Each month (ish) for the next year, TEAM members are taking turns interviewing a fellow artist in the company. In this month’s post, Brian Hastert joins Matt Hubbs in the kitchen for an interview about chili, too much bourbon, and devising and designing soundscapes for the TEAM.
Matt Hubbs and Brian Hastert
BH: So, Matthew Michael Hubbs. Can I call you Matty?
MH: You may.
Does anybody not call you Matty?
A lot of the people outside of the TEAM don’t call me Matty. That is a nickname that was given to me by a stage manager, whose name is Cat Domiano, that was picked up by Darron L. West very recently afterwards. And now everybody in New York calls me Matty. But yes it’s strange the rooms in which I am not known as Matty.
I haven’t ever heard you…not Matty. What does your family call you?
My mom claims that she used to call me Matty but I think she’s retconning the whole event.
Fair enough. So you grew up in –
So… on a scale from 1 to 10 how Kentucky are you?
That’s a very leading question –
I strenuously object.
Louisville, Kentucky operates almost like an independent city-state within the greater Kentucky area. So, after I left Louisville I probably picked up a number of Kentucky affectations – country ham, sweet tea, those sorts of things – that I didn’t really revel in while I was home but once I left I realized I missed, or I missed the idea of home and filled them with these things. I am very fond of bourbon so I guess that counts for something.
So how long have you been the official chef of the TEAM?
Well I think I share that title with Tater now.
One of the two official chefs of the TEAM.
The first company meal I cooked was probably Heartland, Edinburgh. I don’t think I cooked for you guys… that’s not true. Remember when Rachel got the concussion the first Edinburgh?
We were walking towards a brunch that I was making for the TEAM.
Oh yeah! Do you remember what you made?
I know that there were some kind of hash brown… Probably a big egg scramble. What I do remember is everybody then went to take a nap ‘cause we were re-teching… Shocks that morning?
We did something crazy crazy early in the morning.
We walked home, Rachel brained herself…(laughter) We ate breakfast, and then when everybody went and took a nap, I stayed up. And on the kitchen table was a third of a bottle of Scotch and a full french press of coffee and I decided that that was how I was going to spend the next four hours of my life was finishing both of those things. Watching a movie and I can’t remember what movie it was.
The boys enjoying Las Vegas during theTEAM’s residency for Mission Drift
Do you remember how many eggs we had to eat during Heartland in Edinburgh? ‘Cause we were blowing six, er, how many eggs for every show? Like a dozen eggs for every –
Uh, we hadn’t pared it back by Edinburgh. So that first Edinburgh I think we were going through eight or nine blown eggs a show.
Our cholesterol must have been sky high.
Yeeeah. But our coats were lustrous.
And here, tonight, you’re making a chili.
Um, yes, we are making a chili as part of our participation in The Mad One’s chili cook-off extravaganza fundraiser.
You wanna talk me through your chili recipe for tonight?
This one’s pretty simple. You start by browning six pounds of mostly wild boar. You deglaze that pot with six beers – and then you add, you know, some home made chili powder, some masa harina, thirty-two ounces of salsa, some chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and chili paste, some cumin. Some salt.
Is it spicy?
It is smoky, with a hint of spice, but I would not say it is a hot chili.
Could I eat it?
I’m hoping so. But I will never again underestimate your sensitivity to capsaicin.
It would be at your peril for sure.
Actually at yours.
Well, you’re the one who’s gonna have to take me to the ER when I break out weeping. In addition to being one of the two official chefs of the TEAM, you’re also our… sound man? I mean, sound ‘designer’ sounds too explicit. I think you’re more than that.
I feel that I get to explore what it means to be a sound designer more in a TEAM room than I get to in any of the other rooms I’m in.
Oh! How do you mean?
Uh, Oh! (laughter) The ability to go through almost every step of my process as a designer while being in a room with you guys – rather than separating, you know having a research component and a dramaturgical component happen at home, and then meeting the text and the performers in the room much, much later down the line. Being able to work while both the text is being created and while the characters are being built, and being able to do my development and story-writing at the same time that you guys are and that we all are collaboratively, allows me to sort of explore all of the possibilities of sound design. Which can be restraint. Which can be any number of things.
Do you have a memory of any particular victories, or like a stroke of inspiration that came from being able to design live in the process that brought you an idea that would have been harder to come by in a more traditional process?
Process-wise I remember, because I was so new to the company still, when we started working on Heartland. I really – I don’t think I’d known you guys a full year ‘cause I came in sort of late on the Thousand Natural Shocks process – but I remember when it came time to score, um, the shooting star scene for instance. That was a moment that had been slowly building probably over a couple of weeks, just as we’d been looking for that moment where Robert connected to you and Libby and… Jill? Who’s in the shooting star scene?
It’s Libby and Jill… I don’t think I’m in that scene.
Yeah. Kristen might be in it. No you and Kristen are asleep. Anyways, that was one of those moments where I was able to pull that – I think that was a David Grubbs track – where I sort of just knew because I had seen the interpersonal building up and structurally knowing where we were at the very end of 4th of July and in this sort of beautiful nighttime scene. So moments like that where I’ve been able to try a lot of things in a particular context and be able to meet that moment. Working with Jake on the ballad of Franklin Delmore MacKinley [for Architecting] was also pretty astounding. I remember Jake came over to the apartment when I lived with Tater, and we had dinner and sat around and just listened to a lot of music… starting in the south in gospel/blues/funk/hip-hop, and tracing American music through the south in that same arc as Reconstruction. And knowing that he was beginning to map out this movement sequence and being able to really dig in to actually do the research with both the person who was going to perform the material, and also choreograph it. Jake was able to build both the movement vocabulary and sort of craft the narrative around it while we were tracing music through the whole thing, starting from, you know, old Alan Lomax recordings from, you know, the early 1900’s maybe even late 1800’s all the way up through hip-hop. And being able to trace that arc with him and sort of tie that narrative all together.
