Taylor Talks Episode 6: Minor Theater at HERE on Tuesday 20 April 2021

Apr 20, 2021 18:03 · 8112 words · 39 minute read

♪ I’ve never had any other way ♪ ♪ Nor a collection of the crazy minds ♪ Hi, so I’m just gonna run down the usual spiel, about the HERE art center and art program.

00:18 - My name is Taylor Mac. I am interviewing a bunch of HARP artists from the HERE art center.

00:24 - What HARP is, is just a program where people apply for it, and artists get to work on their ensembles, or individual artists get to work on their projects, for a number of years.

00:36 - Because Kristin Marting, the artistic director and HERE, they knew that artists need, especially artists that are making their own work, need time to develop.

00:47 - And this pressure of, this regional theater pressure of three weeks and go is not necessarily what is the best way for some artists to work.

00:58 - So they created this many years ago, and artists get space, and they get fellowship with other artists.

01:09 - There’s breakout sessions where people teach each other things that they know, other artists teach each other like how to write grants and how to create a budget and all that kind of stuff.

01:19 - And there’s a wide range of people who know a lot of different stuff.

01:22 - So it’s pretty useful. And the HERE will produce the work, or co-producer, whatever the artist kind of needs and wants.

01:30 - Sometimes the artists will just produce it all on their own, and it’ always shifting, it’s usually hybrid work, whatever that means to the artist.

01:40 - (laughs) And I’m here with Minor Theater Company.

01:43 - Hello, hello, hello. Will you guys all introduce yourself? ‘Cause I don’t know all of you.

01:52 - Let’s start with Julia. How are you, Julia? I got it, hi, yeah, My name’s Julia Jarko.

01:59 - I use she, her, pronouns and I’m the writer of the plays that this company Minor Theater puts on.

02:08 - And I usually also direct them, although for this project, “Marie It’s Time”, I’m not directing it, in part because I’m performing in it, which I don’t usually do.

02:23 - Alongside - How do you feel about that? (laughs) It feels great. Good.

02:28 - Yeah. I mean, you’ve been a performer many times, right? I think of it as something I did in my wild youth.

02:38 - That I, Uh huh? Can still pull out of the back pocket. that I wisely put behind me, yeah. Yeah, good.

02:44 - But yeah, so this piece that I guess we’ll talk about is, kind of about performing and about relationships between kind of writing things and acting them out.

02:59 - And so it felt important to be on stage and not just delegate that task to the person I’m gonna pass the mic to now, who is Jennifer Seastone.

03:12 - Hey, hello. Hey, I’m Jennifer Seastone.

03:16 - And I mostly act in minor shows, but I have also done some video design for the last show.

03:26 - But in this one I will be acting with Julia and Kinian, and I go by she, her pronouns.

03:33 - And I think that covers it. Okay. (laughs) Think I’ll pass again, since they’re next on the acting lineup.

03:46 - Wow, okay, the acting lineup’s going strong and hot.

03:50 - I’m Keetian Cohan, I use they, them pronouns.

03:53 - I am not a member of Minor Theater, but I worked with Minor Theater before, and I’m performing in “Marie It’s Time” as the role of the major.

04:04 - And I’m feel very grateful to be here. And I care for these people very much.

04:08 - I’ll pass to Ben Williams. Hey I’m Ben, I’m a he, him and I’m an actor sometimes, and a sound designer sometimes for these guys, Asta.

04:29 - Right, and though you might not be explicitly performing onstage in this one, it is a sound-based thing.

04:37 - And you are the sound dramaturg we look to.

04:42 - I’m Asta, she, her, I am directing this piece.

04:48 - Previous roles have been costume designing for this company.

04:54 - And yeah, I mean, I guess that was a pretty good stringing together of narrative.

05:03 - ‘Cause I feel like I don’t have to talk too much about why I stepped into that role.

05:11 - Is that a good - Yeah! I think so. So why don’t we talk about, and you know, I’ll try to like pass it off to somebody and do that hosting duties and stuff, so that we don’t have a horrible Zoom talk over each other.

05:27 - But why don’t you talk about this piece, and “Woyzeck”, and you know how it relates and all of that? Yeah, get us started, get us started.

05:39 - The easy part. So “Marie It’s Time” is some, let’s say it’s like our mixed tape love song to Marie and her choices and her decisions to go make out with major.

06:01 - And so in that sense, performance and role-play and fantasy are like enacted in a kind of rock show, where we also have things like dialogue and monologue and even staging.

06:24 - And thematically, what are you addressing with this? Jenny? Did we say that it is a response to, or some sort of, it calls on “Woyzeck?” Was that set out loud? I had mentioned it, but you didn’t say that.

