Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #6 - Emigrant Theater

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 3:30pm

For me, there's sort of an awkward phase when you don't really know someone personally but you greatly admire their work that makes them kind of hard to talk to. They can be the nicest, most accessible people in the world, but I get tongue-tied. It's different if I know them first and then realize how talented they are. They're a person first so the work, while impressive, isn't intimidating or overwhelming. Sometimes I'm lucky and people I admire sort of level the playing field and somehow help me get beyond the awkward phase and a friendship develops anyway. But there's a weird no man's land in between that's an odd place to wade through in the interim. I guess a person doesn't need to be a star in the eyes of the whole world before I'm starstruck.

Everyday conversations in this situation are tricky enough. When you're supposed to interview them, and the whole thing is recorded, well, all bets are off.

This was one of those interviews.

And the weird thing is, through the magic of editing, everything will probably seem perfectlyl normal. (But if I count the number of edits in that interview segment of the finished episode, I'm guessing the number is going to be higher than elsewhere).

Why all the qualifiers? Guess I'd just hate an awkward interview on my part to make you think this wasn't a great group. Because they are. As a playwright myself, I'm all for another theater devoted to new work and living playwrights opening its doors in this town. No matter how many opportunities there are out there for writers, it never hurts to have a few more. So I was happy to hear that Emigrant Theater was opening shop. Part of the name is about the journey. Part of it is about the destination. They want Minneapolis to be a place that writers come and make their artistic home. And they want to be a part of making that happen.

The intimidation factor comes from the playwright they're working with for the Fringe, Carson Kreitzer. Carson herself? Delightful. A lot of fun to talk to. But I didn't meet Carson first, I met her plays. And frankly, I was so bowled over by them that meeting her for the first time, after following her work for about five years, sort of got the whole thing turned around backwards for me, as I tried to describe above. I was serving on the Theater Arts panel for the Minnesota State Arts Board fellowships, read her script "Freak Show," and that did it. After that, whenever I heard of a play of hers being done locally, I made it a point to go and see it. Were the productions always good? No. Were the scripts without flaws? What script is, really? But I was taken with her style and the way she commands the language to do what she wants, regardless of the subject matter at hand. So I was a fan, which kind of got in the way of the whole interviewing thing a little. (On the flip side, I get a kick out of the fact that I work on a show that provides me with the opportunity to meet people whose work I admire, or get to know new artists whose work isn't yet widely known. It's a great payoff to all the work that goes into the TV show. And it's also the sort of community opportunity to meet with artists that the Fringe provides on a much larger scale for audiences in this town.)

First the performance, a scene from Dead Wait, featuring Catherine E. Johnson (from Emigrant's first production The Presence of Children), Wade Vaughan (from Emigrant co-founder and playwright Matt Di Cintio's play The Valets which Outward Spiral produced as part of the Fringe last year), and Ryan Lindbergh (whose work I get the distinct feeling I should have run into by now, given the list of things the producers rattled off for me that he's done lately - that's what I get for my finances knocking me out of the habit of regular theatergoing the last year or two, oh well). They portray three people, each with varying amounts of celebrity or near celebrity, who each died gruesome deaths - Jayne Mansfield (I not explaining her, look her up), and two waiters, one who was killed by the convict who ended up writing "In The Belly Of The Beast," the other who had the misfortune of visiting Nicole Brown Simpson on the night she was brutally murdered by... (well, they haven't convicted anyone of that yet but there was a trial you may have heard of)

This was another instance where I was asked if the word "ass" would be a problem (though they also had "tits" thrown in for good measure - this is, after all, a play with Jayne Mansfield in it). (However, the Scrimshaws paved the way earlier in the day. No worries)

Emigrant co-founder and director of the production Jason Brown was amused by the fact that for some reason the capturing of the actors on tape made them look younger. "If you're ever worried about your age, check out the tape of this episode."

After the performance taping, it was time for the interview and I was surrounded - Jason, who I'd at least met and talked to before at a performance of The Presence of Children, on one side; Matt Di Cintio, who I'd been emailing back and forth, and who wrote The Valets and The Presence of Children (another kind of unintentional playwright intimidation that you can read for yourself elsehwere), on the other side; and right next to me, Carson Kreitzer.

Considering I was surrounded by talented, intelligent, attractive people all squeezed around our little interview table to get us in the shot, and didn't dissolve completely into incoherence myself, things went pretty well. But it was a mighty odd way to end the day.

All that said, I'm very much looking forward to seeing another production by Emigrant and another production of one of Carson's plays, and if you haven't had the pleasure (or even if you have), the Fringe is offering up a real treat. So go enjoy. I will. (I just may not be up for conversation afterward).

Emigrant Theater
Dead Wait
Jungle Theater
Sun 8/7, 8:30 pm
Tue 8/9, 10:00 pm
Wed 8/10, 5:30 pm
Fri 8/12, 8:30 pm
Sun 8/14, 2:30 pm

For more on Emigrant, check out their website at http://www.emigranttheater.org/

For my thoughts on their first production, Matt Di Cintio's play The Presence of Children, click here.

For my thoughts on Matt Di Cintio's The Valets in last year's Fringe, click here.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)

No comments: