Erin Markey discusses familial relationships, making “stuff for stage and video,” and dating chaperones.
I sat down with Erin Markey at Van Leeuwen, a cafe-cum-ice cream shop in Greenpoint this winter. I had first seen her live show on the day of the Gay Pride Parade, an event about which I’d had my trepidations, after seeing banners hanging from lamp posts in lower Manhattan advertising its Pepsi-sponsorship. So I headed to Everybooty, an alternative event at DeKalb Market—a temporary space in downtown Brooklyn composed mostly of old shipping containers.
The June sun beat down and my Linda Rondstadt-esque floral prom dress stuck to my body. By the time Erin Markey came onstage, following a lamé-clad pair of Dolly Parton impersonators, enough beer had circulated the crowd for a feeling of jubilance to hang in the air. Markey wore green suspenders and lace-up boots, her long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. She flashed a wide smile at the crowd and started by singing a song about Skyping with her mother and father—”Let Me Go to Fullscreen.” As soon as she finished (to great applause) she went on to perform her second musical number, “Secret Puddles” in the drag persona of Timmy.
Timmy—Markey in a fire red wig and mud smeared face—introduced himself timidly as Markey’s fundraiser, eliciting laughs from the audience. She sang shyly while holding a baby doll: “I have a doll named Secret. Secret is his name. Secret’s just a baby. And a baby’s not a game. I know because I was one, and a tiny one at that. My mom and dad they left me, in a shabby London flat.”
From the minute Timmy begins singing I am laughing. Absurd!, I am thinking. Absurd! I sense an incommensurability between the stage tune and melody of Markey’s song and the dark content of the lyrics. The feelings that Timmy expresses do not line up with the circumstances he describes and the proximity of Timmy’s tragic ballad to “Let me Go to Fullscreen” reveals a hilarious ambivalence about family. Even in this short performance, Markey has me thinking about family as fallible, wonderful, deeply political and entirely unresolved.
I have to talk to this person, I thought. My conversation with Markey, six months later, ambled from family politics to astrological signs (she’s a Leo) and artist statements to Catholicism. I wanted to discuss Erin’s particular breed of humor and, enjoyably, that humor seeped into every area of our discussion.
Katherine Cooper I feel like misquoting people is really yucky.
Erin Markey It is. Having been misquoted many times.
Tina Satter speaks about formalism, her perverse sense of humour and the importance of family drama.
When I walk through the cement bowels of the Abrons Arts Center and into the rehearsal room where Tina Satter’s House of Dance premiered on October 23rd, it feels like home. I sense an immediate affinity for the ludicrous, absurd, and ridiculous. House of Dance chronicles the emotional and choreographic events of a one hour tap class in a dingy basement. Think: Glitter. Pink. Bandannas. Tap shoes. Hilarious puppet dance breaks abut poignant moments of silence. Operatic music breaks rub up against mundane cellphone vibrations. Actor, Jess Barbagallo whips out the most ridiculous bright pink monster suit you’ve ever seen from a backpack covered in middle-school-esque graffiti and then proclaims with complete sincerity, “I want to look and feel pro and awesome, you know.”
It feels like a queer version of Santa’s workshop.
Members of the cast and crew dart around the room adjusting sound levels, pieces of choreography, and angles of miniature top hats. This basement room houses these students of the ridiculous and Tina Satter is their leader. As I sit down to speak with her it becomes clear that while she is profoundly devoted to stupidness she is also a scholar of form.
It seems fitting that Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth plays in the background of the Williamsburg coffee shop where we sit and talk. Tina wears a neon insignia-ed lid that says “LA.” in rainbow letters. She is small and wired. