17 18 August – November
american repertory theater | expanding the boundaries of theater
Burn All Night Dancing to the End
Playing for Justice in
The Bitter Game WARHOLCAPOTE The Tapes Marked “Truman”
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Artistic Director’s Welcome
MANAGING EDITOR Ryan McKittrick EDITOR Robert Duffley ASSOCIATE EDITORS Rebecca Curtiss Grace Geller Joel Zayac CONTRIBUTORS Elizabeth Amos Yan Chen Robin Kelsey Annabeth Lucas Timothy Patrick McCarthy Zoë Aiko Sonnenberg COPY EDITORS Nicole Banks Yan Chen James Montaño Allison Pichowicz
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Welcome to our 2017/18 Season! This season features the work of visionary artists whose bold, uncompromising voices resonate deeply with our contemporary world.
A.R.T. BOARDS BOARD OF TRUSTEES
BOARD OF ADVISORS
Steve Johnson, Chair Amy Brakeman Laurie Burt Paul Buttenwieser RoAnn Costin Zita Ezpeleta Michael Feinstein Provost Alan M. Garber Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Catherine Gellert Rebecca Grafstein Lori Gross Ann Gund Sarah Hancock Jonathan Hulbert Alan K. Jones Robin Kelsey Herman "Dutch" Leonard Serena Lese Dennis Masel Thomas B. McGrath Rebecca Milikowsky Ward Mooney Bob Murchison Dan Nova Andrew Ory Diane Paulus Diane Quinn Mike Sheehan Sid Yog
Paolo Abelli Frances Shtull Adams Yuriko Jane Anton Robert Bowie, Jr. Philip Burling* Greg Carr Antonia Handler Chayes* Lucy Chung Lizabeth Cohen Lisa Coleman Kathleen Connor Rohit Deshpande Susan Edgman-Levitan Shanti Fry Erin Gilligan Jonathan Glazer Candy Kosow Gold Rachael Goldfarb Barbara Wallace Grossman Peggy Hanratty Marcia Head James Higgins Horace H. Irvine II Brenda Jarrell Emma Torres Johnson Jerry Jordan Dean Huntington Lambert G. Barrie Landry Ursula Liff Timothy Patrick McCarthy Travis McCready Jim Nuzzo Irv Plotkin Martin Puchner Ellen Gordon Reeves Pat Romeo-Gilbert Linda U. Sanger Maggie Seelig Dina Selkoe John A. Shane Michael Shinagel Lisbeth Tarlow Sarasina Tuchen Susan Ware Michael Yogman Stephen H. Zinner, M.D. *Emeriti
We open in August with Burn All Night. This world-premiere musical by a team of emerging artists features a book by Andy Mientus (casts of “Smash,” Spring Awakening) and a synth-pop score by members of the band Teen Commandments. Directed by Jenny Koons (A Sucker Emcee, Theatre for One), the show brings a millennial perspective to a pressing universal question: what should we do in a world whose future is unstable? With choreography designed specifically for OBERON’s club-theater environment by Sam Pinkleton (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), Burn All Night is a danceable, defiant expression of youth on the eve of global catastrophe. WARHOLCAPOTE, our next production and also a world premiere, is the result of a thrilling discovery. At the frantic apex of the Studio 54 seventies, Andy Warhol and Truman Capote decided that they were destined to create a Broadway play together. They recorded their vision for the play on hours and hours of neverbefore-heard tapes, which adaptor Rob Roth (director of Disney's Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, as well as rock-and-roll tours for Alice Cooper, KISS, and others) has crafted into a revelatory “non-fiction invention” in the spirit of Warhol and Capote’s own work. The show is directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot, Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Alongside these productions, our fall lineup includes the performances in our OBERON Presents series, which features the work of boundary-breaking young artists. In September, actor and activist Keith A. Wallace will perform The Bitter Game. This spoken word performance about the trauma caused by police violence, framed by the social experience of watching a basketball game, will open at OBERON before touring to locations around Boston. In November, 600 HIGHWAYMEN will present The Fever, a piece about the ways we assemble and organize, performed in complete collaboration with the audience.
Read on in this Guide for interviews with these artists and insight into what
Robert Brustein As of August 2017
inspired these productions—and keep an eye out for winter and spring issues
covering the rest of our season.
The 2017/18 Season is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which receives support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
COVER Artwork: Adam Rabalais.
See you at the theater!
DIANE PAULUS The Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director American Repertory Theater
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AUGUST 18 SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 AT OBERON
BURN ALL NIGHT Book and Lyrics by Andy Mientus Music by Van Hughes, Nicholas LaGrasta, and Brett Moses Directed by Jenny Koons Choreographed by Sam Pinkleton
In an age of uncertainty, four lost souls come to the city in search of themselves. An unflinching look at being young on the eve of global catastrophe, this world premiere musical directed by Jenny Koons (A Sucker Emcee, In This Moment) and choreographed by Tony nominee Sam Pinkleton (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) features a synthpop score by Teen Commandments members Van Hughes, Nicholas LaGrasta, and Brett Moses with a book and lyrics by Andy Mientus (“Smash”).
WHEN THE WORLD ENDS, WE BURN ALL NIGHT Actor Andy Mientus first met actor-musician Van Hughes nearly ten years ago. Now Mientus, debuting as writer of both book and lyrics, has joined forces with Teen Commandments, a Brooklyn-based synth-pop band made up of Hughes, Brett Moses, and Nicholas LaGrasta, to create Burn All Night. Interview by Yan Chen
YAN CHEN: How did you start working together on Burn All Night? ANDY MIENTUS: We met at my twenty-second birthday party in Santa Monica, California, in a bathtub. For real. And we were friends for years. Van was a musician as well as an actor, and I had this idea—a very vague one—about kids going out, with music that really sounds like the music they would be listening to. I wrote a quick, short script and sent it to Van. VAN HUGHES: I had definitely wanted to write a show—it was serendipitous, the way that it happened. AM: I wanted to make a show about the kids who were like me, and the kids I was encountering. We were at this stage in our lives when we were going out all the time and staying out until dawn having all these crazy experiences against this backdrop of the end of the world. I was feeling a lot of anxiety about world events—and this was during the Obama years. This was when things were good. I was thinking, what if we made those feelings hyperliteral and immediate? How would my friends and I react if the world was ending on this day? And so we started. How did you start building that world of the show and the music within it? AM: At our first meetings, I had the characters more than I had a plot. So we talked about who they were
and who they would listen to. We literally made lists of bands: Holly listens to Sleigh Bells, Chvrches, and Charli XCX. We wanted the music to sound like those artists. Van, what has writing songs for this musical been like compared to your songwriting process for Teen Commandments? VH: In a way, my experience with Teen Commandments is parallel to what the characters in our show experience. I just met Brett at a party, and we became good friends and started writing together. Then he started this band with his roommate Nick, and we also became friends and started going out in Brooklyn and writing together. It was when they had already started helping me write the show that we thought, “Maybe we should all do this together,” and then it was a couple years later that I actually joined Teen Commandments. And like Andy was saying earlier, we’d both been in the musical scene for a while. Especially when you’re doing workshops, you learn how they’re made. I thought: what if a show didn’t follow the standard theater form as much? I wondered if I could get away with lyrics like you would hear on an album, or the radio. AM: Nick and Brett check us and keep us in the synthpop world, which is great for us. Anything that’s too musical theater, they tell us so.
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(L-R): Andy Mientus, Van Hughes, Nicholas LaGrasta, and Brett Moses.
something public, texting “I am so sad, I am so anxious, I am so… whatever.” That contrast is an interesting way to bring out the frustration and anxiety you were mentioning earlier. Could you talk about how the show developed out of those initial experiments? VH: For a long while it was a backburner project; I would say three or four years. The reason that Teen Commandments haven’t put out so much music is that we’ve been writing the show, and we have work in the can that we’re hoping to deliver soon.
VH: We want it to be authentic—we’re just giving you a song the way you hear it. The way I imagine sound for the show, the music should be all around you, the way that you hear pop music in a club or party environment, not just coming at you from one side, like in a proscenium theater. In what other ways does Burn All Night depart from traditional musicals? AM: What’s funny is, Van and I are from this world—we’ve worked in theater for a lot of years, and we really love it. So we actually play by some pretty traditional rules, but we try to subvert them. In classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, characters sing when they can’t speak anymore, when words alone aren’t enough to convey what they’re feeling. So we thought, what if we take that same idea, but have them sing when they have to escape the scene, because what’s going on inside of them is too much to bring up? VH: They break away to divert into their own mind, like a music video or a soliloquy, and then come back to the scene. It’s a common trend with people of our generation, with their phones. In a tricky situation, you might just be like, “Oh, I’ve got a text—”
AM: From start to finish it was close to ten years, but in actuality it was more like two years of hard, fast development. Then, when our director Jenny Koons came on two years ago, things really changed for me as a book writer. She gave me strong guidance in helping shape disparate ideas and characters into one streamlined whole. So the show has been a long time in the making. Andy, what was it like for you making the transition from actor to writer of book and lyrics? AM: It’s scary, because I’ve always written things for myself, but to take myself seriously enough as a writer is a big leap. I wish I could say that I’ve developed a great deal of confidence—I feel that I’ve developed a great deal of bravado, and I’ve realized that life is short. There’s no time to be scared of yourself and your abilities. I want to do this, and enough people on my team seem to believe in this thing, so why not put it out there and see what happens? Jenny was really instrumental in giving me a process and telling me, “Normally, this is how this works.” She wrote out all the songs and scenes on notecards and laid them all out on the floor, which looked very similar to a scene that I had with Debra Messing in NBC’s “Smash” when she was teaching me how to write a musical by using notecards. I sent that screenshot to Jenny, and she said, “Oh my God, we look great.” So that’s a real thing that people do—I thought it was just made up for TV. It’s really useful to have everything laid out that way.
AM: —and just look away. You’ve got a whole private thing going on while you’re doing
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A driving factor for Teen Commandments’ music is dance, which will also feature prominently in the show. What role does dance play in the storytelling of Burn All Night? VH: It’s a release in the same way that the songs function. The world is coming to an end, and I have to distract myself. AM: Dance is so much a part of this world that we’re trying to invite the audience into, and I feel so lucky that we’ve got Sam Pinkleton as our choreographer. He is a big believer that everyone is a dancer. In the show, we have a diversity of body types and experience, of people who don’t look cool, but who dance with such abandon that they do look cool. He knows how to capture that and shape that. What do you hope OBERON’s club-theater setting will contribute to audiences’ experience? AM: I want them to feel that they’re in on something, the way you feel when you stumble into that after-hours party and something unbelievable is going on. You’ve been given a window into a world that you might not ever have gotten to see otherwise. VH: It’s also an inclusive environment. Not necessarily that you’re a voyeur, but you’re a part of it. What else would you like to express to audiences before the premiere? AM: Even though we’ve talked about how different this musical is, it’s rooted in love for the genre. And although we’re writing about cool kids and cool scenes, there’s a lot of heart and humor in them. These people try to be cool, but they’re just lumpy, gross, normal humans trying to look out for each other. VH: They’re just young, and everyone was young once. It’s like New York City in the seventies. Same thing. City going bankrupt. The world is ending. People were out at Studio 54 hitting it hard and blowing off steam. It’s a desperately universal thing.
Yan Chen is a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.
KICKING OUT THE CHORUS BOY How choreographer Sam Pinkleton is breaking the mold
Photos (L-R): Burn All Night creative team members; Jenny Koons. Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 at A.R.T.; Irina Danilova. Sam Pinkleton leading rehearsal for The Great Comet at A.R.T.; Evgenia Eliseeva.
by Elizabeth Amos Limbs flying, hips gyrating, and endless sequences of jumps, flips, and turns—if you’ve witnessed dancers close enough to sweat on you doing all the above, you may have choreographer Sam Pinkleton to thank. Pinkleton is known for shaking up the Broadway chorus with his unique choreographic vision focused on collaboration, athleticism, and a well-developed sense of play. Pinkleton rejoins the A.R.T. this season following his success with the now Tony Award-winning Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, for which he himself received a Tony nomination. Exuberant and expansive— in both the A.R.T.’s Loeb Drama Center, then in Broadway’s massive Imperial Theater— the choreography for The Great Comet has signaled the arrival of a whole new generation of musicals, including Pinkleton’s upcoming project, Burn All Night. Open, engaged, and humming with energy—even after a long morning of meetings— Pinkleton embodies the intensity and quirkiness of his work. Perched at a cabaret-style table overlooking OBERON’s dance floor, he animatedly expresses his excitement about the space and Burn All Night’s team and score. “I heard this music and I lost my mind,” he explains. “I thought, ‘this can’t possibly be from a musical. It’s music I want to listen to on the subway and go out dancing to.’ It’s insane.” Pinkleton operates in a different way from most choreographers. His dancers must be armed with dynamism, drive, and a willingness to take risks, but technique is more of a bonus than a requirement. “I’m trying to bring the best and the weirdest thing out of every human, whether they’re a technically trained dancer or not,” he explains. “The thing I love about being a choreographer is the thing I love about people dancing at weddings—REAL dancing.” Pinkleton’s dreams of becoming a Broadway chorus boy swiftly changed course when it became clear during his time at New York University that a directing track, rather than a dance major, would make better use of his abilities. “I love dance, but I never had the skill or the interest, honestly, in taking on the technical part of it,” he says. Attending NYU allowed the young artist to become immersed in New York’s downtown theater world, where opportunities began to greet him. “I found myself in a series of rooms that needed a person to make dance happen, and I was the one who jumped around the most, so I became that person.” Those chance opportunities have developed into an eclectic résumé of choreographic achievements involving events
Burn All Night choreographer Sam Pinkleton (below) returns to A.R.T. following his Tony-nominated work on A.R.T.'s 2015 production of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.
