“If there is a despairing quality to our work, it is despairing of the fact that once upon a time there used to be an earnest revolutionary spirit in this country.”

Since their founding in 2004, Object Collection’s multimedia operas—chaotic hybrids of experimental music, theater, and video—have become increasingly audacious, each new work one-upping its predecessor in structural ambition. One can expect to see finely honed variations on signature elements across the body of work: layered action unfolding on multiple planes simultaneously, a noisy spectacle frustrating narrative clarity, Marxist rhetoric set against fart jokes, exasperated performers exchanging colorful wigs and preposterous hats while singing, stuttering, and hissing cryptic proverbs as they repeatedly murder each other. Although segments of these operas may pass in relative quietude, with actors maniacally whispering May ’68 slogans or muttering film quotes (Oliveira, Fassbinder, Seagal) accompanied by the soft screeching of an amplified violin and radio static, the volume will soon escalate. Perhaps a sanguine-faced man in boxing gloves will bolt around the stage falsetto-screaming architectural theory; maybe a hyperventilating woman wearing ten layers of shirts, sweaters, and jackets, though not necessarily in that order, will bark technical details about air vents; or a shirtless man will paint his chest while shouting non-sequiturs in a sing-song-shriek—“I’m gonna TURN THIS PLACE into a CAR WASH! Hey humanity, FUCK you, MAN!”—amidst guitar feedback and the bashing of drums. Maybe all of this will happen at the same time. It is a meticulously composed cacophony, a micromanaged chaos.

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

600 HIGHWAYMEN

by Ben Gansky

The opposite of transportation.

Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone have created performances together under the name 600 HIGHWAYMEN since 2009. I first encountered their work in the summer of 2012, when I saw This Great Country, their interpretation of Death of a Salesman, at the River to River Festival in Lower Manhattan. Presented in a gutted department store, This Great Country was an exactingly contemporary revision of Arthur Miller’s play, in a way that was deeply and almost shockingly generous. I had never seen a show with a cast so diverse (in terms of age, ethnicity, bodies, voices) and so attuned to each other and to their audience. The performance felt like a portrait, not of the individual alluded to in Miller’s title, but of the nation referenced by 600 HIGHWAYMEN’s name for this piece. The presence and attention of the performers (seeing each other, seeing the spectators) seemed to deal directly with the reality of the situation—actors in front of an audience—rather than attempting to camouflage or mediate that relationship.

When I first spoke with Browde and Silverstone about this conversation, they asked if rather than conduct a one-time interview, they could instead write their responses over the course of several weeks or months. Since the success of their piece, The Record (a sold-out hit at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival in 2014, now touring in Europe), they had given a succession of interviews in which the writers chose to focus on the casting of their shows, and specifically on what had been labeled the casting of “non-performers” (Browde: “How can they be non-performers? If they’re performing, they’re performers!”)

[ Read More ]
theater : interview

Lisa Dwan

by Elianna Kan

Finding the hope in the one-woman plays of Samuel Beckett.

The Samuel Beckett estate is notoriously strict about granting performance licenses to productions that don’t adhere to the playwright’s original stage directions. These rigid stipulations, coupled with the seeming absurdity of Beckett’s texts, call upon an actor to wholly become a vessel for the playwright’s vision. Irish actress Lisa Dwan seems well on her way to becoming just that kind of legendary interpreter of Beckett. Ben Brantley, in his New York Times review of Dwan’s one-woman hour-long trilogy recently performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, called her “an instrument of Beckett, in that way saints and martyrs are said to be instruments of God.”

Dwan’s journey with Beckett began in 2005 when she first performed his breathless monologue Not I. In 2012, the German theater director Walter Asmus—Beckett’s longtime friend and collaborator—suggested Dwan perform Not I together with two other pieces—Footfalls and Rockaby—as a trilogy, something that had never been done before. All three plays revolve around the agony and hysterical ecstasy of experiencing the passage of time and force the actor into a meticulous, sometimes painful, physical regime in order to practice and perform these works accurately and evocatively.

