Art

Transcription: 026: Marica Petrey: How a Director Engages a Unique Team of Artists to Create Experimental Theater

This week I talk to Marica Petrey who is a writer, actor, and director as well as Founder and one of the Artistic Directors of Radix Troupe which is an experimental theater troupe based out of Berkeley, California. She is a freelance journalist and videographer with California Magazine. She is cellist and member of Mad Noise, a bluesy funk, soul, punk band that has traveled to Africa through the State Department’s American Music Abroad Program. She is a dancer and a singer and just recently started another band called Girl Swallows Nightingale. We first talk about Zoey and the Wind-Up Boy and how Radix Troupe creates projects together. Then we talk about the sound and art direction of Zoey and the Wind Up Boy. Finally we’ll talk about how Marica got into performing arts and an opportunity she recently had to shadow acclaimed director, Amma Asante.

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Transcription: 025: Maximilian Uriarte: How the Creator of Terminal Lance Brings the Marine Experience to Life

This week I talk to Maximilian Uriarte, Veteran Marine and Creator of the widely popular webcomic, Terminal Lance. He did two tours of duty in Iraq and during his second tour took on the role of Marine Corps Artist and Photographer, giving him the opportunity to fly all over and document the Marine Experience in Iraq. Last year he released his first graphic novel, the White Donkey which was on the New York Times Bestseller list and received rave reviews for its honest depiction of the life and struggles of a Veteran Marine.

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Transcription: 019: Chad Leto: Cinematography from Film to San Francisco MiniSeries to Star Wars Parodies

This week I talk to my friend Chad Leto, He’s a cinematographer working for G-Ram films and has worked on documentaries, music videos, and commercials. He’s also been the cinematographer with so many projects including an award winning feature film called Parallax. Chad also filmed a hilarious and totally wacky web series called “Don’t call it Frisco” about a Boston transplant who moves to San Francisco and has to adjust to the liberal and totally crazy culture of the city. Chad will also tell the crazy disastrous story of his trip to Burning Man this year.

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Transcription: 016: Jada & Sawyer: How Two Students Are Exploring Art & Activism in High School

This week I talk to Jada Baca and Sawyer Sverre-Harrell about life at their unique public charter high school. They are both passionate about art and activism and are involved in many programs in their community. Sawyer is a theater major and self-taught cosmetologist who loves making people feel beautiful in their own skin. Jada loves drawing and photography and enjoys capturing the beauty in things that other may have forgotten. Both are also working on documentaries which will be out soon!

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Transcription: 009: Johnny5: How TURFInc Heals Trauma and Teaches Marketable Skills in Oakland

This week I talk to Johnny5, the founder and director of TURFInc, a company in Oakland that teaches kids turfing. Turfing is a style of street dance that came out of hyphy in the 90s. TURFInc gives them opportunities to make money and helps them stay off the street by learning marketable skills. Johnny5 has worked with tons of big name artists, he’s been featured and finds talent for Yak Films, the premiere dance film company in the world and he’s an all around awesome guy with lots of stories about Oakland.

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Transcription: 008: Lily Williams: Informing through Illustration, from Sharks to Women’s Health

This week I talk to Lily Williams about her short film FINconceivable, an award winning informational short about the importance of sharks to our ecosystem. We talk about her upcoming illustrated children’s book called If Sharks Disappear which will be published next year through Roaring Brook Press. Finally, we discuss her newly released web comic that she co-created with Karen Schneemann, called The Mean Magenta. The Mean Magenta seeks to destigmatize periods by providing entertaining comics as well as health resources.

TRANSCRIPTION

[00:00:00]

[Narration begins]

Hi everyone, welcome to the Undefined: A Profile of a Generation. A show about young people doing awesome things. I’m your host, Marissa Comstock. The show is located at the Undefined Gen.com where you can find links to our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, with episodes available through Soundcloud, Itunes, and Stitcher.

As always, thank you for listening, I have been getting some really amazing responses lately which is so cool to hear. It makes me feel like I’m doing something worth it. And makes me want to make the show even better so, truly thank you.

[00:00:34]
This week I talk to Lily Williams. We went to art school together. She is a phenomenal artist, who focused on art direction and development for animation while at California College of the Arts and has since steered more towards her true passion, which is illustration. Her illustrations are super charming but they are not just beautiful to look at, they are also informational. She has created infographics that have gone viral, you have probably seen her work floating around the internet without knowing. Her mission is to create art that teaches people about animals, about the environment, about women’s health, about a number of things close to her heart in a way that is fun and engaging.

This episode we are going to first talk briefly about her work at Sony where she worked in art development for a film called Medusa, then we are going to talk about her viral short film called Finconceivable about the importance of sharks to our ocean. this will segway into her children’s book called, If Sharks Disappear, which will be published by Roaring Brook Press in June of 2017. Finally, we will talk about her webcomic which she co-created with a fellow student Karen Schneemann called the Mean Magenta which is about destigmatizing women’s periods. You will get to hear a fun period nightmare story about little old me. So listen in, I hope you learn lots and enjoy the show.

[Theme music plays]

[Continue with narration]

We are going to quickly talk about Lily’s work at Sony and a favorite director of hers that she got to work with.

[Interview begins]

[00:02:19]
Lily: I interned with Sony starting when I was 16. So you know, it was kind of a crazy combination of things that just kind of met up in the world and the universe aligned. I went there when I was 16 in the summer and then again, I also just asked to come back. And also that was naive. It was like my first real opportunity with asking and not, like, not knowing that maybe I shouldn’t have asked, but I did. And I was like ‘hey I want to come back! like can I come back?’ and they were ‘like uh, yea sure!’ and I was like cool. I’m going to come back and then I like took them up on it. So I came back again and then I came back again, and again. So I went back four times and then eventually they brought me on after college as a visual development artist and I worked there doing costume design and character design and um, a bit of production design which is like props and stuff for almost two years. So I can’t really talk about too much because we had to sign all these forms but I did get to work on some amazing projects and I did get to work with my career bucket list director. So that was probably one of the coolest things.

I was there for, I was there for like 3 months and they put me on this movie which I was on for most of my time there which was called Medusa. Um and they, Lauren Frost who did My Little Pony as well as a bunch of other amazing things. She’s like super sick, badass feminist, like Hollywood superhero. She was a director on Medusa and, when I saw her I was like Oh my god! I want to work with her so badly! Actually I didn’t even think I thought that, I think thought, I said I want to meet her! I want to talk to her and I was, I did one day, I went up to her and said to her ‘oh my god! I love My Little Pony! It was so cute and so good! and I’m such a fan of yours.’ She was really nice and then, like two days later they put me on that movie.

Marissa: awww, what? aww.

Lily: Yea so it was like me and her and an intern for a while and then it was just me for a few months and then it was me and like the art director/ production designer. So it was, like that movie was just like a whirlwind and it was really exciting and I got to work directly with her for a while and that was like career bucket list and the coolest thing ever.

Marissa: That’s awesome!

Lily: Yea

[00:04:35]
Marissa: As far as women in animation, I remember, I can’t remember, I was at some conference or event or something and I did a reel review and I got paired with this woman from Dreamworks. I don’t remember her name but I remember just being like, ‘oh my god’ like it’s so exciting like to meet a woman who is doing to the thing you want to do and she was a rigger.

Lily: Oh my gosh.

Marissa: And it was so cool and it’s like really so much more rare than you think to meet women who are working at the level you want to be working at.

Lily: And women who have done it for a while. Like even a women who has been in it more than 5 years is so impressive.

Marissa: Mhm

Lily: I mean animation is just a really male dominated field. Factually, that is just accurate. It is a male dominated field. So to meet women who are successful and thriving at it. It’s just so cool. It’s so inspiring.

Marissa: yea and it’s like I had done other reel reviews with men and it’s super helpful, like whatever. It’s just like this oh. I can do this.

[00:05:35]
Lily: Yea. It’s like representation.

[Cut to narration]

I’m so excited to get into Lily’s personal work. She is an amazing illustrator. She did a film called Finconceivable while at her school and it went crazy viral. the film is about sharks and their importance to the ecosystem and it’s gorgeous. the style is completely original, appealing, and perfect for an educational short film. It has been in numerous film festivals, won awards, and has been shared up and down the internet and honestly, you’ve probably seen it. and if you haven’t go and watch it at LilyWilliamsArt.com. I’m going to have a few clips in this episode. The narrator is delightful.

[Cut to recording of Finconceivable, a young girl’s voice narrating with a ukulele in the background]

[00:06:10]
Sharks have kept balance in the ocean for over 450 million years this makes sharks older than dinosaurs. Surviving several mass extinctions. Sharks are evolution perfected.

[Continue Interview]

Marissa: Finconceivable. That was your thesis film at CCA.

Lily: Yea

Marissa: That is amazing.

Lily: I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it.

[laughs]

Marissa: totally. How did you come up with the idea

[00:06:50]
Lily: Ok so summer 2000– actually, like 2013, beginning of 2013, I just, we were given an assignment in one of my classes. I think it was a diversity studio or something and we had to do some project to like talk about some issue that people don’t talk about . um and I had, I had, something about sharks came to my brain. and then I started to do a bunch of shark art that semester. Like tons of shark art and then that summer, I met with a guy who has a um. His name is David Maguire and he runs Shark Stewards which is a non profit out of San Francisco and they actually are the leaders behind the shark fin bans in most of the states. For sure California. He is very vocal and he got that passed in California. He’s a huge advocate for sharks and fights for sharks all around the world. He’s pretty brilliant but I went and I met him at Patagonia the store. I just showed up to this talk because I found it online. Actually, I have no idea how I found it but I found it online. I found him online. I went and I like tracked him down and I was like, ‘hey! I want to do shark art for you!’ like do you want shark art and he was like sure!

[00:08:05]
Like I don’t even think he understood what I was saying and I was like, no I want to do art for you like let’s talk about this and he was like ok. And we talked about it a little bit. And I think I, actually, I left and I went and interned at Sony that summer so I wasn’t around that summer and I ended up doing a bunch of stuff with them in the fall. But during that summer I spend a lot of time thinking about sharks and trying to do art about sharks and finally after like, collecting all this information, I made these 3 infographics which went viral in certain select parts of the internet. They’ve been like all over the internet. They still are like all over the internet. And um, it was just like from talking to David and just like gathering all of this information and realizing that sharks, lots of them are in danger.

One fourth of sharks are endangered and it’s not something we talk about. We talk about shark attacks and we talk about Shark Week and we talk about, like and I mean people think sharks are like sexy, they’re like cool, they’re trendy. But like no one talks about how we are just like murdering the hell out of them. So, I just got really into that and I decided. I was making this like super sad story, and that was going to be my senior film, like this super mopey film and I was like no. I don’t want to do that anymore. [laughs] I want to do something informational. And I emailed everyone at CCA, all the teachers and was like, I’m going to do this informational, animated documentary. and that was not something that anyone had done yet and so they were kinda like umm maybe. We should talk about it. And I was like no, no I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it.

Marissa: That is what you have to say to people at CCA.

[laughs]

[00:09:36]
Lily: Anywhere! Everyone, just trust me. it’s going to be fine.

Marissa: Totally

Lily: So I just basically said that and ended up writing it. Many versions of it. I think it took most of the time I spent writing it. Cuz I wanted everything to be factually correct and entertaining. which is like a very hard combination to hit. I had David read it several times, I had several people who interned for David. Girls I became friends with um, I had them read it several times. And then, it like just ended just up turning into what it was after me just like ignoring everyone saying no and just being like no no it’s happening, everyone just calm down. Just deal with it. It’s happening.

[00:10:21]
Marissa: it’s such a beautiful final product. It’s like, informational, it’s so adorable and it’s just completely appealing and I actually can’t remember, we’re talking about. Like no one had been talking about sharks like that before. and I’m like ok, I can’t remember now if it’s because of your film that I know some of that stuff. I’m sure it is, there’s so much, so many people learned from your video.

Lily: yea I do think that, there has been this really recent wave that I was, just happened to be in. That wave of people getting the information out but I do think no to credit myself, not to credit myself with undue credit but I do think I did help people understand it in a way that maybe they weren’t getting before.

Because a lot of like, people really tried, when I was looking online even to put information out there about it, it’s like there is so much information that is just like gore filled images and like, that’s not, like, that’s a way to get people angry, but it’s not a way to get people to learn. So, yea the film kind of took it’s own life after I pushed it out there and I wanted it to be free and accessible, that was my number one goal. and I wish I could have it in other languages but I don’t have the resources to do that. Or the ability, or the time. and I don’t have that right now. But, um I did reach a lot of people.

Marissa: I want to ask who the narrator is.

Lily: Oh!

Marissa: In Finconceivable. it’s the most adorable voice.

[00:12:06]
Lily: Thank you! David suggested I get a child. And that, I was going to have my dad do it because he has a very like, he can be like a reporter, that kind of voice. But when David said I should get a child, I was like oh that’s brilliant! Um, but, because I was a student and it was my senior film, I didn’t have the resources to like, pay a child actor, so I asked my cousin if she would do it. She was like 10 and she like nailed it! oh my god. I just paid her with starbursts and she ended up doing so well. I was just like here’s some skittles, here’s some starbursts. and then she was in a recording booth at CCA for a few hours. We did, we ended up recording it twice cuz I made a lot of changes to the script after we recorded it and I listened to it and I was like, no. I don’t like it. So I redid the script and then she rerecorded it and she was such a trooper through the whole thing.

Marissa: And yea she’s so good. She’s like this over the top kids voice

Lily: yea!

Marissa: But it’s so perfect

Lily: Thanks, yea she did a great job.

Marissa: When was the moment when the film was viral.

