Posts tagged DJ Mendel

Crying into my Coffee

Here is the text of my third Huffpo Fringe Diary (DJ took the groovy pic):

I lived in Paris one glorious and angst-ridden summer in my early twenties and it was there that I discovered the joys of crying in cafes. At the time, I was heartbroken, having just single-handedly destroyed my relationship with my first love due to unfounded jealousy and emotional instability. What better place to mourn a lost love than on the Left Bank? I cried into café au laits and I cried into kir royales. I cried until the ink smeared across my earnest journal pages. I signed my letters “gros bisous,” the last “s” smudged by a final, fat teardrop.

My heartbreak now is of a quieter variety. There is no longer a lost love, or rather, there are a handful of them. They all haunt me from time to time, though the specters are just flickers of a romanticism I rarely have time for anymore. A romanticism perhaps best surrendered and with it a measure of the narcissism and naiveté that never served me well to begin with.

I hope to never again cry from a heartbreak like the one I suffered that Parisian summer. But even a happy marriage can’t guarantee any such thing. I think often of holding my aunt’s hand as we watched her husband breathe his last breath. I remember how she lay all night on the floor next to the bed. I learned a lesson about the fleeting nature of love’s promises that night, as I listened to her rhythmic sobbing until the pale New England dawn came and I finally convinced her to make the call so they could come for his body.

Perhaps it was memories of that night that inspired my tears the other day, when I found myself crying in the café of a small bookstore that I ducked into out of the Edinburgh rain. Perhaps it was the report from my husband that my child is having a hard time, is missing me, is behaving poorly without me. Perhaps it was the ever-present thought that my closest friend, who died of a drug overdose a year ago, would have loved this city and it would have loved her back, her relentlessly creative spirit.

Crying in public is something I usually reserve for museums and cafes in cities not my own. Who has time, in between work and meetings and soccer practice and grocery shopping, to stop and cry into a your coffee because of some essential human loneliness? And anyway, who would cry into a ventithreeshotsugarfreevanillaskimmilk latte? There are so many control issues stuffed into that cup that there’s no room left for tears.

No- you cry into a whole milk latte, when your ankle is throbbing just slightly because you turned it by stepping awkwardly on cobblestone. You cry when the only people to witness speak another language, or at least with a barely-decipherable brogue. There’s a nakedness to crying in public, an implicit invitation to others to share your pain. The anonymity of traveling lends a safety to this nakedness. It’s simply not prudent to have an existential crisis at parent-teacher night. But a little breakdown on a street corner in Rome won’t inspire gossip about your fragility (perhaps you’re back on those pills after all), won’t cause you to miss your pitch meeting, won’t leave you too distraught to make dinner.

And what do we travel for if not this- to be lifted out of our ingrained identities and to experience our humanity?

In the Edinburgh café, I was brought back to my summer in Paris. That girl’s tears seem so sweet, so precious to me now. She knew everything about heartbreak and nothing at all. And though it sometimes feels like it, she is never entirely gone.

Ghosts and Royal Dicks

Here’s the text of the second in my series of Fringe blogs for the Huffpo:

I’m performing my solo show, Mother Tongue, at a venue called Summerhall, Edinburgh’s newest and biggest arts venue. Summerhall is located in the former Royal School of Veterinary Studies (nickname: The Royal Dick, after it’s founder William Dick, and still the name of the café/bar). My gay BFF is convinced that this is a good omen. “There’s no way you’re going to suck at the Royal Dick,” he told me. Which is an enormously ironic statement, seeing as my memoir is about doing exactly that, albeit in a different context.

But all Royal Dick sucking aside, Summerhall is a terrifically cool space, with a fascinating community of international artists lounging in the courtyard, trolling the hallways, wandering in and out of its nearly 500 rooms (some filled with art, some abandoned, some undecided), playing music, watching films, hanging from the ceiling fans, getting naked, and making art in all mediums. I’m tickled to be performing alongside an installation by one of my personal heroes, Carolee Schneemann.

I’m performing in the Red Lecture Theater, which is located on the first floor of Summerhall, around four or five twisty turns and down a flight of stairs to the basement. In front of the rows of seats are long ledges on which aspiring veterinarians used to take notes and my audiences have been happy to rest their drinks for the hour. My director DJ Mendel and I both love the room. It’s technically not perfect by any means, but it’s intimate, the rake of the seats is just right and there’s a nice energy there.

