La MaMa Blogs: 6 QUESTIONS: Chris Tanner

Friday, June 6, 2014

6 QUESTIONS: Chris Tanner

Chris Tanner with his mother after performing in The Etiquette of Death at La MaMa

Performer and visual artist Chris Tanner brings his solo show, FOOTBALL HEAD to La MaMa, June 20th - 29th. Here, he answers our six questions.

1. You're a visual artist and a performer. How do those two practices affect each other?
They're very different, and they really use different sides of my brain. But that's the wonderful thing, that they are different, and when I'm immersed in one, I'm not at all in the other one. They feed each other, because when I'm doing theater and I finish, I have a great hunger to get back into the studio. I'll put my hand to the pallet and 
I'll start crying because I'm so happy to be back. But you don't really know until you start. It's the same way with performing. When you're onstage and you're one with the gods, there's nothing like it. It's like you're sailing. It's like you're surfing, actually. It's a high that you cannot achieve in any other way... except for maybe in your private times.

2. What draws you to "tales of shame and humiliation"? What happens when you share them with an audience?
I think we're born all gorgeous and lovely but we learn slowly about shame and humiliation from other people who are filled with shame and humiliation. Doing this piece, I want to inspire people to celebrate their differences and to not be afraid of becoming themselves. I want you open that drawer of shame and just let it out. Let it out, and decorate it! Decorate it and wear it out for everyone to see and enjoy.

3. Who are Lance Cruce and the Doo-Wop Girls?
Lance Cruce is my collaborator. We have been working together for about twenty years now. We've made many plays... it began with us working with Cyndi Lauper, her remake of Girls Just Want to Have Fun. We traveled all over the country with Karen Finley together. We've done many many shows here at La MaMa and it's great to be working with him as always.

The Doo Wop girls - One is Gina Bonati and she is fabulous. I've only known her for a year. We did a workshop of Football Head at Dixon Place together. The other one is Kaylin Clinton. I've been playing opposite her in Ildiko Nemeth's New Stage Theatre Company for, I guess, the last six years. She's a great star and a wonderful singer and I'm so honored to have both of these women in my company

4. Which artists have inspired you while you've worked on this show?
The artists that have been inspiring me on this journey are the artists I'm working with. Every day they bring something new and incredible to the piece and I am just so elated to be coming to rehearsal every day.

5. You've worked with Maria Irene Fornés. She's had an influence on a number of artists. Can you tell us a little about working with her?
We worked together on a play called A Visit. It was at least 25 years ago, at Theatre for the New City, and I think the music was by Galt MacDermot. She is a huge genius. It was one of my favorite theatrical experiences I've ever had. Going to rehearsal was like dessert. She was so interesting and exciting and fresh... I had an aunt that was an Avon lady, and I told Maria Irene Fornés, 'Please, write me a part for an Avon Lady.' And she said, 'Yes, yes, I'm going to have you be the Avon Lady next time, in my next play, and you're going to get all dressed up and you're going to be waiting there by the door from the beginning of the play, and past intermission you're going to be waiting, and actually you'll be waiting throughout the whole play to ring the doorbell, but you never will.' So I've just always seen myself by this door, backstage, waiting to go on, waiting to sell my make-up, and never going on, and nobody ever seeing me or anything. "Hey Irene, I'm still waiting, can I press the buzzer now?"

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
Working at La MaMa means I'm home, and I can do no wrong because anything I do, Mama is going to throw her arms around me and protect me and love me. Every day I come to my studio, I look at Ellen Stewart's portrait on the stairs. I say hello to her in the morning, goodbye to her at night, and I know I am safe here at La MaMa. This is my home.

La MaMa presents:


By Chris Tanner
Directed by Daniel Allen Nelson

June 20th – 29th, 2014
Friday - Saturday @ 10pm / Sunday @ 5:30pm

The Club @ La MaMa
74a East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $18 Adults - $13 Student/Senior; ten tickets priced at $10 are available, in advance, for every performance via web, phone or box office as part of La MaMa's 10@$10 ticketing initiative. 10@$10 tickets not available day of show.

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

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