And in addition to working with the TEAM, you are a prolific freelance, uh, sound man.
I get around. That’s true.
And you’re about to go somewhere shortly –
I’m heading off soon for San Diego to work on a production of J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways at The Old Globe theater. I don’t believe the play’s ever been done in the United States. I believe it was written in the late ‘30s in Britain, as sort of a direct response of the intervening years between the end of the first world war and the onset of the second world war. Um, it’s kind of a great, well-written play in an old fashioned style that I’m looking forward to working on – I work almost exclusively on new plays. By an amazing stroke of luck in my life that seems to be the work I get to do which is pretty fantastic. So to work on not only an extant play but something that is in its own way a period piece is a very… different process.
It’s almost kind of a new play because it’s not been done in memory.
Yes, but – not being able to – not having both the privilege or the influence of the playwright in the room, and not crafting the piece for the first time just changes the way you look at everything. On an extant play you can cross out all the stage directions when you read it. Whereas on a new play, I believe the job we have as creators is different. It is to try to illustrate what the playwright’s trying to convey on the page. Whereas I feel like with a play that has been done it’s more a step of translation rather than illustration.
I was trying to think of my favorite Matty Hubbs memory. I think it was in our… we were in Edinburgh, I think it was Shocks… No, it was Heartland. I remember the kitchen. You made your famous Bananas –
Ah, the Bananas Foster –
The Bananas Foster dish.
This was – This was the infamous night.
That was that night!
This was Steve Cramer and I.
Yes! And there was… much rejoicing.
If I remember correctly, and let me say that I may not because I believe I was drunk and/or hungover for the next two days, um, there were three different types of pasta. There were two washtubs of salad. We had 20 people over for dinner. And like, when you don’t have bowls enough you wash out the washtubs and that’s what you mix your salad in. But I remember hearing from you guys a week later, as you were eating through the copious amounts of leftovers that I had left you, I believe it was Kristen and Jake Margolin had had some of that Bananas Foster on pound cake for breakfast before a performance, and had possibly been impaired by the amount of bourbon that was still in the Bananas Foster.
It was an incredible experience. And then just to watch you and Jake and Steve Cramer, like, canoodle over Scotch for the whole evening. I didn’t have the stamina to hang, I wish I did. It was one of those moments where I was like “I wish I was, like, a tougher dude. I would hang out with these guys for the rest of my life. But as it is, it’s about 1:30 in the morning and I’m pretty much done.” But I think you guys lasted… the neighbors hated us because you guys were up chatting so late and your voices reverberated off of the courtyard.
Well, the windows were open because it was after 2:00 in the kitchen –
Oh! That was that rule.
There were an amount of smokers and an amount of non-smokers in the company. And it was a third floor? Fourth floor walk up? Of pretty treacherous stone stairs that were very uneven. Um, so after a point the smokers in the company couldn’t be bothered to go all the way downstairs to have a cigarette, especially when you’re hanging out and drinking Scotch with your fine, Australian ex-boxer friend. Um, so after a certain point at night you were allowed to smoke in the kitchen with the window open. But yes, the entire courtyard got to hear us because –
The windows were open.
But that is, perhaps, I mean, that’s my favorite Matty Hubbs memory. And ranks high on the list of favorite all time memories, that’s for sure.
Possibly an even greater Matty Hubbs memory came during our residency in Las Vegas. One morning just after dawn, on our way to the Grand Canyon, we drove the hoover dam. The incredible Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge loomed over our heads. And coming through the speakers was a soundtrack for the journey selected precisely for the occasion by our sound man. It was the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. Truly an expert choice for such a majestic moment.
Each month (ish) for the next year, TEAM members are taking turns interviewing a fellow artist in the company. In this month’s post, Kristen Sieh interviews Jill Frutkin about teaching, collaborating with theTEAM, and her music.
Photo Credit: Emily Watson
KS: I’m sitting with Jill Frutkin, one of the founding members of the TEAM, at Schillers Liquor Bar, where Jill used to work.
JF: For many years off and on.
How many years did you work here, Jill?
Oh my god, I don’t even know. 4 or 5. I’ve got friends that still work here and I enjoy coming here very much
Where do you work now when you’re not making theater with The TEAM?
I teach in a public school in district 75 in Brooklyn. District 75 are the schools for kids with severe and profound disabilities. My students all have a diagnosis of autism.
What did you do today?
I taught all day from 7am to 3pm. Yesterday was a very eventful day, so although I’m usually very disciplined with my kids, I will totally admit we had a slightly slacker day today. We played some (educational) games… I bought them Gummy Bears. I don’t usually do food rewards, but they were so good yesterday I bought them Gummy Bears. Everybody loves a Gummy Bear.
How long have you been at this school?
This is my second year.
And give us a basic run-down of how you ended up there.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be three things: a ballerina, an author, and a teacher.
I spent a lot of time as a performer, and I’ve always been a writer, so I thought the next step was to try to be a teacher. So I decided to apply to the New York City Teaching Fellows program because it’s a free masters and also a chance to start working immediately. It’s a pretty sweet deal. They pay for your masters and then your first year you’re getting a salary, which is something I’ve never made before in my life. I was like, “I’m going to know what my paycheck is and when it’s coming? That’s amazing!” I guess another part of the answer is that I had done a lot of work with the TEAM and I felt really good about being an actress, and I loved what I was doing but I felt like I needed something else in my life. I felt like the only thing I knew how to do was to be a performer. I wanted to go back to school and to use a different part of my brain. And also, more than anything, I wanted stability. I felt like I needed a nice place to live and I needed to be able to go to the doctor, and I needed to have vacations, and I needed to know that I would have Christmas off.
What has it been like taking this time off from acting being your main focus?
It’s been really hard. It was a total identity shift to do something else. Doing The Fellows program obviously made it hard for me to perform as much. And it changed my social life, too, because I have to wake up really early. The fact that we’re here right now having dinner at, like, 7:30 and we’re going to see a show at 9:30… I’m gonna pay for it tomorrow when I’m dealing with children at 8 in the morning. [laughter] Anyway, I told myself I’d do this for a couple years and then if I hated it, I could always go back to what I did before. Right now I’m in a flexible place of not being really sure what I want to do next. I do really miss being an actress.
Before becoming an NYC Teaching Fellow, you spent a little time in Austin, TX with the Rude Mechs, blending your interests in performance, writing, and teaching. Talk a bit about that.
After the TEAM went to Vegas to develop Mission Drift, I went to Austin. We had met the Rude Mechs at the Orchard Project the year before, and Lana Lesley let me stay in her spare room for a week. The Rude Mechs had an educational branch to their company called Grrl Action, which is an autobiographical writing and performance workshop for adolescent girls. I said, dude, get me in on this, this program is awesome. I’m terribly paraphrasing this, but there are studies that show autobiographical work, like diary work or writing about yourself, actually helps to overcome depression and other horrible things that adolescent girls are prone to. So I helped with this workshop. They let me sit in and help and play and learn. The girls were awesome and I felt really happy and alive. And by a weird coincidence, one of the women, Meg, who was a Rude Mech and worked and lived there, and helped run Grrl Action, was actually leaving Austin and was moving to Western Massachusetts, which is where my family is from, so I ended up going home to Massachusetts, and Meg and I raised money and did a pilot program of Grrl Action on the East Coast. It was an amazing experience that lead to me applying for the Fellows program.
So, Jill you’re still working with The TEAM on one of the projects that’s in early stages of development right now, Primer for a Failed Superpower. You were in London with us at the National Theatre Studio where we started work on it. What is interesting you about this piece, and what is compelling you as an artist these days?
I feel passionate about collaboration. I think what we do together is better than what we do alone. When we started Primer, I was really interested in video work, and that remains something I’m super interested in doing. As an artist overall, I’m interested in the simple stuff. I like a good story. I wanna cry, I wanna laugh. I wanna make people laugh and cry, and I want to help people to get lost in somebody else’s story. Whether it’s Grey’s Anatomy or something amazing at BAM, I wanna get lost in somebody else’s story. I want to give the audience something. I often think about this time when I hung out with Taylor Mac in a bathroom at the Battersea Arts Centre in London while he was getting ready to perform. He was putting on all his makeup and eyelashes and sequins. And it took a long time. And he said something like, “I want the audience to know I spent this many hours getting ready. I want them to know that I spent all this time doing that for them.” And I think about that all the time. Taylor is an inspiring artist to me in many ways, because when I watch him work it makes me feel OK to feel like an outsider. Or it makes me celebrate being awkward or being wrong sometimes. I mean we’re all just weird kids, man. Who are becoming weird grown-ups.
In the little bits of Primer we began working on at The National, you and Jessie [Almasy] did a bunch of writing around a couple of teenage girls named Viral and Cable. They feel related to what you’re talking about, the awkwardness of discovering yourself.
Yeah. I’m still really interested in those girls.
You’ve always had interest in film and in photography. What got you interested in that?
It just happened that at NYU a lot of film kids lived on my floor in the dorm. I never did any plays while I was studying theater at NYU because I always had a job. When they were auditioning for all the plays at school, they were like, “what’s your availability?” and I could never come to rehearsal so I could never be in any plays. So my film-maker friends all wrote movies for me to be in. It was so awesome, because they were writing interesting fun things for me, and we filmed them whenever we could, and we made all this cool art together. And actually that company, Blatantly Subtle, was the first collective I was a part of.
The stuff we were doing with Primer in London was an awesome collaboration between Jess and I. She was the writer and the director and I was the actress and the camera person. I was shooting myself on Photo Booth, just holding my laptop in front of my face and it was so much fun and I loved doing that. I love that medium.
Give me a quick run-down of how you started working with the TEAM.
Jessie Almasy was my best friend in college. I met her my second day in New York City. I had been making a movie with Blatantly Subtle and I remember I was living right over there on Essex with Will Hunter [now The TEAM’s board president], and Jessie called me and said Rachel Chavkin is directing a play, you wanna audition? And I almost said no because I hadn’t slept in days, but I dragged myself to it. I ended up playing Wanda June in this production of Kurt Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday Wanda June. Brian [Hastert] was also in that… you were the costume designer! And after that Rachel decided that she wanted to start a company and she asked you and me and Brian and Jess to do A Thousand Natural Shocks.
And the rest is hist’ry.