I was curious as to what drew Lisa to this trilogy and Beckett in general, so I caught up with her by phone on a rainy Saturday afternoon while she rested in her hotel room prior to the evening’s performance at BAM.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Lars Jan & Geoff Sobelle

Kinetic language, aquariums, and experimental performance.

Artists and performance-makers Lars Jan and Geoff Sobelle met in Philadelphia in the early 2000s, and lived together in a 5,000 square foot loft in a part of North Philly called the “Badlands.” They had no heating, but they did have a swing, baby carriage versus wheelchair races, ample rehearsal space, and a pet rabbit named Steve who had a pen larger than most New York City apartments.

Jan and Sobelle have collaborated off and on since, and are currently collaborating on HOLOSCENES, which will premier at the Toronto Nuit Blanche Festival in October.

Both coincidentally also have shows in this fall’s BAM Next Wave Festival—Jan’s ABACUS (a TED and megachurch-influenced presentation about contemporary persuasion and national borders) is on September 24 and Sobelle’s The Object Lesson (a solo performance/installation that revolves on our relationship to everyday objects) will be on November 5—8. Both will be at the BAM Fisher.

Jan and Sobelle met up at Café des Artistes, where “My Dinner with Andre” was filmed in 1981. Sobelle is having Ile Flottante, Jan has ordered a pizza from a nearby restaurant and is hoping it will be delivered during the dessert course. This may or may not have happened. “Choose your own reality," says the panda to the rabbit ...

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Taylor Mac

by Katherine Cooper

On being an outsider, the nature of authenticity, and the depths of pop-culture.

When I first moved to New York, a friend insisted I accompany him to see somebody named “Judy.” Judy was a drag queen, he told me, and so much more. Intrigued, I ended up in the Dixon Place lounge on the Lower East Side on a Wednesday with a bunch of people of different ages, races, and creeds gathered around a piano. There sat a person with extremely long eyelashes and a stage presence like I had never before encountered. Judy was, of course, Taylor Mac—the performance artist and playwright who has been living and working in New York City for two decades, but who only recently has gotten some of the recognition Judy truly deserves.

Watching Mac that night, I was struck by the quickness and ease with which I moved between emotional states. Just as I thought I might wallow in my loneliness forever listening to Mac sing, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” I'd find myself laughing at jokes about “sexual innuendo gay waiters,” who make everything you say into an opportunity for lascivious fun. Mac moves at the speed of sound, and as an audience member, your heart and mind must keep up.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview
Theater : Interview

Tom Noonan

by Sam Alper

Tom Noonan on plays becoming movies, musicians becoming actors, and fantasy becoming reality.

I knew I wanted to interview Tom Noonan for BOMB when I read Alison MacLean's lovely, frank discussion with him that the magazine published in 1994. Instantly recognizable to any pop culture addict for his prolific work as an actor in films ranging from Robocop 2 to Synecdoche, New York—as well as recent TV appearances on Louie and Damages—Noonan has been writing, directing and often performing in his own plays, then turning them into films, for decades. I sat down with him during a break from rehearsing his new show, The Shape of Something Squashed, to discuss the re-opening of his theater and film cooperative, The Paradise Factory, following a two-year renovation.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Review

HEAT: Rashid Johnson's Dutchman

In a new staging of Amiri Baraka''s one-act play, the audience and performers alike are tasked with endurance.

In theory, it’s an easy sell: Amiri Baraka’s legendary 1964 play Dutchman, a tense conversation between a black man and a white woman in a sweltering subway car, “reimagined” for the saunas of the Russian & Turkish Baths on East 10th street. The major difficulty of Baraka’s one-act is how to get it to build so steeply to its near surreal conclusion (the white woman stabs the black man). Rashid Johnson, a visual artist by training, proposes heat.

So literal a solution is intriguing. If the heat of the subway car is, in some large part, what is driving the action of the play, why not make the heat real? What kind of new possibilities arise when the onus to create an environment is taken off the performers? This is where the difficulty begins. Even with the heat, the performers Johnson has selected cannot carry the piece.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Alexandre Singh

by David Levine

David Levine and Alexandre Singh discuss the playwriting process, on stage excretions, and traversing the art-theater divide.

