Wednesday, January 28, 2015

6 Questions: Trav S.D.


Author Trav S.D.'s new play, HORSEPLAY, opens at The Ellen Stewart Theatre in February in a production by Theatre Askew and directed by Elyse Singer.  Horseplay stars Molly Pope as Adah Isaacs Menken and we got to ask Trav 6 Questions about the play, his book No Applause, Just Throw Money and his favorite albums:

1. What was initial inspiration for writing HORSEPLAY?
I first learned about Adah Isaacs Menken when, by happenstance, I came into possession of a couple of biographies about her in the late 1980s. It was years before I read the books, but the instant I did so I knew I had to write a play about her (initially it was a screenplay). This was in 2000 or so. And I chipped away at it now and again over the years. Then in around 2011, Tim Cusack asked me if I had anything in the hopper that might be suitable for Theatre Askew, and this play came immediately to mind. Tim and I share a common love for the Theatre of Ridiculous, and I was always going to give this a Ridiculous treatment.

2. What was it about Adah Isaacs Menken that you found interesting?
I often write about people who are slippery with the truth in a theatrical way, and kind of shift identities when the need arises. Often I and others will invent these larger-than-life, fictional, fabulous characters, but Adah was all that and she was REAL. Her REAL story is almost too good to be believed. I mean, plenty of it was indeed invented cock-and-bull, but the verifiable, corroborated FACTS are easily just as fascinating. This is a woman who went EVERYWHERE, did EVERYTHING, knew EVERYONE, and at the same time, she herself was a sort of mysterious hole. Nobody knew the true story of her earliest background, not even her closest friends. This ambiguity about her identity allowed her to kind of live outside the law, to break laws, and make new ones. Black? White? Gay? Straight? On and on and on. It seems like she was all of them and none of them. And because she was a creature of the Victorian era, this means she broke new ground for the age we live in now -- the age when we get to define ourselves, or at least when many of us strive to. An age where is not a case of society telling YOU, "You are a woman and therefore...", but YOU telling society, "I am ME and therefore..." This is a battle that has been waged since the beginning of time.

3. Who inspires you?
Hoohoo, such a long list! But in this context, oh, I guess: Oscar Wilde, Charles Ludlam, John Waters, P.T. Barnum, Charles Busch, Ethyl Eichelberger, both chicks named Jennifer Miller (the one with the beard and the one with the elf ears), Walt Whitman, Andy Warhol, Tammy Faye Starlite, and Everett Quinton (whom I still can't believe is in my fucking play!)

4. What is it like to have Bette Midler recommend your book, No Applause, Just Throw Money?
Very nice, but it also makes me surly, ungrateful and dissatisfied. Like, where are the backstage passes, Bette? Can the two of us go to the racetrack maybe sometime and just hang out? Belmont? Aqueduct? If she has me to dinner, though, I know I would like brisket.

5. What 3 albums would you want with you if stuck on an island?
All Things Must Pass, George Harrison 
The Basement Tapes, Bob Dylan (with all the newly rediscovered tracks so that's cheating!) Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles 

Boring, huh?

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
Well, for me it's all in the name. When I think of the name La MaMa, it has two meanings for me. First, It's the living mother of all indie theatre companies. The experiments that were nurtured here in the mid 60s made everything that's happened since possible. I think in certain ways, the downtown theatre community has backslid, but not in the fundamental idea that it is 100% valid for me or anyone to just sort of plant their flag and say "I am a theatre company, and this thing I am doing is theatre." That spirit of freedom was pioneered at La MaMa. The other meaning in the name...Well, having known both Ellen Stewart and Mia Yoo, I can say that they both radiate this same quality, a sort of ethic of being welcoming and nurturing, of hearing you, and supporting you, not just materially but morally. They go to bat for their shows. They provide for their artists. And ye gods -- they have rehearsal space!

And, lastly, working at the same joint where a lot of my heroes have worked puts the pep in my step! I first had the privilege of mounting a show here in 2011, and I tell you at night, when all is quiet, I look around for the ghosts!


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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