A Thousand Natural Shocks
So, this other question that I have for you is about songwriting. Did you start really thinking about songwriting as something you wanted to do when you and Frank [Boyd] started working on songs together for Architecting?
Well Frank started writing songs. We were touring Heartland in Dublin and I remember watching that Neil Young movie, Heart of Gold, and Frank started writing songs. I helped with some of the lyrics and then I sang them in the show. It was such an awesomely joyful collaboration, that work with Frank. I was so excited to explore a new medium.
And now you and a friend of yours are writing songs together.
One day I wrote some stuff, I write poems, songs are poems to me, and I sent him some poems and he turned them into songs and we started really working on them together. And the songs we made were really good! And so we started actually working together regularly. We have a songwriting Saturday every other week. We spend like 12 hours in our little bat-cave and we write a song.
and you have a record out.
Yeah, we made a whole album. We recorded it this summer and I produced it. It’s the neatest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a really tender record. I’m really proud of it.
Do you think you’ll perform any of your own songs any time soon?
Not out of the question.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share about working with the TEAM?
It’s totally extraordinary to have such a family. When we went on our retreat the other weekend it totally felt like an extension of the holidays, like seeing your family. Getting together and eating and drinking and playing and talking and working together, it’s my family. We’re so lucky to have the community that we do. I love everybody and I hate everybody and I get frustrated by this and by that, but it’s really family, and we are so lucky. And our company is almost ten years old! I mean, I’ve known many of you since we were 18 years old. And we’re 33 now, and that is extraordinary. I am so grateful to have such a family.
The General Manager will work in close collaboration with Artistic Director Rachel Chavkin and Producing Director Manda Martin in handling the day-to-day operations of the company. Position will be focused on financial, contract, and office management, with additional fundraising and development responsibilities. Position is part-time, with opportunity for growth.
Support the Producing Director in regular financial management and budgeting.
Work with Producing Director and Artistic Director to create and track operating and individual production budgets.
Perform weekly financial functions, including payroll, cutting checks, accounts payable and receivable, managing and reconciling all bank accounts and credit cards, and tracking cash flow;.
With support and oversight from Producing Director, record all financial transactions into Quickbooks and maintain orderly and accurate financial records.
Work with Producing Director and Auditor during yearly financial audit and 990.
Prepare monthly, yearly, quarterly, and other financial and operating reports for the Finance Committee, the Board of Directors, and funders as necessary.
Correspond and coordinate with vendors; negotiate contracts for employee benefits, insurances, maintenance, and other services as needed.
Order supplies, marketing collateral, and office equipment as needed
With Producing Director, ensure that computers, devices, and network are running properly and efficiently, including Archive and Database strategy and management.
With Producing Director and company members, maintain an up to date inventory of all company-owned equipment and materials.
Assist with supervision of interns.
PRODUCTION AND MARKETING SUPPORT
Support Producing Director in negotiating and executing all artist contracts and collaboration agreements, and union agreements.
Maintain relationships with artists unions.
On an as needed basis, offer production and marketing support to Artistic Director, Producing Director, and company members/production staff.
DEVELOPMENT AND FUNDRAISING SUPPORT
Assist in maintaining up to date individual and institutional fundraising records.
Support AD and PD with all grant applications and reporting, including financial reporting for all institutional and local, state, and national government funders.
The ideal candidate will:
Be self-motivated, organized, collaborative, and a strong team player.
Have experience in administration at a cultural organization, GM office, or comparable business experience.
Have knowledge of budgeting and accounting practices.
Have experience in fundraising and marketing.
Excellent written and oral communication skills.
Strong computer skills, including: Microsoft Excel, Word. Basic knowledge of Quickbooks is also an asset.
This is a salaried, part-time position. Salary is $250/week for two days each week; weekly schedule is flexible in consultation with Producing Director.
TO APPLY: Send cover letter and resume with three professional references to Manda Martin, Producing Director at Manda@theTEAMplays.org. The TEAM is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
On our first tour to Australia and Asia, Mission Drift tours to sold-out performances in the Perth International Arts Festival and Hong Kong Arts Festival.
“With [Mission Drift], the TEAM takes both its thematic ambitions and theatrical skills to giddy heights…I have never seen anything better than Mission Drift in the theatre…It has everything I think theatre should have, and does everything I believe theatre should do.” The West Australian
“it sweeps you up, momentarily converting you with its ambitious reach and raw energy.” The Australian
May: Residency at Playmakers Rep in Chapel Hill, NC for early development on a new project with Taylor Mac.
Mission Drift performs for four weeks in London at the National Theatre’s temporary Shed space, to unanimous critical acclaim, packed houses, and resounding positive (and positively profane) tweets.
Oberon Books publishes Mission Drift, our first published play. (want a copy?)
We taught our workshop, “Devising Within A Democracy”, to students at the National Theatre Studio and Central School of Speech and Drama.
We began work on a new collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland, inspired by the Scottish Enlightenment, the legacy of Adam Smith on American capitalism, and Scotland’s own looming referendum on independence.
December: We turned 9 years old! RoosevElvis and Mission Drift are listed as top shows of 2013 on THREE continents (see here, here, here, and here)! Boo-to the-yah!
We couldn’t have made it this far without the support of so many friends, family, colleagues, and fans around the world. We’re grateful for all of you, and for another fantastic year. We’ll see you in 2014!