In the week before its premiere at BAM, theater director-turned-artist David Levine spoke with artist-turned-theater director Alexandre Singh about recreating classical theater in Singh’s play, The Humans. The Humans will run from November 13 through November 17 as part of Performa 13.

David Levine Was the genesis of The Humans a question of somebody commissioning you to do a play out of the blue, or had you been wanting to do something like this?

Alexandre Singh I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long, long time; seven or eight years. I got an email out of the blue from Defne Ayas saying that she had a mysterious new job which she wouldn't reveal, and did I have any large projects that I wanted to do, I said “Yes, I’ve always wanted to do this play” and it was just as I was finishing up another project. So she invited me to Rotterdam and gave me the space and the time, and most importantly the incentive and deadline, to actually produce the play. But it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, all of the pieces I’ve made in the last eight or ten years have been steps in a process of learning how to craft stories in more orthodox genres, with the aim of moving towards theater and film, perhaps something even like opera—but traditional dramatic genres. I’m friends with this amazing novelist, Benjamin Hale, and we share both a passion for cinema. He decided he wouldn't go down that avenue because he enjoys the act of crafting the entire world as it were, by himself, and not being compromised by the stress of having to work with many, many people. I definitely share that feeling when you’re in the middle of a huge production, but I think it's something that suits my megalomaniacal qualities; I like to interfere in everything.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Tina Satter

by Katherine Cooper

Tina Satter speaks about formalism, her perverse sense of humour and the importance of family drama.

When I walk through the cement bowels of the Abrons Arts Center and into the rehearsal room where Tina Satter's House of Dance premiered on October 23rd, it feels like home. I sense an immediate affinity for the ludicrous, absurd, and ridiculous. House of Dance chronicles the emotional and choreographic events of a one hour tap class in a dingy basement. Think: Glitter. Pink. Bandannas. Tap shoes. Hilarious puppet dance breaks abut poignant moments of silence. Operatic music breaks rub up against mundane cellphone vibrations. Actor, Jess Barbagallo whips out the most ridiculous bright pink monster suit you've ever seen from a backpack covered in middle-school-esque graffiti and then proclaims with complete sincerity, “I want to look and feel pro and awesome, you know.”

It feels like a queer version of Santa's workshop.

Members of the cast and crew dart around the room adjusting sound levels, pieces of choreography, and angles of miniature top hats. This basement room houses these students of the ridiculous and Tina Satter is their leader. As I sit down to speak with her it becomes clear that while she is profoundly devoted to stupidness she is also a scholar of form.

It seems fitting that Belinda Carlisle's Heaven is a Place on Earth plays in the background of the Williamsburg coffee shop where we sit and talk. Tina wears a neon insignia-ed lid that says “LA.” in rainbow letters. She is small and wired. Her gaze remains focused and unflinching. She often encourages her interlocutor with an affirmative “yeah!” or “riiiiight...” I'm struck by her combination of youthfulness and sagacity. Tina's eyes twinkle with mischief and she has a laugh like a fat man. She takes play very seriously.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Adriano Shaplin

by Katherine Cooper

Katherine Cooper speaks to playwright Adriano Shaplin about baffled audiences, favoring amateurism over professionalism, and what The Crucible got wrong.

While I was living in Philadelphia, I encountered Adriano Shaplin’s piece “Freedom Club” as part of the Fringe. His theatrical work disturbed and perplexed me. Not in a bad way—it was uncomfortable and I liked it. I was nervous to speak with Adriano. He is famously candid in interviews. I had heard he was “out there,” "political," "kooky.” The frontality and alienation of his work reflects an incisive point of view on theatrical convention—one that I wasn’t sure I shared but that I was extremely curious about. I’m drawn to art and artists that are defiant and sensitive and I sensed that in Adriano and his work.

Adriano's young, but maturing career has already taken many twists and turns which he commented on very honestly as we spoke. He has found a home of sorts at the Flea Theater in SoHo and recently premiered his latest show Sarah Flood in Salem Mass there. The play muses on topics near and dear to my heart—witches, morals, and New England. I had seen it the night before—a cacophony of movement, razor sharp language and moments of beautiful sensuality. Who was the guy who conceived of this world? Where did he live?