06:50 - So, yeah, so talk to me more about that. ‘Cause there’s a couple of pieces in the Heart Program that are working off of, there’s the Carmen variations, you know that are working off of a former piece, and kind of transforming it, or as a springboard.

07:07 - And I’m curious a little bit about Kristen Martings curatorial decision in that, but also what that means working in fellowship with other artists who are doing that, and have you been in conversation with them? And also, what’s the drive? I guess is really what I’m asking.

07:26 - Well I guess I might soon pass it to Julia, for that in the writing, but you know, in myself I’m attracted to it because it is a story that is so fully like a male-based narrative, that kind of discards the woman as like a side story, and doesn’t really consider her in the narration of his journey.

08:01 - Although she’s the one that is killed in the end.

08:06 - And so it’s interesting to me because of the turning the tables on it, and also the idea of two of her and, or not really, I guess that’s a little bit nebulous in the story, whether or not there is two of her, but the idea of performance and what it means to be one person who is at the center of their own narrative.

08:35 - Or not, maybe I’ll just turn it to Julia to have more of a complete answer to that.

08:44 - Oh no, I mean, I know, nothing more complete, but I, but I do yeah.

08:49 - I mean, so I love this play “Woyzeck” by Buechner, I think, yeah.

08:54 - 1830’s, it’s this unfinished play, right? He was in his twenties and he wrote this play, and he kind of left it in piles and then he died ASAP.

09:07 - So people after it, since discovering this text, people love to direct this play, because there’s so much room for choice.

09:17 - Like every edition that gets published of the play puts the scenes in a different order and kind of tries to repair the gaps differently.

09:24 - So it’s this text that is already kind of a problem and a mystery just in itself, but also, yeah, it’s this text that I think people will love because the hero, slash anti-hero, Woyzeck, who is this guy who, he’s poor, he’s oppressed, he’s mentally ill.

09:42 - Everyone’s trying to harm him. Basically he hears that his common law wife, who’s the mother of his child, is sleeping with the handsome drum major in the regiment that’s just rolled into town.

09:58 - And so he, his madness gets even more intense and he murders her.

10:03 - And that’s the narrative, it’s a really skeletal narrative.

10:06 - And I guess, you know, for me this play is sort of starting, wanting to work on this play kind of came out of, I was teaching.

10:14 - I teach this play a lot when I teach playwriting.

10:17 - I think that the text is wild and beautiful and weird, you know, but the way that I come back to it, and the way that I feel sort of thrilled by it, I started to be curious about that.

10:30 - I mean, a lot of our plays, of Minor Theater’s plays already are kind of about intersections between violence and sex, and kind of darker and twistier parts of desire.

10:43 - And especially, I think women’s desire. But the way that this figure of Marie, who, as Jenny said, is never at the center of the story, but kind of like bursts onto the page as this like intensely sexualized and sexualizing figure.

11:00 - And then, gets her blood everywhere. You know, I was like, why is that so appealing? You know, not only to me, but to apparently so many people, that this is a huge canonical classic and sort of like, how would I find my way inside this play, if I gave myself permission to go into it, not via the title character, but via Marie? And so that I think is sort of like for me how the project starts.

11:30 - Yeah, good. And are you, where are you at in the process right now? Asta, you’re muted.

11:47 - So just to say it explicitly also, Jenny and Julia are both Marie in this staging, where we’re playing with also the slippery mess of staging and itself in that way, because they push each other around to go get what they want.

12:13 - Okay, and so are you, is she existing in a post-death place? Or is she existing in the world of, or do you not know? You don’t have to know? Well, I think what’s important to where we are in the process in a way, in a literal way the text is, there’s a text we’ve been working off that we’ve rehearsed.

12:39 - We’re going to share some music that we’ve learned and performed together.

12:43 - Wonderful. But in terms of like the meaning of this thing, we’re like figuring out what it means for Jenny and Julia to both be Marie, for these two friends of mine and artists to be Marie, which is very exciting.

13:04 - But I think like, as - As individuals, I mean, as the actual artists themselves? or as two parts of a character, or some hybrid of that? I think both, but Julia? Yeah, I mean, I think you know, to the question of like, is she dead? I think the answer is yes, yes and, no, no that the piece that we’re trying to make is kind of about the process of stepping into a narrative that you already know.

13:39 - So I think that there are moments in the play when we kind of, we occupy that narrative and you know, yeah we occupy that narrative, and in those moments, maybe you know, Maria is alive again, but that really the sort of the seam, or the thing that keeps coming back around, is this question of like, what is it to take that step? That step into a kind of fantasy of one’s own murder, basically.

