Many people see artists as shamans, dreamers, outsiders, and rebels. In reality, the artist is a builder, an engineer, a research analyst, a human relations expert, a project manager, a communications specialist, and a salesman. The artist is all of those and more–combined with the imagination of an inventor and the courage of an explorer. Not a bad set of talents for any business challenged to innovate in a world of volatility, uncertainty, and change.
co-created/performed by Benjamin Stuber
directed by Randolph Curtis Rand
Forecast: Absolute chaos. To weather the storm, find someone. Or else.
Inspired by the lonely and absurd profiles of OkCupid and the second Law of Thermodynamics.
Tuesday, May 28th at 7:30pm
Dixon Place Lounge
(161A Chrystie Street)
For more info visit the Love in a Heat Death Universe event page
Playwright’s promise: It is going to be a wild night of theater.
I have a long history with foolsFURY, from previous Company Manager and Producer to current Associate Artist. My role as an associate thus far has been primarily that of an actor so I’m excited to work with director Ben Yalom and the gang as a playwright this time around.
And it’s the first time I have to skype in for rehearsals. (As they will be in SF and I will be in my NYC apartment.) Hooray for technology.
First, a definition:
Earthquake weather: The strange natural occurrences/behaviors that occur before a quake.
Faulted is the Los Angeles play I was destined to write one someday.
It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in my native Southern California but I’m still a SoCal girl in more ways than I would like to admit. To me, Los Angeles was never a glossy palm tree beach place with perfectly tanned people in bikinis. It was a place of track homes, newly designed shopping malls, nonexistent winters and beaches I only went to at night cause that’s when PCH is amazing. It was June bugs in the pool, coyotes in the backyard, In and Out with friends, cursing the goddamn 405 and watering lawns at night cause when wasn’t there a drought? And then there were earthquakes.
I remember the 1994 Northridge quake. It happened in the wee hours of the morning. It lasted a long time , you could feel the floor roll and it had that unnerving surround sound rumble peppered with car alarms and the sound of silverware banging against each other. Our no-power house became a convening place for family that had to flee Northridge, as my cousins’ apartment building collapsed (almost on them) and my grandmother’s neighborhood had gas line explosions.
Our house was stuffed full of energized kids, shaken adults and conversations in the kitchen about earthquake weather. People said there was hardly any traffic on the freeway the night before. My aunt remembered that the Ralph’s parking lot the night before had no one in it. (And I’m sure someone recalled their family pet going crazy before it happened. Animal behavior is often an element of “earthquake weather.”) There seemed to be a consensus that the night before the quake had been nothing but silence.
Unless you live in earthquake country, you don’t know about earthquake weather. So I took what I love and know about my hometown, researched the science and folklore of earthquakes and wrote Faulted. Funny, dark and an experiment in suspense, the play is about the next one to hit Los Angeles. There’s a Stevie Nicks dressed earth empath, a bad ass villain named San Andreas and other walking, talking, In and Out eating fault lines.
In and Out…this play has a lot of food from In and Out. Goddamn I miss In and Out.
If you are in the Bay Area this week, check it out!
Things I learned from the first day of filming for my solo show
The Unfelt Wonder
When performing your monologue in a bar as your director films you with a flip cam, do converse with meddling bystanders in character. Even if that character is a who-caring, loud badass.
When chasing your director down the West End as she films you performing, do be as loud as you can be in order to scare doormen. Do not stay long enough for them to call the cops.
When chasing your director down the West End, let her know when it is safe to cross the street as she is walking backwards and cannot see. But do so in character.
When following your acting instincts during an impromptu diner performance, do throw a french fry at your director’s eye as she films you. But again, do so in character.
Do ask a million times if the footage is okay but do not watch yourself….yet.
Do film on a Thursday. No one expects crazy public acting on Thursdays.
Do bring Adele Thurston with you. She is a wonderful assistant camera chick. And she will give you good limping advice.
Try to do everything in one take.
Go home. Drink water. Wash all the cat eye make-up off your face.
And of course, you must see my Upper West Side performance in it’s edited glory as part of my solo show at Dixon Place on June 4th.
Writer of above mentioned play performing at the above mentioned location/time
She Asked: Why make this a solo show?
He Said: The New York dating scene is an epically lonely, fraught, and chaotic shitstorm. Online dating sites purportedly provide a refuge from these problems by allowing people to present themselves any way they choose and screen others without wasting valuable time or emotional energy. But in many ways online dating only exacerbates these conditions, spawning abstracted eidolons who interact through disconnected and confusing virtual encounters. For many, this only increases isolation and self-referential eccentricities. The solo form can aptly capture the paradoxical humor and sadness of virtual dating: the audience knows that by definition the single performer will never find anyone but himself no matter how hard he tries. And yet his painful striving can be fascinating to watch and in some ways enlightening. I think we learn a great deal about ourselves through weathering the storms of romance and love, whether in person or online.
She asked: This devising process has been like…
He Said: Butter! Well, it’s definitely come easy. Many of these characters suggested themselves from a very early stage of the process, and once we found the organizing principles and plot their interactions snapped together with similar ease. Angela and I communicate very well and although we have different opinions about dating and the subject matter in general, our ideas and crazy suggestions have played very well together. It’s been a very fruitful and fast process.
