The Kitchen Presents Marianna Ellenberg's PAWEL & EBOLA

The Kitchen Presents Marianna Ellenberg's PAWEL & EBOLA

The Kitchen presents Marianna Ellenberg's Pawel & Ebola, a new play that tells the story of the imagined offspring of neurologist and famed "hysteric"-photographer Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot in order to examine trauma and how notions of hysteria have been projected onto women from fin-de-siècle France to contemporary America (February 22-24). This is the largest onstage undertaking yet for Ellenberg: the film and performance artist sets her cinematic taste for camp and psychodrama onstage in this full-length, time-traversing play. Combining narrative and fragmentary text, dance, live audio experimentation and electro-acoustic music, Pawel & Ebola continues Ellenberg's deconstruction of themes like institutional misogyny, spirituality, and the female subject in American mythologies. This trenchant riff on various power structures asks how the global capitalist societies of today can contort even feminism to exploitative ends.

In Pawel & Ebola, the fictional children of Charcot and his patient Genevieve live alone together in a decaying New England mansion. Their abandoned estate becomes something of an absurdist theatrical hellscape where the two titular siblings, neglected by their father and infirm mother, assume every familial role within a sadistic, incestuous relationship. Borne of the discourse surrounding the scientific community in the late 19th century, the story bridges history and modernity and veers into chaos as a local cult, The Method, develops a mystical obsession with Ebola as a sacrificial lamb, and devises a plan to kidnap and kill her. The play focuses on Ebola (played by I Love Dick's India Salvor Menuez), as she discovers her spiritual powers-and journeys through perceptions and myths regarding her gender and mental state.

Ellenberg turned to Charcot as a symbolic subject due to the precedents set by his work, as well as the vehement feminist critiques of it. She explains, "Charcot was a transitional figure, creating this bridge from the world where mental illness was thought of as possession-that you were overtaken by a demon, rather than experiencing symptoms of psychosis. He brought mental health issues from pre-modernist to the modern era, where they start getting separated from religion and voodoo and start being seen as scientific, as a problem with the brain as opposed to the soul. His work led to much healthier ways of dealing with mental health. But it was very gendered and very theatrical, and has been critiqued heavily as a way of controlling women, as well, [so I took him] as a jumping-off point."

Postmodern flourishes playfully abound in Ellenberg's dark comedic work, here seen in the blurring of temporality and language, with text extracted from 19th-century accounts paired with millennial colloquialisms, and biblical references and New Age jargon. Permeating her work, as well, is a personal desire to trace and understand spiritual and psychological heirlooms: Jewishness, and the traumas experienced by her father, a Holocaust refugee (and now a psychiatrist). In Pawel & Ebola, the idea of trauma passed down from Charcot's so-called hysteric patient to her daughter reflects Ellenberg's own understanding of her family's history of anxiety. "I create my own crazy language which is ultimately about me trying to find some kind of spirituality," she says.

This project was created in collaboration with choreographer Greg Zuccolo. The cast includes Maxwell Cosmo Cramer, India Salvor Menuez, Mikéah Earnest Jennings, Deidrea Hamid, Angeli Sion, Hanna Lea Novak, and Alexandra Tatarsky. Music composed by Paula Matthusen with live sound and electronics by Anthony Dean. Set Design by Jian Jung. Lighting Design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew. Molly Zimmelman is the stage manager.

Pawel & Ebola is organized at The Kitchen by Lumi Tan. This event will take place on February 22, 23, and 24at 8pm at The Kitchen (512 West 19th Street). Tickets are $20 for general admissions and $16 for members, and are currently on sale. With any questions, please contact the box office at or by phone at 212.255.5793 x11.

Funding Credits

Marianna Ellenberg: Pawel & Ebola is made possible with support from Marta Heflin Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

About Marianna Ellenberg

Marianna Ellenberg's work centers around re-imaging the female subject within contemporary American popular culture and mythology. She interweaves strands in feminist discourse, consumer critique and gender subversion into her theatrical performances, videos and texts. The aesthetics of transgression, feminist abjection and bodily deconstruction each come to play in her work. Oscillating between transgressive improvisational strategies and rigorous structuralism, her work seeks to create a new language that blurs the lines between theatrical performance and visual art. Ellenberg's projects have been exhibited internationally including; Anthology Film Archives, The Collectif Jeune Cinéma (Paris), LA Freewaves (Los Angeles), JOAN (Los Angeles) Migrating Forms, Issue Project Room, Art in General, EMAF (Osnabrueck) and David Lewis (New York City). Recent Press includes Art F City, Art in America, Hyperallergic, Purple and Cahiers du Cinema. She currently teaches in the Digital Arts Department at Pratt Institute.

About The Kitchen

The Kitchen is one of New York City's most forward-looking nonprofit spaces, showing innovative work by emerging and established artists across disciplines. Our programs range from dance, music, performance, and theater to video, film, and art, in addition to literary events, artists' talks, and lecture series. Since its inception in 1971, The Kitchen has been a powerful force in shaping the cultural landscape of this country, and has helped launch the careers of many artists who have gone on to worldwide prominence.


Photo: Thana Brick, with performers Deidrea Hamid and Angeli Sion and costumes by Nancy Stella Soto.

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