La MaMa Blogs: 5 Questions: Paul Zimet

Thursday, January 22, 2015

5 Questions: Paul Zimet

Paul Zimet, founding member of The Talking Band, took time out of rehearsals to answer our 6 Questions about the the beginnings of the now 40 year-old group, how their work has grown over the years and what audiences should expect from the epic production of The Golden Toad which opens Friday at The Ellen Stewart Theatre!

1. What was the original inspiration for THE GOLDEN TOAD

I had been re-reading all of Dostoevsky’s novels. The Russian literary critic, Bahktin, said the thing that was unique about Dostoevsky’s characters was that they were “unfinalized”. They were were fluid, always changing. He said that couldn’t be done in theater. Ellen Maddow and I took that as a challenge to write an episodic theater piece, which follows the same group of characters over time and shifting circumstances. Their identities are never fixed.

2. What should audiences expect at THE GOLDEN TOAD

Four different sets/worlds which the audience will travel through (a back yard of a Brooklyn Townhouse, a tour bus moving through the New Jersey Meadowlands, a pop- up clothing store, and a Karaoke Bar); constantly surprising characters; cliff-hangers; great songs and music by Ellen Maddow and Elizabeth Swados; wonderfully expressive puppets by Eric Wright and the Puppet Kitchen; striking design by Anna Kiraly (sets and video), Lenore Doxsee (lights) and Kiki Smith (costumes); and an amazing ensemble –most of whom have been developing this work for two years- Michael Evans, James Tigger! Ferguson, Helen Gutowski, Melanie Herrera, Mikeah Ernest Jennings, Marija Kovacevic, John Kruth, Ellen Maddow, Nicolas NoreƱa, Dara Orland, Tina Shepard, and Georgia Stettner.

3. Talking Band turns 40 this year! How did the group form?

Ellen Maddow, Tina Shepard and I were all member of The Open Theater directed by Joseph Chaikin. The company was one of the first to collectively create new works. When The Open Theater disbanded in 1973 we wanted to continue and expand the research we had started with the Open Theater and continue to make new works, so we formed Talking Band.

4. How have Talking Band shows changed over the years? 

At the beginning our explorations were mainly about how to bring the same vitality and immediacy to the performance of language as we had brought to physical images and movement in The Open Theater. We started out performing poetry, and plays by poets. Music and the musicality of language was always central to our work. Our first production was The Kalevala, based on a Finnish epic poem. Composer Elizabeth Swados wrote the music. The staging was very spare. Our focus was on the musical telling of a story. In subsequent years, we have incorporated more and more theatrical elements – choreography, design, video. We have been fortunate to work with many extraordinary designers: in addition to the ones we are working with on The Golden Toad the list includes: Julie Taymor, Theodora Skipitares, Machine Dazzle, Carol Mullins, Nic Ularu, Ralph Lee, Christine Jones, Beverly Emmons, Gabriel Berry and many others.

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

La MaMa has been Talking Band’s artistic home since 1981. We’ve produced more than twenty original works at La MaMa. Ellen Stewart nurtured the company, stretched out artistic vision, inspired us. Now, as always, when we work at La MaMa we feel that we are part of creative family which includes the many artists who work here and the La MaMa staff who work with such dedication, understanding, and love to support the work.

La MaMa presents




by The Talking Band

January 23 - February 07, 2015

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

Tickets: $25 Adults; $20 Students/Seniors; ten tickets priced at $10 are available for every performance, in advance only, via web, phone or at the box office - not available day of show.

Because of the configuration of the theater for The Golden Toad, there is very limited ticket availability for every performance.  Advance purchase strongly suggested.

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

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