The dressing room is another story altogether. It is perhaps the creepiest dressing room ever. Or certainly the creepiest I’ve ever experienced. It’s small and cold and smells of cat pee and paint, as if someone just slapped a fresh coat over God knows what stains, what smells. A door opens into a labyrinth of dark corridors (dark corridors in which Victorian veterinary experiments took place) and there are doors along the wall, with small windows in them and locks on the outside. Which is to say, cages. My dressing room has cages in it.

On our first day in the theater, as I was sprawled out stretching on the stage, an ancient man hobbled in the door, leaning on a cane. He talked to DJ for a while and in a thick Scottish accent told him he used to work there. He said he had been a porter and had loved the job because everyone there used to help each other. Then he said, “I can’t help you with that dead girl, though.” And indicated me, lying on the ground.

Then the man walked out. Our lighting designer Ian Garrett came in not five seconds later and insists he didn’t see anyone leaving. Weird old guy or Scottish ghost? Other spooky facts: The manager of the space told me that they have no vermin at all, which is almost unheard of in these old buildings. And that the seagulls won’t fly over the building. Won’t go anywhere near it, in fact.

I’m undecided about the ghosts, but I do know that I can’t stay in that dressing room for more than five minutes at a time. I’m usually someone who cocoons for hours before a show, but somehow the cages and cat pee and ghosts have inspired me to be more social during that crucial pre-performance time. Or maybe it’s the festival atmosphere itself that has emboldened me. There is so much fascinating stuff to see that I don’t really want to hide out in the dressing room anyway. I’d rather sit in the café with the Italian performance artists and Balkan musicians and Chinese acrobats and then walk right out onto the stage.

Life on the Fringe

I’m doing a series of blogs over at the Huffington Post about my experience here at the Fringe Fest. Bet you didn’t know I have Scottish blood running through these veins. Don’t be confused by the Jersey accent, I do! Read all about it here.

Here’s the full text of the post:

Sometimes we change so radically that we become unrecognizable to ourselves. Even if that change is a necessary and welcome change, nostalgia for the former and more familiar self can sometimes creep in. Becoming a mother transformed my life in infinite ways, and while I love my son with a fierce passion, I still end many of my days staring at the ceiling and wondering what’s become of me.

A couple of days ago, I found myself boarding a plane to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Alone. Before I got married, I traveled alone all the time and it was a relief to feel like my old, independent self again. But the feeling left as quickly as it came and in its place I felt hollow in my very bones, as if some crucial marrow was missing. I was frustrated to find that I’m no longer the person who experiences nothing but freedom when the plane leaves the ground.

In the pocket of my jeans, I carried a swatch of the MacTaggart clan tartan, like some kind of entry card or talisman. I’m a MacTaggart through my maternal grandmother — my birth mother’s mother. A few years ago, my birth mother sent me a booklet that contains photos and an oral history of her family’s immigration to the U.S., where they settled down in a dusty Midwestern town. In the pictures, the MacTaggarts look hearty and solid. I looked through the pictures in the book, yearning to see some sort of resemblance.

Everyone looks to the world and hopes to find a mirror, but for adopted children, that search takes on a different sort of urgency. I saw no part of me in these care-worn farmers, until I reached a picture of a group of women and one popped off the page, the only woman in the whole book wearing lipstick. Even in the black and white pictures, you can tell that her lipstick is a wild shade of red. What a defiantly frivolous thing — to wear lipstick when all the faces around you wear only the lines etched into their skin by years of hard-won survival. I look at the name and, indeed, this is my maternal grandmother. Of course it is.

I was raised by bookish, middle-class Jews, immigrants from Eastern Europe, and I feel more connected to that lineage than I do to the farmers in those photographs. And yet, this swatch of blue and red and black in my pocket is a piece of me, if only because flying low over the patchwork Scottish farmlands, I want believe that something this breathtakingly green is inscribed in my cells.

And here I sit, in a flat in Edinburgh, watching the fireworks above the castle out the window of my bedroom. Today I open a solo show about how adopting my son from Ethiopia enabled me to face my conflicted feelings about my own adoption. How the mishmash identity we piece together as adoptees can make locating a sense of belonging in the world a struggle. Not impossible, certainly, but challenging.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world, with over 2,500 shows playing throughout the next month, and it’s bedlam. Every charming cobblestone street is crawling with actors, comedians, dancers, circus performers, musicians and performance artists of all shapes and sizes. They try to lure you in to see their shows by dressing in costumes, taking their shirts off, offering free cake, hula hooping, singing, dancing around in scary fairy makeup. Every church and storefront and café and tent is a performance venue. There’s even a giant inflatable purple cow called the Udderbelly.

