nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jason Slavick
July 8, 2013
What is your job on this show?
What is your show about?
In this latest show by Liars and Believers, Greek mythology meets burlesque, puppetry, and a folk-rock score rolling through the Great Depression in a dark magical side-show. You know, basically, the myth of Icarus set in the great depression - with puppets and some naked people.
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I've known I would be in theatre my entire life. My mom tells an embarrassing story (that I'm about to put in print) about me at age 4. I used to dress up with a cowboy hat and mask and be "The Mashed Man". No that's not a typo. And I would make the adults play out elaborate scenes, with plot twists and an anti-hero and so forth. I think I must have been a director/artist in the making already. Long live The Mashed Man.I think there was a week in college when I thought about being a Philosophy professor, but then I forgot to keep thinking about that and kept doing what I was doing.
Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this summer that...?
My show is the only one opening in NY that has puppets made of junk, paper, parachute, wood, hats, coats and canvas, has a man torn apart and eaten on stage and another literally tied into knots, channels Tom Waits & Mumford, is sung-through entirely from beginning to end but isn't really a musical at all. It's like the anti-musical musical.
Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
Oh, they’re definitely arguing into the wee hours and then waking up still talking. First of all, what is it? A musical? A play? An operetta, Performance art? What do you call this weird thing? Then they’re going to argue about how it ends. Do they make it? Do they crash? Is it happy? Is it sad? Is it hopeful? And then there’s the whole question of the morals. Is the world corrupt? Do you feel bad watching that guy get smashed up, or do you just feel bad because you were laughing (because it was funny, but does that make you a bad person for laughing when you really shouldn’t be laughing - but come on, give me break, it was funny – AND you’re a bad person.) I suppose we can agree on the cool puppets and staging and the really smart music. Yeah, we’re talking about DAYS of discussion - but I don’t think it will ruin breakfast or anything.
Which character from a Shakespeare play would like your show the best: King Lear, Puck, Rosalind, or Lady Macbeth -- and why?
I think Rosalind and Puck go on a date to see this show together. He picks her up at her apartment and gives her a flower that squirts in the face – but given the heat wave she’s cool with that, so he also buys her an iced lemonade on the way in to the Signature. After the show they discuss into the wee hours of the morning (see above). They both dig the playful sneaky quality of the story-telling and all the transformation – though she is more into the gender-crossy stuff and Puck likes the monster and the flying. Rosalind gets deep right away and is thoughtful about what it all means. Puck is still into the monster, but at the end concedes the meaningful stuff about morality in the face of cruelty. They go get ice cream – because it’s so damn hot in NY now. Rosalind shoves Puck’s cone in his face, and Puck laughs.
Who are your heroes?
If you mean my Life Heroes, then I most admire the people I meet who live with grace, humility and generosity. Those are really hard things to manage in this business. I try to emulate the people who approach the world with a love for humanity that is driven by broad empathy. I think these are mostly people I meet in my everyday life – especially teachers I’ve had. But if you mean my Theatre Heroes? Right now that’s Mary Zimmerman. She is AWESOME! I love everything she does, because it’s filled with a mix of simplicity, transformation and profound empathy. Every one of her shows gets into what it means to be a human being. I love seeing her work. I’ll go see anything she does and I’ll brazenly steal from her because she’s just that good! I guess I admire her most for the same reason I admire my life heroes: for her love of humanity.