14:10 - Stepping in and stepping out. Yeah, wow.

14:14 - And so I was reading your mission statement on your website, which is so wonderful.

14:23 - And it’s so much about, you have this beautiful line about practicing our way, to, you guys can tell me better than I can remember it, but the impossible, essentially.

14:38 - And how has that working? It’s impossible to step inside this fictional character that is been murdered and is part of a lineage of women being murdered in theater productions.

14:54 - And it’s impossible to correct that wrong, is that, and yet here we are, we’re going to explore it and wonder and yeah, just I guess, just really talk about that.

15:04 - I’m curious to hear. I was gonna ask - I said I was gonna host but I’m not doing it.

15:15 - Just jump in. I mean, if I may, or maybe this is a little awkward, I think this, Keetie, and I’m gonna cue you up in a second, a little bit to talk, because your character appears in the original “Woyzeck. ” And I think our journey in this process thus far, we’ve learned, we also have more stage time in our version, with the drum major, than we have in the original “Woyzeck. ” And I’m wondering if you could maybe describe a little bit about your sense of the character.

15:59 - Yeah, for me, I’ve just jumping in cold off it.

16:04 - I really, when I’m drawn to an interest in performing, is this like, canonical object of desire, and like sort of playing, I like I’ve really, it’s like, what an awkward feel, no but, to feel like wanted, and then, I mean in “Marie It’s Time”, and the texts that we’re working on and what we’re working on together, I think, myself Keetian as a performer, sometimes has a lot of judgment of, is this person like deserving of affection? And are all any of the characters deserving of each other’s affection or pleasure or consent, as they’re in conflict with one another? But yeah, I think for me, it’s really exciting to not see Frank, like, to not see Frank in our version, in exactly the same way, but for me to get to embody a character that was an outlet for Marie’s pleasure in the original one.

17:07 - And to be in a contemporary version of that, just in my own performer body, is like totally thrilling, and set against the backdrop of being a musician and being in concert, Yeah.

17:23 - and performing for these people. And that’s a thrill, and sort of, not known to me in my everyday life.

17:30 - So stepping into that in the world of this play is awesome and a different type of interaction.

17:38 - So, yeah. Yeah, and it makes the audience, are you genderqueer? Is that how you define yourself? Yeah, I define as transgender, non-conforming, yeah. Yeah, so just have the audience.

17:53 - I mean, it’s always tricky, ‘cause you actors want to be able to play actors.

17:59 - Like, that’s what they want. I mean they want to be able to play characters and embody them.

18:02 - And at the same time you guys and your theater company is so much about, yeah.

18:07 - But the actors are playing lots of different roles, so it’s about performance as well.

18:11 - And so what I love about watching trans people on stage is that it’s the duality of it is so intense, you know? Especially with the history of that.

18:21 - So I don’t know, is that something you are working with, or are you just gonna just let it be? No, it’s there for me.

18:29 - I mean, I just, also performing with Jenny and Julia is amazing, but also there’s always those moments for me where I’m like, oh, where you just have a sense of self where you’re like, they’re so beautiful.

18:48 - And like, I have this affection, and we’re like looking at each other, not to be like, but seriously, we’re, there’s like, you know, a lot of it, like it is based in sex and violence and intimacy in this way.

19:01 - And then for me, I’m like, what am I, who would like me? Who would want me? I don’t really want people to look at me when I’m singing.

19:09 - But I want affection and love just like everybody else on stage.

19:13 - Right. So that like, they make you feel hot and wanted.

19:19 - And so like, for me, that experience is, I’ll do anything for them.

19:25 - I’m like, sure. It’s like being a chef to me.

19:28 - I’m like, just put me up in the gate. Right.

19:31 - (laughs) ‘Cause I feel chasing a particular performance feeling.

19:34 - But I’m sure Jen, Jenny’s is also chasing performance feelings throughout this Marie.

19:39 - How so, Jenny? Well, I think it’s super interesting what you were saying, Keetian, and I’ve never thought about like this idea of not wanting to be seen at all, and yet totally giving your whole self to be seen.

19:56 - It’s something that I think about a lot in performance.

19:58 - I don’t want anybody to look at me ever, and then, Yeah.

20:01 - but then there’s this like thing that you do where you’re just, you surrender to some sort of, I don’t know, like power where you then are giving something that isn’t real like that isn’t authentic, but is the most authentic thing that you could ever give.

20:20 - And then there’s also this idea of, you know, I really hate this word meta because it’s so overused, but like the idea of Julia.

20:29 - I was like, everything’s meta. (laughs) Right.

20:33 - I hear ‘ya, I hear ‘ya. Yeah, being yourself on stage and a character.

20:37 - And like specifically in this show, being a part of Julia and then Julia being on the inside of it, but also on the outside of it, because she’s written it, and having been in a lot of Julia’s work before, and then having her onstage, this like weird, wanting so hard to connect, but also being so confused about how to do it because it’s so foreign.

21:08 - So it becomes more like real life on stage, the way we interact in real life versus this character that is this, we are the same.

21:18 - But it’s really a lot of circles for me. And then, yeah.

21:25 - And then having Keetian there also is just like a beautiful gift.

21:29 - So the whole, and having Julia, like all of it is just such awkward and confusing, on how to wrap your head around it and kind of release into it and not be too much up here is really hard in this piece for me.

21:46 - And is that, and Ben feel free to jump in, ‘cause I know you’ve acted in pieces as well, but is that something that is specific to this piece, working on this piece, or is that always when the playwright is on stage with you? Maybe it’s always when a playwright is on stage with you, which I’ve done in other things before, but then there’s this deep comfort also, which is like, especially when I’m with Ben on stage, it’s like this, you don’t worry about, you’re just in somebody’s hands and you’re like, you can have me in your hands and I will have you on my hands.

22:31 - Yeah. So it’s just like trying to figure out what that means when you’re in your head a little bit.

22:39 - Uh-huh? (laughs) ‘cause the acting fantasy is that we’re never, we’re chasing this sensation of trying to be in the place where we’re not in our head, right? Where we’re just like, playing tennis and that’s the fantasy.

22:55 - But it’s interesting to upend that fantasy and say, no actually, the goal is not to be in your head, right? Yeah, that’s right, yeah, absolutely, what is performance anyway? We’re all performing here, you know? Right, right, right, right.

23:12 - We’ve developed the performance and all of that, but then you put it on stage and you’re questioning the performance of all of the history of “Woyzeck” also, and like the history of your relationships with the people on stage.

23:23 - And I don’t know if you have any thoughts, Ben, in the past of other things that that relates to? Just to make you talk.

23:33 - (laughs) I mean, a lot of this is making me think of, if the way that we’ve worked on the show so far has pushed everything into the foreground in this way, the performances, you guys who were actually on the stage, it’s so much about you really delivering, to face forward to an audience, you know? And it makes the wonder, is there room for a kind of interiority that we haven’t found yet? And, what would that look like? I keep thinking of Miles Davis, just like with his back to the audience, moving further away from the crowd, and thinking of this as a rock show, and thinking of this as everything is going forward into the mic to audience all the time.

24:43 - I think there are moments of this play that we, that want to resist that in some way.

24:50 - And I’m curious to know if that works. What would that look like? If, we went the complete opposite direction.

25:03 - Yeah, I mean, Asta, you should talk about that also, but I just, you know, just to go back to later, your question about sort of, what is the impossible in this piece? Or like, what is the impossibility that we’re pursuing? I mean, I guess I think that part of that, part of it is about like the impossibility of not like, the impossibility of escaping interiority, right? The impossibility of getting out of your head.

25:31 - I mean, I think part of what’s for me so kind of compelling about Marie and Woyzeck is that she talks to herself like every character in that play, but she’s like, all body, you know? She’s like completely realized in her body, she knows herself through her body and through her kind of bodily desires and that body is, you know, onstage and kind of available, available to the major, to have sex with, available to Woyzeck to kill and available to the audience to kind of attach to in different ways.

26:08 - And in a way I feel like that fantasy is precisely like the kind of, what you’re saying, Taylor, the, like, I’m just gonna play tennis, you know? I’m gonna get out of my head, I’m gonna get away from the computer where I write.

26:19 - I mean, this is obviously just me outing myself, but just like, you know, get on the stage and just be a body for once, Right.

26:25 - how great, what must that be like, you know? But obviously that’s never like never, never, never never possible.

26:32 - And in that move, you just end up kind of creating more circles and more spaces for yourself to hide.

26:39 - And you drag everyone around you into that orbit of kind neurotic self-concealment.

26:45 - And I feel like that spiral is one of the things that the play is about, actually the impossibility of being a kind of, of becoming an object in that way.

26:56 - Yeah, it makes me wonder about stops and starts, and flow, it makes me wonder about rhythm.

27:05 - You know, you keep mentioning rock show, and what it means to have a button, and how, I guess, it was also like the idea of not knowing as part of your kind of vision.

27:21 - Sorry to bring that up. I know it’s obnoxious, ‘cause people just write these things and put them up and then.

27:27 - No, we mean every word. You mean every word! But the idea of not knowing, and then what is a stop? Is it a stop knowing? Is a period knowing, is a blackout knowing, is there a button at the end of a song knowing? And, is eight bars of music in some way kind of knowing? And so I’m curious about that, that desire to turn your back on the audience and not do it from front.

27:54 - And I mean, there’s a long history of rock and roll is doing that, but I’m curious about that within the question of how do we not know? You know? Sorry, that was a lot to throw in here.

28:08 - No, I mean, that was so fabulous. And I don’t know if this is in rhythm with that, but I have to append from 10 minutes ago, Keetian, I’ve loved and enjoyed so much you speaking about this role, because we as an ensemble live in fear that you’re going to go to the major downtown theater presses and be like, I assistant directed for them.

28:33 - And then they objectified me and put me on stage as their sexual play thing.

28:40 - I mean, you heard it here first. No, I love them.

28:46 - But I mean, I think that’s just like an important part of the intimacy and the experiment of this ensemble in particular, and might not speak to rhythm at all.

29:00 - But it does because it’s built into all the scenes.

29:03 - I feel like, the stops and starts for me, come from when Julia as Mag, as the Marie character, is like directing in, like interactions between the major and Marie, all those stops and starts do it again, those breaks in action when you’re aware that we’re either, you know, we’re performing for one another, I feel really built into the rhythm, more so than I can immediately grab on to musically.

29:34 - But I know it’s there. Well, also what’s odd is, I was gonna say, Ben, you’ve modeled in previous minor theater productions, some of this meta hi-jinks, in shows where you did the sound and you were acting.

29:58 - That’s true, yes. I did that. (laughs) That’s more like, Tell me more about it.

30:10 - I feel like that’s more like schtick. I don’t know.

30:12 - I feel like that’s almost kind of like a mode of operation at this point.

30:16 - I feel like, As opposed to a technique? (laughs) Yeah, yeah.

30:21 - As opposed to like a downtown theater technique where, you know, the sound designers on the stage and they press the button, and then they act the thing.

30:29 - And that’s part of like a history of performance.

30:32 - No, there’s a long history. Yeah, yeah, I think, you know, it brings up interesting questions of thinking specifically about this piece and where does this piece want to go? You know, we’re in this kind of little golden glowy area where we still have where the show’s not set.

30:59 - It’s not made yet, you know, we’ve tried out a couple of different ideas of it so far, but we haven’t, there’s still so much about what the show is, and how it functions that we don’t know yet.

31:21 - And I feel like, with with the last show, it was a little bit built in from the beginning that I would be doing that, you know? And so, I mean, it came about organically, it was kind of, I don’t want to say it was written into the script, but there was just something about it that worked from the beginning, you know? And then it became fun.

31:57 - I mean it was always fun, but, and this, I don’t know.

32:06 - I mean, part of this maybe is still that I’m still trying to find my way into this piece and to figure out what it is that I can do to help facilitate this piece.

32:15 - And right now, most of the way that’s worked is that, I know all you guys so well and I just have total trust in you guys.

32:27 - And I feel like I’m following this process in a way and kind of on the outside of it, you know? So I don’t know what the techniques are, I don’t know what the history of performance, how the history of performance in downtown is going to shake this piece, but it still feels like it’s so malleable at this point.

33:05 - We just need to be in a room together again, maybe soon.

33:11 - Yeah, well, yeah, but that seems very appropriate.

33:15 - That the piece that is doing what this piece is doing, that the male sound designer follows, seems appropriate, to me a good idea.

33:29 - I definitely don’t need to be in front of it, yeah, yeah.

33:36 - But, I mean, one sort of downtown theater trope that has come up in our conversations, is the play with songs model, which has been hotly contested in this room, where there was a moment when I was like, well whatever it is, it’s not another play with songs.

33:56 - And then, you know had to like, furiously backpedal afterwards, because of course, it is a play with songs.

34:04 - I mean, that’s exactly what it is, but the question of sort of like, how music lives in this play, which has sort of the question of it being a rock show, and also something else, is something that, we’ve been working with our music director and composer, Jeff Aaron Bryant, to figure out in different iterations, different showings that we’ve done, because typically right, in this world of theater, I think, at least in the plays, that I think of my plays as sort of coming out of, or growing alongside of, the song functions partly as a kind of acknowledgement of theatricality, like, you know, we’re doing a scene, oh, now we’re doing a song.

34:51 - We’re all in on the joke together. And it’s great, you know? But I think in a way, this piece is so much located on that frame already.