I stumble down the cobblestone of the Royal Mile, duck into a stone archway and find my lighting designer sitting and chatting with some elegant, slouchy dancers lounging on the lawn. I run into my friend Kristina Wong, a solo performer I know from LA, who is stressed about getting the scones she’s serving at her morning show. I meet a woman named Mrs. Clark, who wears face paint and a black feather headdress and tells me that I make her spoon happy, upon which she draws a spoon with googly eyes from her cleavage. Later, I find my friend, comic Eddie Pepitone, the Bitter Buddha, who is adamant that this many performance artists should never be in one place at the same time — no good can come of it.

I still have my tartan in my pocket, but really the culture I’m a part of this anarchic explosion of art. This is my clan — tired and puffy-eyed and tearing their hair out at tech rehearsals and making stuff — good stuff, bad stuff, funny stuff, awful stuff — and coming together here in this fantastically gorgeous place to do it. I miss my child, I’m anxious about opening night, and still there’s a vein of joy running through my day, through these streets. There’s no need to feel motion sick from swaying between these disparate identities. There’s room for all of it here. I’m right at home.

Off to the Fringe

I’m off to Edinburgh, like, now, to perform my solo show Mother Tongue at the Fringe Fest- the biggest arts festival on the planet. If you know people over there, tell them to come! I’ll be blogging about it over at the Huffington Post and here, always, of course. We’ve already had a great write-up in The Herald.

I feel as ready as I’m going to be to take this show on the road. It needs an audience now so it can come alive.

Float

Here is some of the footage DJ Mendel and I shot today for the Mother Tongue video projections. Big thanks to the lovely and talented Meghan Daum for the use of her pool! And to Scott (as always) for the music.

Day 1: Mother Tongue Rehearsals…


Countdown to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I started rehearsals yesterday. The delightful Matt McRay has been kind enough to let me rehearse at Son Of Semele Theater. I’m working alone until my director DJ Mendel shows up from NY next week and it’s a lonely thing to walk into a theater solo and face the first day of stumbling through rusty lines and characters that have become strangers and staging that no longer works. It’s enough to make you want to take a nap, go get a yogurt, check your email again, stretch some more. Anything but face the doubts and the work and the doubts about the work that inevitably arise.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the a-mazing (see it as soon as humanly possible) documentary I just saw about Marina Abromovic, The Artist in Present. In it she says, “The artist has to be a warrior, to conquer not just new territory but himself and his weaknesses.”

To the battlefield…

Beginnings and Endings…

Yesterday was a big day for beginnings and endings. Three years ago yesterday Scott and I took T out the door of his care center for the last time. We had actually met him three days before that, but they transitioned the kids slowly, so for a few days we had to put him back in his crib at night and walk away. Each time it was harder. I remember every second of the day that he was finally with us for good. We watched Obama’s inauguration that night on satellite TV at the guest house while T slept on my chest. At the time I thought he was the world’s greatest sleeper. He spent the entire next year proving to me how wrong I was.

Cattywampus, the play in which I’ve been performing, closed last night. It’s been an amazing run, and such an adventure to be here in New York. As anyone who has ever done theater knows, a show is its own kind of family. I think it may be one of the reasons I fell in love with theater in the first place. I’m relieved in some ways to end the run because it’s an emotionally difficult and draining show for me. But I’ll miss this incredible cast and crew, so I’m stumbling around a bit mopey and sad today. I’m also stumbling because I think I might have broken my toe onstage last night. Because I’m like that about art- no half-measures. If I’m going to go all batshit crazy onstage and start kicking things, once in a while a toe gets broken.

There’s at least one cast member I won’t have to miss, because the fantastically talented DJ Mendel is going to be directing my solo show, Mother Tongue, on February 6 and 7 at The Brick in Williamsburg. We’ve been rehearsing like mad and I’m both anxious and incredibly excited about it. You can get more info about the show and buy tickets at The Brick website. Please tell all your NY friends! This pic is me on our first day of rehearsal at my friend Jordana Toback’s loft. I’m so fortunate that Jordana is also doing the choreography for the piece.

