Baggage

June 15, 2018

 

bag·gage

ˈbaɡij/

noun

  1. 1.personal belongings packed in suitcases for traveling; luggage.

    synonyms: luggage, suitcases, cases, bags

    "leave your baggage with the inspectors"

     

    2.past experiences or long-held ideas regarded as burdens and impediments. "the emotional baggage I'm hauling around"

(Presented here is an unattended suitcase I found on E. 54/2nd Ave)

 

As I've been doing a lot of theatre in transportable spaces in the past year--on the streets, in people's kitchens and in people's bedrooms, it seemed to make sense to start a collective with my usual collaborators called Unattended Baggage Company which you can check out here. We don't just produce site-specific work, we're interested in a lot of different things! We're not interested in being packed into one box, or rather, one suitcase ;) 

 

We've been up to a lot of shenanigans this year: starting with the Super Short Site Specific Festival on the streets of Midtown East ending on the streets of Midtown West that was done in (roughly) 24 hours; along a revival of Emma Howard's I'm Smiling Because I'm Uncomfortable in private kitchens in NYC and San Diego. Lastly, my newest piece, The Bed Show--a live talk show in people's bedrooms premiered in June along side a collaboration with The Motor Company of short plays in a laundromat called Laundryfest. All of these things have been awesome explorations in use of space in the city, and having done two street theatre pieces in the last year, I like to think that I have a loose idea of how this thing works--but then again, a lot of it has also been dumb luck and having weather be cooperative, among other things. 

 

I guess I can start off by saying I accomplished a goal this year in trying to pick up more assistant work. I started the year off by assisting Elann Danziger on Phantom Of The Paradise and Lillian Meredith (with her company, The Motor Company) on the Intimate Bar Plays by Fergus Scully. I'll speak about each of these experience seperately.

 

Phantom: Without getting into much detail, Phantom was a huge undertaking that ended up being a huge success. It was fun to get back to work on a project that took place in an actual theatre with lights and sound like the Secret Loft. Secret Loft is not without its flaws--there's not a backstage area so we had to utilize the spaces outside of different offices and some of them got really mad at us, which wasn't funny at the time, but just part of the many bumps in the road of DIY theatre. Phantom was also a piece that has specific musical demands (we had a five piece band of Broadway-level talent!) where I got to design my favorite decade: the 70's, and with the help of Costume Associate, Dimitri Barcomi. We got to make a vibrant and exciting world of disco and glam rock along with bright, bold colors and patterns with the drug filled nostalgia of the swingin' 70s. Researching the 70's with my failed stage adaptation of The Stepford Wives (1971) in 2010 is what made me really fall in love with costuming from this era. I stepped off on designing costumes in college for the most part, but since I've been in NYC has been such a fun skill to hone. I enjoyed this as well in Silent Night Bloody Night. Close to closing, however, I replaced Elann as the official Director.

 

Super Short Site Specific Festival: I love street theatre. Its always just a gamble and you never know what's going to happen. One piece ended up on the cutting room floor because after the actors were yelled at for performing in a "privately owned" walkway, they got cold feet--and we didn't have time to replace them, which was unfortunate, but part of the game. Recently I watched a fantastic interview with Billy Porter that really inspired me that said "if you “If you’re not interested in doing a play in a living room then you can’t be interested in doing a play on Broadway!!!!” The SSSS was a guided walking tour, lead by my friend Anna Rock as Aunt Linda, which led audiences members from Cellino and Barnes building (The Graybar Building) to different locations ranging from a random walkway, The Yale Club, NBA Sports Store, ending at Two Bros. Pizza. My favorite piece was my best friend Sammi Miller and Amelia Marinos' piece inspired by Cellino and Barnes, which starred Sammi and Amelia as Cellino and Barnes going through a breakup in a complete absurdist Eric Andre-inspired style, which ended with them pouring yogurt all over each other. A man walked by and started catcalling them, which made me really angry, but once the walking tour was over, he said it was the first thing he saw after getting out of prison for attempted murder after 15 years and that it made his day. A problematic narrative for sure, but also heart-warming, in its own way. 

 

Intimate Bar Plays: It had been the first time I had assisted on a new work in a very long time so it was an interesting process trying to find what worked. There were multiple storylines going on at one time in a bar called Murphy's Pub that was, at best, indifferent about us performing their venue. I came in late in the process and only worked on it a little bit, but it was a super goofy ridiculous production to work on. I have also never seen a bartender more annoyed than the one who was working the bar when we were performing. She looked like she wanted to chop us up and play in our blood. I hope she got tipped well.

 

I find myself ruminating on the idea of baggage as I venture into site-specific work and what baggage means. The term baggage is so closely tied to personal history. I'm doing a lot of unpacking myself, as I consciously decide to make this shift in my art. The rules of doing site-specific theatre are very subjective, strange, and at times non sensical. I think about all of the pioneers before me: retellings of RAMAYANA in India dating back to 1830 performed for the general public on the streets, Hazel McKaye's political theatre piece about the suffragette movement, THE ALLEGORY (article here) the epic Broadway musical WISH YOU WERE HERE with a giant swimming pool (which Rachel Chavkin's great-great uncle worked on - article here), the members of the political refugee SQUAT Theatre which sought to cross the line between reality and performance, Peter Brooks and Deborah Warner (link here), The Actors Theater of Louisville's projects (link here) and many, many more.

 

I think about the different layers of site specifity, how it allows us to se multiple worlds existing at one. Each location I find myself staging something in acts as both a public space and a performance, and how once the space is contextualized in a performance how that inherently affects the possibilities of that container. It feels in its own way, very surreal. I have learned a lot thus far--and while my show THE BED SHOW has just happened, I feel it is too soon to write about it: but I will say that doing a talk show in people's bedrooms is not as easy as it seems. You unpack the show at one bedroom, and move to the next. The show itself is also deeply personal, and I have unpacked some very complicated experiences about sex, love and intimacy. It has been short lived, but not dead. That's the crazy part about theatre: you spend all this time packing a bag for a trip--that trip is the show--then, you get to the trip (in this case, the play) and in the blink of an eye, the trip is over. You come home with your luggage. And you go onto the next.

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