35:01 - That that can’t be the logic of what the songs are doing.

35:04 - I wonder if maybe this is this a good segue, perhaps? Yeah, yeah, let’s watch some tape.

35:17 - ♪ Hold your head straight ♪ ♪ So I can see your curls ♪ ♪ And try to find your eyes ♪ ♪ And keep my mind cold ♪ ♪ Someone told me women ♪ ♪ Are the ones who make the world ♪ ♪ Is a bad world ♪ ♪ You fucked up girl ♪ ♪ There’s nothing left to show me ♪ ♪ I don’t know ♪ ♪ I’ve seen it all ♪ ♪ Baby can you hold your head up straight ♪ ♪ It’s gonna fall ♪ ♪ It’s gonna fall ♪ ♪ You’re black hair drags you down ♪ ♪ Your eyes so black ♪ ♪ They pin you to the ground ♪ ♪ Let me drag you down ♪ ♪ And I will let you pin me to the ground ♪ ♪ Tell me when you’re done ♪ ♪ When you can’t take another mouthful ♪ ♪ I want what you want ♪ ♪ I hate being wasteful ♪ ♪ Hold your hands out ♪ ♪ So I can see your claws ♪ ♪ Show me where the paint is chipped ♪ ♪ Move me with your flaws ♪ ♪ Heavy your hair hangs heavy ♪ ♪ Your head hangs heavy ♪ ♪ But I will lift you high ♪ ♪ There’s nothing left to hurt you ♪ ♪ I went and sold it all ♪ ♪ You’re not getting any younger ♪ ♪ And the price is gonna fall ♪ ♪ It’s gonna fall ♪ ♪ Your black hair drags you down ♪ ♪ Your eyes so black ♪ ♪ They pin you to the ground ♪ ♪ Let me drag you down ♪ ♪ And I will let you pin me to the ground ♪ ♪ The devil needs in you ♪ ♪ The devil’s in in you ♪ ♪ The devil wants you ♪ ♪ So I do ♪ The devil’s in you, so the devil wants you, so I do.

38:33 - Is that what that lyric was? Yeah, (laughs) that’s good.

38:44 - That’s a good lyric. Thanks, Taylor Mac.

38:53 - So, I mean, amazing. That’s wonderful, you have a wonderful voice.

38:58 - Are you a musician or are you just doing it because of this, you were casting this and they told you, you have to sing? Yeah I mean, Julia writes these amazing lyrics and songs and yeah, Jeff Aaron Bryant has been working as our music director and composer and yeah, that, really that, I’ve never, I mean, everyone I think has the fantasy of fronting a rock band, or singing and being like that.

39:30 - But honestly, it’s wild. I can’t, I don’t know, the experience of singing and performing in this piece is, I think back to your earlier question, that’s where I struggled the most, just like within, you know, life and, and transition.

39:45 - So I watched that video, it’s probably a year ago now, that video is filmed.

39:48 - I don’t even, we didn’t even change the key.

39:51 - I don’t even, it would just sound different.

39:53 - Every month and every time it will change. Yeah.

39:59 - Yeah, it’s so fun to do, but really, really, really vulnerable.

40:02 - And I think the acting is really not vulnerable for me.

40:06 - Not like to be like that, but it’s really not.

40:09 - It’s so fun and devilish and, you know, stepping into being intimate.

40:15 - But the singing in this aspect for me is definitely is my own personal performer, a little pocket challenge.

40:23 - Whereas I think Jenny and Julia are working, you know, we all have our own little, little performer pocket, we’re either like protecting or throwing up in.

40:31 - So, working on it. Yeah, yeah, but that’s a beautiful place where you get to watch people be vulnerable and do it anyways, you know? I mean, somebody was, I saw some reward show or something, where somebody was lipsyncing again, some rock and roller was like, why didn’t she sing live? I mean, I can’t sing.

40:57 - I sing live. It was so amazing. And you can sing, but I just love that.

41:06 - The beauty of that, the bravery of that, and finding a way to put that on a stage is just like, that’s it, that’s all it is, you know? Virtuosity and that at the same time, you know? So talk to me about your company and how you make a company.

41:27 - And it’s rare for there to be a company where it’s the playwrights, you know? I can think of Young Jean Lee’s company, when she calls it that, but it’s really Young Jean Lee, right.

41:38 - And so what does it mean to have an ensemble? And the playwright is, it’s one playwright and I’m assuming one costume director.

41:47 - And so how was that navigated and how does it work? It sounds divine to me.

41:58 - Anybody? Asta. Okay, I’ve plugged headphones back in, definitely not technical.