And last but not least- T woke up to his first snowfall yesterday. Seeing the snow through his eyes reminded me of one of the best things about being a parent. Every once in a while, you get to experience the world as gloriously new. I’m not sure I remember ever being this excited to see snow. It was magic.

But not so magic that I didn’t whip out the iPhone and take some video. Please- I was just happy, not insane.

NY News…

The opening weekend of Cattywampus in NY is under my belt and I’m literally battered and bruised (as anyone who’s seen the show knows- I get thrown around) and it’s a major adrenaline crash/eat french fries/watch Babe with Tariku for the fiftieth time kind of day. I’m exhausted but so proud of the show and in love with the whole amazing team we have working on it. And there were some sparkly New York moments this weekend- like walking through the cold, clear, full-moon night to the subway after a great show, with my husband and the two bouquets of flowers he brought me. I know- he’s good.

AND I have some more fantastic NY news… I’m going to be performing my one-woman show, Mother Tongue, at The Brick in Williamsburg on February 6 and 7. Mother Tongue is a multi-character performance piece revolving around the themes of adoption, blood, tribe and identity. I’m thrilled that I’m going to have the chance to do it here. My Cattywampus co-star, the uber-talented D.J. Mendel, will be directing. Please tell all your New York friends to come out and see it. Tickets will be available at The Brick website soon.

And now, to Babe… Bah ram ewe.

Taking this Show on the Road…

I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I can’t believe I’m even about to write this, but here goes. We’re packing up the whole operation and going to New York for the month of January so that I can perform, along with DJ Mendel and Jenny Greer, in Cattywampus, written and directed by Robert Cucuzza, at Incubator Arts Project. Here’s the trailer for the show.

And here’s a description:

In this backwoods reinvention of August Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie, writer and director Robert Cucuzza hones an essential tale of class and power, and stages it in modern-day Appalachia. Cucuzza and his collaborators orchestrate a multidisciplinary approach highlighted by distinctly American forms—country-western music written by Juli Crockett, line dancing choreographed by Jordana Che Toback—that binds Strindberg’s characters, both the rich and the poor, by exposing their shared vulnerability in a time of economic collapse.

As some of you know, I did a run of Cattywampus this summer and it was an incredible experience. I adored working with this cast and crew. So much so that I’m willing to learn the whole snowsuit drill of having a toddler in NY in the wintertime.

I’ve promised Tariku snow. He’s talking about it day and night. That and the fact that he’s going to get to watch endless shows on the airplane. I have a “go ahead and watch TV until your eyes bleed” airplane DVD policy.

We’ve actually been wanting to have an extended stay in NY. I don’t think we pictured it being in the middle of January, but then things rarely happen exactly as planned. We decided to go ahead and embrace the adventure.

There’s a Kickstarter campaign for Transit Authority, the non-profit production company behind Cattywampus. Please consider donating even a few tax-deductible buckaroos to help make art happen.

New Digs

Here’s a pic of D.J. Mendel, Juli Crockett and me from our Cattywampus rehearsals for the New Original Works Festival at REDCAT this weekend. It’s been a fast and furious week, shaping the show so that it makes sense in the new digs. It’s a big, gorgeous space and I’m excited to open the show there tonight. If you’re local, come see us!

Here’s an interview with our director Robert Cucuzza in the LA Stage Times and an article about the festival from last week’s LA Times.

CATTYWAMPUS, August 7th at 8pm

CATTYWAMPUS
Written and directed by Robert Cucuzza
With DJ Mendel, Jillian Lauren and Jenny Greer
Composer: Juli Crockett
Choreographer: Jordana Che Toback
Designers: Dorothy Hoover, Alice Tavener, Ellie Rabinowitz

August 5th at 8:00
August 6th and 7th at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Da background n’at:
The housing crisis in America is blurring class distinctions, forcing the rich to scale down and live with less. As wealth is lost, the ‘haves’ teeter on the edge of becoming the ‘have-nots’; the ‘have-nots’ are terrified of becoming the ‘have-nothings’ and many fear becoming the ‘never-have-anything-again​s.’ Cattywampus (a middle American slang term for ‘crooked’ or ‘chaotic’) theatricalizes that fear, focusing on a moment where rich and poor both stare into the inescapable void of poverty. Using the characters and dramatic action of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie as a leaping point, playwright/director Robert Cucuzza strips the revolutionary classic play down to its impulsive core, sets it in modern-day Appalachia and reconstitutes its essence to give new illumination to The American Dream—a myth that, within the last three years, has been shattered beyond repair.

Da story:
A wealthy housewife, Julie, and her husband, The Count, are on the verge of losing their once-lucrative car dealership. Fearing that she is about to be catapulted back to her humble beginnings, Julie unhinges and goes on a desperate and paranoid tear—drinking, dancing, then flirting with and sleeping with Donnie, their unsophisticated groundskeeper. Donnie smells an opportunity to unleash lower class revenge on his boss, Julie, and penetrates her—physically first and then psychologically—recklessly​ convincing her first to run away with him, then to commit suicide.

Da team: (Nawt da Picksburg Stillers, but we’re rilly good anyhoo.)
Cattywampus physicalizes this story through a multi-disciplinary orchestration of distinctly American aesthetics—country-western​ music, line dancing, backwoods Pennsylvania speech and dialect, and a more-Method-than-Method acting style. The artistic team—veterans of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater, the infamous Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, Mark Morris Dance Company, Fischerspooner, and recent CalArts graduates—will rigorously collaborate to create a singular vision of power struggle; to rise above stereotypes and caricatures and offer up a deeply textured, abstract and heartfelt voice of the American lower class.

CATTYWAMPUS, August 7th at 5pm

CATTYWAMPUS
Written and directed by Robert Cucuzza
With DJ Mendel, Jillian Lauren and Jenny Greer
Composer: Juli Crockett
Choreographer: Jordana Che Toback
Designers: Dorothy Hoover, Alice Tavener, Ellie Rabinowitz

August 5th at 8:00
August 6th and 7th at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Da background n’at:
The housing crisis in America is blurring class distinctions, forcing the rich to scale down and live with less. As wealth is lost, the ‘haves’ teeter on the edge of becoming the ‘have-nots’; the ‘have-nots’ are terrified of becoming the ‘have-nothings’ and many fear becoming the ‘never-have-anything-again​s.’ Cattywampus (a middle American slang term for ‘crooked’ or ‘chaotic’) theatricalizes that fear, focusing on a moment where rich and poor both stare into the inescapable void of poverty. Using the characters and dramatic action of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie as a leaping point, playwright/director Robert Cucuzza strips the revolutionary classic play down to its impulsive core, sets it in modern-day Appalachia and reconstitutes its essence to give new illumination to The American Dream—a myth that, within the last three years, has been shattered beyond repair.

Da story:
A wealthy housewife, Julie, and her husband, The Count, are on the verge of losing their once-lucrative car dealership. Fearing that she is about to be catapulted back to her humble beginnings, Julie unhinges and goes on a desperate and paranoid tear—drinking, dancing, then flirting with and sleeping with Donnie, their unsophisticated groundskeeper. Donnie smells an opportunity to unleash lower class revenge on his boss, Julie, and penetrates her—physically first and then psychologically—recklessly​ convincing her first to run away with him, then to commit suicide.

Da team: (Nawt da Picksburg Stillers, but we’re rilly good anyhoo.)
Cattywampus physicalizes this story through a multi-disciplinary orchestration of distinctly American aesthetics—country-western​ music, line dancing, backwoods Pennsylvania speech and dialect, and a more-Method-than-Method acting style. The artistic team—veterans of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater, the infamous Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, Mark Morris Dance Company, Fischerspooner, and recent CalArts graduates—will rigorously collaborate to create a singular vision of power struggle; to rise above stereotypes and caricatures and offer up a deeply textured, abstract and heartfelt voice of the American lower class.