[00:12:51]
Lily: I mean, it did pretty well on its own. pretty well for what I was expecting because student films can get a lot of traction online. You know, smaller schools don’t always have the same of traction as the bigger schools. So my film did pretty well for like a smaller school film but mostly just because it was getting shared by all these eco people. And then um, eventually, Upworthy shared it which helped a lot, and then it just like circled around. That kind of like unleashed fury. Unleashed fury in that it went crazy and there was all these random people then coming out of the woodwork to like find it and talk about it. So yea it’s been, yea Upworthy definitely set it off and yea it was on Greenpeace and shared by several other websites but I ended up having to pull it from Hulu on to my website just to protect it from being like pulled and stuff like that. so I made it a little more secure.

Marissa: Yea because I mean like that stuff gets shared and shared and shared and all the sudden the name becomes detached from the original project so have you found that? have you seen your work shown up in places.

[00:14:06]
Lily: yea it shows up a lot. i think it’s very cool. I’ve become definitely aware of what I want to put out to the world now on the internet. Because you never know where it’s going to end up so. It’s kind of like, if you release something onto the internet you kinda just like to have learn to let it go because you never know where it’s going to end up.

Marissa: And hope it comes back.

Lily: Yea and hope it comes back to you. [laughs] Please come back to me!

Marissa: Can you go deeper into the success you’ve had. it’s been used on panels. It’s been used to pass things in the senate.

Lily: Yea so the numbers are a great thing and you can always judge something by how many numbers it has but also it just depends on where something ends up like if it ends up in the right hands you know that can end up speaking volumes for it without the numbers. So for instance, it ended up in John Mccosker’s hands. Dr. John McCosker, he’s the um, I don’t exactly know how to say his title, so I’m going to butcher this but he’s a PhD and he’s the basically the marine science guy at Cal Academy of Sciences in San Francicso. And he took that and he, I don’t know exactly where it’s been used, because i just don’t. I just has gone places. I know that he’s used it. um, I know David has used it. I know my infographics have been used in many presentations. All over the world. I have no idea where. it has been in a film festival in Scotland. It’s been in one in San Francisco. Montana, like all over. DC. It was in a children’s one in DC which was really cool. It was screened for like a month at every single different public library which is great. That’s what I wanted. I just wanted kids to see it and become as passionate about it as I am. and get involved. Because when kids get involved you can’t help but be involved. You can’t help but be involved because they are passionate and excited about things so that was my goal. I wanted it to be accessible to everyone so by putting it on the internet it has been.

[00:16:06]
Marissa: And the original guy you talked to David, that you hunted down, what was his response to the final film?

Lily: so um, David, David, said, he’s like the nicest funniest guy. He showed up to the CCA screening. That was where it was filmed, where our senior films were screened. So he hadn’t seen anything. I don’t, thinking back on it, I guess I just didn’t show him, I don’t know why I didn’t think to show him but I don’t think I did. So he showed up and he didn’t really know what to expect. And he was like, wow, that’s so great! we have to use that! and I think he did and again I don’t, I’m not really told wherever it’s been. i know for a fact he’s used it several times. so it’s been used. I love their organization. They do a lot of great work.

Marissa: And you volunteer with them

[00:16:51]
Lily: I do. Mostly volunteered art time. But I do try to go to as many events as I can and they do have like a bunch coming up in October and November in San Francisco.

Marissa: Cool!

Lily: So they are very active there.

Marissa: And where are the events in San Francisco?

Lily: Um they are doing one with Cal Academy of Arts like a Night Life event um. They do open water swims, beach clean-ups, things like that. he calls it Sharktober, so Sharktober will be all around the Bay Area soon.

Marissa: Totally. Way better than shark week.

Lily: Yea. It’s a shark month!

Marissa: Yea, totally! And a positive spin on sharks!

Lily: Yea!

[Cut to narration]

[00:17:36]
I want to read this review of Finconceivable from the man that Lily mentioned, John McKasker who is a PhD chair of aquatic biology emeritus at the California Academy of Sciences. He says, “My efforts to educate the public and legislators about why sharks matter were remarkably assisted by the film Finconeivable that was created by Lily Williams that was entertaining, attention-getting, and scientifically accurate. And makes viewers think and care about the worldwide problems of Shark Depletion in ways that no scientists could achieve”

That’s an amazing review, I would be really proud of a review like that. Next we are going to talk about Lily’s children’s book that she is working on. She was contacted while at California College of the Arts to illustrate her own children’s book. The book is also about sharks, titled, If Sharks Disappear and it is scheduled to be published by Roaring Brook Press in June of 2017. Before we get into it, here is another clip from Finconceivable.

[Cut to recording of young girl’s voice narrating Finconceivable]

[00:18:36]
People are scared of sharks but really sharks should be scared of people. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed annually due to overfishing. Roughly 30% are killed in fishing by catch the other 70% are killed for their fins in an act called shark finning. In shark finning. Sharks are stripped of their fins and are often tossed back into the ocean where they drown. 98% of the shark is wasted. The shark fins are then used to make shark fin soup. However there is no nutritional value in a shark fin and it has no taste.

[Continue with interview]

Marissa: Ok right now you are working on a book called if Sharks Disappeared. which you are writing and illustrating.

Lily: Yes

Marissa: And the book will be published by Roaring Brook Press and released in Spring of 2017.

Lily: Actually, summer.

Marissa: Summer?

Lily: June, I think the date is June 13th 2017.

Marissa: Ok.

Lily: Yea

Marissa: That is so exciting!

Lily: Yea

Marissa: Can you talk about the book a little bit.

[00:19:51]
Lily: A little bit, yea. Again the book is about sharks. [laughs] Um it’s about what would happen to the ocean if sharks disappear. Basically, it’s like the tropic cascade and how apex predators hold environments together and how those environments can effect the whole world. So if that environment crumbles what’s going to happen to the environment next to it and bla bla bla. Oceans are like 70 plus percent of our world so if an ocean suffers, or the ocean suffers, like our whole world will suffer so it’s kind of about like, how sharks are like, are uh, I forget a word, how sharks are the anchor of the world a little bit.

Marissa: Mhm

Lily: Yea

Marissa: I can imagine, I mean like, just the imagery from Finconceivable, it’s so beautiful, its just like perfect for a childrens book. I mean did they contact you because of that?

Lily: Um no, I actually started working, so that, like 2013, like August, September was really when everything got kickstarted, and I um, just started working on Finconceivable because it was my senior year and then in August, after my infographics was shared on, I don’t know if I can say this on your podcast, I Fucking Love Science, IFLS. ok!

[laughs]

Marissa: Everyone swears.

[00:21:21]
Lily: After IFLS shared my infographics a editor from MacMillan, um, from the imprint Roaring Brook from Macmillan, she was looking on I Fucking Love Science and she sends me this email. I actually was in Montana and I was pretty unhooked from the internet and I decided after like two days of being there to like check my um, computer. So I open my computer and was like why do I have all of these likes on all of this stuff and all of these people commenting? I realized that I fucking love science had shared it and I checked my email and I had an email from the editor at MacMillan and she was like, ‘hey! can we talk about writing a book?’ I actually thought it was a joke. because like that is so random, this like a dream come true! this is not real so I was like, Ok sure! so I emailed her back and I was like sure! I’d love to, I’m in Montana, can we talk next week?

But I was like, there is no way that this person was real. This is not a real editor, this is like, some sort of scam but no, it was really an editor and she really wanted me to write a book. So I have spent since August 2013, because it takes a really long time to get a children’s book just right. I have been working on this children’s book. So it’s been a long time and I was working on it while I was working on Finconceivable. And I worked on it while I was in LA and now I’m back in the Bay area so I it has been a long time coming but I have a great relationship with my editor and she is so wonderful and I’m so thankful for her finding me. She is incredible and I have had the best time working on this book.

Marissa: And she is just like sort of a mentor to you to in some way?

[00:22:51]
Lily: For sure, um, it’s really been quite awesome because when she reached out to me, I ended up reaching out and getting an agent. Um and I have made some amazing connections and have met these great women who have been endlessly supportive and taught me so much about illustration and this world that I knew I wanted to get into eventually but didn’t think I could get into for a long time. and I’ve ended up kind of transitioning my career all because I have learned so much about all these other worlds and this world of books that have been. It’s just been totally a dream come true. and like, this is what I want to do. It’s just like so cool.

Marissa: That is like the end game, illustration, you are going to create your own books.

Lily: Yea, I hope so. I want to create my own um, I mean I am kind of in a transition period right now. I like, planned, I planned my whole life basically from age 10 until recently that I was going to work in animation and do this whole thing and I’m still doing that. I’m still freelancing. I’m still getting that going but I’m so passionate about telling educational stories and I think that needs to be told and I realize, clearly I have the ability to do it an way that a lot of people don’t have the desire to um or the time or the passion for it. It’s like, it’s all there so I need to do it. like, I’ve got this ability so I’ve got to do it. So I want to be able to tell books and maybe short films and I’m not really sure where it all ends up. Comics, stories, anything that’s education and still really fun. it’s, yea, like I’m trying to sort out where all that ends and meets. and it’s just right now a jumble but it’s really fun.

Marissa: Mhm, yea they don’t contact people often to make books when you are a junior in college.

Lily: No, yea, no actually my agent said she’s never, she’s never heard, of that happening to anyone so..

Marissa: mhm

Lily: So as far as I know yea, that doesn’t really happen that often.

Marissa: Working on a book verse working on a film, verse web comics, do you have different approaches?

Lily: Umm, winging it?

[laughs]

Marissa: Yea

[00:24:51]
Lily: I feel like I have been a novice at everything I’ve done and I just learn from everyone around me and I um, I have this practice where I try to contact people as much as possible so I email people, I call people, I am very consistent with asking people for things and I think that you don’t get anything in life if you don’t. Unless you ask for it. You’re not going to get a raise unless you ask for it. You’re not going to get a job unless you ask for it, you just have to ask people for things. So I spend a lot of my time asking people for their time. Asking them what they do, how they do it, how they approach doing it. Honestly, like, how much money it takes to do things. That’s kind of a taboo thing but you are not going to learn how to fairly make money unless you ask people how they make money um so I ask people a lot of things. So I think that to make a film, I ask people a lot of things. For my book, I’ve read books and I’ve asked people. and to make comics I do the same thing so I think that my philosophy is to ask. because there are so many people in this world who have information and they are flattered when they ask for their information and if you’re polite about it and anyone will respond to that.

Marissa: Yea I think that is an amazing philosophy, people do have so much knowledge, they’re so happy when you ask them.

[00:26:21]
Lily: Yea, I’m nodding right now. For sure. Everyone, is, everyone wants to help everyone else I think. I mean there are people who don’t and they just don’t respond to your emails but for the most part people want to help other people so I think it is really cool to ask people. Also, just really good practice I think. Also, googling! Everything is on the internet, why aren’t we taking advantage of that [laughs] everything is out there! we might as well go watch all the Youtube videos that are already out there.

Marissa: Totally!

[cut to narration]

We’ll end this last segment with one last clip from Lily’s film Finconceivable because it’s just so adorable and it ends on such a hopeful note.

[cut to recording of young girl’s voice narrating Finconceivable with ukelele in the background]

But there is good news! we can all help save sharks and keep balance in our ocean! Encourage eco tourism. Ecotourism, could be a way to provide positive for shark hunters through licensed shark diving, scuba trips, and vacation spots around the world! Write to a government representative and tell them to ban shark finning. Make sure the fish you eat was caught in a shark-friendly way. long lines and troll caught fish often accidentally catch and kill sharks. Lastly, inform your friends and spread the word!

[cut to narration]

[00:27:36]
Finally, we are going to get into one of Lily’s latest projects. She co-created, an online comic with another fellow classmate of ours, Karen Schneemann called the Mean Magenta. The online comic is about periods and menstrual health. It’s meant to destigmatize periods and also be informational. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, and relatable if you are one of the 4 billion people on this planet that gets them.

[continue with interview]

Lily: Yea

[00:28:06]
Marissa: You started the Mean Magenta with Karen Schneemann. Can you tell us about the Mean Magenta?

Lily: Yea, I haven’t really talked about it yet so I’m not really sure if I’m talking about it right or whatever. So Karen and I were talking about it for a while. I had this idea where I decided I wanted to make this webcomic slash online resource for people with periods and Karen was like ok! like let’s do it. and I was like really?! you want to do this with me? and she was like yea for sure, let’s do it. because I definitely think I couldn’t do it alone. And I am a hundred percent accurate on that because it is a lot of work and it is a lot of emotionally exhausting conversations. Karen has been my rock and she has been such a good partner in this. So um, we just decided to do it and we just bit the bullet and we’ve been working on it for while, and like talking a lot about it for a while brainstorming for a long time, writing for a long time, so finally it’s starting and we haven’t talked about it yet. I have yet to post about it on my own social media.

Yea we started the Mean Magenta, it’s a, right now it’s a web comic for people with periods but hopefully eventually it will be like a resource.

Marissa: Cool!

[00:29:21]
Lily: Yea, so it centers around four girls. Christine, Brit, Abbey, and Sasha. and they are four twenty-ish something women in San Francisco and they all have varying jobs and they all have varying menstrual issues or non issues and just like what it means to be a woman, so it’s kinda like, or not women, because it’s people with periods right, cuz not only women get periods. But it’s just kinda like how different menstruation is for every different person. It varies so much and like, people who do menstruate and we know how to talk about it and we’ve all talked about it with each other but it’s so taboo to bring up to you boss or to bring up to anyone really when it’s such a big part of people’s lives.

Marissa: You just, you spend so much time planning around it.

[00:30:06]
Lily: Oh yea! I know for me personally my life is centered around mine. It’s such a taboo thing but it’s so hard when your life revolves around this thing. That you almost can’t talk about it.

Marissa: And the times you don’t have it you’re just like sensing your body and you’re like, I think I’m going to get it in two days or whatever. You’re just like aware of this thing all the time

Lily: Sure! yea and you’re like ok I know how I’m feeling right now based on like, what day of the month it is. It’s like such phenomenon that, I mean like what 50% of the population has it and yet we completely don’t talk about it.

Marissa: yea!

Lily: Mhm

[00:31:06]
Marissa: I had this um, ok I have this thing where whenever I’m on my period, I think it’s a good idea to wear white [laughs] but I don’t know I’m getting it. I’m just like, oh those white pants that are hideous that I never should have bought, I think I want to wear those! [laughs] And I wear them and I get my period and I’m like oh my god! I do this every time. So like, last summer, I wore white shorts to work at Tippett and I was standing at my desk. I have a standing desk and I’m like something’s weird and I’m like I think I started my period.

Lily: Oh no!

Marissa: so I grab my um, gym bag, I go to the bathroom, and I totally had so I like rinse the shorts out and I change into my gym clothes and I’m just like ok I’ll just like, it was in the middle of the summer so it’s super hot. I’ll let them dry while I’m at lunch. So I sneak back to my desk and we have a ladder that goes to the roof. Like I’ll hang them outside [laughs] and my coworkers are super chill so I’m sure they don’t give a shit anyway. They’re like all men. Um, but I just like really quickly like look all directions and like climb up and I throw these shorts outside and then I climb the rest of way and I look and I’ve thrown these shorts into black roof sludge.

Lily: No!

[00:32:06]
Marissa: So it was just like one and done, these shorts I just like completely destroyed in one day and I had just bought them and I was like, ok this is just like not meant to be it was just like, they wanted to be destroyed.

Lily: Oh my god that’s one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard.

[laughs]

Marissa: It was just like a work day, so the rest of the day I’m wearing my gym clothes and I don’t think anyone mentioned it to me but it was just like, that was the day.

Lily: Yea and women have so many stories like that. I mean how many women have stories like that and yet like, and we all share them with each other but it’s behind closed doors. Yea, it’s so funny. If you talk to any woman, like a woman has a story like that.

[00:32:45]
Marissa: Yea and it’s like, that is my rebellion, like, that happened to me today. I can’t cover it up. I’m in my gym clothes now.

[laughs]

Lily: Goodbye white shorts you were never meant to be

Marissa: Yea, never meant to be. oh yea! I really connected with Christine. She’s awesome. I was like, Programmer! and I also got mine in 9th grade and like, go LGBTQ and the whole thing.

[00:32:51]
Lily: oh yea that’s great ok! so we have not been talking about it too much yet, I have yet to hear people like too much connecting with certain characters. I do know that people connect with Brit so far, um but it’s so exciting, I’m so excited by that! I love that you like Christine.

Marissa: yea totally! and how did you guys come up with the characters?

Lily: Um Karen and I actually joke about that. They’re kinda split. I have two and she has two and they are kind of a combination of our personalities. But also like, if you think about it, you probably are all of their personalities like I look at all of them and I see all of them in me. So we just found certain things within ourselves and made a character for that.

[00:33:51]
It was a lot of back and forth and just trying to find things that worked. And we did like total writing things where you have like interviews with the characters and stuff like that so we did like exercises. We planned who they were. We wanted them to feel really genuine and unique and neither of us have written comics before.

I did a lot of practicing though like I was practicing with these daily comics I was doing for my own, they’re like about me because i figure, I know myself, or I hope I know myself um so I’m just going to try practicing doing comics. So for a long time I was just practicing doing comics and everyone on the internet very much got into them. A lot people were very bummed when I stopped doing it. So like, I kinda held, it got to a point where I started doing the comics for the Mean Magenta so I didn’t want to overlap all my comicking because it was a lot to do. But so, I was practicing a lot with myself and once I started, I was able to figure out how to talk about myself and then I started working with the characters more. so yea.

Marissa: That’s so cool, yea I remember, um, when you were in LA you were doing a lot.

[00:35:05]
Lily: yea that was exactly for the Mean Magenta

[laughs]

Marissa: yea! they’re so funny and they’re just personal and cool. I enjoyed them.

Lily: Thank you. Yea, they’re fun because the mean magenta characters are sort of based off of certain aspect of each of us. it’s easy to get into that headspace when I’m drawing them and when Karen and I are writing about them.

[00:35:21]
Marissa: I think it’s going to be awesome. It’s just like super fun and it’s such a great message and idea. And you know it’s like when you say those numbers too, it’s like of course I know that women are a little over 50%. But yea, 50% of us experiencing something that we can’t like yell to the world.

Lily: Right. Like I even remember like 4 years ago I just remember if someone would post something about their periods I would be like oh my god, I cannot believe they like posted that on the internet. Like woh. And now I’m like totally that person because I feel like liberated about it. But it’s like we shouldn’t be so ashamed about what our body is doing because our body is meant to be doing that thing. I mean granted some of us have bodies that might not be doing something quite right but like still our bodies are doing this incredible thing, getting us ready for like, this incredible thing later in life you know? Like everything has it’s purpose and it’s like so, I mean, I sound like such a hippie right now, but menstruation is so cool! Like, it’s not something to be ashamed of and yet we’re all still, I mean I’m still ashamed of it, we’re all still coming to terms with it because we’ve told to be ashamed about it.

I always think about that. I’m in a room, like you’re in an auditorium, you’re at a concert, you’re at a show, there are people in this room that are like bleeding right now. Like woh. [laughs] That’s cool.

Marissa: yea!

Lily: But also we can’t talk about it. It’s like shhh.

[00:36:51]
Marissa: Totally! I get so excited like yea, that Olympian, the Chinese Olympian, I can’t remember her name. and I think you posted it and I was like yea!

Lily: Yea, I mean that was so cool. I can’t even imagine what it would have felt like for her to have said that, too. I mean because I think about even, like even talking about it now, it takes, it takes something you have in you to talk about. I think you have to break through something. because we’re not allowed to talk about it. Right? We’re told we’re not allowed to. So just talking about it in any sort of way is really kind of exciting so people should embrace it. Like I can’t imagine how she felt after one of the biggest races of her life. to get up and say that to a news reporter. I mean geez.

Marissa: And to do that race while you’re cramping and just like.

Lily: No, at the level she is doing that, it’s like crazy.

[00:37:36]
Marissa: And you think like oh yea, they’re human too, they also get their periods.

Lily: Yea, which yea and honestly, I didn’t know because they’re competing at such a high level and I was like, I don’t know if they do. Right? Because a lot of athletes don’t. So that was so exciting. I was like wow! A window into their life.

Marissa: Yea!

[laughs]

Lily: Olympic swimmers. exactly like us! There’s no other difference.

[laughs]

[cut to narration]

[00:38:51]
That wraps up this weeks episode with the lovely, Lily Williams. You’re listening to the Undefined: A Profile of a Generation. I’m your host, Marissa Comstock. Visit us at theundefinedgen.com sign up for our email list and like us on Facebook if you like listening to the episodes. There’s so many other cool things that Lily has worked on that I couldn’t fit into the show. She volunteers her time and art for different bunny rescue organizations in California and has hosted fundraising drawing events for people to come and do life-drawing of bunnies. The events are attended by lots of cool people and artists including known tattoo artists for example. She posts new art all the time and recently did an illustration series of the woman’s olympic swim team so definitely check out her Instagram and Facebook page. I can’t wait for her children’s book. It’s going to be so gorgeous!

[00:38:51]
Next week, I talked to Johnny5 of TurfInc. He’s an insanely talented dancer. He’s be featured on and works with Yak films Dance videos, which is the Premier YouTube channel for epic dancers around the world. He’s the founder of TurfInc an organization that teaches Turf dancing to underprivileged kids in the East Bay. It’s a dance style that originated in Oakland and is derived from Boogaloo. He’s a dancer and agent and entrepreneur. He’s spoken at you and councils on how to solve problems in inner cities and he grew up in and knows all about Oakland. He’s awesome. I think you’ll like them a lot. So listen next week! Bye listeners!

[Theme Music]

 

WHAT DID YOU THINK?

Transcription: 006: Mogli Maureal: Mad Noise, Radix, Sound Design, and Photography

This week, Mogli Maureal who is a musician, sound designer, and photographer, talks about his band, Mad Noise. He talks about how their roots as street performers, their musical style, and their recent trip to West Africa with the US Department of State Program called American Music Abroad. Then we talks about his works with Radix, an experimental theater troupe. He does all of their music and sound design for their innovative theater and live performance works. Finally, we talk about his photography and his aspirations.

TRANSCRIPTION

 

WHAT DID YOU THINK?

Transcription: 005: Alex Vlahov: Too Much Light, the New York Neo-Futurists, and Experimental Theater

This episode, Alex Vlahov talks about his work with the New York Neo-futurists and their collection of 30 plays performed in an hour called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. We also talk about experimental theater in general and some of the plays that Alex has written and directed that have interesting approaches to topics that cover a range of social issues and humanity’s dilemmas. Finally, we discuss Alex’s latest play which is still untitled. The play is about Father Eric, a priest from our high school who was murdered in 2013.

TRANSCRIPTION

[00:00:00] 
[Narration Begins]

Sup listeners, I’m your host Marissa Comstock and you’re listening to the Undefined: A Profile of a Generation. A show about young people doing awesome things. You can find us on ITunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher.

[Theme music begins]

[00:00:15]
You can find us on all social media, and on the website at theundefinedgen.com.

This week I talk to my very good friend, Alex Vlahov. He is a writer, director, and actor. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Alex is a member of the New York Neo Futurist ensemble, a theater curator at the Tank, and a founding member at Cliff House Arts, a theater company he created with two of his friends. He also played Brutus and traveled with the Shakespeare theater of New Jersey.

[00:00:45]
I was just in New York a few weeks ago and messaged Alex and asked if he’d be down to do an interview. He was and invited me to see his show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind with the New York Neo Futurists which was so amazing but I’ll get back to that. There’s so many things happening in this interview. First of all, I went all the way to Bushwick to talk with Alex and as I was four blocks away, it started thundering and I was like seriously, rain in summer? Californians don’t even know what rain is anymore. But yes, there was rain in summer and within a few seconds of hearing that thunder it was torrentially pouring. I had to get a Lyft just to take me the last four blocks with my electronics. And. I was absolutely soaking wet in summer dress when I got there. So in this interview you will hear pouring rain and house shaking thunder. It was actually very soothing to edit. Secondly, Alex had a flu or cold either way, he was such a trooper. He had a really high fever the entire interview and totally pushed through it for me. So grateful to him. Also, how pushy am I? Making him do the interview. But it’s all for the story.

Um, but for this episode, I got to record his show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind so I’m going to staccato our interview with those clips which I think you’ll enjoy.

[Theme Music]

[Narration Continues]

[00:02:32]
We start this interview by talking about Alex’s performance that I got to see while I was in New York. It was so fun and crazy and I didn’t know what to expect nor could I have expected this show. Too Much Light Makes the Baby go Blind is completely interactive. The audience is yelling. I went up on stage a few times. Um, they bring people up to do game shows, dances, they even invited the audience to strip down to their undies and run around this New York city block. The quick explanation is that there are 30 plays and a ticking clock. The cast is trying to finish 30 plays in an hour with the help of the audience. How it worked was there were 30 numbers hanging from clothespins on stage and everyone in the audience had a program with 30 plays numbered. I have a clip here to get you in the mood. It’s Alex’s cast member, Joey and he’ll explain better how this whole thing goes down.

[00:03:36]
…And you perhaps noticed when you walked into the room this clothesline hanging above the stage upon which dangled 30 integers starting here at one and going there to 30. One through 30. Here above my head. One through 30. Right here. This is not a coincidence we planned ahead. These represent the 30 plays that we are going to attempt to perform for you in the space of 1 hour. Now, are we going to perform these plays in order 1-30?

[crowd yells nos and yeses]

Maybe. Some say yes. If he’s loud and fast enough then yes, that is exactly what will happen but that is up to you. The order of the plays is up to you. What you will do right now. Do this right now. Find a play title that you think looks really interesting. But don’t shout out the title of that play [laughs] look to the left of that title of that play and identify that number associated with that title. Don’t shout out the number of that title until you hear… curtain.

[audience begins to shout different numbers]

[00:04:21]
What the fuck just happened?! Some of you are saying. That is the battle fatigue of people who have seen the show before. [laughs] thank you friends for coming back to this show. What just happened was, the people who have seen this show before know that they have to shout out the number of the play that they want to see every time they hear the word curtain.

[audience shouts different numbers]

[00:04:51]
Marissa: So I know you’re excited to meet Alex. First here is Alex performing in one of his plays which is one of the 30. You’ll hear his voice announcing it. It’s called ‘Every Springsteen Song Ever.’

[cut to audio of performance]

Performer: Um, can someone get the clock.

Other performer: Yea.

Alex: Every Springsteen song ever! Go!

[Piano plays]

[00:05:08]
Alex: One, two, one two, well it starts pretty simple, maybe something bout a flag!

Other Actor: And a factory man whose a veteran dad,

Alex: There’s a jersey sweetheart waiting on a porch.

Other Actor: An American true blue holdin’ that torch.

Alex: And something ’bout a motorcycle song gets loud

Other Actor: [gibberish in Springsteen voice]

Alex: -riding on the highway

Together: oh, honey, tramps like us, baby we were born in the USAAAAA

[laughs]

Together: oh, honey, tramps like us, baby we were born in the USAAAA

[guitar plays]

[Yells Curtain]

[Audience Yells 3]

[00:06:05]
Marissa; Ok yea! I got to see your performance.

Alex: Thank you so much for coming. So glad you could see it and sat in the front row. And you know, really glad that you came. Really touched.

Marissa: It was really amazing. I love going and seeing performances and I go to things like the San Francisco Ballet a lot and whatever. But there is like this separation between me and it. And sometimes I’m very aware of that, I’m like oh I’m at the ballet right now. where it’s like your performance was so interactive. like I completely was immersed in the experience.

Alex: oh good!

Marissa: yea, I dont know can you talk about so, you’re with the New York Neo Futurists. Yea. Can you talk about like, what that is.

[00:06:50]
Alex: Sure! It started in 1988. Thank you by the way! for all the things you said. it started in 1988 in Chicago by a guy named Greg Allen. He started building on, um, the idea of futurism in the early 20th century, this Italian art movement. Um, and, but sort of leaving behind a lot of the socially rigorous, there’s a lot, in Marionetti’s Futurist manifest that doesn’t really apply to now like, certain thoughts on women or class. But he had some things about spontaneity and simultaneity and speed that, you know, decades later, Greg Allen adopted into a working model for a show. An hour that isn’t improv but has room for comedy and drama and storytelling. Um. All sorts of expression. With 30 plays in it and the plays are anywhere between 10 seconds sometimes to between 2 and 3 minutes. Um, Yea! It’s really an attempt to break down the, that’s a very trite, Yea! It does break down a lot of the conventions of going to a show and knowing that you are there as an audience member. Because we often get audience members on stage or make them the focus of the show.

[00:08:05]
It’s been running in Chicago since 1988, um, it had its first run out here in the late 90s or a couple test runs. People were kinda too busy doing other things. It really got off the ground in 2004 so its been running 12 year now in New York. and in San Francisco now since 2013. So yea.

Marissa: Can you um, so you are talking about like futurism and simult– simultinan..enaenism [struggling to say the word]

Alex: Yea yea yea! Simultaneity is a huge..

Marissa: Yea, just explain what that is.

[00:08:35]
Alex: Yea, if you talk to any Neo Futurist, you are going to get a different take on this, but there are the core tenants of the neofuturists. Aesthetic which is like honesty at all times, being yourself at all times, telling stories that pertain to your reality and the ways that you interpret you reality, which again is different for every Neo-futurist.

I went to a Guggenheim exhibition of Neo-futurism in 2014 and what I was able to glean from all the work is that it is a lot happening all at once. On the, you know, if this is the medium of paintings, it’s a lot happening at once on the canvas, right? so the incomplete action, you’d see a train locomotive journey but from beginning to end and you’d see that happening at once. Simultaneity, everything happening at once. Speed. Action.

[00:09:20]
It was like, and also coincided with post industrial revolution like you know, churning at factories, it was also expressing sort of the huge capitalism drives. Like war machines going on, too. Simultaneity, things happening on stage at the same time that create interesting stage fixtures. Um, while having to be ourselves, we can’t break off, unless you’re doing something that is meta, you cant just break off in an accent, unless its self referential. Simultaneity might be someone cooking an egg on stage while someone else tells a stories. Or someone is singing a song while someone turns on an off a light bulb. I mean, those are very fassel examples but, um, I, there is something about, two things happening at once on stage and the audience imposing their own narrative on it.

[00:10:05]
Marissa: Um, the one girl, she is talking about her anxiety, and then it’s like, she’s still talking and acting out her anxiety while the loud speaker is projecting.

Alex: Yea, thats a really good example. That would be her play, yea! ‘Untitled Anxiety Play’. That’s Kaira’s play. And also the, there are discussions about this play because there are balloons going off in the dark, so that’s simultaneity.

Marissa: Yea

Alex: Yeaaa. Yea. The monologues, the balloons happening and sitting in a dark room and just the anxiety that it creates. You know, you don’t have to say, ‘we go to New Orleans!’ Or you don’t have to say, ‘there was a king in 1530.’ It just is immediate and in the room and interesting. And that was a new art form for me to see. It was really really refreshing when I first moved here.

[cut to narration]

We’ll cut to more of the show to illustrate the craziness and absurdity. These next two pieces are both by Alex. the First one was number 19 and titled, ‘Doctors Etc.’

[cut to recording]

[00:11:00]
Alex: Ok! Hey! Do we have a doctor in the house? Is there anyone– Is there a doctor in the house?

Audience member: no..

Alex: Anyone in the medical profession? [laughs]

whatsover?

Um, can you please come back here with me? we need you urgently, backstage, um, right now, please, thank you so much!

[Alex calls an audience member on stage]

Hey can we get a round of applause?

[cheering and clapping]

follow me.

Cast Member 1: I need a graphic designer! is there a graphic designer in the house?

[laughs and cheering]

Cast Member 2: is there anyone in the house from Connecticut? [laughs] Is anyone here from the grand, nutmeg state?? [laughs]

[Cut to Narration]

And this one is number 6, how I bore bartenders

[cut to recording with loud music playing, simulating a bar]

Alex: Sick! I like this song! I said I like this song! You have a very nice sound system in here! It’s pretty busy tonight! You must be pretty busy in here sometimes! So, so how long has this place been open?!

[Continue with Interview]

[00:12:20]
Alex: well the speed and brevity of the pieces allow for when we do take a moment to slow down and distill an image, excuse me, has a stronger impact…

I’m sick by the way I don’t if I should mention that for the recording [laughs] I’m a little under the weather.

Marissa: Yea, he’s incredibly feverish. He’s barely holding it together.

Alex: Yea I’m barely holding it together. [laughs] I’m a wreck.

Marissa: Thank you so much for getting out of bed to do this.

Alex: No I know, yea I know, Its really you know, it took, I had to call my neighbor and they had to drag me out of bed [laughs] That’s a lie, uh. No, thanks for coming here and accommodating my illness. um, but uh, it’s so cool. It really is so cool. I’m so grateful how into it you were. Yea, its really like, cuz some people, its different every week and some people respond differently. you know, I have some friends who love it now that hated it when they first saw it. i had some friends who loved it when they first saw it. So you know, its different every time so its really cool.

[00:13:20]
Marissa: More and more its making sense too, and I feel like so much of our entertainment is going towards that, it was just this really formal model for long, even though everyone has been doing experimental stuff, its just like, what’s popular was formal and it’s like, VR, AR, audiences want to be more involved in the experience.

Alex: Yea! thats such a fascinating take because so many Neo-futurists would see that as totally analogous and I do not at all. I don’t think you should poo poo any sort of art form or aesthetic is exclusive. I mean like if it’s inclusive, it’s inclusive at the end of the day.

Marissa: hmm. yea.

Alex: I think that’s also just pretention.

Marissa: Oh so you like AR/VR and other people are like nah.

[00:13:50]
Alex: I do. I do. Well its like, AR/VR, I think a lot of it, for being Neo-futurists, I think not even us, but a lot of people in like the sort of, DIY, experimental theater world are a bit suspect of these modes of expression… like digital entertainment… like pixels on screen. This is a real sort of like, weird fear, but it happens with any new art form, it’s happening, decade over decade it happens with any new impending, it’s just the modes of expression, numerous modes of expression having been found yet. It is just reaching audiences, it is so cool that you made that connection. That that connects to audiences in that way and we connect to audiences in a different way but it ultimately connects with audiences. Thats so cool. I totally see it there.

[Cut to Narration]

[00:14:35]
This last piece from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, that I’m going to play is not one of Alex’s but it serves to illustrate the variety of pieces that hey have in their show. They, um deal with issues of race. There was a Black Lives Matter piece. There was a piece where two of the performers are on stage trying to hold their breath on stage with they huge buckets of water with varying level of success. Meanwhile, the woman is on stage is commentating their competition which eventually turns into an informative piece about Syrian refugees who are drowning every day trying to escape to Europe thorough the Mediterranean. So this next piece is about smoking and about the actors addiction.

[Cut to recording of actor doing a skit in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind]

[Cast Member yells name of skit]

Cast Member: My Worst Experiment in Progress. Go!

Cast Member 2: Mersky Is a fucking idiot.

Cast Member 1: I wrote this play.

Cast Member 2: He calls himself a scientist but he’s a fucking idiot,

Cast Member 1: Still a scientist.

Cast Member 2: Say it. Say you’re a fucking idiot.

Cast Member 1: I’m a fucking idiot.

Cast Member 2: And why are you a fucking idiot?

Cast Member 1: Because Ive been smoking cigarettes 12 years longer than I expected, than I intended to…

Cast Member 2: And when did you start?

Cast Member 1: 12 years ago

Cast Member 2: So what was it? you wanted to be cool? was it peer pressure? Did you just want to experiment?

Cast Member 1: I wanted to know what an addiction felt like. I was young and stupid and I wanted to know what an addicton felt like and I wanted to experience what others are going through.

Cast Member 2: And that’s why you started smoking?

Cast Member 1: At first I thought try some heroine but cigarettes are more accessible.

[laughs]

Cast Member 2: And now its been 12 years?

Cast Member 1: 12 years since I, failed to finish what I started.

Cast Member 2: What happened?

Cast Member 1: Well I hate smoking, I always have. I didn’t even know how to smoke so I just forced myself to one day and then a few weeks later I was addicted both physically and mentally. I still am.

Cast Member 2: You never quit?

Cast Member 1: Its not quitting if you start again.

Cast Member 2: What have you learned?

Cast Member 1: I’ve learned how to hurt myself. Ive learned how to lie to myself. Ive learned how to lie to the people I love. I’ve learned you will probably live longer than I will. I’ve learned I don’t like who I have become. It’s the most hypocritical thing I’ve ever done. I’ve spent years fighting to protect the environment while polluting my own body. I have fought against the most destructive corporations while paying thousands of dollars to them. It hurts my mind. It hurts my body. It, I’ve learned I feel myself becoming weaker with every cigarette I smoke.

Cast Member 2: When was your last cigarette?

Cast Member 1: 8 days, 5 hours ago.

[cheers from the crowd]

[back to interview]

Marissa: Yea, people were exploring their things on stage like the guy with the cigarettes. Like I’m assuming those are real thoughts and problems of his. So, do they encourage you to explore those things in your little plays?

[00:17:06]
Alex: Yes, they really do. It’s got to be, personal, that the only way because, its its, its gotta be, its got to come from a place of reality. That’s what makes the best plays. I mean. You mentioned that play because I think there was something in it that you connected with. I don’t know. I’m not trying to be pop psychologist but like, I remember the plays that I have a connection with. So the fact that he was able to communicate, Mersky, Daniel Merskey, was able to communicate, something, uh, directly, and honestly, is, is, like a tenant of the aesthetic and you know, makes for some of the best theater.

It translates to film, by, some, I, I don’t remember who said this. Some teacher once said that like, the best special effect on film is watching the human face, emotionally react to something. like, and I realize the field you work in, I don’t mean that as an insult at all. His point was human emotion is so fascinating, and to watch him go through some changes of emotion and thought, you follow them as audience members. So yea, we really do try to strive for honesty.

Marissa: Yea

[00:18:21]
Alex: Yea, there’s no what do you call it, fourth wall, man. Yea.

Marissa: Yea

Alex: Yea, that’s the cool part. It sounds so, ‘there’s no fourth wall mannnn’ so you know [laughs] its very like hippie theater professor but like, yea, that’s really like the coolest part about the show. My favorite part about the show.

[00:18:36]
Yea, I have a play called ‘Pro Bono Therapy’ where we just ask for something you don’t want to say in front of the audience, to another Neo and then we ask the audience member the same question so you know, it’s different every weekend cuz you hear an audience member say what they don’t want to say in front of the room. and you know some people talked about like, the way they communicate with friends or like the relationship they are in, or someone who is not talking to them. But like yea, weird, interesting therapeutic stuff sometimes gets sort of mixed up on stage.

Marissa: Uhh, so ok you started at UCLA and you did improv in LA and then you transferred and moved to London and were acting, or studying acting at LAMBDA. Can you talk about their philosophy on acting and some of the take away things you learned there?

Alex: Yea! Sorry um, yea, sorry, I just feel like I’m.. struggling with this fever.

Marissa: Do you need water? Are you ok?

Alex: Yea, I, I, have some water here. I should be drinking much more of it.

Marissa: [laughing] Please tell me when you are dying and then..

[00:19:36]
Alex: I’m not normally a big sweater but I’m sweating a lot right now. [laughs] I’m on medication so that, I’ll be ok in a couple days.[laughs] -But I’m not ok now.

London was great for what it was. I wanted to live there. And that was the biggest impetus for moving there. Um, knowing what I know now, you know. The training was a little myopic.

Marissa: What is myopic?

Alex: Like focused, very focused in, on an actor’s life. Which you know, that is really good, it gives you a lot of tools. It gives you so many different methods to pull from but at the same time. I did find myself being frustrated cuz like, I guess its kind of like a conservatory, you know? Like something with such a high, exclusivity, of um, all other practices? All other fields. You like, I’m very interested in film work and writing and LAMDA really catered to actors and acting career, an actor’s life. Which makes sense, it’s an acting school. So, three years there it was wonderful. I was trained as a classical actor. I realized that so many people graduate from LAMBA and go from audition to audition or career, have a career where they do, wonderful stage work and then like film and tv but like it’s a very unreliable career as an actor. And being practical about it, I’m much more interested in creating my own work and original work.

Marissa: I, ok, I want to get into all of your work. I just want to ask really quickly because I’m curious how you get into a character.

Alex: Yea, totally.

[00:21:08]
Marissa: What’s your method specifically?

Alex: Um. Ya know, I think that the biggest thing is. The word is what is on the page. Is what the text tells you and that isn’t there for you to rely on or if it’s a piece that is perhaps being improvised or you have some agency in the creation of the character, uh, then it is a bit more relying on your own instinct. Right? Your own taste almost.

For me its like looking at the page, looking at the givens of the role. Like you know, they are never the bad guy. It’s always they are doing things for the reasons that they are doing it. And you know every character has its own thing. You know I’ve only been out there for a couple years now out of college and mostly looking for aesthetic billing who ask me to write for myself for when I do play characters, which is really fun and I love doing. For me, each character has different preparation, some of them like making iTunes playlists and just like listening to that over and over again or some have been physical alterations or just trying to communicate slightly different in the real world with people. Yea. I used to be like study study study and now I’m more like go on impulse and in the room. The answer I think, is in the room. So yea, you know, the character is uhhh, um, ya know, I’m not a put on an eye mask and go on out and limp sort of guy.

[00:22:40]
Marissa: Like having seen your stuff and reading about all the things you have been involved with, you are into things that involve the audience, or it’s live in the moment so I’m imagining in a play you are working on or a performance the character can potentially be different each night.

Alex: Well it should be I think.

Marissa: yea

[00:22:55]
Alex: But but, but, you know the given, acting is uh, for me, uh, acting emotionally honest in fictional circumstances. Right? If anything the character is almost second to the raw honesty to how you are responding in the moment. right. It’s um, it’s less interesting for me to really, really alter myself than it is to just be responding to like, to just make it so the audience knows, like, can see something in what I am doing. If I am just in the room responding to someone, an actual conversation is so interesting. People talking about the hidden impulses you see or think you see. um. yea, that’s far more fascinating and I think that comes from being in the room and being honest to the text and the givens. And if they are not there, then really being open to experimentation with it. But it’s all done with, it’s different for each character.

Marissa: Yea

Alex: Yea and it’s finding the honesty in it. That’s really the truth.

Marissa: And yea, so you cofounded, um, a like, ensemble, called Cliff House Arts

[00:23:55]
Alex: yea! it’s really small. Andy and I, I think you met Andy

Marissa: Yea I met Andy and I also saw Mike Belanti was involved.

Alex: Yea! Mike Belanti was involved. yea yea yea yea yea. Mike has done a bunch of stuff with us. He’s like our official videographer. yea so cool. yea, Cliff House is like, um, right when I moved here. I just wanted to give the work i was doing a monochre. So you went to our album cover concert in 2012.

Marissa: yea! Which was also raining like this so I’m going to associate that with you.

Alex: That’s really cool. [laughs] so every time you see me it has to rain profusely and you have to get soaking wet. That was a shit show. You guys- What happened to you guys?

Marissa: Sooo. yea.

Alex: So this is September 21st 2012 by the way, just for context.

Marissa: [laughs] Yea.

[00:24:25]
Alex: September 21st, 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar. and it’s out in Tomales Bay. God there’s, so this almost sounds like Madlibs. This is like Tomales Bay in the middle of the night. We’re doing a beach boys cover concert at Pet Sounds. So you arrived with Laura. Something happened to you car. right?

Marissa: Yea so, I went down with Kenny Dolan, Cameron, and my best friend, Laura, yea we kind of took the wrong way. We took the Google maps way and not the way that you had told us which we’ve never told Kenny. [laughs] Because he would probably be so mad about it. But we kept, there were three detour signs, and we like- ok, so we go around one and it’s fine, and we’re like ‘yea! see it was bullshit’ and we go around another, it’s fine. The Third one, there’s a road that is covered in water. but we, you can’t tell how deep it is. It looks like it’s flat you know because I think the road dipped down. So anyway, someone was like, or we were all just like, yea! Let’s just power through it and just like speed Kenny’s car into that thing and all of the sudden we are just like 4 or 5 feet deep in water and his car turns off. [laughs]

Alex: I’m sorry that is the part I forgot, that the car just died.

Marissa: Yea but anyways, so the long story short of it is that Kenny needed a new engine.

Alex: Oh shit.

Marissa: yea.

Alex: wow.

Marissa: yea

Alex: Oh my god.

[00:25:55]
Marissa: But yea, the party was great. It was like, it was so insanely beautiful. Thunder and lightning. We’re in that old barn house.

Alex: yea that’s all grown over now. You can’t go in there.

Marissa: oh really?

Alex: Yea it’s all weeded. Yea, they just left it.

Marissa: Oh my god.

Alex: Yea so right in the knick of time.

Marissa: Yea, it was just an insanely beautiful old barn and the like, the lightning, we were inside and it’s just like shaking the wood on the barn and then like you guys are doing covers of I can’t even remember now.

Alex: Pet sounds

Marissa: Pet sounds.

[00:26:10]
Alex: which is also funny because like I told, I told so many people. Myself included. do this concert. It’s going to be an awesomely big deal! And I got there and half the people didn’t really know their songs. Or like, like, so many little things happened. I mean it was a fun night. and there where some amazing performances. but like for getting people that far from the Bay Area it was like, man, it should have been an amazing, really good show. It was more like a really fun party. Than it was like a night of excellent music. [laughs] you know what I mean. I, I, I love all the friends involved and the people involved I just maybe It was on me. I just wish I curatorially pushed a bit harder to like maybe just practice?

The reason I bring that up because I was doing those still and I wanted to put them under name. so the first event Andy I did was a Tom Waits Album cover concert in Brooklyn which was Goodbye Blue Monday which was again, now closed yea so we wanted to put it under a name. We did Tom Waits. Then we did a Beckett festival. Then we started creating some original work. We, we kept doing album cover concerts till 2013. Did one in 2014 but then we did Furniture Porn. This show was about the internet and Andy was heavily involved with the production design and all the tech design, sound, lighting, textures. I mean he is like a wiz with all that. And he’s really good with director feedback. He’s a great performer. Andy is really awesome.

[00:27:40]
Marissa: And like, I was reading on your website about Cliff House arts and it says, You know you have a social justice vision. so the stuff you’ve worked on is schizophrenia and um, the prison system, yea I was so fascinated by the Russian guy who killed himself. It’s such an interesting story.

Alex: Do you remember that video from high school at all. Impossible is nothing?

Marissa: No I don’t remember.

[00:28:10]
Alex: Aleksey Vayner. Yea. It, it’s like, 2006, I think 2007, yea. I might be getting the year wrong. Yea, ‘Impossible is Nothing.’ He, he was a business, Harvard business grad. Wow the details. it’s been a while again. He made a video, resume. A video resume where he talks about how great he is. His skills, um, it has, it has like, him tangoing, playing tennis, doing karate moves. And he just spouts off this corporate double speak of like inspirational goals but like he became this internet laughing stock. Um. And then right when I moved to New York. I found out that he had overdosed and no one knew if was accidental or on purpose and it originally was going to be like, to investigate what happened to him. Right. talk, maybe talk to his family. But I thought it was too close and he’s already gone through enough so I used him as a leaping off point. Uh, as a jumping off point into how the internet has changed the way we communicate. And in just the most minute ways and this is 2013 when we did it and you have to keep in mind that memes were a huge thing back then and really think about this. They aren’t really that big now. right. like, memes are still there around. But Scumbag Stacy, Scumbag Steve. do you remember?

Marissa: This is when I wasn’t using the internet really.

Alex: Totally, totally, yea yea yea. But memes are good at delivering a simple message and they are often jokes and I was looking at what happens to the people behind these memes or videos in real life. Um, and it, meanwhile, and using them as a sort of structural point. so the Star Wars kid, we looked at him. we looked at boom goes the dynamite, the college sports anchor that flubbed. We did Clint Eastwood talking to the chair in the 2012 election. And uh, Paula Dean, the chef, her like, myaculpua. Myaculpa, I might be mispronouncing it. We used clips from her. And you know, uh, we had people look up on Google, asking the audience, where in the world is the largest and then have the audience say a letter from the alphabet and then have Andy type that in and you, like, project it. And it would show google responses based on different questions. And the NSA Edward Snowden had happened that year so we had stuff about surveillance. Thinking back it was a wonderful [Loud Thunder booms]

Wow! That was awesome.

[laughs]

That was incredible.

[00:30:25]
Yea, it was a messy pie of a piece but that’s kinda what I. It was almost like a bunch of different sketches of real world interactions with the internet. With 7 different people.

Marissa: Yea reading it was like, it’s so fascinating. you know it’s so easy, and we are all the time sharing these memes and looking at these videos and this and that and it’s like you’re not bullying them, and like, you’re not saying anything hurtful, you’re just like laughing at it but it’s just like the collective conscious of millions of people even sharing it becomes like a bullying thing because these people are applying to jobs and it’s like every time you share it, it’s like 10 millions more people who have seen it and who associate it with that person rather than all their other accolades. You know?

Alex: I’ll send you the video, the original Youtube video. I mean it’s, it’s still funny but knowing the real life side of it, it’s like what is the human cost of the internet?

[00:31:10]
It is like we are living in an era. That’s going to be the thing that defines this era. We’re all going to die and it’s going to be like they lived through the internet. We saw it before. It’s just kinda weird. Ya know?

Marissa: oh and that one was called Furniture porn. I love that name. [laughs]

Alex: Aw thanks man.

Marissa: Why did you call it that?

Alex: Well you know, in a much earlier draft, we had people screaming at, audience members would give their stuff to the stage and we would arrange them in like, erotic position on stage and scream at them to fuck. And it was this thing of Rule 34. Have you heard of this internet law?

Marissa: no

[00:31:40]
Alex: It’s that anything, I think I’m getting it right, Rule 34, anything that can be turned into porn… exists as porn.

Marissa: yea

Alex: Yea, so that’s like where there’s like, Simpson’s porn. I mean that’s a pretty big one now. There’s a lot of Simpson’s porn online. It’s a good joke. rule 34. Like, if someone calls Rule 34 in a chatroom or like on Reddit or something, then someone will like photoshop said thing, if it’s a leaf. it’ll be like the leaf having sex.

[00:32:10]
Marissa: Ok

Alex: Yea so it was like a sketch on rule 34, we got like purses, someone’s glasses and we like ‘YEA! FUCK, like FUCK, FUCK THAT PURSE!’ It was like glasses right, there’s nothing happening on stage and we realized it was just sort of aggressive and loud and it came from like, then we got chairs, and we had the chairs try to fuck and then it was furniture. Then we had furniture catalogues going in the background. because people just swipe on Pinterest and look at pretty furniture. But then it was a bit too much, so we cut that piece out but the title stuck.

[cut to narration]

[00:32:40]
This last section of the interview is about a play that Alex is working on for the New York New Futurists. He had previously released a version of his play for the company Tank but is now revisiting it with new ideas. The play is about a priest from our high school named Father Eric who was brutally murdered in 2013. Alex investigated his death and did a lot of interviews gathering first hand accounts for his play.

[continue with interview]

Marissa: So yea A Simple Art is about a priest that, er, worked at our high school and was murdered.

Alex: yea

Marissa: So can you tell that story?

[00:33:10]
Alex: I mean it’s so fucked up. [pause] I mean I was, um, I was curating a noir festival at Tank and a group dropped out and I needed to, I wanted to, I needed a replacement, so I was like maybe that’s a good impetus to create my own, um, piece. Because I know, it was a noir theater festival and I knew someone who had been murdered. And I had just finished Furniture Porn and I was like well if I’m so interested in documentary theater and real life cases, I should maybe do something about this. I don’t, um, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but it ended up being a collection of interviews played on stage, along side a record player, a tape cassette player, a cd player a radio and I would sort of mix these analog devices and narrate over these interviews forming a uhh, uh, cohesive story around Father Eric, the town, the murderer, sort that little world. Um. And hope, what I hoped to do, what I hope to do next time is sort of focus on a hyper-specific example. The audience and hopefully us, and yea collaborators now working on it with me. But focusing on this very true crime, very specific example, we learn things about storytelling and how people perceive narrative and tell the story about our own lives.

Marissa: yea

Alex: It was a one man show when I did it was just me and a table and like speaking. Um it was very very lo fi. and I like that. but yea, it’s going to be a bit more involved now.

Oh yea sorry! so what happened with Father Eric, he um, I mean ok so again, it’s so, the details might be shady here because I just recently dived back into it. Oh so I should say, ok yea, so the Neo Futurists are going to make it a Prime time show. So we are going to be doing a Simple Art next year in the Spring and I don’t know if it’s going to have the same title but yea it explores the murder of Father Eric who um, we knew and uh, he is, the guy was arrested, John Lee Bullock, he was arrested, like, [thunder] that’s so crazy!

Marissa: I know

Alex: It’s really beautiful

Marissa: It is

[00:35:27]
Alex: He was arrested the day before, um, for acting recklessly and was held 6 hours and police around midnight of New years eve. So yea this was New Years Eve, 2013 going into 2014 and then he was wandering around Arcadia and was seen again by security officer and questions. So like there’s all these interesting details right. So first of all, this guy had two interactions with the police leading up to Father Eric being Murdered. The second thing was that Father Eric didn’t have the alarm on in the rectory because he had this very, very close tie with the scripture of Jesus, like the textual Jesus as it is and he thought that people wouldn’t put that barrier between him and the community so he didn’t have the church alarm on. that’s why the guy got in. There’s these really interesting details there that are really worth exploring. And Eric himself was beloved, I mean he was liked by everyone, and um, uh,

Marissa: And your family is close to him?

Alex: Oh, no we’re not.

Marissa: Oh you’re not.

[00:36:42]
Alex: That’s the thing, I only had, I have a couple interactions with him, when I had class with him a couple times but it wasn’t like he was this, like, really close family friend. And in a way that’s good because there’s an object– object– objectivity there.

Marissa: Mhmm

Alex: Yea yea but, there’s also this level of atonement because there’s this weird memory I have of making fun out him one day like, the specifics of it are sort of lost on me. I just remember using his name as a punchline in the quad and him hearing it and like sort of like doing an acknowledging that he heard it and I just remember thinking aw, aw that didn’t feel good. I didn’t want to, I liked him, I didn’t want to make him feel bad. So there’s this whole other element of this long distance atonement but that’s like a very paltry reason, it really is to explore. yea [laughs]

[00:37:27]
Marissa: You are just feeling so eternally bad.

