Updates from the Bad/Grace/Land

I’m writing from the Apple store where they’re helping me organize my 105,000+ emails that I’ve never deleted or organized. Unsure what people mean when they say “archive”…

This morn we were back in rehearsals for RoosevElvis, our new duet featuring Libby and Kristen as Elvis and Theodore Roosevelt, respectively. We’re preparing to head to London on Saturday where we’ll be presenting a workshop of the evolving piece for SUPER early feedback. This process is always an awesome and painful one. We have spent a total of 2 weeks working on this, plus the hours each of us spends outside of the room doing research, and trying to fill our brains with ammunition to use on each other. On the plane to Seattle last week I watched Viva Las Vegas (nothing tops that Ann-Margaret dance – so so oh so weird), I’ve been reading Edmund Morris’ extraordinary trilogy about Teddy, found Libby a really good Elvis tee-shirt in Vancouver (overpriced and oh so worth it).

You can’t really be an open vessel in this process. And you also fill up REALLY fast. So two weeks into this. And btw this was a work that really started as two solo performances for these two ladies, and then I was describing them to Taylor Mac, and he grouped them together with a smile and said, “Two women in fatsuits.” And then there was one. And clearly Elvis and Teddy are two American MEN, both large (at later points in life), both famous, KINGS of their worlds. But honestly it was hard to say beyond that why these two.

And yet as is often the case, what’s mushy in the abstract gets grounded and explodes quickly in the rehearsal room. It’s why the vast majority of the TEAM’s resources go towards time together. Teddy in Kristen’s artistry begins to form as this invincible, conniving, brilliant, irrepresable nature freak who wants to both worship and kill and own all he sees – part imperialist, part rapturous young man, part prudish Victorian idealist. Libby brought her interest in this country’s mass food production (meat plants, corn subsidies, omnivores’ dilemmas), her love for the radio and the culture of listening to radio, and it’s all doubling up to form this dense, emotional knot of Elvis/Elivs obsessed/constipation/trans/lost-and-found beauty. Jake Margolin – whose excitingly working as Associate Director on this (in addition to performing in 2 other shows) as the TEAM keeps growing and shifting in a heartfelt (if occasionally clumsy!) attempt to serve our growing and shifting company members – is doing some fucking amazing writing. And I’m finding layers I never expected as I think about Teddy as this awe-some and frightening epitome of conservative male imagery, and Elvis as this hybrid-being (his music co-opted, stole from, and blended race; his whole being blended the sexes and helped blow up this absurd idea of binary gender structures) that scared the shit out of the dominant culture…

Likely little or none of this will yet be articulate or present in the workshop we present in London next week at the Almeida. But the hunches keep us going. And I’m excited for this journey (which is gonna take us to the Badlands, Graceland, and hopefully lots of motels in between).


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RoosevElvis rehearsals have begun!

Just a quick note and a couple pics to say RoosevElvis rehearsals have begun at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn. Kristen, Libby, Jake M., Matt, Tater Dave, and I have been working in the beautiful upstairs room since Thursday. Nick was with us on the first day gathering images. Our assistant director Kevin Hourigan has been gathering footage of eccentric exercises for Teddy, and Starr assistants Rachel and Eileen have been transcribing the work Kristen and Libby are doing.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the two men. We’ve watched a number of Elvis documentaries (best thus far was Elvis ’56). Now onto Love Me Tender. Workshop is Monday June 4th. Then London…

The TEAM’s Spring 2012 Benefit Auction is LIVE!

The TEAM is proud to announce our Spring 2012 Online Auction via Bidding for Good!

You could win a week at a beach house, a ski-getaway only 90 min from NYC, a day with a professional designer re-envisioning your home and wardrobe (plus a gift card), or a couple stunning pieces of visual art.


And best of all, every bid supports the life and work of the TEAM artists.

Hey Hound-Dogs, our HUNKA HUNKA Burning Benefit is here!