Each month (ish) for the next year, TEAM members are taking turns interviewing a fellow artist in the company. In our first post, Jess Almasy interviews Jake Margolin about joining the TEAM, meeting his husband, and making art about America.
Jess: pls state your name for the record: :)
Jake: Jacob Orion Margolin
when did you join the TEAM?
I joined the TEAM for Particularly in the Heartland which I think was 2005. I was in transit from somewhere (California maybe?) and because Rachel was in Edinburgh with Shocks and Give Up! Start Over! she let me stay at her place in Inwood. When she returned from Scotland we got to talking about the next TEAM project and I got involved.
what made you want to join?
The TEAM was a bunch of my best friends, and I was psyched to be included on a project that they were all working on.
what was your first TEAM project?
Officially I guess it was Particularly in the Heartland, although we created HOWL originally in college and that later became a TEAM piece. While I know that the TEAM started in 2004 with Shocks and Give Up! Start Over! (neither of which I was involved in) it has always felt to me like the company was a continuation of the work that many of us were doing together at NYU, specifically starting with HOWL which was our first foray into devising work collaboratively.
what was that like?
What was Heartland like? Well, one really big thing that happened with Heartland happened towards the end of the first development process. We were looking for a set designer and Rachel had seen a bunch of things that a guy named Nick Vaughan had been designing up at Columbia (where Rachel was going to grad school) and she invited him on to design Heartland. The first day that I walked into that basement rehearsal room at Shapiro Hall I was smitten, and Nick and I got married almost exactly two years later. It’s hard to remember how it felt making Heartland . . . I remember at times thinking that we were really coming up with something new and really touching the pulse of something, and I remember at times feeling like we were just barely keeping our heads above water and just kinda muddling through it all. There was an extraordinary hours long “open session” at a Chashama space – an abandoned bank in Queensboro Plaza – where such wonderful things were created like the Sarah Springer/Audience Q&A and a wild ship ride on rolling office chairs (the latter did not make it into the final production . . .)
Jake Margolin and Kristen Sieh in Particularly in the Heartland, 2006.
And then the piece ran for a long time and we continued to develop it for years. There was staying in the Salvation Army Campus in London (which was actually very beautiful) and long bus rides with show laundry. There was extraordinary press in major newspapers which felt so edifying. There was the tour through the UK with such highs as spring-time in Kendall with lambs bopping around on pristine fields and such lows as the Peckham Lodge in London.
It was my first experience of being taken seriously as an artist by people who I didn’t know – both people like presenters and press as well as people like audience members who didn’t know me from Adam. And that was huge, and I suspect is a large part of why I have continued in the arts for the last decade.
why do most of the roles you play right now get named “Chris”? :)
Just to clarify a bit, the last few roles that I have created for the TEAM are named Chris. That started with Mission Drift – I think the point of that name was that it felt so normally American. Kind of like “Jake” or “Mike”. And then I’ve been trying to compartmentalize the various different strains of my work and to step back a bit and look at them as continuations of a line of inquiry. So my work with Nick (we make installation art together) has all been organized under the umbrella of “A Marriage . . . ” a series of installations that deal with how our same sex marriage fits into the iconography of the American Dream. And with the TEAM I wanted to start looking at all of the roles that I created for it as different attacks at the same question of “what is it to be an American right now” (which is of course basically the TEAM’s mission statement anyway) and specifically a continued exploration of “American Masculinity”. I also don’t think this fundamentally means anything – I am a dude making theater about America, so obviously everything I make in that context is an exploration of American Masculinity. So maybe this is just semantic, but I want to be looking at my contributions to the TEAM as a single body of work, and naming all the characters I make “Chris” feels like an overt way of doing that. I don’t think it really changes what I make any more than calling all of my visual art “A MARRIAGE” changes what I make there, but it provides a frame through with to look at all of that work. Maybe someday I’ll make a retrospective catalog of Chris. Like Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, or something.
what is your interest in your independent career? what are you working on?
My independent career is making visual art with Nick – “visual” in a pretty broad sense in that it incorporates every media we can get our hands on and performance. In that work I’m increasing interested in how to be engaging directly with the subjects of the work. For example in A MARRIAGE: 1 (SUBURBIA), our installation at HERE last spring (that featured a series of stunning vignettes written by TEAM member and interviewer Jessica Almasy), we did a documentary style series of interviews with icons of the downtown queer performance world and teens involved in LGBTQ issues in which we had them talk about gay marriage, suburbia, nostalgia, and the mainstreaming of queer culture. I loved making that. When the show went to North Adams, MA in September we used 20 students at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in a day long performance action in which we read the 13 days of oral arguments from the California “Prop 8” case into clear plastic bags, capturing that breath in an enormous sculpture of text.
PERRY V. SCHWARZENEGGER: TEXT AS A VOLUME OF BREATH, part of A MARRIAGE: 1 (SUBURBIA) at HERE, 2013
We’re currently working on A MARRIAGE: 2 (WEST-ER) which is all about the West and explores the gay history of the Wild West, a part of that history that I grew up knowing nothing about and through researching this show, am increasingly excited about. I didn’t know that the 19th century West was full of queers. I always bought into the hollywood version of the hetero cowboy. The first parts of A MARRIAGE: 2 (WEST-ER) will go up at the Invisible Dog Art Center in March and April of 2014.
how has working with the TEAM fed or factored into this work?
That’s a great question, and I don’t know the answer. Outside of my work with Nick, The TEAM has been the main place that I have worked creatively and thought about aesthetics and narrative and political art. So I can only assume that everything that I think artistically is formed in so many ways by my work with the TEAM. Practically, I know everything I know about the administrative side of the arts from the TEAM. And the support that we’ve gotten from TEAM members has been huge, and no small part of what has kept us making work. It is of course hard to distinguish what of that is “the TEAM” and what of that is that many of our best friends are members of the TEAM.
what makes you interested in the TEAM today?
I am so interested in how the company evolves as its members continue to pursue and excel at ventures outside of the TEAM. I am thrilled by how the process of making the plays changes as the members themselves change.
what do you consider your interest in America / making art about America?
I think I use the idea that I am making “art about America” as a way of acknowledging that my world view is particular to being an American. By which I just mean that everything I write or create is necessarily about America because that is my context. I think that similarly to how white people often mistake our interpretation of the world as the neutral or universal perception (relegating everyone else’s to minority identity politics or something) it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the American view of history or the current world is somehow the standard view. Everything I make is similarly through the lens of being a gay white man, not because I think it is better or anything, but because it is who I am. I’m reading Samantha Powers’ A PROBLEM FROM HELL about the American response (or lack thereof) to genocide in the world in the last hundred years. I am so struck by how much we continue to behave in the same way as a country. That fundamentally we don’t evolve much.
as you look back on the last ten years, how have you changed as an artist, or alternately how have you strengthened your committed ways of being, with or without knowing it?
I’m not sure that I am more committed in my ways of being now than I was 10 years ago. I have more, and deeper doubts about being an artist than I did 10 years ago.
One way that I have changed is that I think I’ve grown from really trying to do things “right” according to some perceived structure of what “good art” is to really trying to find my own voice and be true to my own agenda as an artist.
where do you see yourself in 3 years OR what would you be really happy to imagine?
I’m trying to become comfortable with the fact that my projections for what I’ll be doing in the future have proven consistently wrong. I hope that in 3 years I am proud of whatever I am doing and that it is adding some good to the world. I also hope I’m making a bit more money and have kids. But three years is really very soon. It takes three years for the TEAM to make a play. It takes three years for Nick and I to make an installation.
what have you learned from other TEAM members?
I think it is impossible to codify that into a single answer. It’s like wondering what I have learned from my family. Everything ranging from the mundane of learning how to create a computer file to the big things of learning how to function ethically in the world.
Stick on your sideburns! Come croon and swoon with RoosevElvis one last time for a hip-shakin’ celebration!
Join the TEAM to celebrate the closing night of RoosevElvis, their critically-acclaimed production running now through November 3rd at The Bushwick Starr. Following our final performance, join us onstage and on the roof for a fantastic final hurrah, featuring raffle prizes, Mt. Rushmore photo ops, rooftop views, and (always) exceptional company.
…Did we mention admission includes all the beer and wine you can drink?
The Bushwick Starr
207 Starr Street, Brooklyn [between Irving and Wyckoff]
Raffle prizes include:
Atlantic Theater Membership and wine vouchers;
Four lessons with vocal coach Danielle Amedeo;
A print by Jake Margolin and Nick Vaughan;
A pair of tickets to see Cheri at Signature Theatre;
Dinner for 4 at Riverpark and a private tour of Riverpark Farm;
A custom made cake by Kristen Sieh;
A “Treat Yourself” basket;
Two bottles of G’Vine boutique gin;
Two, 1-hour audiobook tutorial sessions with Jessica Almasy;
A stitch + bitch knitting lesson with the head of sweater design at American Eagle;
A personal investing lesson with Will Hunter and copy of The Little Book that Beats the Markets by Joel Greenblatt;
A bottle of wine and Coq Au Vin cooking lesson with Libby and Jaime King.
“RoosevElvis is far too empathetic a play to lend itself to cold deconstruction…[It’s] the company’s most intimate work that I’ve seen, and also its warmest…a lot fresher than most new plays you’ll see this season.“
“…researched to the teeth, [RoosevElvis] offers a spirited and insightful commentary on two archetypes of American masculinity, while finding teasing ambiguities within both that suggest that machismo is a shaky existential choice.”
“..More buoyant than theatrical material has any right to be…RoosevElvis‘s velocity sweeps us into gorgeous, buoyant nonsense without our noticing…The audience laughs—not with recognition or self-satisfaction, but with the purest kind of astonished delight.”
“This glorious show is strong precisely because it focuses, at long last, on individuals. It fully, totally revels in King’s gravelly, bourbon-soaked tones; it exploits to the last degree Sieh’s titanic comic gifts…Some astonishing scenes, several the best I’ve seen this year, are the result.”
“a stirring, absurd, and grandly human historical-cosplay road-trip fantasia…a big-hearted and affecting examination of that most American of faculties: imagining yourself as bigger, grander, and more, no matter how little you might be.”
“The most awesome buddy comedy in American history…in typical TEAM fashion, it explores so much more, from the limits of hero worship to the impossible standards of masculinity in America, and all with thrilling athleticism and unfailing intelligence.”
“Command performance[s]by King and Sieh who carry the whole production by weaving in and out of their characters and counter-characters seamlessly…[they] deftly spar across the stage through historically biographical reflections and witty one liners.”
We have hit the height of our sleep deprivation. Accordingly, we have been operating heavy machinery, shooting guns, and driving for long stretches. We have reached the point where the boundary between wakefulness and sleep has blurred. The benefit is that we have been able to do an immense amount of dreaming in the daytime.