CATTYWAMPUS, August 6th at 8pm

CATTYWAMPUS
Written and directed by Robert Cucuzza
With DJ Mendel, Jillian Lauren and Jenny Greer
Composer: Juli Crockett
Choreographer: Jordana Che Toback
Designers: Dorothy Hoover, Alice Tavener, Ellie Rabinowitz

August 5th at 8:00
August 6th and 7th at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Da background n’at:
The housing crisis in America is blurring class distinctions, forcing the rich to scale down and live with less. As wealth is lost, the ‘haves’ teeter on the edge of becoming the ‘have-nots’; the ‘have-nots’ are terrified of becoming the ‘have-nothings’ and many fear becoming the ‘never-have-anything-again​s.’ Cattywampus (a middle American slang term for ‘crooked’ or ‘chaotic’) theatricalizes that fear, focusing on a moment where rich and poor both stare into the inescapable void of poverty. Using the characters and dramatic action of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie as a leaping point, playwright/director Robert Cucuzza strips the revolutionary classic play down to its impulsive core, sets it in modern-day Appalachia and reconstitutes its essence to give new illumination to The American Dream—a myth that, within the last three years, has been shattered beyond repair.

Da story:
A wealthy housewife, Julie, and her husband, The Count, are on the verge of losing their once-lucrative car dealership. Fearing that she is about to be catapulted back to her humble beginnings, Julie unhinges and goes on a desperate and paranoid tear—drinking, dancing, then flirting with and sleeping with Donnie, their unsophisticated groundskeeper. Donnie smells an opportunity to unleash lower class revenge on his boss, Julie, and penetrates her—physically first and then psychologically—recklessly​ convincing her first to run away with him, then to commit suicide.

Da team: (Nawt da Picksburg Stillers, but we’re rilly good anyhoo.)
Cattywampus physicalizes this story through a multi-disciplinary orchestration of distinctly American aesthetics—country-western​ music, line dancing, backwoods Pennsylvania speech and dialect, and a more-Method-than-Method acting style. The artistic team—veterans of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater, the infamous Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, Mark Morris Dance Company, Fischerspooner, and recent CalArts graduates—will rigorously collaborate to create a singular vision of power struggle; to rise above stereotypes and caricatures and offer up a deeply textured, abstract and heartfelt voice of the American lower class.

CATTYWAMPUS, August 6th at 5pm

CATTYWAMPUS
Written and directed by Robert Cucuzza
With DJ Mendel, Jillian Lauren and Jenny Greer
Composer: Juli Crockett
Choreographer: Jordana Che Toback
Designers: Dorothy Hoover, Alice Tavener, Ellie Rabinowitz

August 5th at 8:00
August 6th and 7th at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Da background n’at:
The housing crisis in America is blurring class distinctions, forcing the rich to scale down and live with less. As wealth is lost, the ‘haves’ teeter on the edge of becoming the ‘have-nots’; the ‘have-nots’ are terrified of becoming the ‘have-nothings’ and many fear becoming the ‘never-have-anything-again​s.’ Cattywampus (a middle American slang term for ‘crooked’ or ‘chaotic’) theatricalizes that fear, focusing on a moment where rich and poor both stare into the inescapable void of poverty. Using the characters and dramatic action of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie as a leaping point, playwright/director Robert Cucuzza strips the revolutionary classic play down to its impulsive core, sets it in modern-day Appalachia and reconstitutes its essence to give new illumination to The American Dream—a myth that, within the last three years, has been shattered beyond repair.

Da story:
A wealthy housewife, Julie, and her husband, The Count, are on the verge of losing their once-lucrative car dealership. Fearing that she is about to be catapulted back to her humble beginnings, Julie unhinges and goes on a desperate and paranoid tear—drinking, dancing, then flirting with and sleeping with Donnie, their unsophisticated groundskeeper. Donnie smells an opportunity to unleash lower class revenge on his boss, Julie, and penetrates her—physically first and then psychologically—recklessly​ convincing her first to run away with him, then to commit suicide.

Da team: (Nawt da Picksburg Stillers, but we’re rilly good anyhoo.)
Cattywampus physicalizes this story through a multi-disciplinary orchestration of distinctly American aesthetics—country-western​ music, line dancing, backwoods Pennsylvania speech and dialect, and a more-Method-than-Method acting style. The artistic team—veterans of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater, the infamous Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, Mark Morris Dance Company, Fischerspooner, and recent CalArts graduates—will rigorously collaborate to create a singular vision of power struggle; to rise above stereotypes and caricatures and offer up a deeply textured, abstract and heartfelt voice of the American lower class.