Alex: I feel so bad! The two strongest memories I have of him and the other one is like the first day at St. Francis, he took us in that little chapel, you know? that one in Brothers with the big tree and he was like alright, who here last night made uh, every part of their meal from scratch. Then I raised my hand I was like yea, I cooked it. And he was like alright, did you grow the vegetables? did you give it sunshine? And I was a little like okkkk, I get, I get, I get where you’re going. I get where you’re going. [laughs] but he was right? It was a little thing, he made me consider, all the shit, I mean, it was, the, the, the leapin’ thought there was where was the stuff I’m eating coming from? That’s really what it was. Where is the stuff coming from? And it was like a slight shift. I have like these anarchic punk, experience these little at school experiences with him. Never really knew the guy, like personally though.

Marissa: yea

Alex: I didn’t know him.

[00:38:27]
Marissa: But you, and there’s like other things about him. He’s very educated. He spoke Japanese. I remember him speaking Japanese at school.

Alex: 25 years. He spent 25 years there.

Marissa: Yea, ok he spent 25 years in Japan and was really into bringing that culture and I feel like he did a lot with the multicultural masses and stuff.

Alex: yea

Marissa: If I remember correctly.

[00:38:42]
Alex: He translated the poems of a Hiroshima survivor, in the area, in the Humboldt area. I think she’s in the area but yea when the community lost him, like, they lost, someone who could translate, speak Japanese fluently and could translate. I mean that’s a loss to the community beside the other obvious reasons like a priest and a wonderful man. I mean. Um, it is, it is a very lay piece. although it about a priest, and touches on his ties with [thunder] uh scriptural Jesus, is that , it is very much about Noir Storytelling. It’s like a documentary but the advantages of it being live is that it can be a little different every night. I mean mix it up with different, we want a lot of devices on stage, record players, radios, and tape players, we can like create, a sonic landscape underneath these accounts of what happened to him and what happened in the area.

We have two prime time shows a year, some do well, some get nominated for awards, some do well, it’s a cool thing and they have some money to put towards them, um and it’s a chance to do a like along form piece and they said specifically we want something with a work history and I, I’ve wanted to revisit this and go back to Eureka so I’m hopefully going when I go back in August, but if I can’t and with standing, I’m going to go back in December.

This new version is so in the beginning stages right now, yea it feels weird to talk about. But yea, you know the guy. But what were your experiences with Father Eric?

Marissa: Um, honestly like, I never had class with him. I maybe talked to him a few times, I thought he was like, um, it was obvious to me that he was a kind person.

Alex: Yea

[00:40:28]
Marissa: And he was, like, very apart of the whole community there and then just, you know, I’m not religious at all and I don’t have a lot of respect for Catholic Church and stuff like that.

Alex: Right, right

Marissa: But I mean he was, I mean, yea, he was obviously very apart of the community. I really respected that he did all that multi cultural stuff and was into really into learning. Like, and like yea. I think, to go into what happened to him, without having to go into gory detail about it, he was brutally murdered by this guy. Very brutally murdered which is crazy, it’s sort of like a once in a lifetime thing that you know someone who was savagely murdered like that. And so, I was reading about like, so the reason why you titled the play like that was because it came from a book about murder right?

[00:41:13]
Alex: Yea yea, Raymond Chandler, who I discovered in London. I got like, homesick and I was like well, I found, LA Noir. I lived in LA for like two years and I like Noir a little bit, movies, so I read Raymond Chandler and I fell in love with his style. He, so, it’s like him and Dashiell Hammett, are like the early 20th century noir writers, Hammett is the Big Sleep, Chandler is the Maltese Falcon. Those are the big ones associated, but chandler is just like sooo, his vocabulary and just like his, his, he has these idioms. He has these phrases like she was crazier than a bag of waltzing mice. right? And like you know, he looked as out of place as a tarantula on a fruitcake. All these like weird phrases, or like, a tarantula on an angel pie. Like what we associate with Noir now as like a stereotype but like he invented it seemingly, I might be wrong.

[00:41:58]
But like, I started reading all his books and then I got into his essays and one of his essays is called the Simple Art of Murder and it basically talks about how in fiction the murder has to be neat, there has to be good guys and bad guys and bad guys that sometimes are good guys and, people that are maybe morally, ambiguous or ambivalent but they all lead to an endpoint. Something has to be discovered. And he talks about how in reality it’s so messy and how real intentions, you can’t really ever capture the real intentions. And also like police work, like, police are so different in fiction than they are in real life. Just the differences in murder between in fact versus fiction.

[00:42:43]
The original impetus for the piece was just to explore that. Just like, the simple art. Like murder is like this in noir, meanwhile here is a real life case of a guy I knew and talking about how it’s not neat at all. But what became the interesting part about that was, life is not neat, narrative is not neat, personal history is not neat, we try to hard so hard to make it and weave our own rug of like autobiography, right? And we can’t really do that and what’s left of us is determined by the people who speak for us. So yea, it’s much more about story telling in general than just investigating true crime versus fiction crime but it does lend this wonderful noir design element because now we can have noir music and lighting. And it’s a little bit costumey without going overboard. Hints to it. Yea, yea, that’s where it gets the title from.

Marissa: And so like, you had one format that you worked with a couple years ago, and then now it’s evolving into this other thing with a new format

Alex: And two different women. There’s two different cast members

Marissa: Ok

Alex: Kaira and Nessa. Oh you saw Kaira! She was in the anxiety play.

Marissa: Ok

Alex: She’s going to be in it.

Marissa: Fantastic yea

[00:43:48]
Alex: She’s a wonderful actress and comedian, she plays the French horn. She does stuff with UCB and Nessa is awe– amazing director in her own right and does international work and is a Neofuturist and are both amazing people that I’m- I want to bring their stories into it, too. It’s going to be a bit more bigger. Big more bigger. That’s what I wanted to say.

Marissa: A bit more bigger.

Alex: A bit more bigger.

Marissa: That’s going to be like the quote I use to use–

Alex: A bit more bigger! [laughs] good! I like that.

Marissa: How is your work evolving? A bit more bigger.

Alex: A bit more bigger. [laughs] put more spaces in it. Abitmorebigger. Just-

Marissa: a bit more bigger

Alex: get rid of all vowels. Oh wait that makes no sense.

[00:44:29]
Marissa: And so you are releasing that in 2017, right. Do you have more, like, a month that that is coming out? I’m so excited. I definitely want to come to see it.

Alex: Thanks dude. Please do.

[cut to narration]

[00:44:44]
That wraps up this week episode with the ever talented Alex Vlahov. I can’t wait for his play next year. It will be in New York so you can take that trip you have been planning. But actually, if you want to see Alex perform and you are in the Bay Area, Alex is home for all of August and you can see him perform with the San Francisco Neo-futurists every Friday and Saturday this month. Definitely go to a show. I’m going to another one for sure because they are so much fun. I promise you’ll love it.

[00:45:14]
And to remind you if you forgot, I’m Marissa Comstock and you’re listening to the Undefined: A Profile of a Generation. You can find us on Soundcloud, Itunes, and Stitcher with links to anything and everything on our website on theundefinedgen.com. please contact me with feedback. I’d love to know how I’m doing. And if you know anyone who you think I might be interested in interviewing, let me know.

[00:45:31]
Next week I talk Sylvee Esquivel. She is a 29-year-old restaurant owner in Oakland. Her and her partner own Hella Vegan Eats where they make artful, crazy, flavorful vegan food. They started selling tamales from a stand. Eventually, bought a food truck and then in the last five months opened their brick and mortar restaurant which I got to visit last week. So tune in, Sylvee is amazing, uh alright. Bye listeners! Catch you next week!

[theme music plays]

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Transcription: 003: Eric Garcia: Drag, Detour Dance, and Exploring Identity

This episode, Eric Garcia talks about his drag performances and keeping a gritty low budget drag show in a changing San Francisco. We discuss his performance company, Detour Dance and their evolving mission and maturing body of work. We also talk about his work for Sean Dorsey, an acclaimed dancer and head of Fresh Meat Productions, a company devoted to transgender and queer arts. Finally, we get into identity and how Eric is using dance to explore himself as a person of color and as a gay man.

TRANSCRIPTION

[00:00:02]

[Narration begins]

Hi everyone! Welcome to the Undefined: A Profile of a Generation.

[Theme Music Begins]

I’m your host, Marissa Comstock. This show is located at the UndefinedGen.com, where you can find links to our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with episodes available through Soundcloud, Itunes, and now Stitcher. And again I’m still experimenting with format, sound quality, and also improving my own skills as an interviewer so please contact me with feedback, post on social media whatever! Any suggestion you may have, get at me.

[00:00:32]
This week I talk to my very good friend, Eric Garcia. We went to grade school together and we lived a few blocks away from each other in high school. I giggle a lot in this interview so I apologize. Eric is one of the funniest people in the world to me so it’s hard to keep it together. Eric is a dancer, he started his company Detour dance, his junior year of college with his friend Cat Cole. it’s been very successful, they put on a few performances a year with the help of grants and contributors just like you. Eric has danced with many other companies. 

[00:01:02]
He’s a program manager at Sean Dorsey’s critically acclaimed FreshMeat Productions which is a performance company devoted to transgender and queer arts. It is the first and only company of its kind in the United States and they do incredibly moving performances based on issues affected the Queer Community. They also do a film festival every year in June before Pride weekend. Eric also hosts these awesome niche, drag shows at a bar called the Rite Spot in San Francisco. I’ve had the pleasure of attending one of them and it was hilarious, gritty and raw. All the good things. So this interview, first we’re going to get balls deep in Eric’s Drag show. Then we’re going to talk about his company detour dance and it’s mission as a dance company and how that mission and their performances have evolved. Then we’ll discuss identity and some of the things that Eric is exploring in himself through his performances.

I have a lot of clips from his shows that I’ve added in so I hope you enjoy! Without further ado, let’s meet Eric!

[Theme Song]

[00:02:26]
Alright, so just to paint a picture, I have audio from Eric’s last drag performance which he did after the interview and cohosted with a woman who I believe is his roommate. Her name is El Be. It was a country themed drag show, fittingly called Drag the Ho Down. Eric looks stunning with the tussled, just-rolled-in-the-hay, blonde wig. Huge blag eyelashes, a pink country dress with a pink petty-coat underneath pull just high enough so you get a glimpse of his crotch with black panties. And then! Let’s not forget the fishnets and heels and beard. Here we go!

[Recording starts playing of Eric performing at his drag show]

[Laughing]

[Wooing and cheering]

[Claps]

[00:02:56]
Eric: Soooo [more claps] I’m doing a ball count in the corner and I’m 3 what about you guys? I’ve got 3. Testicle. Drag Show. So this next drag queen is hiding for their introduction. They don’t need an introduction actually because they’re my other half. Comeeee. So let’s give a big… Let’s give a big.. uhhh… ehhh.. what’s a country theme?

[Someone in audience yells Yeeeehawwwwww]

Eric: so we’re going to give a big yeeeehawww to Miss El MNOPRSTUV Q. One, Two, Three.

[Audience yells yeeeehawww]

[00:03:58]
Marissa: So Eric! Let’s talk about your drag show

Eric: It’s uhhhh we like to call it, like, a curated cabaret of people that are like interested in doing anything drag. Like, doesn’t have to be any of those things that what we think of drag. And like, there’s this already incredible drag scene in the city and I feel like, [laughs] I’m their like weirddd like zit on their back. [laughs] Like the drag scene in San Francisco is already alternative and they’re doing amazing stuff and I’m like yea, I’m part of it.’

I’ve been in this topic, actually, of nostalgia, um, nostalgia of San Francisco and being a young person and having moved to San Francisco in… hmm.. 2007, and being like, already have some feelings about how much it has changed. But really not knowing how much it really really has changed for my elders, or whoever has been living there longer than I have. And so, this idea of missing a city, missing a culture that I was never really apart of and so doing this event really make me feel, in this really tangible way, like this is like that thing that I love about San Francisco. It’s a free event, it’s fucking weird, like you’re walking down Folsom Street and you see a bunch of weirdos dressed in like horrid drag and making tons of people laugh and it’s like yea, it’s a sweet little gem. And we don’t like to advertise it much without.. minus facebook but we don’t get any news [laughs] and yea it’s like me struggling to hold on to something and being really nostalgic for this time that I wasn’t really apart of.

Marissa: yea!

[00:05:43]
Eric: And being inspired by what’s already happening in this city like I said, there’s like this already like amazing, robust, weird, drag scene, art scene, contemporary dance scene in the city and I’m just like, clearly so inspired by it.

Marissa: Wait what is the name of your persona?

Eric: So, it changes every show just because I can’t decide but it’s usually Schmeg Bundy [Laughs]. that’s what it usually is. But I haven’t landed on one. Last one was Taylor.

[pause]

Marissa: Just Taylor?

Eric: Yea, just Taylor. ummm. This one, I don’t know yet. I was thinking Gummy Lisp or something like that.

Marissa: Oh that’s good.

Eric: But just, you know, Country Themed. But yea, it’s going to be an evolving thing. We’ve done, this will be our 5th one.

Marissa: OK

[00:06:25]
Eric: Um. But we usually do, the very first one was because of my 25th birthday two years ago and it was fucking hilarious and like the turnout for that was incredible. They put a chair in the middle of the bar front row for me and I was just like… Melting off my seat because all my friends stepped up and they all don’t do drag. They’re all just regular performers that meant that they delivered [laughs] so well! They were like, highly choreographed, so theatrical.

[laughs]

Marissa: Because your brother I saw was like on the list.

[00:07:01]
Eric: Yea [laughs] yea, he totally showed up in drag. Having a gay brother in the city has been a blessing and we usually go see drag shows. Back in like 2011 to like 2014 we were like seeing drag shows every week. We were just like, going out and being hella gay together and now he’s doing drag numbers in my show when he can. It’s fucking hilarious. And so like our mom is in the front and she’s like ‘I love you. you’re so good at everything. [laughs] And I’m like what is happening while I’m in a jockstrap twirling tassels off my ass cheeks. It’s like the most seedy, underbelly of drag ever. Like, I keep my beard on. [laughs] It’s a bunch of hilarious people.

