“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.
Before we arrived in London, the hashtag #MissionDrift was more likely to turn up conversation about, you know, actualmission drift. Of the organizational variety.
As of June 5, however, we’ve witnessed a complete and utter hashtag takeover by our audiences at the National Theatre Shed, with overwhelmingly positive (and often profanely so) comments about the show. Here’s a collection of some of our favorites thus far (in truth, they all make us blush):
So we have just launched the fundraising campaign for our new duet, RoosevElvis, featuring Libby and Kristen. We are thrilled to be headlining the Bushwick Starr’s 2013-14 season, which will also mark our 1st-ever World Premiere on American soil!
This fundraising campaign is vital to the success of the show. We need you to help support the design (conceived by Nick, Matty, and Kristen making a grand return to costume design, PLUS Andrew Schneider – collaborating with the TEAM for the first time). And even MORE importantly, we need your support TO PAY OUR ARTISTS. This work feels unlike anything we’ve made before; it’s our first small ensemble show since Give Up! Start Over! It’s slippery, like an onion skin, with intimate and sad and hilarious performances by these two extraordinary actresses at its core.
About the show: More fever dream than biography, RoosevElvis examines gender and appetite—both literal and spiritual—through the story of Ann, a slaughterhouse worker in South Dakota who is awakening to the sense that she is not strictly male or female. The play unfolds through a quintessentially American narrative: the road trip. Performed live and through film, Ann and her lover journey from the Badlands to Graceland, surreally transitioning into Elvis and Roosevelt as they confront contemporary America – its relationship to food, to gender, and to fame.
Live abroad? Don’t worry…there’s already plans in the works to get the TEAM back to London following the success of Mission Drift at the National Theatre. And hopefully more touring to be announced in the not-so-distant future. So please consider making a gift now so that we can finish the work!
In June 2013, the TEAM took Mission Drift across the pond to The Shed, the National Theatre’s temporary theatrical space on the South Bank in London, where it was met with great enthusiasm and positive reviews. Check out what the London press had to say about Mission Drift and the TEAM:
“A theatrical tornado, and a sideways glimpse into America’s tarnished, weary soul.”
“American capitalism really is a mindfuck of a subject, and if you’re going to attempt to address its entire history in a couple of hours then you really need a mindfuck of a play…Mission Drift is a whirlwind of song and sound and surreal vignettes that conveys the dizzying mania of America’s rise with an energy that’s part sickening, part exhilarating.”
“Mission Drift gets under the skin of American capitalism, while dazzling with its expansive ambition. With this pulsing piece the TEAM has given the capital its most politically potent musical since London Road.”
it’s a really exciting time for the TEAM in terms of internal development as we begin to experiment + grow administratively via the guidance of Creative Capital. as recipients of this adventurous investment, we are endeavoring as a Petri Dish, the four of us who rep the company convening every two weeks to architect infrastructure to take better care of the company – as an entity and its individual members
Creative Capital is an incredible resource, of consultants, financial and technical experts, professionals, and risk takers, but one of the aspects I’ve found most life changing about it is the encouragement to s l o w d o w w w n n, to re e val u ate, to take a personal inventory and to prioritize quality of life over appetite to accelerate. because success comes w a cost, and it is at a personal expense if not balanced w real LIFE goals, like paying bills + making art w an enjoyable process + seeing family + traveling ETC
We are so thrilled to be among this year’s class of Creative Capital grants! It is one of the coolest grants around, providing not just financial support for artists, but, well, creative support as well.
There was a terrific article in the Wall Street Journal today about the 2013 grantees entitled Where Good Ideas Go To Live which describes the grant as a “local venture-capital fund for the avant-garde.”
In case you get stuck at the WSJ firewall (although we just googled “creative capital wall street journal”, found a link to the article and got right in…), here are some salient features of our exciting new grantors:
Ruby Lerner, executive director of the organization…rejected the standard nonprofit model of “here’s a check, send us a report.” Instead, there’s a longer-term commitment, for up to five years, and an emphasis, she said, on “what will make someone stronger when they leave us than when they came in.”
The organization has been shaking up the nonprofit arts field since 1999, when it was launched in the aftermath of the decade’s culture wars as an experiment by Arch Gillies, then-president of the Andy Warhol Foundation, whose support abides in a 10-year matching grant of $1.5 million a year.
This year saw 2,700 proposals in three disciplines—performing arts, emerging fields and literature—whittled down to 700, then 216, before 46 projects (involving 66 artists) were approved by a final panel.
So, again, we could not be more thrilled. With this grant, Rachel, Jess, Libby, and Matty will be able to delve deeper into our next big show, PRIMER FOR A FAILED SUPERPOWER, on which we began development last summer in a residency at the National Theatre Studio in London and early in-progress presentation at the EIF.
Here’s a list of the whole group of grantees. Here’s one described in the article that sounds wild and exciting:
“You Are It”, by Williamsburg choreographer Arturo Vidich and machinist Daniel Wendlek, proposes a performance, inspired by the schoolyard game Tag, for 3,000 dancers and a human-powered hybrid electric airplane, staged on an abandoned runaway in Long Island.
Oh, the awesome company we keep. Here’s to a human-powered and amazing 2013!
I’ve been lucky enough to spend pretty much the entire month of December with the TEAM. I couldn’t think of a better way to close out 2012. For me, the past few weeks have been a matter of juggling my involvement in two of the TEAM’s long term projects, Primer For a Failed Superpower and RoosevElvis.
This weekend, we closed a workshop of the TEAM’s Primer for a Failed Superpower, for which I was the stage manager. This incarnation of the show, however, was performed not by members of the TEAM, but by a group of kick-ass students at NYU’s Playwrights Horizons Theater School. Pieced together by duct tape and hardcore angst, the show ranged from a punk concert to a boxing match. The show sang with youthful abandon and stung with a sharp edge.
The freshness and vitality of this show was undeniable. Written by the group of third and fourth year students who were also its performers, the show exemplified a rich and sophisticated reckoning with the ethos of their generation. Quite simply, they effected an explosive performance, which truly serves as evidence of the unflappable hope and resilience of this generation. As an alumnus of PHTS, it was exciting to see this kind of work happening in my alma mater.
Very recently I went back into rehearsals for RoosevElvis, rehearsing at the TEAM’s space at ART NY. This show, for which I am the assistant director, centers on two of our country’s most worshipped paragons: Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis Presley. Among other things, it focuses on their iconic masculinity, on gendered and sexualized power dynamics, on greatness, and on the formation of a national hero.
With rehearsal topics ranging from tabloid accounts of Elvis’s sex life to Queer theory and discourse, from swinging pelvises to body suits with bound breasts, this week is already proving to be productive, surprising, and as momentous as these two male icons themselves. Kristen and Libby have continued to hit it out of the park, writing on their feet (or at the table) to compose material that plumbs the complexities of these two men and which complicates biographies often presented as singular narratives.
In this week of rehearsal, we’ve met a whole slew of new characters. Kristen, who plays Roosevelt, recently introduced us to John Muir, a renowned American naturalist who was one of Teddy’s closest and most influential friends. Kristen also at times plays Alice, Teddy’s first wife, who appears in chilling, dream-like capitulations of Teddy’s own desire and vulnerability. Libby, playing Elvis, has channeled new characters such as Priscilla Presley – Elvis’s first wife, and several fourteen year-old female characters – who occupied Elvis’s perverse sexual fascination. Additionally, Libby has continued to helm the character of Ann, a genderqueer slaughterhouse worker who invokes Elvis in the privacy of her own home.
And as I watch Kristin and Libby work with Rachel, Jake, and the rest of the team to carve out these narratives, it is apparent that the more light we are able to shed on these characters, the more any sense of definite border, clarity, or boundary seems to blur. That the once monolithic, fixed, masculine identities of both of these characters begin to melt, reducing a polarized view of power and gender to a utopian soup of fluidity and freedom. Teddy is both the body he built and the men who built him. Elvis is not simply man, but he is the multitudes of women he desired, the mother who loved him, and the woman, Libby King, who is embodying him for this performance. These monolithic men subsume contradiction, and become more than they are.
Truly, these guys are bigger than we ever could’ve guessed.