She asked: What has been the most surprising part of this process, thus far?
He Said: I’ve helped create a lot of devised work over the years so perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked, but I’m struck by the rich, deep, compelling and original characters that have emerged from our random and patchwork sources. Tiny bits of text, impressions from profiles of people we’ve never met, and heady literary and scientific theory has – through Angela’s hard work and talent – coalesced into a fascinating and believable cast of characters.
She asked: In one sentence, define what OkCupid is.
He Said: The desperate, curious, and perverse meet in a whirlwind of self-absorption, plummeting standards, and artless sexual innuendo. But it sort of works.
She asked: Which character in the play would you go on a date with?
He Said: … none of them? Okay, fine. Bang has self-awareness, but I don’t want to date a version of myself. Hank has a soul but no self-love. Ozy’s probably terrible in bed, Peg would be prohibitively expensive to feed, and I probably wouldn’t meet Butter’s dating standards. So I suppose I would date Jefferson, because he’s well-dressed and -informed and I’ll always know what’s coming on the horizon when I’m around him.
He asked: OkCupid seems such a bizarre, artificially way to find love. What do you think makes it so popular?
She Said: It is convenient. You can be as busy as you want and all you have to do is pick up a device and see who is out there. An instant way of feeling connected to something more than your daily grind.
He asked: How has drawing from personal emails, physically-based improvisation, and other sources affected the language of the play?
She Said: Huge. I wanted this piece to personify the words found on OkCupid. People have very different writing styles, from romantic verbosity to never-ending disconnected thoughts. Once I was recognized the different patterns, the characters were created around those benchmarks.
He asked: How would you describe your own OkCupid persona? Would you like to meet her if she wasn’t you?
She Said: I think my profile makes me look like an average girl with a smart ass after taste. I would meet me. Who doesn’t want to meet me?
He asked: What’s the strangest OkCupid interaction you’ve ever had – online or in real life?
She Said: This guy, we had a good first date but it came out that I was a writer from the West. He asked me if I was tired. I told him I am perpetually tired. He then went on to tell me that ten years ago a psychic told him one day in New York City he would meet a tired writer from the West and that ever since then, he was waiting to meet “her.”
Needless to say I didn’t go on that second date. He didn’t take the rejection well. Later on, I randomly came across his website (he was a painter) and discovered he painted me, in retaliation I suppose. The woman in the portrait had my face, my body, an looked evil and a robotic arm.
He asked: How do you think entropy and chaos affect dating in the City for better and worse?
She Said: I think this city is exhausting and insane and that either pushes you to want to meet someone ASAP or makes you feel totally burned out and hopeless. I think if anything, the chaos of our day-to-day lives reminds us that it is important to find connection, that there has to be more than your to-do list or that list is going to take over your life. And suck your soul out and deprive your family of grandchildren. Spoken like a true Italian right there.
THIS WILL NOT BE MULTIMEDIA=FAMOUS LAST WORDS
When Lillian Meredith and I began to collaborate on the second iteration of my one-woman show, The Unfelt Wonder, I told her, “This cannot be multimedia. Multimedia is a cop out. This has to be about performance.”
The play is dark comedy about the life-long experiment of a woman (Wonder) who has been denied physical touch. With a mutual interest in immersive theater, Lillian decided the entire play should happen within the confines of Wonder’s living laboratory, aka her home.
Given those constraints, I looked at the draft and not only redefined the settings of the monologues but also the means in which Wonder would logically be able to observe them. One thing lead to another and after some late nights of crazy tea drinking, I have created a multimedia show.
In order to not eat as much crow, I have taken on the challenge to do the audio design and (perhaps) film editing for the show. If it is going to be multimedia, why not do it myself for our upcoming workshop performance at Dixon Place? It would still be one performer doing everything thus it is mega solo, right?
I hate eating crow.
Good news is, I heart sound design.
How to Pan This Goddamn Sound Cue
Origins of the Heat Death Universe
There is something fascinating and infuriating about online dating. And I will be the first to admit, I am no good at it.
In my few attempts to find “love” on OkCupid, I found myself in awe of the ways people described themselves. Whether they were honest, sarcastic, or clearly only after one thing, I would sit back in my frustration and think, “What if these people are really what they say? What if these people are just what they write about?”
Late fall of last year, I was trying OkCupid again while performing with Benjamin Stuber in foolFURY’s premiere production of Sheila Callaghan’s Port Out Starboard Home. During that run, I wrote the fated Facebook status that started it all. (As seen above.)
Benj is an amazing performer to work with. I wanted to collaborate with him on something and we had talked briefly about solo shows. During the last week of performances of Port Out, Starboard Home, we were stretching on the LaMama stage and I said, “You want to do a devised solo show?” He said, “Um, yes.” The next day he said he wanted to do the online dating idea I had posted about. The rest, they say…is a scary intense leap down the rabbit hole of OkCupid.
Cue scary music.