We did a Valentine’s Day show.

Marissa: I went to that one!

Eric: Oh Sweet! That’s right. And Mia came to that too!

Marissa: Really? This year? Oh! I went to the one last year

Eric: Yea we didn’t do a Valentine’s day show this year, this will be our first one for 2016. The theme is Ho Down.

Marissa: This next one?!

Eric: Yea, the full title is ‘Drag the Ho Down.’

Marissa: Drag the Ho Down [Laughs] That’s awesome.

Eric: It’s clever.

Marissa: I’m so slow. I had to say the whole sentence.

Eric: Write it down, get it.

Marissa: That is clever.

[00:08:18]
Eric: Yea, we’re hesitant to call it that but we already did. It’s a facebook event now. [laughs] We were like, this might stir up some people [laughs].

Marissa: Well your political career is totally over.

Eric: Shit. Well ya, know, it’ll be a safe space for people to explore whatever that is.

Marissa: You know what it is before you come.

[Laughs]

Eric: Yea, it’s at this like, amazing little gem, as you know, it’s at this straight, it’s not even a straight bar but it’s definitely not a gay identifying bar.

Marissa: There’s tablecloths.

Eric: There’s tablecloths and the people who own it are incredible. Her name is Annie and it’s called the Rite Spot on 17th and Folsom and she just like loves us and brings us back and is like ‘More, more’ and I’m like okkk.

Marissa: Well it packs the bar and you, like, the Valentine’s Day one, I invited everyone I knew and I’m not joking, 25 of my friends showed up and half of them couldn’t get in because it was so packed. and I was like “Awesome! Eric!”

Eric: Yea that was the first time that ever happened. Usually it’s like. We’ll get a bunch of randoms, going to get an after work whisky ginger.

Marissa: oh really?! yes.

[00:09:33]
Eric: And we’re just like those crazy queers [laughs] dancing on the piano and playing ragtime forever.

Marissa: I know, it’s so from the past but it’s perfect for drag.

Eric: That’s what made me fall in love with it and reach out and it’s across the street from the theater I perform at pretty frequently. It’s across the street from ODC in the Mission so we’d always go there for drinks after the show. For my birthday I was like wait! I want to do this amazing drag show and then I reached out to Annie and she was like fuck yes! So a bunch of my friends are not drag queens. I think we’ve had like two professional drag queens come and do it.

Marissa: Really?

Eric: Yea. And like, when they perform everyone is like “OH MY GOD!” and I’m like “I’m the host” and I go up there it’s like “cough.. cough.. cough.. clap.. clap” [laughs] like I can hear cars driving. It’s the worst.

Marissa: I was so moved by Pepto Bismal.

Eric: She’s coming back! Her theme is Pepto Bizmarquee. She’s a crowd fav.

[laughs]

Marissa: When she poured peptobismal over herself.. I felt things

Eric: While eating fried chicken

Marissa: yea!

Eric: Yea, no she’s a really good burlesque performer. Yea, she’s one of my favs

[Break to Marissa Narrating]

With that we’ll cut to the end of Pepto Bizmarquee’s permformance. She’s covered in blown-up balloons. She’s dancing around popping them, till only 4 are left. Two for her boobs and two for her ass cheeks and black tarp is on the ground covered in lunch meet.

[Recording of performance by Pepto Bizmarquee at Eric’s Drag Show]

Claps, Cheering, wooing

Eric: Pepto Bizmarquee!

[More Clapping and Cheering]

Eric: Chicken

[00:11:15]
El Bey: I was going say, In case you missed it, it was straight up lunch meat, not white chicken breast. Straight up lunch meat.

Eric: It was popcorn chicken.

El Bey: And Corn. So there is a reason that we no take an intermission after Pepto Bizmarquee. Tip you motherfucking bartender.

Eric: And your drag queens!

El Bey: Enjoy some drinks and food. We’ll be back in a fewwwww.

[Back to the Interview]

[00:11:45]
Marissa: Yea! Let’s talk Detour Dance.

Eric: yea!

Marissa: You started Detour Dance in 2009 with your friend

Eric: Cat

Marissa: yea

Eric: Yea, her name is Cat Cole. yea so we met in undergrad at USF. University of San Francisco. Um.. And I have so many mixed feelings about Detour Dance. It’s like my baby that’s now entered teenage years. It’s like pimply and ugly to look at and I’m what the fuck did I start?! And now it’s like asking me for money and I’m like fuckk I can’t pay for you. But I love the crap out of that company so hard. [laughs] and if feels like it’s really important and I just get rid of it. It’s too late. It’s grown up.

Marissa: you can’t abort it

Eric: Can’t abort it [laughs]. This company has changed a 100% since we first started it. The name alone, i’m just like, why? [laughs] Detour Dance was like my 19 year old brain being like ‘yea!” that is a great idea! And now at 27 I’m like there could have been other choices. Branding! Branding.

We first started it in 2009 as students. We were basically like, taking… She was one year above me in school and um… our professor was teaching us in separate classes and we both got cast in this piece that one of the faculty members was choreographing. through that process and through the teacher knowing us and the separate classes are like you guys should meet! You have a pretty similar aesthetic. and we were like sweet! And then like, pretty immediately they were like we have this cabaret. They’re called student cabaret which is like the school produces a student to make an evening length show. But yea, So they were like you should apply for this so we submitted an application and they were like, “yea you two, you’re accepted. Make it work!”

[00:13:48]
So the first piece was called inhabiting spaces and the idea of that was reframing the mundane and looking at really, otherwise boring day to day encounters or spaces and then like putting a new lens on it. And that concept turned into a 20 minute piece and that turned into our mission statement, for lack of a better word, for the company

Marissa: so transforming the mundane

Eric: yea so like, that was the structure for the piece and that ended up being what was really the motivating force or vision for our company that kind of idea of reframing the normal or the overlooked. And from that we made a bunch of works. We started a company. We got fiscal sponsorship which basically meant we could use their non profit status to apply for grants and to be eligible for a little bigger pockets of money like 2000 versus 4000 and they also managed our money. If we ever received a granted or if we wanted to pay somebody we we do that through that organization. It’s a pretty amazing partnership.

[Cut to Narration by Marissa]

This next recording is an excerpt from a performance by detour dance a couple years ago that I attended called Filaments

[Recording Begins. Two people stand on either side of the speaker throwing flour at her while she speaks.]

[00:15:18]
… Only he wasn’t really sleeping, oh no, he was pretending to sleep because he knows he looks like an angel when he’s sleeping and not like the anti christ he really is! And even though I knew he was faking. I went along with it. Call me crazy. I don’t know. Anyway. He started talking and he gave me some line about some old lady he lives with and he then asked if he could go back to my place. And I told him! I don’t invite strangers to my apartment and then he looked down at his crotch and then he looked back up at me. And then he said, “It’s big, it’s beautiful, and you’re going to love it” and I said ” Oh. Alright.” [breathy] [Laughs]. And as he walked me back to my apartment on that gay night of nights for a moment I felt like the luckiest drag queen in the world and I fantasized and I was like this is it! Oh yea. This is the man I’m going to marry! [Pause] I would be the one to show him the virtues of a loving a heart but you know what he did? He took that heart and he tossed it on the floor and with his little satan hooves he jumped! He jumped hard! The truth is, when we got back to my apartment, he grabbed me, threw off all of my clothes. Enough with the fucking flour! [laughs]

[Back to Interview]

[00:15:18]
Eric: A couple of years ago, the piece that you’re talking about filaments where this women is delivering this monologue, so this performer is named Erin and she’s been at this company for three years now. Four years. She was delivering this monologue about… [laughs] She was delivering this monologue from this movie called Tricks or Trick or something like that. And she is, it’s about a drag queen who may be in drag or not but is on a bus but across from them is this person they find really attractive. And this person is pretending to be asleep because they know they are really attractive when they are sleeping [laughs] so the drag queen is really taken by this person and so he like looks up to the drag queen and says, “yea this is my cock it looks good huh?” and they’re like yea. And they go home to hook up immediately [laughs] And then like, one thing leads to another and the drag queen gets cum in her eye.

[Cut back to recording from Filaments performance]

So I’m like licking his balls and then next thing I know, he cums in my eye and he’s out the door. Gone. You ever get cum in your eye? Hmmm? [Laughs] It burns. So there I am, lying in the middle of my bed, completely naked with an eye full of cum. and I’m thinking to myself, oh no. And the next morning when I called the number he’d given me earlier, it’s the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. And would you believe they’d never heard of a mark miranda? [pause] Am I bitter? Absolutely. They said, you’re just another phone number on another cocktail napkin shoved in the bottom of his pocket.

[Back to Interview]

Eric: So, while she’s delivering this really tragic monologue there’s like 6 performers around her pelting her on the face with corn starch

Marissa: yea! I remember that now!

[00:19:29]
Eric: And it’s really depressing

Marissa: It really burns. I feel like that’s real.

Eric: I wrote that. First account. [laughs] Once we made that piece and that, that was kind of like a huge shift for me just in terms of what kind of art I want to be making. Really thinking about aesthetic, really thinking about what, the design of the evening rather than like OK, I want to make, some abstracted contemporary dance to this one concept I was really excited about. Cool, I’m going to reframe the mundane. That happens already with modern dance or performance or like any visual art or music, that is what, this is kinda the epiphany I had. Art does that for you already. Having a mission statement that just does that isn’t interesting [laughs] I’m already stating the obvious.

[00:20:29]
That piece was just like, in terms of this whole drag identity and drag culture that I’ve peripherally been apart of. It’s like yea, I’m queer and I’m also brown and I’ve ignored those two parts of me very significantly and almost traumatically like my entire life and so maybe this could be a good time. And my collaborator Cat is also brown and queer so we were both kind of like, let’s tap into this and see what gold we find and that led to some serious restructuring on how we create work. and that filaments piece was like our first attempt to use text and really think about what the light source could do on stage and having music and song and all these different components to what performance could be rather than it just being like… fluid weird abstracted music that meant so much to me but inviting 100s of people to come and be like “good job, Eric” wasn’t enough. God bless all the people who said I was good because I look back at those work and I think Holy Shit! that was horrible!

It’s been a huge shift in the way I’m thinking about performance and so we don’t even call our company a dance company anymore. We call it a performance company because of the amount of skills and the types of um, the disciplines that we work in are not just movement. That feels pretty, like it’s we’re definitely heavily influenced by contemporary dance but there’s definitely a lot more at play. And so like I said we’re incorporating song and we have a sound designer and we have, like, a bunch of performers that play instrument.

[00:22:15]
We had a show since then in December and that piece was called beckon and that piece was like, really intense! And like you were saying, this idea of madness and it’s like, I think, It’s something that I, um, kind of have decided would be something that would be something I move forward with in terms of creating performance is this like relentless truth, truth-telling, and like balls to the wall, really absurd experience. Its going to be really loud, not in terms of volume but just in terms of opinion.

Our new mission statement for the company, I think it’s as simple as we create art that matters through performance in the film so that there’s this like, serious, like, serious questions being asked and providing an opportunity for the audience to come and really have a visceral response whether it’s like extreme discomfort or laughing or having a moment where they are like holy shit, i totally understand what they are talking about. Before for like 6 years, everyone was like “good job!, good job, good job” and it was like sweet! And then what? What are we doing with this art? Putting on dance shows is not cheap. yea it’s a lot of money. you’re dropping at least 20,000 dollars. That’s like the smallest little. You have to pay for performers and rental space, and rehearsals and all this stuff just like adds up. So like to drop like 1000s and 1000s of dollars for just like ‘good job’ is just like. And not that I’m making are for that validation but it’s like I’m getting older and my bank account is getting smaller. [laughs] so it’s like, if I’m going to invest in a performance project it’s going to stir some shit for people.

[Cut to Marissa narrating]

[00:24:15]
This next clip is from Detour Dance’s performance called Beckon which was done after the restructuring of the company. This excerpt features a woman walking around a man. Speaking about him like he’s a plate of food, using language that people use to exotify and stereotype.

[Recording from Beckon]

… We have a really fun dish for you today. I just love fusion food! It’s such an exciting mix between sweet and spicy. And it’s so exotic! And festive! And sassy! This organic meat can be hard to find. Most stores sell the ghetto, non-organic version of this meat. This one has probably been injecting himself with drugs or hanging out in the streets or doing donuts in an empty parking lot. No bueno! Pay the extra money and get the organic meat! Remember! Everyone! This is important. Brown on the outside! White on the inside! You don’t want it too dark though. Bleh! If it’s too dark and you’re chewing on a dark brown piece, just throw it up, spit it, and send it back to where you came from! You dirty piece of shit go back! This dish works well with a nice cabernet or if you’re feisty a shot of tequila. I mentioned earlier some fruity and sweet tones. They are a perfect balance to the spicy and hot-headed flavors in this dish. You don’t want it too fruity though. If it’s too fruity, I like to take a meat tenderizer and beat the fucking fruit out of him until the excess juices just ooze on out. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Just beat the fucking shit out of him.

[Continue with Interview]

[00:25:45]
Eric: And so this most recent piece was about being a latino. or being a person of color and being queer and then, all through the lens of like, um, like, what’s the word that we use? The piece was called Beckon and it was like unwanted attention and so like, catcalling or being fetishized or all these ways that people kind of come in and out of this desire. That’s the word! Desire. All these really complicated levels of what desire can be. The piece was structured like a domino effect and each person kind of like infested the other in these really insane ways. like there’s this one scene where this latino character is standing dead center on stage and this other performer is describing him like he’s a plate of food and she’s like ‘ew! He’s really spicy and hotheaded and like really festive and you might not tell that there’s oriental seasonings in here and just like going off oh he’s like a nice brown skin. when you cut open that skin it’s nice and white on the inside and just going on and on about how he’s not brown enough and super hot-headed. Like playing into these tropes of what it is to be brown and gay. By the end of it she’s like, maniacal, if there’s too much fruit juice in here just beat the fucking shit out it till it’s a bloody pulp and drag it behind your car and go home you faggot. She’s like screaming at this plate of food so it’s like really intense and like, the lights go out. and everyone is like ‘what is my reality?’ like that a majority of you don’t have to go on and experience that type of treatment or behavior or whatever. This performance is an opportunity for you to like get a little diss of what I feel. Its like obviously exaggerated and hyperbolic and over the top but that’s to like, I’m giving you your money’s worth. [laughs]

You know what I’m saying? You’re not coming to sit there and droop in your seat. Like I want to give you something to chew on and get upset about. Someone was like, ‘you’re racist!’ and I was like no. I’m not racist. and he was like ‘you hate white people.’ Like, no I don’t hate white people. This is just the story that you have never heard. This is my day to day story. This is your first time hearing this story. That doesn’t mean I’m anti white. It just means I’m brown. And yea it was like, so many people at the end of the show were like, ‘oh my god.’ my mom was like ‘are you ok?’ all like, and people were like ‘thank you for finally doing that.’ It was like such that type of conversation and like for months i’m still getting emails from people. Like ‘holy shit I’m still processing that work.” So this kinda of has been a signal to me that this really hyperbolic, really like magnified, highly like, crafted performance and like really polished kind of way of delivering this performance is, tells me I”m doing something right. Yea! it’s creating some sort of ripple.

[00:29:02]
Marissa: Yea what have been the performers response to that? Do they notice the change in like the projects?

Eric: Oh absolutely, um, and with each project there’s like a new cohort of people and it’s like a huge, along with this shift and vision with this mission being like more socially engaged, we’ve also been trying to work more as an ensemble. So I as a director, I’m interested in developing and maintaining and providing an awesome experience for my company members so that they want to stay because I can’t pay super well like most companies. Not most companies. There’s a few companies that pay pretty well. I can’t offer that but what I do offer is a chance for them to each have, or be a stakeholder in the company so like that means creating movement. And I give them, like this most recent project I gave them each 10 questions to answer. They were all really intense and personal and we all talked about it. [pause]

[00:30:04]
And we did these monthly workshops that are separate from any performance or project and we’re just all leading each other and try out ideas and just like, our most recent workshop I had them create a dance film in under 5 hours. Every five minutes the director was rotating and every 15 minutes the performers were rotating so it was designed to be an impossible task and it’s just like these situations that were like put in as an ensemble. It’s kind like team building but don’t tell them that [laughs] You know but like making them feel like we’re a little family and if they have to leave and they want to leave that’s cool and I support them. And then there’s like, you know, love forever but I want to have a group of people I’m making continual work with. So with me giving them really intense things, they step up and they’re like, there’s a level of trust that I try not to take advantage of or try not to ignore. I’ll, like, come in with like, a notebook full of random ass prompts. They’re like, I want you to stand there and like scream or whatever. I want you to eat this apple while dry humping. or whatever! Generally it’s like okkkk and they’ll do and it’s like really awkward why are we doing this?? and then we’ll have the conversation. And what’s the best case scenario is when a performer is like ‘hey, I have an idea’ like with that, I have this other spin off…

Marissa: oh that’s cool!

[00:31:34]
Eric: … Structure.. so I’m like, ok this tells me. And then, god bless them all, they’ll like tell me. Nope. No. [laughs] They’ll tell me they’re not doing that. [laughs] How is this serving the structure? How is this serving the piece?

Marissa: Mmhmm.

Eric: Yea, it’s like that to me is a really successful company because I’ve been apart of sooo many companies where the performers is just like, you get told what to do and like that hierarchy is like [pause] a really old model! And like you just do what the director says and there’s no input or like little to no input choreographically and you’re just spitting out these moves where you have no idea what you are doing and the audience is there and they’re like “good job”.

[00:32:19]
Also! I hand out free whisky before every show [laughs] and like please! drink. It will make this more digestible. [laughs]

I have like two bottles of like whisky on a table with tons of shot glasses and people as they’re walking in just take shot.

Marissa: that’s awesome

Eric: And just like sparkling water for those that… [laughs]

Marissa: so like, do you also, like, pull in the audience? Are you doing that more now too?

[00:32:49]
Eric: I have yet to do that. I did this piece on Valentine’s day actually, this February with my boyfriend. We got asked to do this piece together. To create a piece. And what I did was… so in this idea. in this vein of making a piece that really ignites something in the audience or makes them feel really invested. whether that’s through a visceral response or getting them up and moving. I had the audience get up on stage in a circle and the second I said, everyone get up! They were like ugghhhh. And I was like awesome! Sweet. I’m really nervous, too. You think this is fun?! [laughs] So i got everyone to sit on stage and like my boyfriend and I, the whole show was revolving around Valentine’s day so you have to have cheese. You have to be like super cheesy about it.

Marissa: yea

[00:33:49]
Eric: And so we each had a message for each other but we played a game of telephone with the audience so I went to one edge of the circle and told the audience like hey! this my message. And it was like, ‘I want to go to New Orleans with you’ or something like that. And Weily was like.. I don’t remember actually. And so like, and then we came together we did a duet. And while we were doing the duet they were passing the messages along. And then the audience, like when we finished our duo we went to the audience that had the message and they would like tell it to me and it was obviously way fucked up, mine was like ‘I want to take you to New Orleans’ and the person like, the whole group warped it into ‘will you marry me?’ [laughs] and so everyone thought I was purposing to my boyfriend. and I was like No!

Marissa: Rewind! Rewind!

Eric: Rewind!

Marissa: Get back in your seats!

Eric: Get back in your goddamn seats!

[laughs]

Eric: No, god no. and then we like turned back all the lights and brought out little camping lanterns and taught them a song in Spanish. It was based off of our little trip we took to Cuba a month prior. So yea! I’m definitely more interested in how performance can keep evolving if that means bringing people on stage. My next idea is for a a piece is taking people on a scavenger hunt through the city and giving them like these clues or prompts or meet me at certain places or like these happenings to occur. So it’s not at a theater, you’re interacting with the city, you’re interacting with people in order to keep progressing through this performance experience. And like, renting like, an example is like renting a conference room in the financial distract. As if I’m hosting a meeting and just bring up 10 people and deliver some sort of performance and then send them on their way to the next one.

Marissa: That sounds so fun!

[00:35:36]
Eric: Yea! That to me is where our company is heading. i’m getting some attention from funders. Some attention from different presenters and people who are interested in dancing in the company. So it definitely feels like a really supported shift.

Marissa: So you work with Sean Dorsey, he’s like incredible. He’s transgender and started Fresh Meat Productions. And it’s an acclaimed transgender and queer dance company.

[00:36:06]
Eric: Yea! So i got this job when I was in undergrad. I applied for this internship. So Sean Dorsey is the artist director of Fresh Meat Productions and Fresh Meat Productions is this non profit that does queer and transgender arts programming. So under that umbrella we have the San Francisco transgender film festival, we have Sean Dorsey Dance, which is the resident dance company, and then we also have this annual performance festival called Fresh Meat Festival.

So when I first saw his work, I was like blown away! Obsessed. I had just started entering the dance scene. And was coming out USF. And i was like totally weird and email him and was like ‘hey, hi.. [laughs] can I be your intern?’ but they kind of were just like, yea! Come on in. So like for a year, I just worked for free. Just like super jazzed. I was a sophomore or junior in college. Then after that they just offered me a job and I’ve been with them for like 6 years now.

[00:37:12]
That job has been, it has propelled my career so far forward it’s not even funny. Because they’re a non profit and my title is like production coordinator which is also synonymous with like programs director or like whatever or like production manager. So I basically help them with their three major productions every year and I help them with basic day to day admin stuff and I help them with like video editing and working on their grants with them and like support materials and I’ll work on their website. And all the stuff I was learning through fresh meat and Sean Dorsey was directly applicable to Detour dance.

So that’s how I was able to really develop my skills as not just a choreographer or artistic director but like, as a business person and as an executive director and just kind of.. [pause] and just like really propelling myself forward and also like, being a part of this amazing organization that put on these events that are sooo much fun and so powerful. And to talk about community, the people who show up for these events. you’re in this room and there’s like 3 or 400 people and you’re just like what? it’s just like buzzing and there’s so much love. I don’t know! It’s like back to that this is what San Francisco is. This is what I was really attracted to, this is that, like, thing that we all miss that thing we are all nostalgic about. It’s happening right now. We like, coming together and celebrating queerness and like, and so many different forms in film and dance.

[00:38:51]
It’s just like, yea, i feel so lucky to be apart of that community. This is all why I stick around in the city. I’m not doing it, i’m not rich. Fresh meat pays me fairly well. And i’m like yea! Paycheck to paycheck. certainly detour dance is not paying me! I get to pay my collaborators really humble stipends. All these things, um, drag, I’m a millionaire from drag!

[laughs]

Marissa: It’s your cash cow

[00:39:21]
Eric: I think we make collectively like $75. with all the drag. [laughs] yea! it’s this type of like contextualization. And like global perspective that makes, has been informing a lot of why I do the things I do. And just the word privilege just finds it’s way into the conversation of just like how privileged I am to be able to run a dance company and like be apart of this non profit and just like help anyway I can with anything I can with production management. And like I get to go to a straight bar and put on a dress [laughs] booby tassels for a bunch of people. What is my life?!

Marissa: It’s amazing!

Eric: It’s amazing! And it’s like definitely, its not like something that has fallen in my lap and I’ve worked my ass off to make that a sustainable way of living. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The alternative scares me! [laughs] Office job. I can’t. I just would be soulless. I could not imagine. I couldn’t imagine that. This way, this piecemeal job situation. The communities i’m involved with and networking and just the support systems and the like-minded weird aesthetic. it’s just so goddamn rich and so satisfying and so important and not to ramble forever.

[00:41:09]
It’s been interesting the last few years looking at identity. Looking at my identity. I mentioned this at the very beginning. I thought, I, I, If no one asked me or talked to me, I would have just gone through the world thinking I was white. And thinking that my gayness is just a secondary thing or my queerness rather. Um. [pause] because I am, I haven’t had to really look at it. Coming out was a big thing and that was really validating and scary and all these things. And all it meant to me at that time. Ok! I’m gay. cool I’m in San Francisco and I’m carving out my own life and that’s all I need from that. And now, sorting that all out has been huge in how I go through the world and how I make art and what communities I choose to be apart of. And what communities I can say hey! Not anymore! Thank you. I don’t nee that. It’s not fulfilling me anymore and what I found humorous or I found worthwhile in high school isn’t necessarily the case anymore. It’s formed my politics. It’s formed my self care. It’s formed who I choose to engage with and who I choose to love and um, who I choose to live with. It’s just like part of it now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It feels like a much more informed lifestyle. A much more interesting lifestyle. yea, its being grateful for the privilege and opportunity to chew on it and then make art about it and have people be subject to that.

[Cut to Marissa narrating]

[00:42:54]
So that is the end of this weeks show. As always, thank you so much for listening. Visit our website at theundefinedgen.com for links to some of the things mentioned in the show. I absolutely love Eric and if you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend going to one of his shows. They’re interesting with beautiful music and amazing dance and you’ll be left with something to think about. Next week I talk to my neighbor, Tia Lebherz. She’s a communications and outreach manager at Water Now Alliance where they work between water companies, private companies with water saving technologies, and other activists to create conversation and then action to save water on the West Coast. She has also worked for Food and Water Watch where she worked to ban fracking in Monterey County and she will weigh in on the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between 12 pacific rim countries that was signed this last February. So! Have a great week and tune in next time!

[theme music]

WHAT DID YOU THINK?

026: Marica Petrey: How a Director Engages a Unique Team of Artists to Create Experimental Theater

This week I talk to Marica Petrey who is a writer, actor, and director as well as Founder and one of the Artistic Directors of Radix Troupe which is an experimental theater troupe based out of Berkeley, California. She is a freelance journalist and videographer with California Magazine. She is cellist and member of Mad Noise, a bluesy funk, soul, punk band that has traveled to Africa through the State Department’s American Music Abroad Program. She is a dancer and a singer and just recently started another band called Girl Swallows Nightingale. We first talk about Zoey and the Wind-Up Boy and how Radix Troupe creates projects together. Then we talk about the sound and art direction of Zoey and the Wind Up Boy. Finally we’ll talk about how Marica got into performing arts and an opportunity she recently had to shadow acclaimed director, Amma Asante.

If you liked this interview, I think you'll enjoy my interview with musician, sound designer, and photographer, Mogli Maureal.

Mogli Maureal a musician, sound designer, and photographer, talks about his band, Mad Noise. He talks about their roots as street performers, their musical style, and their recent trip to West Africa with the US Department of State Program called American Music Abroad. We’ll also talk about his work with Radix, an experimental theater troupe. He does all of their music and sound design for their innovative theater and live performance works. Finally, we talk about his photography and his aspirations.

SHOW NOTES:

You may also like my interview with musician and record label founder, Eliza Lutz.

I talk to Eliza Lutz who recently started her own record label in Santa Fe, New Mexico called Matron Records. She is a singer, songwriter, and guitar player who has been preforming and touring since high school. Her business savvy and finance prowess have allowed her to be a mentor to many bands. She’s incredibly passionate about helping bands understand money so that they can fund their art. 

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PEOPLE MENTIONED:

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MY FAVORITE MOMENTS

Comment below with some of your favorite moments from the interview!

LINKS TO MARICA'S WORK

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WHAT DID YOU THINK?