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    Categories: Theatre

Theater for The New City Presents ‘Artaud Artaud’

Artaud

“Artaud Artaud” is a “cruel not-masterpiece in one act” written by Matthew Minnicino, directed by Jake Beckhard and perfomed by Artilliers performing company.

The play is a comitragic carnival that centers around the godfather of the avant-garde theater, Antonin Artaud. It is a merciless parody of the sensibilities of Artaud’s manifesto “Theatre of Cruelty” and a sympathetic, semi-obsessive portrait of its greatest proponent and his somewhat dual nature. It is a faithful biopic written into a biting satire, yet is at its heart an homage to the messiness of creativity.

“Artaud Artaud” will have its world premiere September 1-15 2015 presented by Theater for the New City’s 2015 Dream Up Festival.

Inspired Vignettes

Coryn Carson; Kate Karczewski; Trey Fillmore; Kio Shijiki; Ben Peltz; Neil Redfield; Peter Smith; Adin Lenahan; Victoria Myrthil. Photo by George Silvertooth.

The play contains a series of vignettes inspired by the life of famous theater artist and theoretician. During his time in the Sanitarium at Rodez, France in the 1940s, Artaud is beset by a problem: his id-like Double, something at the core of his most famous texts, has taken complete control of his body. While it looks like him and is the form people associate with him, this double is not at all like him and is very much his opposite.

At times, the Double is a truer voice and says what Artaud’s ego prevents him from admitting. Trapped inside the chaos of his mind, the playwright wrestles with his Double to regain primacy and control over the way others perceive him. He enlists the Double as his voice and like a puppeteer guides how he moves through the world. But the Double, full of childlike chaos and wonder, begins to find his own wants and needs and discovers that they are not Artaud’s. The playwright’s body splits in two, calling into question whether the Double can in fact take on a life of its own. Though separate, the two are intertwined and co-dependent: what one body experiences impacts the other, forcing them to align their interests and work as a team. However, with time the Double develops more and more independence and starts to pursue a unique individuality.

Struggle Between the Man and His Double

Ben Peltz; Melissa Mahoney; Neil Redfield; Adin Lenahan. Photo by George Silvertooth

This struggle between the man and his double is set against the backdrop of the psychiatric ward. Many of the scenes take the form of a check-in with the Doctor’s Assistant and with each visit, Artaud’s Double is asked if he wants to be cured that day. The play encourages us to ask what exactly they are seeking to cure and whether being in this environment only heightens Artaud’s ‘madness.’ The doctors are unaware of his joint persona and the more the Double seeks to unearth this fact, the closer it brings him to electro-shock therapy. As soon as the Double tries to speak his mind and tell his truth, he is silenced by doctors and gagged. The play asks, how could anyone stay sane in such an environment?

The play takes the form of a hypertheatrical arena of thought and explores theater as a sensory experience- it is a stage nested in a stage nested in the theater we’re in. The set is made up of three layers of liminal space with sharp contrasts; people against blackness and bodies against bodies. The show is athletic, like a slow-motion wrestling match. The sound design will provide the music of these bodies – percussion suites of scratches, sniffs, coughs, lip smacks – all complementing the actors on the stage. “Artaud Artaud” revels in language and plays with its sounds and associations. Words become a tool of control, a justification for punishment and ultimately the only means of escape. Only once the Double takes control of the script that is dictating his life can he escape his prison and force Artaud to confront who he is.

Matthew Minnicino (playwright) has had works presented at The Cell, The Flea, HERE Arts, Dixon Place, The Bushwick Starr, The Gibson Showroom, Alchemical Theatre Lab and The Pershing Square Signature Center. He has worked with NYC companies including Pleiades Productions, Underling Productions, Lunar Energy, Exquisite Corpse, Boxed Wine and The Survivalists. He has also been produced in the college circuit at Columbia University, Barnard College, Mary Baldwin College, James Madison University, The University of Virginia, Wake Forest University and The University of Denver. He is a frequent actor, having appeared in over 25 productions of 15 Shakespeare plays. He has been an ensemble member of Washington DC’s Empty Chair Theatre and NYC’s Easy Leap. He co-founded a slapdash Shakespeare ensemble, Reckless Bard Productions. He is a Dramatists Guild Member and the Guild’s Literary and Publications Assistant. He is also Teaching Artist for the American Shakespeare Center’s Young Company, Resident Playwright for Exquisite Corpse and Lit Manager for Mad/Ecstatic Collective. In May he completed his MFA in Playwriting at Columbia University.

Jake Beckhard (director) is the producing artistic director of Artilliers. He most recently directed “Archy” by playwright Sam Corbin, at #serials at the Flea Theatre downtown. Previous directing credits include “Workplace Professional” and “Tallgrass Gothic:” (Grey Room NYC), “For Vanessa” (International Theatre Workshop, Amsterdam) and “Something Like Loneliness” (Atlantic Acting School), as well as a workshop of “Artaud Artaud.” He has trained with directors Kevin Kuhlke, Neil Pepe and Karen Kohlhaas and has assisted for Molly Smith (Artistic dir., Arena Stage), Mia Rovegno (Atlantic Acting School) and Rachel Chavkin (Artistic dir., The TEAM). (www.jake-beck.com)

Artilliers is a new performance company that aims to produce two plays a year, one classic (or modern classic) and one new play devised with the same creative ensemble. In its inaugural year, Artilliers will begin its mission with a staging of Strindberg’s “A Dream Play” in the fall and a devised play with the same ensemble in the spring.

Choreography is by Allison Schieler. Scene design is by Bryn Herdrich. Sound design is by Jorge Morales. Lighting design is by Elizabeth Stewart; costume design is by Gigi Hernandez.

Sixth Dream Up Festival

The sixth Dream Up Festival (www.dreamupfestival.org) will be presented by Theater for the New City (TNC) from August 30 to September 20, 2015, offering a lineup of wide-ranging and original theatrical visions embracing drama, musicals, improv, aerial and more. This year, owing to growing popularity, the festival has expanded beyond its primary venue. Previously, all productions were presented at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. This year, 19 productions will be presented at TNC and seven will be presented at an outside venue, The Producers Club Theaters at 358 West 44th Street.

The festival is dedicated to new works. TNC feels this festival is especially needed now in a time of declining donations to the arts, when grants are not being awarded due to market conditions and arts funding is being cut across the country and abroad. The festival aims to push ideas to the forefront through imaginative presentations so as to challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of the way art illuminates the world around us.

The show is presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) as part of the Dream Up Festival 2015 from September 1 to September 15. The performances are September 1 at 9:00 PM, September 7 at 9:00 PM, September 12 at 8:00 PM, September 13 at 8:00 PM, September 15 at 9:00 PM at Theater for the New City (Community Theater), 155 First Ave. Tickets are $15. The Box office is (212) 254-1109. You can find more information and purchase tickets at www.dreamupfestival.org.

Jonathan Slaff :Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.