La MaMa Blogs: 6 QUESTIONS: Richard E. Waits & Paul Stancato

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

6 QUESTIONS: Richard E. Waits & Paul Stancato

 Richard E. Waits (left) & Paul Stancato (right)

Richard E. Waits brings his solo-performance-art / experimental-play-with-music, MAMA ROSE to the Club at La MaMa, January 30 - February 8, 2015. The titular character is the author's mother, Rose Waits, "a woman from Buffalo who could have ruled the world... If they had let her."  Richard, and director Paul Stancato, graciously took the time to answer our 6 Questions. 

1. What are the joys and challenges of creating/directing an autobiographical piece like this?

Richard: The joys are really too many to list, but they include freedom of expression, having my voice be heard, creating a piece of art that will be here long after I'm gone. Also, the chance to work with Paul Stancato as a director. To me he is the real deal...he lives his art, he is the perfect director for MAMA ROSE in its expanding form. Paul is a drummer, musician, a dancer, a classically trained actor, a true performance-artist and a bit twisted. Anywhere the piece has to go, he has it covered. He's fearless!

Having Sheryl Lee Ralph as my co-producer, my muse, having her already established legacy as an actor, activist and humanitarian connected to mine, and to La MaMa, can't be a coincidence. It has to be fate. Strong women, women holding their children up up up, telling them, teaching them simple affirmations like: you do matter, you are not alone, you can breath, you are accountable to yourself, accountable to your tribe, accountable to your world. For you are Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware. You are D.I.V.A..

Most challenging, for me, is the producing aspect of presenting a solo show. OY! I want to only think like an artist, but this forces me to think as a business person as well. In the long run this is great for me. I strongly believe every artist needs to have a business sense. I'm grateful to my college program at Buffalo State because we had to work in every department of the theatre. This gave me a solid foundation. But it does spread me thin.

In the creation process, I have found my character, Mama Rose, to be so strong that she sometimes takes the process over. I have had many fights - yes fights - with her while in my creative zone. The fights happened very early in the process when everything was very literal. Now that we've expanded the stories, and they have a life of their own, we've made peace.

Paul: One of the joys for me is working with Richard and watching him create this character based on his mom. And I use the term 'based' loosely, because with Richard, you never really know what was real and what was fable. It's all very entertaining.

2. How would you describe this production's aesthetic?

Paul: I would say it's a play with music.

Richard: Brechtian! Stark, moody, joyous in the black.

3. What makes this an experimental play? How are you, personally, experimenting as an artist in this production?

Richard: I love this question. For this piece I'm using several of my favorite theatrical devices, or styles, or whatever you want to call it: Brechtian theatre, dark comedy, vaudeville, theatre of the absurd, song and dance, storytelling and improvisation.

Paul: What I love about this piece is how the main character, Mama Rose, keeps checking in with the audience throughout. Almost like a mother would with her family if she hasn't seen them in a while. 'How are you, Dion?' 'Are you eating good?' 'You look too skinny.' I think we all have that person in our family.

4. What do you hope the audience comes away from your show with?

Richard: I want them to know everybody has a Mama Rose, for we (the collective we) are a product of our people. We are more alike than different. I need to be reminded of this on a daily basis.

Paul: We all have a Mama Rose. And how does this mama compare to yours?

5. Have you been using any particular plays/performances/movies/images etc. as inspiration while working on this show?

Richard: Nothing in particular. There are glimpses of images, types, words in my mind's eye. For example; Black and white films and photography, a Bette Midler Concert from the 1980's called Art or Bust, a Mr. Bojangles type of image that seems to be on my shoulder watching over me, Redd Foxx, Rodney Dangerfield, La Wanda Page (ooo I love a good cuss word), John Waters, Jules Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg, Peggy Eisenhauer, Tom Pye, Bob Fosse, George C. Wolfe - Curmudgeonly, salt of the earth, working class people, and realness.

Paul: We've been sharing a lot of our own family stories with each other. That has not only helped Richard find nuance in his character, but also really brought us together to form a great bond of trust. Richard has some really great stories.

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

Paul: For me, La MaMa has always represented a tradition of downtown theater. I was a Blue Man and used to hear great stories about when Blue Man used to perform there. I remember, years ago, I would walk by La MaMa and say to myself, someday I will play this house. So to have this opportunity is like a boyhood dream come true.

Richard: You don't know how proud I am to be able to be a part of this legacy. This run at La MaMa has far reaching implications of happiness, acceptance and self worth.

La MaMa presents:


January 30 - February 8, 2015 

Fridays & Saturdays at 10pm / Sundays at 6pm

The Club @ 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

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