Friday, January 16, 2015

6 Questions: Director Elyse Singer


Elyse Singer is directing the world premiere of Trav S. D.'s HORSEPLAY: or, the Fickle Mistress, which begins performances on February 13 at The Ellen Stewart Theater.  Elyse took time out from rehearsals to answer our 6 Questions:

1. How did you get involved in HORSEPLAY: or, the Fickle Mistress?
I have known Trav S.D. since the mid-90s, and Tim Cusack almost that long. In 2011, they asked me to direct a reading at ART/NY of the first draft of the Horseplay as part of Theatre Askew's Drafting Table series, and we've continued collaborating on the play's development since then.

2. Did you know much about Adah Isaacs Menken prior to working on HORSEPLAY?
Very little! I had first heard the name "Mazeppa" in reference to the burlesque stripper in Gypsy ("You Gotta Have a Gimmick"), and had read snippets about Menken in my studies of women in nineteenth-century American popular performance, but otherwise knew almost nothing about her. I've devised plays previously about Courtney Love, Mae West, Hedy Lamarr, and Eva Tanguay...but they really owe it all to Menken.

3. How would you describe the tone/style of HORSEPLAY?
Lately, I'm calling it a "comedy-spectacle." It's very much informed by ridiculosity and the spirit of Charles Ludlam, broadly funny and aware of its place in the universe of high art and mass culture, especially the tradition of bio-pics. Horseplay wants to be a musical like Funny Girl, but it's not allowed to be, and that's a source of comic tension. We have the most extraordinary ensemble of comedic actors.

4. Who has inspired your work as a director?
When I was just starting out as a director, I saw a play called Femme Fatale in Edinburgh by a British writer-director-performer named Debbie Isitt and her company, the Snarling Beasties. The piece just punched me in the gut in the ways that it mixed heightened language, sexuality and comedy. It was so smart and sexy and physical...I had the pleasure of directing a reading of it with Jefferson Mays as one of my first directing projects. I'm inspired also by the work of Elizabeth LeCompte and Emily Mann. I'm ever-fascinated by the effects of technology on human communication and emotional connection, and enjoy exploring this idea both on the sci-fi-ish and the burlesque ends of the spectrum.

5. What was the last good book you read?
My bookshelf is filled with some amazing books related to this project -- nineteenth-century spectacle-extravaganzas, the development of American popular culture and music, the origins of photography and moving pictures, gender theory, queer theory, farce, Byron, melodrama, scenography, animal studies, history of striptease... Oh, fiction? I'm still working on Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens, which is set in my neighborhood! Hope to finish it soon.

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
This is my first time directing in the Ellen Stewart Theatre, and it's a great honor. I last worked here as the stage manager for Lee Nagrin's Dragon's Nest, which was such a formative experience. It's also the ideal venue for Horseplay as the space is so integral to the history of popular theatre in the United States. We're excited to bring equestrian spectacle back to the neighborhood!


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La MaMa presents
HORSEPLAY: 
or, The Fickle Mistress, 
A Protean Picaresque
by Trav S.D.
directed by Elyse Singer

February 13 - March 1, 2015

The Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors; ten tickets priced at $10 each are available, in advance only, for every performance - first come, first served

For Tickets & Info: Click Here