Creating Our Universe
Devising a one-man show was uncharted territory for both of us. We both had devised pieces in ensembles but to remain in the roles of performer and playwright while creating side by side was an interesting challenge.
When it comes to writing, I am always mindful of what makes my plays theatrical. I want my work to have a reason to be on stage as opposed to say television or film. The thing I knew from the beginning was I had to write a piece that rested on what was most theatrical about Benj as a performer: his extreme physical theater skills.
The other thing I knew was this piece had to be rooted in OkCupid at every turn. Nothing that went on the page could come initially from us, everything from character creation to plot had to be inspired directly from text and images found on people’s profiles.
We set up our dropbox and stuffed it full of screen grabs of text and pics from OkCupid. I would filter through those and send Benj a list of questions based on each jpeg. I would ask things like, “What music you think is playing in the background of this pic?” or “How do they order their favorite Mexican dish” or “What is the song that reminds them most of their ex?”
In addition to those first impressions, we had many long emails and coffee meetings where we shared our own OkCupid horror stories, various theories and philosophies about intimacy and what it was like to date in a maddening city like New York. From issues of loneliness to the pressures of never-ending busyness, those thematic discussions merged with his response to certain screen grabs led to the creation of 8 characters.
Since we didn’t want to miss out on all the fun, we also picked apart our own online dating profiles. Which of course had gems of ridiculousness in them. Eager to join the theatrical shaming of online dating, we created a Benj/Angela hybrid character. So that left the cast list at 9.
And then there was the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
I knew from the beginning that this piece wouldn’t be an obvious spoof on OkCupid. (So many of us live it and to see it outright on stage…my dating wounds are too fresh for that.)
Staying committed to our OkCupid inspiration roots, I became fascinated by this man who spends time thinking about The Heat Death of the Universe AND burritos (among other things).
So I flew into research mode, figuring out what exactly heat death was and what it had to do with our universe. (I already knew about burritos. I am from California. And as to not confuse you, burritos didn’t end up playing a huge role in this piece.)
I spent hours watching YouTube lectures from MIT, trying to get to a point where I could share with Benj, in my own words, what heat death of the universe was.
Many hysterical emails and confusing conversations later, I found our plot, rooted in ideas of entropy and chaotic systems. Two ideas that were relevant to what it felt like to date online.
I had to make the idea active so I turned it into a super epic weather system, rooted in mind blowing chaos, which would threaten the well being of all the characters.
Bum bum BUM!
On Yo Feet!
Throughout the drafting process, we had a handful of studio rehearsals so Benj could play with the characters and also share with me more of his abilities and interests as a performer.
It will be exciting to see the madness we created on it’s feet. It is a solo show of endurance to be sure. Or as Benj said, “A real fucker here, an evil little gem.”
I can’t wait to keep working on this thing. If you around NYC on May 28th, come by Dixon Place and check it out!
Afterwards, we can all get a drink and exchange online dating horror stories. We all have them. Let’s show off our sweet sweet battle scars.
Oh, the Moon!, my collaboration with choreographer CatherineMarie Davalos, opens this week at Saint Mary’s College as part of their annual spring dance concert, Terrain. The piece is 3-4 dances that include various styles of text, all riffing around the subject of the moon. While I have written scripts for movement heavy ensembles, I’ve never written for modern dance. To create text that would act as a score and inspire movement was an experiment not in how to tell a story but how to link words and create drama through a sonic landscape.
So, how did I get this job?
Let me explain.
The moon was full over the Chrysler Building, which I can see from one window in my Queens apartment. I was on edge of a long day. You New Yorkers know those days, when you feel like you lived four lifetimes, equally horrible and amazing. You think, “I am so glad to live here” while at the same time thinking, “This place is hell.”
Cathy and I have history. She used to be my professor back in the unsure Angela artist days. Then she became my boss. Now she is my colleague. So she sent me an email and in it she asked, “What do you know about the moon?” She was looking for poetry to inspire her latest moon-based piece.
So at 1am, sitting in my bed, with my hair piled on top of my head, the day still jolting my bones, my eyes falling but still refusing to sleep, I responded. It was a crazy list of all things moon, bullet pointed and written in a haze. At the end I told her, “I could make you a pop culture/ myth/science poetry jam thing.” Took about ten minutes to write and I was basically asleep when she responded in glee at my rambling late night brainstorm. (She later told me she was at a dance concert with her dancers and in her joy, her phone with my email was passed along to everyone. Awesome!)
One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was reading the entire transcript of the Apollo 11 mission to create a sonic landscape for a solo dance, I was writing couplets about Moon Pies and I was workshopping drafts via Skype as Cathy sat in her colorful patio in Oakland.
Moral of the story is…perhaps it is wise to send out spastic late night emails after exhausting NYC days. They might get you gigs. Like this one. So stay up and answer your emails! Do it!
I hope this piece develops into a full evening of dance but for now, if you are in the Bay Area go and check it out! Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, May 9–11, 8 p.m. For more details visit SMC.
And read the transcripts of the Apollo 11 mission. The space program is goddamn goddamn goddamn cool. I am serious. It’s the subject of my next play. Mark my words.