Our pursuits have been as follows:
We woke up and drove to Lincoln, Nebraska to do a shoot at a meat processing plant. Libby has set us up with a whole series of contacts to get some really incredible material shot in the Lincoln area (her hometown). When we arrived at the meat processing facility, we were greeted with a warm welcome by Larry, the owner of the establishment, and his daughter Lisa, an old friend of Libby’s. He gave us complete access to the floor. We were bowled over by his eagerness to support us and our project.
Several of the meat workers were in several of our shots. They were tremendously gracious in teaching Libby how to use the machines and in diverting their workflow to accommodate our shoot. When we wrapped, we looked for our keys to the car, and Lisa handed Libby a pair of keys encased in a vacuum sealed packaging. It was a funny prank.
After a short stop for burritos, we headed to Lisa’s salon, Lason. Again, we had the location mostly to ourselves. There was one other stylist working in the salon, Jason, who answered all of our questions. We wanted to use Jason in the shoot, but he was working with clients, so I was cast as the hair dresser. We ran a little over at the salon, but Jason was very lovely and let us stay after he left. Once we wrapped, we made a mad dash to Lisa’s house to beat Sunset.
We arrived at Lisa’s at the height of magic hour. We entered, and Libby was reunited with her four best friends from Nebraska in the golden light of sunset. Lisa’s neighbor gave us a lesson in gun safety and stood by as the ladies fired off. Turns out both were a pretty good shot. We wrapped with Ann, alone, just as the sun set.
We retired to Lisa’s house where a full spread of barbecue food awaited us. Skewers of meat and shrimp, grilled chicken, potato salad and coleslaw. It was a midwestern feast. We stayed on for an hour or so, ate, and took a moment to relax before heading back to Grand Island.
We rose early to catch the light of the sunrise. We shot behind Libby’s cabin in Grand Island, in the brush surrounding the dried bed of the Platt River. It was a serene and almost surreal location – very beautiful. We even got some shots of Kristen kayaking pretty expertly across the nearby pond.
We finished up the shoot and went back to the cabin to attempt to wake up and move out of Grand Island. First step: tick check. Results: four ticks found. All safely removed. Luckily, Nebraska does not host deer ticks, which are the carriers of Lyme disease, but I will make sure to get the necessary incident reports.
We packed up and hit the road. Before leaving Nebraska, we needed one last shot: a long shot of the women eating at the diner. We went to Coney Isand, a local diner famous for their hot dogs. While Libby and Kristen shot this long scene, one of the waitresses told us about the evil spirits and haunting she encountered in the Badlands. As was the case with all the other locations we shot, all of the staff at the restaurant were incredibly gracious, sweet, and so supportive. We stuffed ourselves with hotdogs and milkshakes and then hit the road for good.
We made it as far as we could, stopping only a few times to switch drivers, or to get food or gas. As the sun started to set, we sought the refuge of a motel. Our criteria: the shittiest, most dilapidated motel we could find, with a romantic little door frame which we could shoot both from the outside and the inside. We found our dream in the Cortes Motel.
There was an almost fully naked obese man sitting practically pressed up against his window in the motel room next to us. Luckily, I think our videographer was able to avoiding framing him in any of our external shots, though we considered his enthusiasm a good blessing for our project.
We wrapped around 2:00am and went to bed. The road to Memphis awaits us.
We arose yesterday morning and quickly packed our bags, eager to complete the final leg of our pilgrimage to Graceland, the mecca.
We zipped through Missouri and Arkansas, stopping only occasionally for gas and bathroom/snack breaks. We were surprised by the amount of Pro-Life propaganda we encountered on the road. The scenery was otherwise quite pleasant.
As we neared the Arkansas border, we passed through Mammoth Spring, a gorgeous little spa town, and a honky-tonk specialties store sitting right on the Arkansas border. We found a restaurant built in a converted gas station serving some pretty intense Southern food, so we figured it was a good match. We pulled over to grab a quick meal.
When we got back on the road, we filmed some extended driving scenes with Elvis/Teddy. The acrobatics involved in this shoot were among the most impressive physical feats of the week, both for the level of physical skill required and for the sheer disregard for the law that some of these activities demonstrated. Libby spent some of the trip totally backwards, leaning on the dashboard, and at other times, she or Kristen shared the passenger seat with our videographer AND all of his camera equipment.
As we got closer to Memphis, we let Ann take the wheel, solo. We abandoned the front rows of the car and rolled sound and video continuously as we approached Memphis. All sat in silence, with only the comforting sound of the GPSlady’s voice filling the car. This was the final leg of the journey. Next stop Graceland.
Before anyone realized it, we were driving through downtown Memphis. In no time, we were turning onto Elvis Presley Boulevard. We approached Graceland. No one could have expected the sight that greeted us. All along the sidewalk is a stone wall ranging from 4’-6’ high. It is clear that the wall has become a major sight of devotion, as every inch of the wall is covered in signatures, pictures, and love notes to the beloved Elvis Presley. The combination of the scale and humanity of this object was quite staggering to all of us.
When the light faded, we went to Corky’s for some Memphis barbecue. We had a delicious meal and a wonderful waitress.
We arrived to stay at David and Rose’s house around 9:30. It was a beautiful home, very generously prepared for us. Rose made us drinks and peach pie, and sat and talked with us as we swam in the pool. It was very nice to swim. It was a relatively early night, as everyone was very excited to get a substantial amount of sleep.
We woke up around 9:00 and hit the road to Graceland. This time, we went inside.