When I arrived at the apartment in Jersey City at noon on Saturday I walked down a long dimly lit corridor with about five closed doors all along one side. The image that came to mind was of an underfunded mental institution or an abandoned beach hotel circa 1940. The floor creaked. It smelled like sleep.

I emerged into a sunlit living room with a wingback chair. I found myself falling into it with ease—the frayed arms, the brown stain where a thousand times a woman with an Aqua-netted bouffant must have rested her head. My apprehension dissipated. The place felt lived in—that wing back chair, a half drunk beer, a pair of antlers on the blood red walls entangled with green ribbon from a party that had ended days (weeks?) ago. Like Adriano himself, the apartment was not afraid of its own mess.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Essay

Listening to Cynthia

by Katherine Cooper

Katherine Cooper addresses a series of letters to performance artist Cynthia Hopkins in response to her work, This Clement World.

Cynthia Hopkins has just returned from a journey to the Arctic aboard the Noorderlicht, a Dutch sailing vessel which has been chartered by the British organization Cape Farewell, and had on board ten artists and five marine scientists from around the world. These passengers set sail on a twenty-two day voyage around the Arctic to “encounter the magnificence of this extreme and threatened environment and engage with the scientific research being conducted on board.” Hopkins was then charged with shaping her experience of that trip into a performance which she has titled This Clement World. And then she came to St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn.

I. A Small Disturbance

I cried. I wasn't planning to, but within the first few bars of her singing I was in tears. What she was singing wasn't even particularly “sad,” nonetheless my lip quivered and my breath and heart quickened. I agreed to listen but I didn't agree to cry.

White girls crying at other white girls singing about global warming. Ugh.

But I'm still crying.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Nature Theater of Oklahoma

by Lauren Bakst

Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska of Nature Theater of Oklahoma on their series Life & Times, new episodes of which will be presented this September by FIAF as a part of its Crossing the Line festival.

Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska, the directors of Nature Theater of Oklahoma, have charged themselves with the task of transforming material that by most standards would be deemed insignificant—16 hours of phone conversations during which Kristin Worrall tells the story of her life—into an epic performance that will eventually consist of ten episodes spanning 24 hours. The show is Life & Times and this September, FIAF will present Episodes 4.5 & 5 as a part of its Crossing the Line festival. Each episode of Life & Times has its own distinct context, but these two in particular mark a shift in the show’s trajectory. For these episodes, Copper and Liska used older forms of animation and bookmaking to create performances without actors. Always diving into unknown forms and challenges, Copper and Liska’s dedication to seeing the potential for performance in everything intrigued me. So what happens when you take an ordinary life and, as Kelly said, “claim more spectacle [for it] than you have a right to?” Well, it’s the Life & Times experiment—an invitation to reconsider what and how we value. In the conversation that follows, we discuss the impact of scale, the art of rotoscopy, and dealing with the middle.

Lauren Bakst I was re-reading the interview that Young Jean Lee did with you guys for BOMB a few years ago, and one of the things that you spoke about, Kelly, was this question of, “When does something become theatre?” or, “What’s the least thing we can do and have it be a show?” . . . In working with animation, drawing, and bookmaking for Episodes 4.5 & 5, do you find that those questions are still relevant for you? Are you approaching these mediums as theatre?

Kelly Copper Yeah, we are approaching them as theatre but also thinking about where these are in relation to the other episodes, because we’re always thinking about performing them consecutively. For instance, episodes one through four are always actors on stage, dancing, singing, acting, but always actors in front of an audience. We’re thinking about what it needs to become at this point. The audience has built up this relationship with the actors, but we needed to make a turn here—as artists. And we also needed the audience to make a turn here.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Rachel Nelson & Fabi Reyna

Performance artist Nelson and guitarist Reyna on women who shred and the unique artist community in Portland, Oregon.

Fabi Reyna is the founder and editor-in-chief of She Shreds Magazine—the world's only magazine dedicated to female guitarists and bassists. She's a guitarist of 12 years who's been in bands since she was nine and also founded and organizes an annual festival that celebrates women in music called Shred Fest. Although originally from Cancun, Mexico, Fabi currently lives in Portland and continues to be an integral member of the music scene.

Rachel Nelson is a theater maker and writer from the Cascade Mountains. She is the founder of APORIA, a performance art think tank, as well as a core company member of Savage Umbrella, a theater company in Minneapolis. Her work has been produced across the country. She is interested in clear and compassionate theater that reverberates with conversations of queerness, philosophy, feminism, and interconnectedness.

Fabi and Rachel performed together at the Feminist Pop Up Festival in Portland, OR in May of ‘13. Since then, they have been putting this interview together via various technology waves beaming between Portland and Minneapolis. The following transcript consists of four separate digital postcards that can be strung together to make some sense of a conversation.

ONE: A HELLO

Rachel Nelson Let’s tell the story of how we met. Our meet/cute! I was planning the first leg of the Feminist Pop Up tour, and we wanted to get more musicians involved, and I talked to maybe three people I knew in Portland OR, and all three of them mentioned you as the first person to get in touch with. I couldn’t figure out if they thought you could play in the festival or help plan it. You were being suggested as this jack of all trades—the artist and the organizer. I was like, “Jesus, who is this person?”

Fabi Reyna Wow! I had no idea that's how it went down. I knew that Jen had recommended me to you and I love the work she does so I was instantly in. It's so cool how a community of artists works together like that to make stuff happen.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Erin Markey

by Katherine Cooper

Erin Markey discusses familial relationships, making "stuff for stage and video," and dating chaperones.

I sat down with Erin Markey at Van Leeuwen, a cafe-cum-ice cream shop in Greenpoint this winter. I had first seen her live show on the day of the Gay Pride Parade, an event about which I'd had my trepidations, after seeing banners hanging from lamp posts in lower Manhattan advertising its Pepsi-sponsorship. So I headed to Everybooty, an alternative event at DeKalb Market—a temporary space in downtown Brooklyn composed mostly of old shipping containers.

The June sun beat down and my Linda Rondstadt-esque floral prom dress stuck to my body. By the time Erin Markey came onstage, following a lamé-clad pair of Dolly Parton impersonators, enough beer had circulated the crowd for a feeling of jubilance to hang in the air. Markey wore green suspenders and lace-up boots, her long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. She flashed a wide smile at the crowd and started by singing a song about Skyping with her mother and father—”Let Me Go to Fullscreen.” As soon as she finished (to great applause) she went on to perform her second musical number, “Secret Puddles” in the drag persona of Timmy.

Timmy—Markey in a fire red wig and mud smeared face—introduced himself timidly as Markey's fundraiser, eliciting laughs from the audience. She sang shyly while holding a baby doll: “I have a doll named Secret. Secret is his name. Secret's just a baby. And a baby's not a game. I know because I was one, and a tiny one at that. My mom and dad they left me, in a shabby London flat.”

From the minute Timmy begins singing I am laughing. Absurd!, I am thinking. Absurd! I sense an incommensurability between the stage tune and melody of Markey's song and the dark content of the lyrics. The feelings that Timmy expresses do not line up with the circumstances he describes and the proximity of Timmy's tragic ballad to "Let me Go to Fullscreen" reveals a hilarious ambivalence about family. Even in this short performance, Markey has me thinking about family as fallible, wonderful, deeply political and entirely unresolved.

I have to talk to this person, I thought. My conversation with Markey, six months later, ambled from family politics to astrological signs (she's a Leo) and artist statements to Catholicism. I wanted to discuss Erin's particular breed of humor and, enjoyably, that humor seeped into every area of our discussion.

Katherine Cooper I feel like misquoting people is really yucky.

Erin Markey It is. Having been misquoted many times.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Michael Portnoy

by Jovana Stokić

The artist discusses abstract games, the dangers of Relational Aesthetics and Portnoy's recent participatory work 27 Gnosis.