and productions on, off, and far away from Broadway. From Manhattan Theatre Club’s Heisenberg and Roundabout Theatre Company’s Machinal, to Rimbaud in New York at BAM and collaborations with dance companies like The Dance Cartel (ONTHEFLOOR at OBERON in spring 2017), Pinkleton’s experience is multifaceted. Across this range of subjects and venues, his choreography seeks opportunities for connection, for audience members to make eye contact with performers and be welcomed into a mutual experience through dance. The presence of the audience in his choreographic vision, including Burn All Night’s invitation to audience members to mingle and dance with the performers, adds a thrilling element of unpredictability. “There are all these amazing variables. That, to me, is why live theater happens: there’s an element of chance.” For the choreographer, these moments of connection are integral to a larger mission of making the arts a more inclusive experience: he seeks to create art that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their education, occupation, or theatrical knowledge. “I not only believe in, but aggressively want to support populist theater because I think making something for as many people as possible without compromising the integrity of the work is a beautiful challenge,” he says. This challenge goes hand in hand with
another goal of his: cultivating diversity on stage as well as in the audience. “Representation is not just political. I believe that it holds profound emotional and narrative payoff,” he emphatically asserts, going on to explain that he wants viewers to be able to recognize their communities in his casts and choreography. “The spectator’s ability to say at any production: I can see my world there, I can see myself there, and there is an equality in the performer’s movement that reminds me they are individuals rather than a beautiful cast of machines—that is the thing that I would say can unite all of my work.”
Elizabeth Amos is a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.
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THERE IS NO LINE Director Jenny Koons on the politics of participation
The room is the thing for Burn All Night director Jenny Koons. Grounding her directing work in experience as an educator and organizer, Koons sees rooms—rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and performance venues— as the spaces where we model, and redefine, the social patterns of oppression or liberation. “I’ve been thinking about directing and theater, and the rooms that we’re forming, as a mode of community organizing,” said Koons in a June interview just before Burn All Night auditions at OBERON. “I wonder how we continue to create spaces in which we collide as a training for the unknown—and how do we take what we’ve learned in our little room where we’re making a play and magnify that?” Koons’ recent productions pursue innovation by facilitating atypical encounters. “I’m really charged by the idea of what it means to bring a really diverse room together—in every sense of what those words mean—to make something that we, singularly, wouldn’t
be able to imagine,” she says. As a director of Theatre for One, Koons staged intimate yet public exchanges inside a mobile, miniature, state-of-the-art performance venue. “I’m most excited by projects involving a collision of some kind, whether that’s a DJ and a poet”— as in her 2014 A Sucker Emcee—“or, in the case of Burn All Night, a synth-pop band and two Broadway actors.” Burn All Night draws inspiration from club culture on the eve of global catastrophe. “The show asks, ‘how do you grow and experiment and be young when your future is uncertain?'” Koons explains. “Is it better just to go hard, burn bright, and burn out?" Developed for OBERON’s club-theater environment, the piece invites audience members to share the space with performers and dance along with the show’s live band. For Koons, dissolving spatial boundaries is a crucial step toward expressing the millennial sensibility at the heart of the new musical. “Burn All Night uses millennials as a way for us all to think about ourselves,” she says. “There’s no line between ‘those crazy 20-year-olds’ and the 50-yearolds who after November 2016 were like, ‘This is not the country I thought I lived in.’ The show feels more real now than it did when we started.” Since November, Koons’ own hybrid experience as a director, facilitator, and community organizer has mobilized action across the country. As a steering committee member for The Ghostlight Project, Koons is organizing actions by over 500 member theaters (including A.R.T.). Inspired by the tradition of a leaving a “ghost light” on in a darkened theater, the Project facilitated lamplighting events outside member theaters on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. Audiences, artists, and administrators gathered to lift lights in a public pledge to foster values of inclusion and compassion in the face of persistent exclusionary practices and rising instances of hate speech nationwide. Koons’ methods as a director and organizer draw on
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her experience as an educator and facilitator. While keeping active ties to the theater, Koons worked as a public school teacher in New York City then as a director of a literacy education initiative before returning to theater full-time in 2012. In that year, her Odyssey Project unfolded across twelve months and all five boroughs of New York City. Featuring performances on a commuter ferry, on soccer fields, and on Brighton Beach, the project was a turning point for Koons, proving that new types of performance could successfully reach beyond the walls of existing establishments. In theater, education, and activism, Koons finds herself pursuing a unified goal: “How do I move a group of people towards something that is invisible, that we collectively have to imagine? And how do I access everyone’s connection to that invisible or imaginary thing so that we all move forward together?” In these collective pursuits, Koons points out, form can be even more important than content. Referencing the work of emancipatory educator Paulo Freire, Koons emphasizes that participatory models of art can be incubators for social activation, even when their plotlines aren’t explicitly “political.” In Burn All Night’s invitation to dance, Koons finds a link to the courage required by other opportunities to participate. “I can sit in the dark and feel scared, and then get up and dance. Afterwards, I have the experience of pushing through that feeling of fear, so the next time I’m at a protest, and I think, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ I know that I can.” Instead of rushing audience members into awkward encounters, Koons says, Burn All Night views them as core collaborators in the work—key components in the construction of the environments where the story takes place. “There is no line; there is no ‘us’ and ‘them,’” she says. “It is a collective experience. In a classroom setting and in a theater setting, I’m thinking, ‘How do we truly bring out the best of everyone so that it feels like a collective success?’” In this respect, Koons offers an innovative model for directing itself: artistry not as a linear hierarchy of power, but a collaborative vision of artists and audiences moving, marching, and dancing in concert toward a more equitable ideal.
Robert Duffley is Editor & Assistant Dramaturg at A.R.T.
Photos (L-R): Jenny Koons. Burn All Night Rehearsal; Evgenia Eliseeva.
by Robert Duffley
Director Jenny Koons grounds her theater work in her experience as an educator and community organizer. Above: Koons works with performers in rehearsal for Burn All Night.
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A.R.T.'s exploration of vibrant, cutting-edge performance continues THE BITTER GAME
SEPT. 14 - 16, 2017 AT OBERON
Award-winning director, writer, and performer Keith A. Wallace presents a solo performance in the form of a basketball game, charged with pain, poetry, and laughter about what it means to survive while black in America. After a limited engagement at OBERON, The Bitter Game will tour to a series of venues around greater Boston.
NOV. 15 - 19, 2017 AT THE EX
New York-based theater company 600 HIGHWAYMEN tests the limits of individual and collective responsibility, and our willingness to be there for one another. Performed in complete collaboration with the audience, The Fever examines how we assemble, organize, and care for the bodies around us. Who will you be when our eyes are on you? What will we see when we all look your way?