It’s time for our annual spring benefit at the incredible New York City Fire Museum (@278 Spring Street)!

It’s gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight: Come eat and drink like Elvis, play poker, dance, and support the development of 5 new works, including: RoosevElvis, Primer for a Failed Superpower, and Waiting for You on the Corner of […]

$100 – MVP
Best Bang for Your Buck
Include a pre-party dinner plus wine at hot LES restaurant, The Fat Radish
(“You’d be a regular if you could.”—NY Times)
PLUS Unlimited drinks and snacks at the party itself

$50 – TEAM Player
A Fantastic Way to Show Your Support
Unlimited drinks and snacks at the party

A limited number of $30 tickets are available for students and artists.

Tickets Available Here:

Doors open at 8pm
MVP dinner begins at 6:30pm
SPLURGING ENCOURAGED! We need your support. There will also be plenty of chances to give (big & small) during the party.

What do the National Theatre (London), the Edinburgh International Festival, Kansas City Repertory, and Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr have to do with each other?

They’re all a part of the TEAM’s 2012-2013 activities!!!

The TEAM is Jess [Almasy], Frank [Boyd], Rachel [Chavkin], Stephanie [Douglass], Jill [Frutkin], Brian [Hastert], Jake [Heinrichs], Matt [Hubbs], Libby [King], Nate [Koch], Jake [Margolin], Dave [Polato], Kristen [Sieh], and Nick [Vaughan]

TEAM Artistic Director Rachel Chavkin on LMCC panel April 11th

Rachel will be speaking about “the Intersection of Art, Money, and Politics” at the LMCC’s upcoming Access Restricted panel on Wednesday April 11th at 7pm.

Event Description: The intersection of Broad and Wall, where Federal Hall sits across from the New York Stock Exchange, serves as a physical representation of the proximity of money and politics throughout the history of Lower Manhattan. This discussion will explore the complicated and often fraught relationship between art, money and politics, the semiotics of dissent and how this is represented in the current moment.

Click here for more info or to RSVP!

Other panelists:

Jan Cohen-Cruz (Professor; Director, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life)
Randy Martin (Chair, Art and Public Policy at NYU)
Morgan Jenness (Creative Consultant, Abrams Artists Agency)

Hope to see you there.

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The TEAM on NPR!

During the final week of the Mission Drift run in New York City, Heather Christian and I went over to the NPR Studios. We were both extremely excited, but Heather can testify to the fact that my face almost shattered I was so giddy. With eyes wide we followed Margot Adler as she gave us a tour of the studio. Almost everyone was out to lunch, but it didn’t matter. I saw the desk of Robert Krulwich.  And we even waved at Zoe Chace and Chana Joffe-Walt from Planet Money.

We sat down with Margot and discussed the work, which she’d seen previously.

CLICK HERE to listen to the awesome story that she put together.


From the World of New Plays in Washington, DC

Over the past 2 years I’ve been one of the representatives from the devised theatre world at the American Voices New Play Institute’s Convenings (along with rainpan 43, SITI Company, Sojourn Theatre, Universes, Tectonic, the Rude Mechs, the Civilians, Pig Iron, and a TON more producers, individual devising artists, and ensembles – check out list HERE). The primary takeaways from that convening: theatre institutions have so many more resources than they think they do for devising artists, and it’s not all about money – think unused space, scene and costume shops, etc.; the devised theatre world is happily (and sometimes grumpily) defined by its DIY aesthetic and so any co-productions with institutions need to be crafted to preserve this impulse and way of working; none of us are able or much interested in creating a narrow definition of devised theatre. The initial Devised Theatre convening was a chance to discuss the challenges and practices of this work with a group often spread out and working hard on its own stuff, and as a small step towards the (slow) process of American theatres accepting this broad spectrum of work into the general new play/work conversation.

This weekend I attended a convening on “the 21st century Literary Office.” I believe I was the only devising artist there, and there were only a few playwrights, so artist representation in general was low, though not the focus. Dramaturgs and literary managers from around the country discussed the state of their field amidst changing technologies, the possibility of partnering and linking resources through a national database (controversial), the sprawl of the office’s tasks – from connectivity to script reading and season planning, and the role of the dramaturg/literary office in preserving the intellectual integrity of a theatre. Devised theatre seemed essentially nonexistent in this conversation. Our plays/productions/works/pieces are not to be found in the “piles” covering the desks and floors of literary offices; our work doesn’t live on the page. This isn’t intended as a complaint. I’m not sure – despite the fact that the TEAM’s work is drenched in literary references, history, and hopefully reflects a high level of intellectual integrity – that we belong in a place called the “Literary” office. Devised theatre, as I practice it anyway, is in part a reaction to the idea that a play should be able to be understood/experienced through reading. The page doesn’t have Matty’s sound, Brian or Libby’s or Kristen’s or Jill’s or Jess’ or Frank’s or Jake’s inflection or movement, Nick’s eroding landscapes, etc. which all share equal weight with the words we’ve written. And I actually don’t think this is specific to devised theatre, and would imagine many playwrights feel this way (they do, right?). The conversation seems to be slowly arcing from “new plays” to “new work,” and I think the distinction between playwright-driven and devised work is an unhelpful, and implies a false divide that is likely limiting or insulting to both playwrights and devisers.

Conversation continues on NewPlayTV and the wonderful HowlRound – to which Polly Carl reminded me I owe an article! It’s in-process…


If you can make it there… a press roundup from New York

Here we are, a little past the halfway point of our 4-week NYC run.  If you haven’t seen the show yet, or are wondering what your opinion of the show should be, here’s a roundup of some of the things that have been written about Mission Drift so far in the New York City press:

Of all of the art inspired by the global economic crisis, perhaps none is as lusty and energetic as Mission Drift, the new musical by New York theater company the TEAM.

Drifting Into American Myth, The Wall Street Journal

Mission Drift…succeeds in staging a staggeringly ambitious saga.  The liveliest lesson on desire, destruction, and economics that you’ll see in many a year.

The Village Voice

There’s a lot about the company’s new project to take heedless, heady pleasure in… Pleasures aplenty.

The New York Times

Mission Drift examines heady concepts without ever losing its heart. Thanks to strong writing and powerful performances, the TEAM never forgets to have empathy for their subjects… Mission Drift captures the zeitgeist while daring to suggest hope for the future.

An example of a theatre company at their most muscular, tackling what theatre should be tackling… to the hauntingly remarkable musical atmosphere of Heather Christian.

Exactly what I want the theatre to do to me: take me someplace I don’t know how to get to on my own.

New York Theatre Review

And a great little piece about the trials and tribulations during the genesis of Mission Drift in the New York Observer: After Three Years at Sea, the TEAM Drifts Home





Virtual Bar – Join the Conversation

We are thrilled to have finally begun our run of at the Connelly Theater of Mission Drift! This show is over three years in the making, and it’s been the most thrilling and challenging process in our company’s life. We started with the question, “What defines American capitalism specifically?” As Brian beautifully described in an earlier blog, we did research of all shapes and sizes, including moving to Las Vegas for a month in June 2010.

We now invite YOU to join that conversation. We hope you can join us post-show in the Shining City, our bar at the Connelly (220 East 4th Street). But we also hope you’ll share your thoughts here, about the work’s themes.

Our company’s mission is to make new work about America in order to generate dialogue about the country’s past, present, and future. So here’s space! Some kickoff questions:

  • Do you think there’s something different about American capitalism vs. capitalism anywhere else?
  • What’s your favorite Las Vegas memory?
  • Tell us your favorite Western and why

Or share any other thoughts the show raised for you. We’re interested.

-Rachel and the TEAM

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