In 27 Gnosis, the latest work from New York-based performance artist Michael Portnoy, language as we know it is broken down and re-introduced as a tool for discovery. Taking place inside a mauve-hued "ontic sphere", Portnoy plays the "Rigid Designator" alongside his wife, performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė, who appears as "Modifa, The Modifier" and together—outfitted in matching suits by designers threeASFOUR—they steer a group of participants through a game sequence led by dance, instruction, 17th-century knowledge systems, revised syntax codes, and melancholic jokes. The winners' ideas, or results, christen a 'gnose', a black, vaguely nose-like clay sculpture which is then passed onto the next group. Originally commissioned and performed for dOCUMENTA (13) last year, the work was adapted for a two-week run at The Kitchen in New York during March 2013.

Michael Portnoy I met you at one of my favorite restaurants in New York, Lucien. And you were with our common friend, Adina, who’s also from those lands in the east. Instantly, what I appreciated about you was this kind of unrestrained presentation of yourself.

Jovana Stokić Sounds awful!

MP No, you felt very real to me. A strong life force.

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Kristen Kosmas

by Karinne Keithley Syers

 

Kristen Kosmas talks text-based performance, its formal implications, and the practice of dis- and reappearing. Her piece There There is a part of PS122's COIL Festival, and runs through January 12.

I spoke with Kristen Kosmas earlier in December, just as the first of two runs of her new show There There was opening. We talked about the solo form, about surviving the solo form; about populating the solo form; about how populating the solo form was easy when there were so many sides to a question, so many skepticisms and enthusiasms within a solitary train of thought; we talked about what it does to your mouth to have to say your own writing, and what it does to your writing when you know it has to occupy your mouth; about the simultaneous love of artifice and plainness; about the technical challenges of this show; about the way the fact of its simultaneous translation into Russian might introduce a new and strange feeling in her mouth; and about Kristen's return to performing solo and whether it was any different than writing for many people (her answer was mostly that it is not, which encouraged me).

People talking about Kristen's performances back in Seattle in the ’90s (before she moved to New York, where I met her, and before she moved away from New York and then back to New York and then again away from it) emanate a sense of having really been there for something, maybe the way my Grandpa used to disappear into the recollected glow of LA in the ’30s, or the way people remember scenes of unfettered, free-ranging ’70s childhoods bathed in Kodak light. I don't know exactly what she did in those performances but I feel like I can sense it somehow, like in a little way it is possible to imagine them and float in the imagination enough to get a little souvenir for yourself, even if it's a fake. I think this is because Kristen, in person, both in conversation and in the performances she constructs, always sounds like she is in a looping, tumbling, gently forward-moving part of a very long thought, one that started before you saw her enter, and will continue after she rounds the bend. Even, as in This From Cloudland, when things get very still, they do go on:

[ Read More ]
Theater : Interview

Mike Daisey

by Tom Healy

Poet Tom Healy discusses non-Euclidian navigation of New York City (among many other topics) with monologist Mike Daisey.


Mike Daisey.

This is a transcript of an interview conducted for Creative Time Reports. Listen to it here.

In late November I sat down with monologist Mike Daisey at the historic Clocktower Gallery, in downtown Manhattan, to discuss his work for Creative Time Reports and BOMB. Daisey and I met in the recording studio of Art International Radio, founded and run—like the gallery—by the irrepressible Alanna Heiss, who gave early shows there to Joel Shapiro, Richard Tuttle, Robert Smithson, Lynda Benglis, and countless other great artists from the 1970s to today.

Daisey and I discussed the motivating ethos of his work, from his experience of “non-Euclidean” New York to storytelling after the occupation of Zuccotti Park, down the street from the Clocktower. The radio station and gallery are housed in a lower Manhattan criminal-court building, which also happens to be the place where Occupy Wall Street protesters were “processed.” The experience of discussing the OWS movement in the same site where hundreds of activists have “stood before the judge” led to a conversation about the uncanniness of narration and the political role of the artist that touched on everything from Daisey’s father to Plato.

I deliberately avoided Daisey’s most famous (and controversial) piece, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which details his disputed experiences at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, because others have been there and done that. I wanted to focus on Daisey's larger project of political engagement, especially in light of his recent show American Utopias. It seems to me that the only utopias available to us are those we construct in language, and with that in mind, I wanted to discuss the intersections of metaphor, art, and journalism, and how theater can (if only briefly) be used to create a progressive, engagé utopia uniting performer and audience.

[ Read More ]