We were warned that we would most likely be underwhelmed by the mansion. We expected something kind of small and gaudy, not like Disneyland but also extravagant in its own right. Aspects of these expectations were fulfilled to various degrees, but we were moved and surprised by the way you could feel Elvis in the house as a peculiar, young kid. So much of the house was incredibly bizarre – the jungle room, the billiard room – and it was clear that only he could have invented such a domain.
After saying goodbye to Graceland, we headed over to Beale street to have our last meal on the road. We had some barbecue at a restaurant with some fantastic musicians playing outside.
We went to the airport and packed our bags.
It was sad to say goodbye to the journey, but there is so much in store with this piece in the very near future. It will be good to head into rehearsals, especially with the incredibly strong foundation for the piece that we have continued to build over the last week. It was a lot of great work, a lot of laughter, a lot of love. It was a week of very bold, rich days. All of the people we encountered in our travels were absolutely lovely and helpful.
I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of this trip. The work that I have witnessed has been on all fronts utterly inspirational.
As you may have heard, our RoosevElvis team has been researching, writing, and filming while on an epic road trip from the Badlands to Graceland. Now midway through their journey, here’s an excerpt of assistant director Kevin Hourigan’s daily updates from the road.
Salutations from the road. I will be sending you updates as we venture forth. We’ve been having an amazing time in this truly gorgeous American terrain.
We began our voyage at 4am with a delayed flight and a missed connection, but rallied, quickly got to the airport, and got to South Dakota only a few hours later than we originally intended. Our videographer has been capturing material on the fly since the moment he left his apartment.
We spent a good portion of the day dealing with logistics and getting settled. (Picking up the RV, finding the campsite, figuring out how to plug the RV in…) We had a few substantial shoots yesterday, including in the meat aisle at Walmart. All were dismayed that despite Walmart’s epic selection of packaged meats, the employees did not know what a French press was when TEAM members were eager to purchase one. Luckily, our videographer’s camping French press saved us all.
After a good night’s sleep, today was a very busy and highly productive day.
A visit to Keystone, near Mount Rushmore, where Teddy and Elvis shopped, took pictures from “jail” and other tourist attractions, bought sodas, etc. They were a hit with the workers and tourists.
Revisited Mount Rushmore. While Elvis walked down to get a refund from the parking man at the memorial, Teddy explored and took notes on the local flora and fauna. Teddy and Elvis met up at the observation deck, where Teddy danced around onstage, and climbed some of the hill beneath the monument.
An RV safari to look for buffalo in Custer Park. We shot several sequences of material, including scenes with buffalo. First we found one buffalo and then we found a whole herd. We did shoots with both.
Footage of ALL of the eggs flying out of the fridge and breaking, and the ensuing cleanup, while driving the RV.
Our day began with an early start. We all rose early to make a dash for the Badlands before it got too hot. We shot for about two hours, and then got rained out. During the rainstorm, we huddled in the RV and shot some interior scenes. After the rainstorm, we went back out and shot for a good four hours in the heat. Though sunburned, and though the sun caused us to hallucinate visions of Mount Rushmore, all pressed on in good spirits.
It is very possible that our RV campsite is secretly a front for a meth lab. Libby has begun an inquiry. Kevin found a man passed out on the floor of the bathroom last night who thought that sleeping in the bathroom would prevent him from being bitten by mosquitos. We will report with findings of the inquiry.
Greetings from Grand Island, NE. Libby has graciously shepherded us to her cabin where we are staying for the next two nights.
Our day began on the campsite at 7:00am today. After a cleanup of the campsite and some delicious oil toast breakfast made by Rachel, we headed over to the pool at the campsite to do a shoot of the ladies in the water. Libby even donned a GoPro camera so that we could get underwater shots.
One of the other campers, perplexed, asked us, “Are you guys YouTubers?”
After shooting the pool, our intention was to head back to Wall Drug to get some interior shots. However, we had several roadblocks to deal with, most notably the fact that we needed to perform the dreaded task of flushing the RV. Rachel bravely stepped forward to tend to this Olympic feat. We quickly realized that the sewage hose had a hole in it, which certainly only made the task more horrific. As to be expected, Rachel complained not once. She did however, spend several long minutes washing her hands after the whole ordeal.
We then drove away from the meth lab campsite for good. Teddy’s soaked pants flapped out the window, hung on the mirror to dry, as we watched Circle 10 RV Campground fade on the horizon.
(Libby and I investigated. We no longer suspect that the campsite was an active meth lab – it’s just a popular hangout spot.)
We hit Wall Drug next. We got several amazing takes with some bizarrely joyful pieces of taxidermy. We asked the manager if it would be possible to use a restricted area to shoot, and we instantly had a new best friend. He even gave us each a complimentary meal at the end of our visit. It was a very sweet display of kindness.
About 100 miles in, Rachel asked us to pull off to stretch a leg, and we accidentally stumbled onto one of the best, most magical locations we have seen yet. The town was Okaton, SD. Population 36. A few dilapidated houses, a crumbling mill, a closed gas station, and a facsimile “Ghost Town” replica attraction which has since turned into an actual ghost town. The irony is only too acute; the town is beautiful.
Eventually, after a break for gas, a Subway meal, and lots of different car DJ’s, we made it safely to Libby’s wonderful cabin in Grand Island. We are so thrilled and so grateful for Libby and her mother’s hospitality.
You can read the second installment of Kevin’s road journal here.