GLOWBERON AT OBERON
JOHN KELLY SEPT. 21, 2017
Photo: Maria Baranova
BRIDGET BARKAN NOV. 16, 2017 Now in its third year at OBERON, GLOWBERON is an acclaimed series that features exceptional storytellers, solo playwrights, and cabaret and performance artists. The series was founded by Quinn Cox and is produced in partnership with Cambridgeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 600 HIGHWAYMEN'S The Fever (at the Loeb Drama Center's black box theater, The Ex, in November) Glow Festival and is performed in complete collaboration with Provincetownâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the audience. americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 SeasonFestival. 9 Afterglow
THE COURT OF JUSTICE Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy in conversation with The Bitter Game creator & performer Keith A. Wallace on the role of art in a new era of activism.
media, and then the whole thing went viral. The next day, I had phone calls and voicemails and emails from media folks wanting to talk. In that moment I was like, “Okay, there’s power here to do something with this art form that I love and the craft that I’ve been studying for so long. There’s something here to explore.” Let me ask you a specific question about space. The A.R.T. folks probably don’t know—and there’s no reason you should know, either— that I’ve played basketball my entire life. Still do, slowly. There’s so much that happens on basketball courts—physically, performatively, politically, culturally, socially, even sexually. It’s a place of both connection and competition. So I’m struck by the choice to stage The Bitter Game on a basketball court. Was that a choice you made because you play ball and feel a particular connection to that location, or is there something about the hoop court that symbolizes something larger? Responding to the crisis of police violence, The Bitter Game, created and performed by Keith A. Wallace (above) draws on the structure and setting of a basketball game.
TIMOTHY PATRICK MCCARTHY: The first thing I always ask artists is about the origin story of the project: Where did this come from? What inspired you? KEITH A. WALLACE: That word “inspiration” has a connotation of a stroke of genius. But really, the genesis of this piece came from my own personal pain, anger, and a deep sadness and disappointment about this issue of police violence, particularly what seems like a targeted attack against communities of color, impoverished communities, disenfranchised communities. I was in graduate school when Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson. And it obviously wasn’t the first instance of police violence, and it certainly wasn’t the last, but there was something about that particular instance that felt personal to me in a way that other instances hadn’t. I think it was the first time that I actually realized in a visceral way that this could be me, or any number of people that I know or care about.
And then there were the unnerving details of the case: he was in the process of fleeing when he was shot, his hands were up, he was unarmed. And he was left lying, uncovered, on the ground for four hours in the same community where he grew up, where people knew him and loved him. That felt like a really egregious public display of supremacy, like a modern-day public lynching. It was that realization that galvanized me to action. So I decided to stage a silent performance art protest in LOVE Park in downtown Philly. It’s a very touristy area, with lots of foot traffic, so I knew it would get some people’s attention. I restaged Michael Brown’s murder scene, using my body. It was a silent protest. I lay there for about an hour. There were a couple of minutes where people were not sure what was going on. But after a while, people just ignored it and continued to get their photos with the statue. They kind of cropped me out, or stepped over me, walked around me. One of the friends who was with me snapped some photos and put them on social
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As my co-creator, Deborah Stein, and I were thinking about the most dynamic place to stage something like this, I began to think about how, in black culture and communities, block parties, street fairs—all things synonymous with black joy and revelry and celebration— And safety— And safety—are all synonymous with the basketball court. It represented the epicenter of black culture for me and my experience growing up: at the same time that all those revelatory and amazing things happen there, there are also undesirable things, like drug dealing, and violence, and shootings. And that juxtaposition encapsulated my experience growing up in North Philadelphia. At a moment of euphoric joy, a fight breaks out, or gunshots ring out. And it still happens today when I go home to visit. And that experience deserves to be represented, too, just like Chekhov. Another thing we discussed was “the talk.” “The talk” is a coming-of-age conversation, or a
coming-before-age conversation, that parents within communities of color are forced to have about how to conduct yourself not just with law enforcement but in general. How do you behave— what are you doing with your body, your voice? You have to begin to police yourself before the police police you. There’s a mother character in the play who communicates to her son these rules of engagement for life, and uses the rules and the structure of basketball as a metaphor. I remember when my little brother Malcolm got old enough to play hoops after school, his mother and I both told him: “You’ve got to come home at a certain time. The courts aren’t safe after dark.” What we meant by that was the cops and other folks who don’t have your back weren’t generally around in the afternoons. But the minute it gets dark, even when the lights go up on the court, the whole atmosphere changes.
Photos: Keith A. Wallace in The Bitter Game; Jim Carmody.
One of the things that I’ve seen as I’ve been working on this over the years is that basketball is always somewhere in the conversation about policing, because it’s synonymous with black culture in many ways. And then there’s the lighting: I’ve never done a matinee performance outdoors—the show is always performed at dusk into nightfall. So that feeling of surveillance, and the stadium lighting on the basketball court, is a part of the atmosphere of the show. When we’re experiencing moments in the play sonically, we also have the atmosphere influencing how we feel. One of the things that strikes me about your art is that you disrupt: you disrupt the landscape, you disrupt the form, you disrupt the relationship between audience and actor so that it’s not just a kind of spectatorship. There’s a politics to that. Your LOVE Park demonstration can be read in two ways. One is that you’ve disrupted this iconic moment where tourists are trying to get a picture, and you’re in the way. You forced people to reckon with that. A second way to read this is that over time, folks just went about their day. They started to ignore you. No disruption at all. And in a sense, isn't this what happened to Michael Brown? If you connect this to social media, people can see all these videos of police violence and still go about their day. Are you trying to do both of these things: disrupt the landscape and force us to have a reckoning, and place yourself in the way until this becomes routine? It’s all those things. It must be. The heart of what I’m trying to get at with this show is the question of how can I create a sense of “us.” Not any particular group of us, but collective “us.” Police violence is an American issue. Yes, it’s most directly affecting black and brown people in this country, but it’s the responsibility of all of “us” to correct it. And the sooner we start to reframe the language and narrative around that, the sooner we can reckon with it. What you said about social media is important. You see these videos, the posts, the articles—you’re inundated on a daily
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basis. And this is nothing new, right? We have citizen surveillance of police murder now, but this is nothing new. You can date it back to civil rights in the Jim Crow South, and even before that. Imagery of violence against the black body is not something new. In the early twentieth century, anti-lynching advocates flew flags that said: “A black man was lynched yesterday.” It was their version— one hundred years ago—of Facebook Live and Black Lives Matter. And people ignored it then. So, how can we create a piece of art that by nature levels the playing field or makes it a little bit easier to grapple with difficult issues? We do that in The Bitter Game by creating an immersive experience where there’s no spectatorperformer divide: you’re a part of this show. We try to build a sense of community amongst the audience members in this experience from the very beginning so that there is a true feeling of ownership and connectedness to the story and its characters. And when it’s disrupted or when a tragedy sets in, then we all feel the impact, and we’re all responsible for it. The goal for this piece is not for people to leave feeling a sense of catharsis or emotional release. It’s asking, "How are we walking away? How are we arming the audience with information, language, and permission to go and engage with this issue?" That’s a powerful way to look at your art and its impact. But I have a question for you about your comment that this is “an American issue.” On one level, you are absolutely right. Violence is in our DNA as a nation: violence against black and native lives, in particular, slavery and the colonization of indigenous lands. But the fact of the matter is that the particular kind of violence you’re exploring is not simply an “American” thing, right? It’s white people slaughtering black people, again. As you well know, a black audience member and a white audience member are not coming into the theater with the same “American” experience. But I don't want to let A.R.T. audiences off the hook, especially in this Black Lives Matter movement moment. Folks are not coming into the theater with a uniform consciousness, and they’re not going to leave the theater in the same way, either in terms of the impact this piece has on them or in terms of their willingness to engage with the issues it raises. From your perspective—as a self-described “actor-vist” who is trying to have a real impact on diverse audiences—how do you keep all of this in place? How do you juggle competing identities, expectations, and experiences? In creating this piece, I wanted to ask, “How can we get to the most human aspect of this?” We all know what grief is. We all know what a sense of loss is. We all know what it means to worry about somebody that we care about. We all know what it means to know that you’re in community with somebody or something. So I’m asking, how can we strip as much of the minutiae away to really
get to the heart of what it is? If we can recreate that experience and rope people in early on, then we prime the space for interesting discoveries to happen. For the most part, the piece has resonated with different demographics. And it’s amazing to be able to have those different demographics of people occupy the same space at the same time. Let me ask a question about empathy. One of the things I teach in my course “American Protest Literature from Tom Paine to Tupac” is that different artists employ a range of rhetorical strategies to connect with their audiences. One is shock value, another is symbolic action, and then there’s empathy—some representation or approximation of a different kind of life that gets people to see themselves in that experience, even if there’s not a lot in common. Empathy is hard in general, but it’s really hard— perhaps hardest—when it comes to race. White people and black people have a very hard time in the United States trying to empathize with one another, or understand what it is like to walk in each other’s shoes and live in each other’s skin. White people have a particularly difficult time with this. But we also know that meaningful contact, deep relationships in terms of equality or reciprocity, can help to overcome these difficulties and limitations. Most people don’t get there—that’s the reality of our history and lives. How much of a burden do you feel, as an artist who is also an activist, to get us there? In particular, how much do you have to work to make yourself known to white audiences? Is it the artist’s—any artist’s—burden to make the audience experience empathy? That’s an interesting question, because this is my job. Part of my job is to examine the human condition, expose things, and deliberately create circumstances that will hopefully induce empathy. And particularly as the writer/creator of this piece, that burden is even greater. But it’s been a steep learning curve—because I thought I had to be a one-man band on this thing: creating the show, performing, and having dialogues about the show where people ask, “Well, what do I do? Where do I go?” And I felt the burden of having to answer that question. It wasn’t until further along in the process when a friend of mine said to me, “Relieve yourself of that burden. Because you’re doing your part now.” So the better response to that question is saying to that audience member, “I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me what you’re going to do? Because this was my part, and I’m hoping my part inspired you to do something.” But I wrestle with that sense of huge responsibility. And to answer your question about creating empathy along racial lines: it’s very easy to enter into this conversation, particularly about race, with “us versus them” or “theirs versus ours.” But something I’ve been striving to do with this piece, which I think it does semisuccessfully, is create a sense of “our” very early on. If we can get to “our” sooner, then we’re
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primed to explore what empathy is. One of the things we constantly hear in social justice and human rights work is that we want to put ourselves out of business—to not have to do this work anymore because the world is so humane and just. I think art is different, in part, because art represents all aspects of the human experience: past, present, future, and the things we can’t yet imagine. I started this interview by asking about this project’s origin story, but I want to end by asking you what you hope your art helps to create and imagine? In other words, what impact do you want The Bitter Game to have—here in Cambridge and throughout the country and world? One of the beautifully tragic things for me about this show is that, as an actor, the opportunity to perform is what you strive for. And so for me, as the creator and performer of this piece, it’s that much sweeter of a deal, because I’m not only sharing something that I feel is important, but I’m sharing something that I wrote. So a lot of personal gain can come from that professionally. But the other side is that it feels weird sometimes to benefit in that way, because really the play exists because of the people and stories, my own and of headlines of actual victims, that I’ve built this show off of. People are dead. This play exists because people died tragically. In all truth, I wish I wasn’t working right now on this piece because that would mean that we wouldn’t need the conversation it starts. But since we do, I feel fortunate and happy to be in this position. For me, the future involves contributing as much as possible to youth—and not just adolescents or preteens, but younger people who are affiliated with this movement because this is a new civil rights moment. If I can contribute in some way to the fuel that’s going to help push the agenda, particularly for millennials and for people who are really on the ground in a major way in this movement, I feel like that future looks bright. Will I live to see this issue eradicated? Probably not. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I take solace in knowing that somebody will pick up the mantle. The reason I can do this right now is because I’m standing on the shoulders of other people who were in this fight long before I was born. Rather than a remedy to police violence, the show becomes a contribution to a larger effort to eradicate this issue, and I’m OK with that for now.
Timothy Patrick McCarthy is Core Faculty and Director of Culture Change & Social Justice Initiatives and the Emerging Human Rights Leaders Program at the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. He is also the host and director of “A.R.T. of Human Rights," an ongoing collaboration between the Carr Center and the A.R.T.
Programming details are published in good faith, but changes may occasionally occur. Check online at americanrepertorytheater.org for up-to-date information.
Don't miss 2017/18 at A.R.T.
BURN ALL NIGHT OBERON - Starts August 18, 2017 SUN
GLOWBERON — PAUL IACONO FRI
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THU 10/5 7PM
GLOWBERON — LADY BUNNY
GLOWBERON — BRIDGET BARKAN
OBERON - November 16, 2017 at 8PM SENSE AND SENSIBILITY Loeb Drama Center - Starts December 10, 2017 12/10 7:30PM 12/17 2PM 7:30PM
12/12 12/13 12/14 12/15 7:30PM 7:30PM 7:30PM 7:30PM 12/19 12/20 12/21 12/22 7:30PM 7:30PM 7:30PM 7:30PM 12/26 7:30PM
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HEAR WORD! NAIJA WOMAN TALK TRUE Loeb Drama Center - Starts January 26, 2018
6/6 6/7 6/8 6/9 2PM 7:30PM 7:30PM 2PM 7:30PM 7:30PM
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GLOWBERON — FAUXNIQUE
OBERON - May 17, 2018 at 8PM
The Ex - Starts May 20, 2018 FRI
5/23 5/24 5/25 7:30PM 7:30PM 7:30PM
THE DONKEY SHOW OBERON - Every Saturday Night!
SAT 2/24 7:30PM
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Key PREVIEWS OPENING REGULAR RUN
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Productions staring graduate acting students from the Class of 2018.
