Gardiner Comfort's solo performance, The Elephant in Every Room I Enter, returns to La MaMa on October 15th! Gardiner took time out from rehearsals to answer our 6 Questions about the show, downtown performance and who inspires him.
1. The Elephant in Every Room I Enter is about your going to the Tourette Syndrome Association National Conference in Washington DC. How and when did you realize that your experience there had the makings of a performance?
When I was down there and taking notice of all of the people (mainly kids) with Tourette's I became obsessed with them. When I returned from the conference to New York to continue working with (director and co-creator) Kel Haney -on a new show in the Mabou Mines Residency, I couldn't stop talking about all of the things that happened in DC and their theatrical nature. I'd describe all of the tics I'd hear and how emotionally dramatic it all was and Kel was very taken with the stories. We were having trouble coming up with a story to tell in our new show and Kel grinned and said, "this is our show."
2. The show is returning to La MaMa this Fall after a run in The Club at La MaMa last season. What did you learn from that initial run and will the show be different upon it's return?
We learned all about the trials and tribulations of production and marketing and how much we really had to learn. We learned a great deal from audience members who had never seen something quite like our show. Many people were noticeably riveted and showed us how unique our show is. I also learned how exhausting the show is, to be on stage, alone, for over an hour, running around, impersonating people and their tics and never wanting to slow down. It was quite a feat, especially since Kel and I had only just created the piece and I was barely off book! I look forward to going at it again with fresh legs. I think it'll be a lot more fun and less exhausting.
3. What do you want audiences to take away from the show with them?
I'd like audiences to come away feeling like a poodle in a washing machine, i.e. that they have never seen anything quite like our show and that the emotional, thematic experience leaves them reeling but excited. Also, that I am the greatest actor the world has ever seen and am available for Bar Mitzvah's.
4. If you weren't an actor, what would you be?
5. Who or what inspires you?
People who do and say crazy things in public, without necessarily being crazy. People who simply want to express something without filtering themselves. And then when someone else responds, or joins in (often it's me, in either position) and something spontaneous and theatrical happens right there on the street or in the subway. And then it runs its course and the two excitedly high five or something and go on about their busy lives. Everyone is busy in New York. No matter how destitute or unimportant, everyone seems to have some game they are running, or somewhere to be. Which is actually positive, I think, because the frenzied nature of the city keeps us on our toes. I don't know if it would be the same if New York had more of a laid back, Portland or Austin vibe. Those exciting moments that can't be written but have always been characteristic of New York City. It's a special place that seems to have a blend of open mindedness, acceptance, and aggressive competition, which often comes across as intolerance. But I think it's actually exciting and provides inspiration for an exchange of ideas. I also believe that the two create a yin and yang that makes the city feel alive. I don't think I would feel as excited if I lived in like LA or somewhere where attitude is simply seen as negative. We need that darkness.
Also, the wilderness inspires me. And playing sports. And children.
6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
It means that there is still a home for me downtown. It's meaningful to come back to a downtown institution when I grew up interning at PS 122 and HERE and going to see Richard Foreman and Mabou Mines and all types of crazy stuff downtown. It feels like home. I love downtown theater because it's the anti-Broadway. The only competition is in place to encourage new work, not to cut each other down. People are doing what they're doing because they love it, and they want to produce something new.
La MaMa presents
IN EVERY ROOM
Created by Gardiner Comfort & Kel Haney
Featuring Gardiner Comfort
Directed by Kel Haney
October 15 - November 01, 2015
Thursday - Saturday at 7:30pm; Sunday at 2pm
The First Floor Theatre
74A East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors; ten $10 tickets are available for every performance, in advance only, via web/phone/box office
For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE