Monday, May 5, 2014

6 Questions: Theodora Skipitares

Gertrude Stein chair from Theodora Skipitares' THE CHAIRS

Theodora Skipitares brings her response to Eugene Ionesco's THE CHAIRS to The Ellen Stewart Theatre beginning May 22, 2014. Theodora took time out of creating to the show to answer our 6 Questions and we couldn't be more thrilled!

1. What about Eugene Ionesco’s THE CHAIRS was inspiring to you?
I first read THE CHAIRS….maybe in high school, or college and it stayed in my mind, perhaps because of the accumulation of the objects, the chairs, and how important they were. When I revisited the play a couple of years ago, I was deeply disappointed in it. Perhaps, I thought, “absurdist theater” from the mid-20th century was simply out of date. It had no resonance for me. In fact, the idea of bringing invisible people together to hear “an important message for mankind” only to dupe them by the arrival of a hired orator who is in fact a mute and cannot say anything at all seemed cruel.

I began to fashion a response to this play which would allow the chairs themselves to come to life and to speak. These chair/puppets would come from all walks of life and from different points in history. I envisioned giant Old Man and Old Woman puppets (much as in AMERICA HURRAH, by Jean-Claude van Italie) who would welcome these chairs into their home. When I created the old woman, I felt that she was compelling enough on her own and didn’t need a mate. People began to tell me that she looked like Gertrude Stein. And I began to think about Gertrude Stein and the conversations she might have had with Ionesco if they had met. And thus, the play took on a life of its own, very different from Ionesco’s.

2. How do you begin work on a new production? Does it start with visuals or text?
Usually, an article or a topic or an event throws itself at me with such an intensity that I stop what I’m doing and take a closer look. Next, come all sorts of visuals and then the text. I believe that I often work as a bricoleur, gathering or stitching a wide variety of texts and images together.

3. Do you think of your work as political?
I’m always aware of social and political issues as I create my work. But I’m also aware of many artists working today who are more deeply political in their artmaking. I aspire to be more like those artists, who don’t even think of a divide between “their own work” and their social practice work.

4. Is there an idea you’ve had for a while that has not come to fruition?
I’ve always wanted to do a large-scale historical re-enactment project that involves travel by boat to and from Roosevelt Island.

5. When did you know you would dedicate your life to making art?
It just sort of happened. When I first came to New York, when I was 21, it was easy to live on very little, in terms of rent and other expenses. I became quite skillful at getting by with very little money, working odd jobs, and seeing a lot of visual art and performance. There were many of us who did this. Now, I think it’s impossible to emerge as a young artist in New York. It’s best to go to another city.

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
It’s the closest thing to an artistic home I’ve every had. It’s my neighborhood theater………I live two doors from the back door of the theater. My load-in is really funny…..I open my door, walk the puppets to the left for a few feet, and we’re inside the space!

The Ellen Stewart Theater is my favorite space…….I’ve been able to design unusual site-specific events. For example, my history of medicine, UNDER THE KNIFE, took place in 13 different locations and featured a variety of scales, from tiny puppets that only a dozen people could see to gigantic 12 foot puppets. 


La MaMa presents
The Chairs 
by Skysaver Productions 
Conceived and Directed by Theodora Skipitares 

May 22 – June 8, 2014 
Thursday, Friday and Saturday @ 7:30pm; Sunday @ 2:30pm 

The Ellen Stewart Theater 
66 East 4th Street 
New York, NY 10003 

Tickets: $25 Adults; $20 Students/Seniors; ten tickets priced at $10 are available for every performance, in advance only, as part of La MaMa's ongoing 10@$10 ticketing initiative to make theater tickets available to everyone. 10@$10 tickets are not available day of show. 

For Tickets and Info: Click Here