OBERON - Starts March 22, 2018 SUN
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The Ex - Starts March 15, 2018 SUN
12/27 12/28 12/29 12/30 2PM 7:30PM 7:30PM 2PM 7:30PM 7:30PM
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OBERON - January 25, 2018 at 8PM
THE WHITE CARD Emerson’s Orchard Stage - Starts February 24, 2018
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The Ex - Starts November 15, 2017
The Ex - Starts January 19, 2018
OBERON - Starts February 9, 2018
SAT 4/28 2PM 7:30PM
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JAGGED LITTLE PILL Loeb Drama Center- Starts May 5, 2018
OBERON - Starts October 5, 2017
2/11 2PM OC
OBERON - September 21, 2017 at 8PM
GLOWBERON — JOHN KELLY
12/22 11AM 2PM
1/26 1/27 7:30PM 7:30PM
OBERON - Starts September 14, 2017
12/21 11AM 2PM
THE BITTER GAME SUN
CHARLOTTE’S WEB Loeb Drama Center - Starts December 17, 2017
SAT 9/9 7:30PM
12/31 10AM HELD
WARHOLCAPOTE Loeb Drama Center - Starts September 9, 2017 SUN
OBERON - Starts April 26, 2018
8/18 8/19 7:30PM 7:30PM
9/7 7PM 10PM
OBERON - December 14, 2017 at 8PM
3/22 3/23 7:30PM 7:30PM
GLOWBERON — JOSEPH KECKLER
OBERON - April 5, 2018 at 8PM
SAT 3/24 2PM 7:30PM
- POST-SHOW TALKBACKS OC - OPEN CAPTIONED - AUDIO DESCRIBED
SF- SENSORY FRIENDLY
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SEPTEMBER 9 OCTOBER 13, 2017 AT THE LOEB DRAMA CENTER
WARHOLCAPOTE From the words of Truman Capote and Andy Warhol Adapted by Rob Roth Directed by Michael Mayer
In the late 1970's, Truman Capote and Andy Warhol decided that they were destined to create a Broadway play together. Over the course of the next several months, they would sit down to record a series of intimate, wide-ranging conversations. The play never came to be, and the hours and hours of tape were lost to the ages. Until now. With the support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Truman Capote Literary Trust, award-winning director Rob Roth adapted WARHOLCAPOTE from never-before-heard conversations between these two icons of American art and literature. This world premiere production is staged by Tony Awardwinning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening). ASL Interpreted Oct. 1, 2PM Oct. 4, 7:30PM Audio Described Oct. 6, 7:30PM Oct. 7, 2PM Open Captioned Oct. 5, 7:30PM Oct. 7, 2PM
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THE TAPES MARKED "TRUMAN" WARHOLCAPOTE adaptor Rob Roth discusses the never-before-heard recordings at the heart of his new play with A.R.T. Director of Artistic Programs & Dramaturg Ryan McKittrick
Artwork: Adam Rabalais. Photo: Gretjen Helene Photography.
RYAN McKITTRICK: This play is drawn from taped conversations between Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. How did you discover these tapes existed? ROB ROTH: My husband, Patrick, forced me to go on a gay family cruise—totally against my will, because I didn’t want to be trapped on a boat with loud children! I knew that I wasn’t going to leave the room, so I brought a new copy of The Andy Warhol Diaries. I had already read the Diaries twenty times since they had been published—I just love them. And when I was reading them this time in our little stateroom, something popped out at me: “Went to Truman’s apartment, got six good tapes for the play.” And that started what’s now become a ten-year journey to get here to the A.R.T. When we got off the cruise (which was actually lovely), I called my friend Vincent Fremont, who was Andy’s right-hand man from the time Vincent was 17. And I asked, “Vincent, do you think this is true? That they were working on a play?” And he said, “Well they certainly talked about it enough, but whether they did anything is hard to know.” Andy recorded most of his life for about a decade. And when he died, they didn’t know what to do with all these tapes—over 3,000 cassettes. It’s a big legal issue because in the seventies, it was illegal to record with only one person knowing. Andy was going to Studio 54 and hanging out with Jackie Kennedy, and there were potentially a lot of famous people on those recordings. So the lawyers at the Warhol Foundation had decided to embargo all the tapes. When I first asked if I could have access to them, the answer was a flat-out "no." They were given to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and were literally under lock and key. Then Vincent introduced me to Joel Wachs, the President of the Warhol Foundation. Joel got excited about the idea and offered to go to the board to see if there was a way around the embargo. So the day of the board meeting comes and I’m very very nervous, waiting by my phone. And Joel called and said he was sorry, but the lawyers said no. But he also said that two people on the board were irate with the lawyers, because they thought that this may be a piece of unfinished Warhol artwork. Joel asked me to come back with
every quote I could find from either Warhol or Capote about the play. There wasn’t a lot, but there were some really good quotes about the play being Andy’s “nest egg” and how he wanted to have six Broadway shows running all at once. Eventually the Warhol Foundation got behind the idea, and an archivist at the Warhol Museum looked through more than 3,000 cassettes. That took eight weeks. Then he called to tell me he had found fifty-nine, ninetyminute cassettes marked “Truman”. Which was unbelievable. I actually cried a little bit because it was like finding a pot of gold. Or potentially finding a pot of gold. I had to get bonded court report transcriptions of the tapes, which took over a year to complete. I put the transcriptions in a binder as they came in, until there were 8,000 pages of transcripts and about seventy hours of recordings on digital files. Then I started reading and listening. Were the tapes in any kind of order? No. The tapes are undated. But for the play that didn’t really matter because it ended up being such a Frankenstein. I took things from all over the place and from other interview sources, so the chronology of it didn’t actually matter. Andy says on the tapes (and it’s in the play): “Plot isn’t important. It shouldn’t have a plot.” And this doesn’t have a plot like a regular play does. They left instructions on the tapes about what the play should be. They wanted it to be edited conversation, which Truman says will be both real and imagined. Truth treated in fictional form. So that’s what the play is. They spoke every single word in the play but not remotely in this way. If they came to see this play they would say, “Well that’s completely ridiculous…that didn’t happen at all like that.” And that’s what they intended! Could you describe the experience of listening to the tapes? Did themes begin to emerge as you heard these conversations and read through the transcripts? I had a lot of really disappointing days because there were hours of just drunk talk. And then I got to the day where Andy says, “Truman, we should work on something together.” “Okay,
what should we do?” “Let’s do a Broadway play.” I almost passed out. That was a pretty exciting day. So there were days where I was elated: “I’m gonna tell you the story about how I jerked off Humphrey Bogart.” Great! Or, “I’m gonna tell you what it feels like to be a genius.” But in seventy hours of recordings those moments were few and far between. They got together, drank, and talked, and Andy taped it. I think what happened was that when they were aware of the tape recorder, Andy got Truman to tell some really good stories. And when they forgot the tape recorder was there, they talked about personal things and revealed themselves to each other. In the Diaries, Andy wrote, “Truman died and I didn’t go to the funeral.
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But I’m listening to those tapes we made and they’re awful. I talked on them so much that I ruined them.” I really wanted to pursue that idea of Andy talking too much, which was not like him. Not his public persona.
AN EXCERPT FROM THE ANDY WARHOL DIARIES
You’ve broken the play down into four scenes. Could you talk about the progression from space to space?
Edited by Pat Hackett
They get more private. First is Studio 54—a public space with a thousand people. The next is a restaurant that’s nearly empty—it’s the two of them but still in a public place. Then we go to Andy’s studio, which is a very private place for him. And finally to Truman’s home. I knew the play was going in this more personal direction, so that’s how I set the scenes.
