PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
Jump inside the brains of Chicago theater artists as we ask them 10 questions that were in no way inspired by Inside the Actor’s Studio.
What’s the one role/show you’ve always wanted to work on that you haven’t yet?
The one I am working on right now. I am in love with this, because we are making it up on our own. My current project is THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION and it is really a musical score/chamber opera/new music written by a percussionist named David Lang. He won a Pulitzer for this work in 2008 and it is a captivatingly hypnotic piece of music that takes about 40 minutes to sing. Last year I was awarded the Edes Prize from the University of Chicago so this enabled me to pitch this nebulous project to a new theater company in Chicago, Facility Theater, and because they are a risky little gang, they said yes, and here we are, with opera singers, percussionists, butchers, movement performers, and the like. We are singing the score as it is written. But there is not a script, no set, no stage direction, nothing, so I am making the piece up. And mostly I am concerned with questions that surround systems of empathic democracies and how they construct/deconstruct in a given public. There are many kinds of empathy, and I suspect that the qualities of empathy are far more complicated than we think. I believe that this match girl project takes a close look at these systems in a very abstract but accessible way. I realize that this is a unique and mysterious opportunity to make theater that is not exactly hinged on narratives or chronologies, although you could say that it is sourced from this origin. It has been really challenging because it uses a very different part of your brain than the part that is used to telling and hearing stories.
What current production, besides one of your own, are you most excited about?
IS GOD IS at Soho Rep. It is by Aleshea Harris. I am so beyond excited that this play exists. Much in the way that I am excited by THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION.
If you couldn’t be in theater, what career would you have chosen?
If I had been any good at math, I would have been an architect. I am a pretty spatial person, but I didn’t realize this until I was in grad school. I now surround myself with designers who understand my relationship to space, or at least they are trying to, and we create a lot of options so that we can fit the concept/form into the overall ideas going on in the performative act of things. The great thing about making so many plays at A Red Orchid is that you have to learn how to create depth where there is not any, and this makes you think in really dynamic ways. I have designed entire sets on the ceiling because of that 9-foot space because the floor is often useless.
I was raised as a dancer by dancers, so maybe that is part of how I formed my relationship with space and objects. I love objects, so maybe a better career for me would have been as a hoarder. I am a little afraid of hoarding, but I am also very interested in it. I think the hoarders are on to something. I think they know things about time that we don’t know because we are so busy clearing things out and being all minimalist which is the current trend. I think both are polarities that are reactive to the state of so many things/objects in our universe that can easily overwhelm us. Objects create pressure.
My mom told me that when I was little I wanted to be an Avon Lady. Does anyone even know what that is anymore? I wanted to be that.
I also wanted to design greeting cards. But that never happened.
I am a really bad capitalist. No offense to good ones, I admire them. I think if you are good at something you should do it. I am a bad producer, and not really good at numerical situations that involve profit or percentages and capitalist ideas. I used to get down on myself for this, but you know what? It’s really ok. Not everyone has to be a capitalist! It’s a relief when you realize this. This does not mean that I don’t want a lot of money or that I don’t work hard. I love working! And I love money very much. Money is so great.
What quote or saying do people spout but is really complete BS?
My dad tried really hard when he was raising us to never say “I told you so” and I don’t remember him saying it. So he succeeded there. And I wonder now, what would he have told me so? I try not to interact with people too much when they are ‘spouting’ so I can’t really figure out how to answer this.
What would you name your boat if you had one?
