from the desk of the DIRECTOR Ady is like a surrealist collage: past and present blend in unexpected ways, ideas are juxtaposed, and identity is challenged. Adrienne, a young Navajo woman, searches for the reason her face looks so strikingly like one in a photograph from 1937. Stirred by the silent half-naked image of Ady, Man Ray’s muse, Adrienne travels within the supple space of imagination. She encounters figures from Ady’s past as well as her own. One moment she speaks with Picasso, the next with her own grandmother. Ady is surprising and thought-provoking—a unique journey I invite you to take.
Resident Director & Lab Producer The Playwrights’ Center
ADY BY RHIANA YAZZIE MONDAY, DEC. 7 • 7 P.M. • at the PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER
RUTH EASTON NEW PLAY SERIES
A Lee Miller photograph of surrealist artists that includes a dancer from the West Indies naked to the waist is the jumping off place for this play. A contemporary Navajo woman relates the mostly unknown story of the surrealist muse Adrienne Fidelin, Ady. A play that reveals the woman in the photograph through the lens of race, history, and art. Tickets are free: 612.332.7481 • INFO@PWCENTER.ORG WATCH THE VIDEO TRAILER ONLINE AT PWCENTER.ORG.
WE SPOKE WITH PLAYWRIGHT RHIANA YAZZIE IN ADVANCE OF HER DECEMBER 7TH READING AT THE PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER. In your own words, what is ADY about? It’s about an intersection of world views. It’s about a surrealist muse. She was a woman who was dating the photographer Man Ray back in the 30s. He was an American photographer, an ex-pat living in Paris, and he was part of the surrealist movement that was happening there. So he had, you know, the life of an artist—various affairs and stuff. Ady was a woman that he was with for about four or five years; she was a model of his, and she kind of got lost to history. By chance, somebody sent me a postcard—there’s this photograph of her with Man Ray and a few others, and somebody said, “Oh, she kind of looks like you.” That was about nine years ago. And it’s been in my head since then. And I think, why is it that we would look similar? And then my mind jumps to the bigger picture. It’s not just about coincidence, it really is about some very specific things that happened in history—the colonialism of the West Indies, and then the colonialism that happened in the United States. For the first time ever, these three groups of people—indigenous people in the Western hemisphere, Europeans, and Africans—came together in these various places. And so, here you have two women with the same background that look similar. That was the start of it. Then I began to ask, well, why is it that she got lost to history? Why is it that nobody knows what happened to her after 1951? And that set me on the journey. Then, of course, the picture. She’s topless and she’s smiling in all of her photographs, and she’s—she’s just this bohemian. And I thought, I’m nowhere near that. Here we are in the 2000s, and that was 1936. What is the difference there? And I wonder if the way the indigenous culture was maintained in the West Indies (relating to the body and femininity) was different from what happened in the lineage of my main character. So that’s what the play is about.
When did it shift from a personal quest to learn about this woman to writing a play about her? I think it was about 2003, 2004. I was looking her up on the Internet and I found out that there were these letters that were housed at the Getty that were exchanged between her and Man Ray at the onset of World War II. That’s the thing that split up their relationship, the Nazis invading Paris. Man Ray left, went back to the United States, and Ady decided to stay in Paris. I found out there were six letters that they both sent to each other, but they never got delivered. So that was a very dramatic thing. They’re just so sad. They both ask, “Why don’t you write me?” and “What happened to you? Are you okay?” And I just wonder, what would have happened if he had gotten her letters? Or if she had gotten his? Because he, within a year, had already found another woman, and he ended up marrying her. And then I start to think about how these large historical events ultimately changed the course of one person’s life. We don’t know anything about her, and she lost her love—that was a dramatic moment that hooked me into wanting to write it. Where did you find all of this information about her? Steady Googling since 2001! At one point in 2001 or 2002, the Getty Archives were on the Internet. So you typed in “Ady 1937,” and it popped up. It doesn’t pop up anymore. At the time I was living in Los Angeles, and ultimately I never went there to read them until I had already moved out here [to Minneapolis]. So I read them about a year ago; I finally got to see them. This play was originally written for one ACTRESS, but now it’s written for two. Why the change? I wanted to play with that metaphorical mirror. I think that was really what I was intrigued about—how I could dramatize that metaphor. You know, with a one-woman show, ultimately things become monologues, and there were moments that I was thinking, it would be really nice to have some dialogue here. And I really like thinking of the actresses who would play them; having an actress from the West Indies and then a Native American actress—I think it would be powerful to juxtapose them.
As a Salvador Dali fan, I have to bring surrealism into this. Oh! I learned a little about Ady through him. He has an autobiography and he mentions that Man Ray had mentioned that he had just met a woman, and they had met out on the beach. Just putting her life together, one snippet here, one snippet there. Surrealism values the stream of consciousness, the “disinterested play of thought.” Is that behind the structure of the play? Yeah, it does play a big role in how I’m juxtaposing monologues and images. But also, the thing about surrealism is that—even looking at Picasso’s art, in that period—it’s indigenous art. In what sense? Well, Picasso—he was inspired by African masks. And then he started creating images of people in these very unconventional ways. And that was a very new thing, because realism was the standard. But if you look at indigenous cultures, symbolic representations of human beings were always the norm. Going back to the Native American link, I look at Navajo art and it’s extremely symbolic. I’ve never seen any traditional Navajo art that had any sort of realism to it. So, I can’t help but see an indigenous link when I’m looking at surrealism. And at the same time, Ady was right there in the mix of these surrealist artists, and I wonder what she contributed to them. So those are the questions that I’m asking in the play, because surrealists were reinventing, or rediscovering, something that indigenous cultures had always been working in. That style of art, they call “primitivism”—but if it’s made by Europeans, it’s called surrealism. So I don’t know. I’m very interested in exploring that link in the play, and it has a lot to do with the images that I’m evoking and the structure I’m working around, too. What are you planning to focus on in the workshop? I want to try and see what the whole is like. I’m really hoping that the workshop will bring a big picture out for me. I have so many little pieces that make the play up, so I’m really anxious to see how all of those pieces work together.
What do you do besides playwriting? I do a lot of radio stuff. I do audio theater: writing and directing plays. And then I’ve also got a radio show on KFAI. It’s a Native American cultural affairs program called First Nations Radio. I’ve been doing that since May, and before that I was part of a women’s radio show for about a year and a half. HOW does radio drama compare to stageD drama? You’re able to stretch your imagination a lot. I think that radio drama is to theater as animation is to film. I got introduced to radio drama just before I moved to Minneapolis, and it was at a point in my writing career when I felt a little frustrated that the ideas I was trying to write weren’t quite being received the way I wanted them to. But when I started working with radio theater, it was like all of a sudden I had this new arena that I could play around in, and that really inspired my stage writing. Because I think more in terms of sound now, in addition to just dialogue and images. You can tell so many complicated stories just through sound, even with very minimal dialogue, and you don’t have to give a lot of exposition or backstory if you’re creative enough. So I think that’s how radio drama has informed me. What’s next for you? I just got commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater jointly to write a play for the American Revolutions Cycle, and I’m extremely excited about that. I’m also continuing to write children’s theater. That’s maybe a third of my time; I do writing for young people. I’ve got a play, Chile Pod, at La Jolla Playhouse that’s going to be touring in February and March, so that’s my next immediate project. What do you like or dislike in a play? I hate it when people imply stuff! Like, “Oh, don’t mention the chair.” “Oh, the chair.” And it takes you half an hour to figure out what they’re implying. Just tell me! I love plays that don’t underestimate the audience’s ability to suspend their disbelief, that take you somewhere. And I guess that’s something that children’s theater does all the time. It doesn’t underestimate the imagination of the audience. Especially when I write plays for young people, I love taking advantage of that.
UPCOMING EVENTS THE RUTH
EASTON NEW PLAY SERIES
THE BAY OF FUNDY BY SHERRY KRAMER MONDAY, JAN. 11 • 7 P.M. • at the PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER
A troubled marriage, a mysterious malaise, and where is that all that water coming from? May has an antique early American table that is perhaps the most valuable table in the world, a husband who’s having a mid-life crisis, and a problem. A play about the myth of money in the new America. Tickets are free: 612.332.7481 • INFO@PWCENTER.ORG
Sherry Kramer’s work has been seen here and abroad, and productions include: the Humana Festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, InterAct Theatre, Yale Repertory Theater, Soho Rep, Ensemble Studio Theater, New York’s Second Stage, The Woolly Mammoth, and The Theater of the First Amendment. She is a recipient of NEA, NYFA, and McKnight Fellowships, the Weissberger Playwriting Award, a New York Drama League Award, the LA Women in Theater New Play Award, The Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, and a commission from A.S.K. She was the first national member of New Dramatists. WATCH THE VIDEO TRAILER ONLINE AT PWCENTER.ORG.
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Published on Nov 25, 2009