Wednesday, July 5, 1978 Cabbed to Chembank ($4.50) then walked to the office and made some phone calls. Then cabbed to La Petite Marmite ($3) to meet Truman and Bob MacBride. They were on the wagon but I had orange juice and vodka. I taped his ideas for plays, but oh God, (laughs) they were so boring. He said to me, “I have so many ideas, I’ve just got so many I’ll tell you three plays right now,” and then he told me the first one. He said [imitates]: “It’s called The Greek Ideal, and it’s about a young man and his mother, and he’s a Greek scholar and he’s going to Harvard and he’s maybe a little crippled. His mother gives him a present before he goes away, she takes him to a Greek island and it’s just the son, the mother, and a maid”—I guess there was a maid—“and they’re sitting on the island and suddenly the mmmoooooon rises and out of the moon come hundreds of little rats and they eat him. And the mother is in a black hood.” Well (laughs), I didn’t know what to say, I said, “Oh, that’s great, Truman”…
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Warhol and Capote were different in so many ways. What do you think drew them to each other as friends and artists? Fame. It started with Capote’s picture on the back of his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms. It is an outrageous photograph. Andy was obsessed with Capote and I think it was fame that drew Andy to him. Then in 1978, when they met again, Andy was more famous than Truman. And I think that fame drew Truman to Andy. Capote was ostracized from society because he had written Answered Prayers and told a lot of secrets about his rich friends. And the rich friends completely cut him off. Andy was a way back into high society for Truman. So fame was a big thing between them. It was very important to both of them. And it disappointed both of them. They were very odd men, and I think they dreamt that fame was going to cure that. And when they got famous, it didn’t cure it. As a matter of fact, it made them more alienated. Like Andy says in the play, “I go home, and I’m happy to see a cockroach.” There is a huge, sad disparity between being at Studio 54 surrounded by people and noise and lights and paparazzi, and then going home to an empty brownstone.
Sunday, December 15, 1985 After seeing the Sam Shepard play the night before, I got up and read the transcripts of those days with Truman that I’d taped where he’s going to the masseur, then to the psychiatrist, then for drinks, then for dinner, but by talking in them so much myself, I ruined them. I should’ve just kept my mouth shut. I was, you know, saying everything’s wonderful and everybody’s wonderful—the usual. I thought I could turn these tapes into plays and they’d be my little fortune, but they’re not…
We live in a country that is obsessed with fame and celebrity. How do you think their conversations resonate today, four decades later? Andy Warhol might have been an alien from the future. He predicted where we are today. He said that everybody should be bugged and photographed all the time. And now we are! You’re bugging me right now! It’s everywhere. When they were having these conversations in 1978 they were the darlings of the media. And the media was making money off their celebrity by promoting them. Andy predicted that it was going to turn. He said, “I think soon they’re gonna make money from bashing us and that’s going to be scary.” And we’re there right now. When I heard those moments on the tapes I got chills.
What about Capote? Could you talk about his importance today, especially as the subtitle of your play, “non-fiction invention,” references his work? Truman Capote was a gay and out man in the fifties and sixties, which broke a lot of ground. He was on Johnny Carson all the time. They were friends and lived next door to each other. Truman would just call up and say, “Johnny I want to go on.” And he would. He was eccentrically gay but he wasn’t afraid to go on TV and be eccentrically gay. That’s groundbreaking. He was way, way, way ahead of his time and paved the way for a lot of other people.
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And Capote reinvented journalism. He called In Cold Blood a “non-fiction novel.” He told true stories in a fictional form and a lot of great writers have taken that on. I wanted to pay homage to the “non-fiction novel,” and I wanted audiences to know this play is invented. This did not happen like this. I feel like I’m collaborating with Warhol and Capote in some way. They wanted their words edited into an imagined play. So that’s what I did.
Ryan McKittrick is Director of Artistic Programs & Dramaturg at A.R.T.
A BRIEF WARHOL & CAPOTE CHRONOLOGY 1924: Truman Capote is born Truman Streckfus Persons in New Orleans. 1928: Andy Warhol is born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, the child of immigrants from present-day Slovakia. 1943-1946: Capote publishes acclaimed short stories in women’s magazines including Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle. 1948: Capote’s first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms is published. The novel, which stayed on the New York Times Best Sellers list for nine weeks, featured an infamously alluring photo of the young writer reclined on a sofa. 1949: Warhol moves to New York City and finds graphic design work for magazines including Glamour, Vogue, and Seventeen.
Photo: Andy Warhol; Jack Mitchell (CC BY-SA 4.0). Timeline research by Annabeth Lucas and Zoë Aiko Sonnenberg.
1952: The Hugo Gallery holds an exhibition of Warhol’s work entitled "Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote." 1958: Capote publishes Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 1965: The first of a four-part serial by Capote detailing the murders of a family in Holcomb, Kansas, is published in the New Yorker. The resulting novel, In Cold Blood, would become his most famous and influential work. 1968: Warhol is nearly fatally shot in his New York studio, The Factory, by writer and actor Valerie Solanas. Warhol survived but was required to wear a medical corset for the rest of his life. 1984: Capote dies at age 59 from liver cancer. 1987: Warhol dies of complications following gallbladder surgery at age 58.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 17
ON ANDY WARHOL The rise of mass commerce in the twentieth century seemingly left artists with two options. You could stand against the tide, against cheapness and easy sentiment, against immediate legibility and ready affirmation, or you could immerse yourself in mass culture, sampling its packaged pleasures and reframing its sensational pandering. If you did the former, you risked fatuous snobbery and self-aggrandizement. If you did the latter, you risked vacuous complicity and selfabandonment. Nobody said the twentieth century was easy. When Andy Warhol came of age in the 1940s, the painter Jackson Pollock was exemplifying the heroic first option, crafting a swaggering practice around the masculine mythos of the visionary loner. His drip paintings were abstract and inscrutable. They seemed both primeval and atomic, both deeper and more revelatory than ordinary commerce could be. His struggle with celebrity, including his relapse into alcoholism in 1950 after recording sessions with the photographer Hans Namuth, only seemed to confirm his authenticity. Sixteen years younger than Pollock, Warhol went the other way. Trained as a commercial artist, he reveled in the beckoning surfaces and mechanical ways of advertising and trade. In the early 1960s he became a leading figure in Pop Art by proffering reproductions of Campbell’s soup cans, lurid newspaper articles, celebrity photographs, and other commercial fare. He used his immersion in the gay subculture of New York City to populate his scandalous Factory with an offbeat cast of collaborators. Whereas Pollock reputedly flung his deepest psychological contents onto canvases, Warhol screen printed the public’s most superficial fascinations on his. “Art should be for everyone,” he said. Leading critics lambasted Warhol for sidling up to the crassness that art was supposed to transcend. In 1962, Irving Sandler wrote that Warhol “does not appear to satirize” mass culture’s “vulgarity and idiocy but to accept its values complacently.” Dore Ashton wrote of one Warhol show, “the air of banality is suffocating.” For critics committed to the defiant difficulty of abstract art, homemade
Brillo boxes seemed a craven surrender. But Warhol was on to something. He perceived that there was no outside to the market, no island in the flow of commerce upon which an individual could heroically stand. Rather than lament or forestall the sheen of commodities or the machinations of celebrity, he internalized them. He made them a part of his persona and his art. This internalization was no simple reflection. Signature works by Warhol, such as S&H Green Stamps and 200 One Dollar Bills, exaggerate signs of reproduction, making multiplicity and sameness troublesome themes rather than simple facts of mass commerce. Paradoxically, his images also subtly diverge from their models, with paints and inks stubbornly bleeding here and there, leaving every surface beset with misalignments and tiny accidents. Over time it became clear that there was something disquieting and trenchant about Warhol’s fixation on the magnetism of supermarket shelves and tabloids. His beautiful and haunting works remind us of the everyday pleasure of commodities and movie stars, but also of our debilitating compulsion to identify with them and not with ourselves. Warhol’s studied persona was also ambivalent. He discomfited interviewers with his happy bumpkin routine, always liking things and talking about how great people were. And yet just as Warhol’s art works betrayed a lurking trauma, so his interviews and writings occasionally admitted the shadows of his affirmations. Anyone who once said, “Being born is like being kidnapped and then sold into slavery” was not as sanguine with the world as all that. Whereas Pollock was famously unsettled by the presence of cameras, Warhol premised his practice and persona upon them. He understood their strange and sometimes brutal power. To make his so-called Screen Tests, film portraits produced between 1964-66, he would put a celebrity (either a recognizable celebrity or one of his Factory “superstars”) in front of his 16mm camera and ask them to sit still during a three-minute filming of their face. He would then project the film at a slower speed, so that the viewer could partake of the painfully distended temporality experienced by the sitter. The best of the Screen Tests represent the sitters in an
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anguishing process of dissolution, each initial confident and assertive expression undone by the slow grind of time under hot lights and the camera’s cold stare. Like every artist, Warhol got by with a little help from his friends. Of particular importance to him was the documentary film-maker Emile de Antonio. De Antonio helped Warhol realize that you could make art by reworking what mass culture gave you. Warhol allegedly showed de Antonio two paintings of Coke bottles, one including abstract expressionist markings, the other unadorned. De Antonio is reported to have said, "One of these is crap. The other is remarkable—it's our society, it's who we are, it's absolutely beautiful and naked, and you ought to destroy the first and show the second.” Warhol later recalled that de Antonio had given him his “real art training.” De Antonio had a big effect on Warhol. His greatest documentary was Point of Order, a film entirely constructed by splicing together fragments of TV network footage, without the addition of voiceover or commentary. De Antonio took the footage from the ArmyMcCarthy hearings, a nationally televised spectacle credited with destroying the reputation of red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy. For de Antonio, the protagonist of the film was the camera, which gradually wore down McCarthy’s demagogic masks. Warhol immediately understood the importance of what de Antonio had accomplished. On January 17, 1964, three days after Point of Order had its debut in New York City, Warhol made his first Screen Test. The Screen Tests enabled Warhol to reproduce in his Factory the effect that had captivated de Antonio, namely the destruction of the human façade under the pressure of the camera. Works by Warhol leave us uncertain as to whether we should be enthralled or chilled to the bone. For many of us, the twentieth century did the same.
Robin Kelsey is Dean of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography at Harvard University.
Artwork: Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) (1967), Andy Warhol, Screenprint on paper, 36x36 inches. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Michael F. Marmor, AB '62, MD '66 and Jane B. Marmor, MD '66, 2015.45.2. Harvard Art Museums Photo: Nic Lehoux.
by Robin Kelsey
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK Learn more about the work and legacy of Andy Warhol through Act II initiatives presented in partnership by A.R.T. and the Harvard Art Museums
Please visit the theater to pick up a full copy of this Guide for print-only content.
To complement the production of WARHOLCAPOTE, the museumsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Art Study Center will feature prints from Andy Warhol's portfolio Marilyn Monroe on September 11, 18, 25, and October 2, 2017. Visitors will be able to view the prints up close and discuss them with museums staff. Free with museum admission; no appointment necessary during open hours. Please be prepared to present a photo ID. Children age 14 and older are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult. These events coincide with regular Art Study Center Open Hours (Mondays, 1-4PM, 32 Quincy St.). The A.R.T. and the Harvard Art Museums will also partner to present an Act II series of postperformance discussions with contemporary artists and scholars. For more information about these initiatives, including individual speaker bios and dates, please visit americanrepertorytheater.org/act-ii
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 19
LIGHTNING RODS Director Michael Mayer's unconventional icons
In the opening moments of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the titular transgender rocker belts to audiences, “You want me, baby, I dare you / Try and tear me down.” With an equally obstinate frankness, the stifled teenagers at the center of Spring Awakening cry out, “Do they think we want this?” Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer is fascinated by such bold, insatiable characters—and over the past two decades he has made a career out of bringing them to life in productions that have rewritten the rules both on and Off-Broadway. Mayer makes his A.R.T. debut with the world premiere of Rob Roth’s play examining the friendship and fame of Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. WARHOLCAPOTE follows a diverse career in theater for the director who, after receiving an acting degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the mid-eighties, would have two plays (Side Man and The Lion in Winter) and a musical (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown) running simultaneously on Broadway by 1999. Mayer’s work earned a worldwide following with Spring Awakening (2006), based on Frank Wedekind’s nineteenth-century play about the blossoming sexuality of repressed German teenagers. The show featured a notably young cast headbanging to an alternative rock
score, giving contemporary expression to the angst of Wedekind’s classic characters. The production refused to shy away from themes of suicide and sexual assault, and earned eight Tony Awards including Best Direction. Mayer soon moved from angst to political alienation with American Idiot (2010), a rock opera based on Green Day’s 2004 album. With the energy and style of a rock concert, American Idiot followed young people in the US navigating the repercussions of war and drug abuse. Shortly after, Neil Patrick Harris donned platform heels and glitter for Mayer’s revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell’s boundary-breaking musical about an East German transgender woman’s journey to self-acceptance. Mayer has an eye for contemporary relevance across boundaries of era and place. From the pulsating desire of Spring Awakening to the raucous glitz of Hedwig, the intrigue for Mayer in these stories lies in their unfettered depiction of modern life, their fusion of narrative and rock music, and the ways in which they explore new theatrical forms. Drawn from over seventy hours of never-before-heard conversations recorded by Warhol over the course of his intimate friendship with Capote, WARHOLCAPOTE has
had a similar appeal to Mayer. “In the same way that Spring Awakening, American Idiot, and Hedwig all subverted the idea of what a musical could be,” he explains, “WARHOLCAPOTE subverts the idea of what a play can be.” Warhol and Capote offer the same dramatic but unconventional promise which drew Mayer to Wedekind’s teens and the lost souls behind Green Day’s album. He describes the protagonists as “equally, and in completely different ways, utterly fascinating.” Although Capote died in 1984, and Warhol only three years later, they remain cultural icons—Capote for such novels as In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Warhol for his prominence in the Pop Art movement. As characters in the ongoing story of America’s fixation on fame, Mayer says, “they are still lightning rods for a cultural anthropological exploration.” In many ways, WARHOLCAPOTE is a continuation of Warhol and Capote’s own vibrant anthropological endeavors, both because the two conspired to create a play in their lifetime, and because of its documentary style. “It’s very much in the realm of the work that Truman Capote was exploring with In Cold Blood,” Mayer explains, “and completely aligns with Warhol’s idea about what can be art.”
Annabeth Lucas is a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.
Michael Mayer, the director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (pictured: Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig), Spring
24 2017/18 americanrepertorytheater.org Awakening, andSeason American Idiot, makes his A.R.T. debut with WARHOLCAPOTE.
Photos: Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Joan Marcus. Michael Mayer; Brigitte Lacombe.
by Annabeth Lucas
Certified Beer Sniffers
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