42:11 - I think this is an organic, Keetian is a recent addition to this four group who have, were making plays.

42:22 - And it was structured in a kind of, Julia’s writing, directing, and we were putting up shows, and there was a desire to have more of a through line than just sort of putting up shows.

42:36 - And it’s really exciting that this has created an arc across our productions where, Jenny was acting primarily and then shifted into her role.

42:50 - And I think the sort of, the trust and shared love of doing the plays together, Julia’s writing is a big spine in it.

43:05 - And it’s the shared thrill of just making plays together.

43:17 - So it’s a real delight, I mean, yeah, which essentially began with a show called “Grimly Handsome”.

43:24 - Which is, it’s really wild to me that actually that was a three person play, where Jenny played a kind of cypher Julia, and it was interested in masculinity and a grimly handsome man, personified by Ben Williams, a sort of sexy sound designer.

43:46 - So it’s really all quite full circle here. Right, because now it’s Maria, is Maria the character’s name? Marie. Marie.

43:54 - Maria is in some ways the cypher, yeah? Is that fair to say? Is that furthering the misogyny to say that? I don’t know, it’s a question.

44:10 - No. I don’t know the answer to. But that was a piece that was about, I mean, about our shared love of watching Pete Simpson and Ben Williams and Jenny C. Stone do some really great text on stage.

44:28 - And I think we’ve just been really blessed to have a lot of other collaborators who’ve thrown a ton of energy and joy into some really, just some really fun work.

44:50 - And there’s a kind of shared sense of humor of this group.

44:56 - And so is that the challenge, to mix up who does what? It seems like maybe that’s happening a little bit? Is that fair to say? Yeah, I think that, that has been a feature, yeah, going through, and I think something that excites us, that each of us plays multiple roles, sometimes within the show, but certainly - The actors, yeah, yeah.

45:26 - Yeah. The creation of what the theater company is, the structure of who’s in charge of what, is pretty dispersed.

45:37 - And, and I think, not like we’re trying really hard not to make it a power structure of who does what and who can do other things, which I think is really a difficult way to navigate through in the beginning, but is a really interesting exercise in coming together and doing it together, but also taking responsibility or giving responsibility, that I think we’re still navigating through, in a really exciting and scary way.

46:14 - Keep us posted on that, I guess. ‘Cause it feels like there aren’t that many models for it, and it feels to me, when I read about it I just thought, oh yeah, how dreamy is that? Because the ego of, Mullyer obviously had a company, but it was Mullyer’s company, you know? And so that, and like the Wooster group obviously is a group of theater people, but nothing really happens without their artistic director.

46:45 - You know what I mean? So it’s like, what is the, there’s lots of devised companies, but what is the ensemble with a playwright, one playwright? Even if you mix it up, I find it exciting.

47:01 - Keep talking to people, like how roundabout it and the process, that’s all.

47:08 - Thanks. And then, we’ll go soon. But I just wanted to ask you also about aesthetics.

47:15 - Like what are you, working downtown, you know, so much of the aesthetics sometimes feels like it’s dictated by economics.

47:24 - And I wonder about that in terms of content and aesthetics, how you work with them, both the design of sound, but also just how you’re blending that into the work, I guess.

47:45 - You mean like cheapness. (laughs) Well, a chair on a stage is either an economic decision or it’s about content, and it’s a choice.

47:59 - So I just wonder where that is with you. Do you have the dream of having an opera budget for this, and that’s what you would like or do you have the dream of no, a minimalist aesthetic allows you to dig deeper into the content that you want to express? That’s what I’m wondering.

48:24 - I mean, definitely give us the opera budget.

48:28 - You know, but I think that, I mean, one way to answer that is to say that negative space is super, has always been super important in all of our shows, and you know, the tension between the seen and the unseen.

48:43 - I mean we did a show called “The Terrifying” a few years back, which was a horror play, and was a chance for Ben to build like a super rich, intense soundscape, you know? With speakers under the seats and just really immersive, and telling an enormous amount of story through sound, and part of why that a project like that makes sense, at least to me, for us, is that I think we’re always kind of playing, I mean to go back to the thing about the impossible, we’re always kind of playing on the edges of the invisible, and the thing that kind of can’t quite be realized.

49:24 - I mean, I do think Marie, most explicitly of all our plays, kind of takes place in a kind of, on the threshold between the real and the imaginary, but I think in a way that’s true of all of the plays, and that they’re all kind of plays about fantasy.

49:43 - Plays about sort of like, building dream, building desire.

49:50 - And so in a certain way, I think a lot of the choices, even our kind of more built-up designs, are not about like creating a stable, a kind of imaginatively stable landscape.

