Soho Rep. Announces Writer/Director Lab Week
The 2017-2019 Lab Culminates with Free Presentations from Collaborative Partners Shayok Misha Chowdhury & Virginia Grise, Ann Marie Dorr & Paul Ketchum, Jen Goma & Kristine Haruna Lee, Raja Feather Kelly & Daaimah Mubashshir, and Julia Mounsey & Peter Mills Weiss
For the First Time in Soho Rep. Writer/Director Lab History, Under Co-Chairs William Burke and Jackie Sibblies Drury, Applicants Applied and Were Accepted as Collaborative Partners-Artists Who Challenge the Hierarchies of Traditional Theater-Making
Soho Rep. announces the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab Week, January 19-27, a week of free presentations culminating the company's 2017-2019 Writer/Director Lab (the Lab's 19th iteration), showcasing pieces and works-in-progress developed by collaborative partners Shayok Misha Chowdhury & Virginia Grise, Ann Marie Dorr & Paul Ketchum, Jen Goma & Kristine Haruna Lee, Raja Feather Kelly & Daaimah Mubashshir, and Julia Mounsey & Peter Mills Weiss. This series offers the platform of Soho Rep.'s stage to a group of artists with challenging, electrifying, and galvanizing visions. Though each pair has developed a distinct process, the Lab this year has sought specifically to foster works by participants who wholly embrace collaboration, and whose practices often level the hierarchies and discard the boundaries inherent to the roles of "director" and "writer" within traditional theater-making. Reservations for complimentary tickets will be open to the public on December 11, at noon (sohorep.org, 212.352.3101).
About the Collaborators and Their Projects
Jen Goma & Kristine Haruna Lee
Saturday, January 19, 3pm
Sunday, January 20, 7:30pm
With the performance installation plural (love), Jen Goma & Kristine Haruna Lee flirt with the boundaries of desire, power, and responsibility, building an environment that feels akin to stepping into a soft BDSM roleplay. Always written and performed anew based on its audience and physical surroundings (from the NY Hall of Science planetarium, to theatre festivals, to a hotel), plural (love) is an opportunity for Goma and Lee to report their latest findings on love, desire, intimacy, sex and sexuality, and its relationship to transparency, ethics, and equity.
Originally inspired by auto-theorists such as Audre Lorde, Maggie Nelson, and Roland Barthes, Goma and Lee layer political, cultural, and social theory with their own autobiographical stories as Asian American femme women, and their experiences of desire and being desired. They perform their musings through a pastiche of intricate styles that include pop songs with lyrics by Sartre, femme rituals, live podcasts, intimate humor, radical truth-telling, and community engagement.
Ann Marie Dorr & Paul Ketchum
Good and Noble Beings
Saturday, January 19, 7:30pm
Sunday, January 20, 3pm
Good and Noble Beingsis a stupid adaptation of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. The performance is the result of a compilation of bits of language that Ketchum found funny in the post-structuralist text-and that ultimately started to sound like pieces of dialogue between as many people as possible.
Dorr and Ketchum have no idea what they are doing because A Thousand Plateaus is impossible to read-but it seems, to them, that the book is about nonhierarchical structures of being. They are hoping to deconstruct late capitalist notions of hierarchy and structural meaning while simultaneously blowing everyone's mind. God is a Lobster. Welcome to the Rhizome.
Daaimah Mubashshir & Raja Feather Kelly
The Chronicles of Cardigan and Khente
Wednesday, January 23, 7:30pm
Saturday, January 26, 7:30pm
Collaborators Daaimah Mubashshir & Raja Feather Kelly were drawn together out of a desire to locate truths, the sublime, and to expand the vocabulary of blackness on stage. Kelly's artistic practice combines dance, sketch comedy, minstrelsy, and devised theatre; Mubashshir conceived Everyday Afroplay, a daily theatrical writing practice on blackness and the black body that serves as a well-spring of material for her company of collaborators.
Together, they have developed one Everyday Afroplay into the first episode of a larger work-The Chronicles of Cardigan and Khente-which centers the experience of two black corporate executives as they navigate climbing the ladder toward financial liberation. In the style of a Post - Black Minstrelsy, Cardigan and Khente's first question is: Why does success and freedom always come down to "what do they think of us?"
Virginia Grise (writer) & Shayok Misha Chowdhury (director)
Thursday, January 24, 7:30pm
Sunday, January 27, 3pm
On October 24th, 1871, 20 Chinese men were tortured and hanged in downtown LA. This mass lynching-the largest in U.S. history-took place on Calle de los Negros, named for its original inhabitants: dark-skinned Californios of indigenous, African, and Spanish blood. This coincidence of space insists: the American story, of migration and displacement, is a palimpsest-a parchment written on, erased, then written on again, the traces of the old words ghosting underneath the new. Virginia Grise's rasgos asiaticos looks to a history that's been (imperfectly) erased: Chinese settlement in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. It's about moving bodies and porous borders-How do you make a home in inhospitable country?
rasgos asiaticos is part hybrid-book-comprising drafts of scenes, splinters of text and poetry, as well as non-textual source material-and part multimedia performance-creating a mosaic of layered voices (speaking English, Spanish, and Cantonese), music, and movement. Director Shayok Misha Chowdhury has selected pieces of the book to excavate in this performance about moving bodies and porous borders, which aims to re-imagine how we think about immigration in the US-Mexico borderlands.
Peter Mills Weiss & Julia Mounsey
while you were partying
Friday, January 25, 7:30pm
Saturday, January 26, 3pm
Peter Mills Weiss and Julia Mounseytake a fantastical approach to analyzing their own histories of aggression, impotence, and mental health with while you were partying. This piece takes the form of a staged reading of a screenplay-a bizarre, self-sacrificing hero fantasy of an aging man-child, whose relationship with his highly supportive mother manifests as a dream ballet with a chilling conclusion.
Weiss and Mounsey began working together after noticing their shared interest in speaking directly to audiences as "themselves" in a way that complicates identity and authenticity. Their work, like [50/50] Old School Animation (which will be performed at Under the Radar at The Public Theater this January 2019) places audiences in uncomfortable spaces as it gets at the heart of challenging moral questions.
About the 2017-2019 Lab
Over Soho Rep.'s 43-year history, the acclaimed company has been a national leader in producing innovative, diverse new work, frequently by early career artists. The theater's ability to successfully uphold this commitment is due, in large part, to the fact that the company's Mainstage productions are the culmination of meaningful relationships that began earlier with emerging artists through the Writer/Director Lab and Soho Rep.'s Studio program.
The Lab has, in its near-20 years, given curatorial roles to a number of artists as its co-chairs and has helped nurture and bring wider recognition to the work of numerous artists who would go on to become leading voices and visionaries of American theater today-including David Adjmi, Annie Baker, Clare Barron, Kate Benson, Thomas Bradshaw, Michael Yates Crowley, Jason Grote, Amy Herzog, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Janine Nabers, Max Posner, Susan Soon He Stanton, Jenny Schwartz, Heidi Schreck, Lloyd Suh, Anne Washburn, Knud Adams, May Adrales, Arin Arbus, Rachel Chavkin, Will Davis, Maria Goyanes, Lila Neugebauer, Sarah Rasmussen, Ken Rus Schmoll, Awoye Timpo, Soho Rep.'s own Sarah Benson, and Jackie Sibblies Drury (We Are Proud to Present..., Fairview), who has co-chaired the 2017-2019 lab alongside William Burke (the food was terrible, PIONEERS!#goforth).
Soho Rep. Artistic Director Sarah Benson, who herself served as a co-chair of and director within the Lab, explains, "The Lab was born in a living room, 20 years ago-before there were labs and readings everywhere-with artists responding to the fact that there was no space for writers and directors to be around each other. When I was given the chance to co-chair in 2004 it was my first major curatorial opportunity in New York. As a young director it was revelatory to be around other writers and directors in the midst of new-play making and to be exposed to divergent approaches to directing and writing. I'm deeply inspired by Jackie and William's vision for the evolution of the program. They are writers who approach bringing a text to the stage in a highly collaborative way. Their leadership in disrupting the idea that the director is a service artist is especially exciting to me. They are celebrating and amplifying the specific and idiosyncratic ways theater artists can each serve a holistic process."
In organizing the 2017-2019 Lab, Soho Rep., Jackie Sibblies Drury and William Burke noted that what the current New York Theater landscape lacked were labs at this level for artists who may transcend the given titles of "playwright" or "director."
The 2017-2019 Lab has set a number of precedents for Soho Rep. For the first time ever, collaborators were asked to apply together with a project-creating a space for artists with a clear affinity for one another's practices, who had already established an artistic partnership or had specified desires to do so. Each pair of artists is being given 30 hours of rehearsal time in the fall, an additional 30 hours of development and tech time, and two performances in Soho Rep.'s theater at 46 Walker Street in TriBeCa, where "big plays in a small room" (Wall Street Journal) offer "more excitement per chair than any space in town" (New York Magazine)
While previous Labs lasted a season, the 2017-2019 Lab has created an enduring community among its five pairs of collaborators over the course of two years. Beyond their pairs, as an overall group, they have met regularly, and have built a supportive community-from presenting excerpts to one another to organizing outings to see one another's work outside of the Lab. Artists leave the Lab having gotten to test current versions of their developing works in front of an audience, in a week that celebrates both the work they've done and the work they'll continue.
Jackie Sibblies Drury says, "I'm really excited about the artists in this year's lab. Each group is working on something that is vital to our current time in a way that feels distinct in terms of form, or representation, or tone, or some combination. Everyone has brought such generosity to the group, both as artists and as people; there is so much mutual respect and admiration, so I know the collaborations will last much longer than the life of the lab itself. Each piece has been developed in layered, idiosyncratic ways, and these presentations will serve as an important step in the both the creation of these pieces as well as the careers of these artists."
William Burke says, "In considering applicants for the Lab, we read artists' their individual work, but responded to projects that had electricity between the collaborators. Just by changing the requirement for submission [to pairs], there was a striking, stark difference in the artists who applied, and their interest in developing new ways of making art. This series culminates the Lab, but what they're presenting are by no means final products of what they're doing as collaborators. These are active, alive pieces, and the artists are not done working together."