A few years back, a colleague of mine contacted me because he wanted to make an experimental film on a boat. He wanted to film a rehearsal of an adaptation of “Philoctetes” by Sophocles on a boat on the way to the 68th street crib. Out on Lake Michigan, there are these water filtration stations, called cribs, and some are shut down or very sparsely manned. My colleague somehow magically got permission to shoot his film on one of these, and he needed some help. And he was only granted one hour to shoot his film on the crib. So we thought we would shoot most of the film on the way to and from the crib. But this took a lot of “practice” and trial and error. It was a cool project because we had to agree that there was no director because one of the premises’ of the film was that the director had not yet arrived. So my colleague and I both served in directorial capacities to execute the overall concept of this film! I did most of the casting and directing of the actors and a lot of quick spatial decision making that might happen on a sailboat. We took 3 excursions to practice before we approached the crib. It was a great experience. I got a whole spring and summer of boat culture due to this, and it was a world I had no insight into previously, and let me tell you, boat people are great! I don’t remember the name of the boat, but the boat we shot on is my favorite boat. And, all the boats had fabulous names!
What will finally break the internet?
The internet is not broken, and it will not break, because it is a piece of our minds, and our minds do not break, they sort of slow down and transform. the internet was always there, it is only us making the connections, and these connections are infinite.
What well-known fictional character would be the most boring to meet in real life?
In this current production of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION, which I am installing into a vacant middle school cafeteria, there is NO match girl. Although she is fictional, no one will meet her because in this project she is not present. Perhaps she is evoked or thought of in liminalistic ways but you will not see a representation of her on stage. I don’t know if she would be boring, but she sure was in a lot of trouble. Her only function in her life at that moment was to sell matches to people. So that could be repetitive and I suppose that one could consider it boring. But maybe other people would find that action/inaction somewhat hypnotic or interesting. Apparently, Hans Christian Anderson did. I don’t know. I am maybe not a great person to answer a question like this! ha.
Also, I am not a very star struck person, but I do not want to meet Christopher Walken, like, ever. I know he is not fictional, but if I were to meet him I would not know what to say.
What is a play or musical that you cannot stand (CATS is not an acceptable answer)?
One time I was in a play about Flash Gordon, and if I remember correctly, it was a musical. There were aliens and stuff. I don’t claim to have many memories about this experience, but I believe we were all pretty miserable. Many of us were inebriated all the time. We were in Scotland, at the Edinburgh Festival, so I suppose that was what that was all about.
What is a play or musical that you love (CATS is not an acceptable answer)?
Did you know that Eric Satie wrote a play? It is called “Le Piege de Meduse”. I am hoping I will get to direct this for Facility, that risky theater company that I mentioned earlier. I am not sure if it is a musical yet? But there is music in it, and he wrote that too, of course. It is a bit of a puzzle.
About CATS, as a youngster I was fascinated with that CATS makeup, and I became quite an expert at it. Flash forward to years later, my daughter is 9 or 10 and she is being the Phantom from “Phantom of the Opera” for Halloween, but her mask was way too big at the last minute. It kept falling off her face and breaking. She was bereft! So I was able to convince her to be a kitty, and I revamped my fantastic CATS makeup skills, and she looked CAT-TASTIC, so you see, CATS isn’t ALL bad.
What are you reading, watching or listening to right now?
I listen to THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION all the time right now, because you never know when a new idea will pop in to your head. I am not sick of it yet. It is a deeply complex piece of music. I also listen to a lot of Georgian chanting. I am watching “Under The Dome” because my son who is 15 just read the book. Our agreement is that if he reads the book we can see the film. We recently saw “The Shining”! And “IT”! We are also working our way thru the “Rocky” series. It’s fun to see these older films with him! I love it! Last summer we watched all of the “Alien” movies. I am reading “In Cold Blood.” But I put it down a lot because it is so cold outside. Maybe I will feel like finishing it in the summer. I have been reading Elena Ferrante, and a lot of plays. I have heard that I will like Ready Player One. My son has read it. He reads a lot of books, and that’s good because his name is actually Booker. I read a book recently by Jodi Picoult wrote because my 18 year old daughter read it. But I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan, especially her poems.
dado is the 2017 University of Chicago Awardee of the Edes Foundation Prize. She is an acclaimed theater practitioner and visual artist in Chicagoland, an ensemble member with A Red Orchid Theatre and resident director for Facility Theatre. Her production of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION opens April 13th. For more information click here.
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