50:05 - It’s more like we want a space, for a space to play with shadows and kind of.

50:12 - Beautiful, that’s a beautiful way to say it.

50:18 - In the acting part through, it’s in the content and it’s in all of the rest of it too.

50:25 - How pared down can it be without? And put on and pull down at the same time? Like, it’s not all about suspension of disbelief or anything like that.

50:37 - Right. There is like a striving for a communication.

50:46 - Do you feel like that’s just like, we don’t want to trick anybody, is that, yeah? Yeah, no tricking.

50:53 - No, I mean, I’m down to trick people. But I mean, I think what you were saying before was something like, I don’t believe in scenery, like, you don’t believe in like, right? We believe, I think, in role-playing and make-believe.

51:14 - Right. And we believe we are not these people on stage, which is getting pushed, I think to a certain extreme with this project, that is new.

51:22 - That is new, I think. But I think. But it’s still theater.

51:32 - I mean, in “Grimly Handsome”, we made red panda costumes that Jenny and Ben wore, which was really, I’m always looking to get back to the creature aspect of this show.

51:46 - But I think like for example, in terms of where we are with this piece, it’s a fairly live question that what you saw was footage of the dot, and the dot felt very immediate as a space.

52:02 - And the stripped quality of that performance felt really exciting.

52:10 - So now Ben often asks the group, when are we going to hire like a set, or like other designers, which we will, (laughs) and we will be articulating these desires, but with the journey of this piece, it’s not really clear necessarily.

52:34 - Yeah, I just think it’s alive in a way, like so much of the downtown theater that I see is, well, it’s what we’re doing.

52:46 - You know what I mean? It’s like, we got a chair ‘cause this is why we’re here, it’s what we can do for now.

52:53 - You know what I mean? But to make a choice of the space and as you say, the shadows is, yeah, to love the dot for being empty is an intimate, at the same time is, is a special thing.

53:10 - Basil would love to hear you say that ‘cause it’s named after his mom.

53:14 - But yeah, I just wanted to ask before we go if there’s anything that you guys want to ask of the community, do you need to help make your piece? Or do you want the community to consider something, as you’re considering this work? Or it just, yeah, if there’s something you want to ask of, please do.

53:39 - Even if it’s just money. I mean, come and see it when we do it.

53:52 - That’s good! (laughs) I mean I, another thing is just, Asta mentions that the company will have to grow for this show, that we’ll be looking for new collaborators.

54:09 - And I think something that’s that’s of interest to us is how can we make this a welcoming place to be this company? How can we make it a site that people want to join up with? We’ve talked a lot about how much love and trust we already have for each other, which is great, obviously, but I think a question, something that is a live question for us right now, is how could we welcome people that we’re not already working with, into this project, and give them a real voice in the room, in a way that feels meaningful to them? Yeah, I’m sure there are some people out there in the HowlRound world who will have some thoughts about that for you.

55:03 - Yeah, we are happy to hear those thoughts. Yeah, really welcome those thoughts, you know, however broad or small they are.

55:11 - Yeah, yeah. That’s something we’ve talked about a lot about.

55:14 - I’ll say something that happened recently with me, we had a design meeting and I just met, they were working on a piece called “The Hang”.

55:22 - And so it’s kind of about hanging out. So Nigel Smith is directing.

55:25 - He just had us all like go around and talk about just some kind of origin story of our lives, it seems like group therapy, but it immediately connected me with everybody.

55:39 - And I knew most of them, but it just was the, it was so simple.

55:44 - Meredith, not to give anything away about her life, but Meredith who works at HERE, she told a story, and I thought here Meredith was always this producer who worked at HERE.

55:55 - And I was like, oh yeah she’s the person that works at HERE.

55:57 - And suddenly I felt so emotionally connected to her, just because she told this story, she was given the space to tell a story about her life.

56:06 - I thought, oh right, now I’ll never have a problem with a contract with her because I’ll see her as a person before I see her as a piece of paper, or somebody who’s given me a piece of paper.

56:18 - So that I will say is, I’m not ashamed that I’m 47, and I just learned that technique, but that is the technique to use.

56:27 - There you go. Thank you, that’s really nice.

56:31 - Yeah, it’s useful. Anything else you guys want to add? We’re looking for places to show the piece, too.

56:42 - Right, yeah, great. Bring us to your theater.

56:45 - Well, oh yeah, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation How you’re taking your work out into the world, but we could do that on a later time.

56:53 - (gentle instrumental music) Alright, great. Thanks everybody.

56:57 - Thanks, Taylor. (gentle instrumental music).