CATTYWAMPUS, August 5th at 8pm

CATTYWAMPUS
Written and directed by Robert Cucuzza
With DJ Mendel, Jillian Lauren and Jenny Greer
Composer: Juli Crockett
Choreographer: Jordana Che Toback
Designers: Dorothy Hoover, Alice Tavener, Ellie Rabinowitz

August 5th at 8:00
August 6th and 7th at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Da background n’at:
The housing crisis in America is blurring class distinctions, forcing the rich to scale down and live with less. As wealth is lost, the ‘haves’ teeter on the edge of becoming the ‘have-nots’; the ‘have-nots’ are terrified of becoming the ‘have-nothings’ and many fear becoming the ‘never-have-anything-again​s.’ Cattywampus (a middle American slang term for ‘crooked’ or ‘chaotic’) theatricalizes that fear, focusing on a moment where rich and poor both stare into the inescapable void of poverty. Using the characters and dramatic action of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie as a leaping point, playwright/director Robert Cucuzza strips the revolutionary classic play down to its impulsive core, sets it in modern-day Appalachia and reconstitutes its essence to give new illumination to The American Dream—a myth that, within the last three years, has been shattered beyond repair.

Da story:
A wealthy housewife, Julie, and her husband, The Count, are on the verge of losing their once-lucrative car dealership. Fearing that she is about to be catapulted back to her humble beginnings, Julie unhinges and goes on a desperate and paranoid tear—drinking, dancing, then flirting with and sleeping with Donnie, their unsophisticated groundskeeper. Donnie smells an opportunity to unleash lower class revenge on his boss, Julie, and penetrates her—physically first and then psychologically—recklessly​ convincing her first to run away with him, then to commit suicide.

Da team: (Nawt da Picksburg Stillers, but we’re rilly good anyhoo.)
Cattywampus physicalizes this story through a multi-disciplinary orchestration of distinctly American aesthetics—country-western​ music, line dancing, backwoods Pennsylvania speech and dialect, and a more-Method-than-Method acting style. The artistic team—veterans of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater, the infamous Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, Mark Morris Dance Company, Fischerspooner, and recent CalArts graduates—will rigorously collaborate to create a singular vision of power struggle; to rise above stereotypes and caricatures and offer up a deeply textured, abstract and heartfelt voice of the American lower class.

Back and Forth

I had a jolt of recognition upon reading Adam Gopnik’s “Life Studies: What I Learned When I Learned to Draw,” in the June 27 issue of the New Yorker. It’s a great piece about the creative process and about being a beginner. I’m stumbling through a new project right now and this passage resonated for me.

It was the best thing I had ever drawn, and I realized that I hadn’t drawn it as I had imagined, God’s hand finally resting on mine to steal a true contour from the world. No, I had made it up out of small, stale parts and constant reapplications of energy and observation, back an forth.

No matter what I’m working on, I always feel like a beginner. I’m always piecing together fits of energy and awkward efforts and praying that in the end I’ll somehow give voice to something whole and true.

This is a pic of D.J. Mendel and me, from one of the Cattywampus rehearsals. I’m fortunate to spend my days surrounded by outrageously talented people.

One week until we open…

No Rest for the Wicked (and a Giveaway)

First of all, I swear I’m going to post new Tariku pics soon. Every time I go a few posts between cute kid pics, I inevitably get the emails that say, “Yeah, yeah, that’s great about your creative endeavors, now can we see more of the real star of this family?”

BUT

I’m way excited about the project I’m doing right now and I want to tell you about it. Robert Cucuzza, the outrageous director of Mother Tongue (I was lucky to have known him for a couple of decades, so he agreed to help me out) has written a new play called Cattywampus and we’re rehearsing fast and furious to get it up at Son of Semele Theater in L.A. on August 5,6, and 7. Cattywampus is a contemporary riff on Strindberg’s Miss Julie and is described as offering: “a deeply textured, abstract and heartfelt voice of the American lower class.”

We’ve got an indiegogo campaign going on right now to make the show truly awesome (and to keep Bob’s kids in peanut butter). There are all kinds of great perks for donating, including a signed advance copy of my novel Pretty. Be the first on your block to have one!

And I’ll do one better. I’m going to do a giveaway here of a fantastic anthology that features an excerpt from my memoir along with stories by Jennifer Tress and David Henry Sterry, among others. If you just go to the indiegogo site and take a look at it (you don’t have to donate, just check it out- it’s funny!), then come back here and leave a comment telling me what city the show is set in, I’ll throw your name into the hat to win a copy of Pinchback Press’ Tarnished: True Tales of Innocence Lost.

Jillian Lauren Newsletter

×