Monday, January 5, 2015

6 QUESTIONS: INCOMING! - James Harrison Monaco

Jerome Ellis (right) and James Harrison Monaco (left). Photo credit: Jim Byrne

James Harrison Monaco and Jerome Ellis will present AARON/MARIE, a high­ speed literary and live music spectacle, as part of the Under the Radar Festival's INCOMING! Series, in the First Floor Theatre at La MaMa, January 10 at 5:30pm and 10pm, 2015. 

We asked James about collaborating, helping audiences imagine and literary inspiration.

1. How do the multiple narratives in AARON / MARIE speak to, or frame, each other?

I would say AARON/MARIE is like a collection of short stories, where when you finish it you say to yourself, "Oh, maybe that was actually a novel." Like Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, or the longer books of Roberto Bolaño. The same characters keep popping up in each section of the show, and by the end there is definitely an arc to the action, but we celebrate the sense of losing yourself in the tangents throughout.

2. When did you first begin collaborating with Jerome Ellis, and how do you influence each other as artists? 

Jerome and I have been collaborating on music, performance, writing, storytelling, theater — what have you — for almost a decade. (In fact, we grew up together at the same schools in Virginia Beach, Virginia since we were nine or ten.) Jerome is the other half of my brain and heart. We are constantly in conversation about music and history and literature and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and travel and performance and life and love, and this show is basically a slice of that conversation on stage (with gorgeous original live music included).

3. Your performances use language and music to engage the audience's visual imagination. How do you create an environment that encourages this kind of listening?

I would say our music especially helps the audience listen calmly, think critically while having fun, and drift with confidence. The idea is it's like the live performance version of reading a great, exciting, smart modern novel. Jerome's style especially is at once energetic, intelligent and meandering... acoustic and electronic, forward-moving yet spacious. Also we take great influence from contemporary(ish) writers who have a music to their prose: Thomas Bernhard, Javier Marías, Joan Didion, Sergio Chejfec, Fleur Jaeggy, Bolaño, Primo Levi, Yoko Tawada, Isak Dinesen, Enrique Vila-Matas, César Aira...

4. How have your directors Rachel Chavkin and Annie Tippe influenced AARON / MARIE?

They are who make it exciting to watch, and be present for, as an audience member. They are the editors of our sprawling style. They keep it from being insular, and they take the poetic interworkings of the music and storytelling and make them poetic in their physical life — major props on this also go to our designer, Joe Cantalupo. All three of them have been present almost since day one of this project (two and a half years ago), so at this point their obsessions and senses of humor are as present in the show as Jerome's and mine.

5. Which artists in the UTR festival are you most excited to see -or- Can you tell us about a recent performance you saw that inspired you creatively?

We are excited to see all of them. Especially all the INCOMING! artists, between whom I couldn't choose. But in particular among the whole festival: Mariano Pensotti (whose last UTR show I still think about all the time), Cia. Hiato, Agrupación Señor Serrano, Daniel Fish, Taylor Mac...(all of them).

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?

It means performing in a space I have been thinking about since I was a teenager in Virginia, imagining the magical world of experimental New York theater. And in a space where I have seen work that defined my idea of what performance could and should be. We are so honored to be here.

(Interview by Sam Alper)

La MaMa presents:


January 10, 2015 | 5:30pm & 10pm

Co-presented by Under the Radar Festival and La MaMa
Directed by Rachel Chavkin and Annie Tippe

First Floor Theatre @ La MaMa
74a East 4th Street
(Between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors.

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE