BWW Interview: Tyler Mercer of Live Source Theatre Group and SOLSTICE PARTY!
Tyler Mercer, the Executive Artistic Director of Live Source Theatre Group, is directing their world premiere of SOLSTICE PARTY! that is being performed at A.R.T./New York Theatres. The show is written by Susan Soon He Stanton, the staff writer for HBO's TV series "Succession."
Live Source Theatre Group is a New York-based company of multidisciplinary artists with a unique mission to elevate the role of designers in the creation, development, and production of new theatrical works. The group uses both classic and original plays to reveal and explore contemporary themes, drawing from a blend of styles, stories, and live sources. With innovative design and technology in constant play with highly stylized performances, Live Source engages audiences through a bold new theatre aesthetic. Live Source has performed in venues such as 3LD, BRIC, New Ohio, HERE, La MaMa, Pregones Theatre and more.
Originally commissioned and developed by Live Source, SOLSTICE PARTY! is about a group of friends who gather to celebrate the Summer Solstice together in the deep Upstate New York woods behind an old farmhouse. What begins as a casual, fun weekend quickly devolves into something more sinister; a power-struggle and then a game of survival that is by turns bizarre and shocking. Written as a Jonestown parable for the Trump era, playwright Susan Soon He Stanton explores themes of "group-think" and betrayal that instigate our deepest primal fears.
Mercer is both Executive Artistic Director and a founding member of Live Source. His work with the company includes MACBETH (Shop Theater), WE ARE LIVE (Access Theater), BOHEMIAN LIGHTS (Pregones Theatre & HERE Arts Center), THE INCREDIBLE FOX SISTERS (New Ohio Theater), and various film/video projects, including Screen Tests, Latest Trends, and Bohemian Lights: The Film. His additional film production credits include Revenge for Jolly! (Strongman / Last Pictures, dir. Chadd Harbold), Hunter (dir. Ian Samplin), and post-production for Hugo (Sikelia Productions, dir. Martin Scorsese). Tyler has worked in various capacities with The Wooster Group, director Kate Whoriskey, Ma-Yi Theater Company, and is currently on the development team at the Mark Morris Dance Group in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. He's originally from Los Angeles, California.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Tyler Mercer about his career, Live Source and the show, SOLSTICE PARTY!
Tell us about your earliest interest in theater.
That could be summed up in one of dozens of home videos my mom has of me directing my sister in backyard productions, like Phantom of the Opera. She was never interested in acting, and always wanted to back out midway through, so story has it I made her sign contracts. So I suppose the director/producer role was pretty much inevitable!
Has there been a particular mentor or mentors that inspired your career?
I'm inspired by a fairly wide range of people. One of my favorite parts of our process with Live Source is that we pull content and inspiration from a wide variety of source material - film, literature, dance, true stories, foreign plays. So I look to artists like David Lynch, William Faulkner, Mark Morris, and Ivo von Hove and my work in turn is very influenced by them. But I've also had the pleasure of learning from the rehearsal rooms of The Wooster Group, which taught me about kinesthetically-charged storytelling, and of Kate Whoriskey, who taught me about high stakes directing and getting the most out of the story's drama.
Tell us a little about the beginnings of Live Source Theatre Group.
I started Live Source in 2011 with Chris Dieman under a crazy idea that enough theatre companies were devoted to playwrights, actors, and adaptations, and we wanted to do something a bit different. The goal was to make a unique commitment to visual storytelling through design, elevating each discipline of scenery, projections, costumes, lighting, and sound to become essential components of each theatrical world. In the past six years, we've produced five world premieres which have served a full meal of theatre to their audiences.
What are some of the challenges of your role as Artistic Director?
The answer is most definitely: wearing many hats at once. As with most emerging companies, I ultimately share all responsibilities with my co-founder Chris, and it never shows more than before the first performance of a new work. The evening of our first SOLSTICE PARTY! preview, we were both running back and forth between rehearsal, front-of-house meetings, design notes, music rehearsals, and maybe one hundred other simultaneous things. The big pay-off happens when the show goes up, and all the talent we support is shared with our audiences. That's when the real magic happens - the excitement of an immersive, highly-designed world that captivates audiences and keeps us commissioning and developing new work for future seasons.
Why do you think Solstice Party is an important show for our times?
We've referred to SOLSTICE PARTY! as a "Jonestown parable for the Trump era", and while the show is about neither Jonestown nor our current President, its script is profoundly timely. Susan wrote this play based on a series of interviews she conducted with a man who had recently defected from a cult in the Pacific Northwest. Simultaneously, the election happened. The play is really a mixture of those two extreme circumstances. It centers around five friends who are doing their very best to work through unbelievable losses and their own failures. They create a utopia in the woods where they can escape from the circumstances of their real lives, and the atrocities of the world. But despite its timely tune-in to this kind of social anxiety, the play is also so timeless in its message of perseverance and living your life responsibly. Despite their best efforts, these characters cannot truly exempt themselves from the atrocities of the world - and there is a sort of reckoning in trippy, dark ways only Susan Stanton could dream up.
Anything else absolutely anything you want BWW readers to know.
Come see our show! We're playing at the beautiful new A.R.T./New York Theatres and are having the greatest time. Join us for the party, now through November 19th.
Follow Live Source Theatre Group on social media, Facebook: www.facebook.com/livesourcegroup, Twitter and Instagram: @livesourcegroup
SOLSTICE PARTY! runs through 19 at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53 St.).For more info you can visit http://www.Live-Source.org.
Photo Credit: Steven Trumon Gray & Chad Wagner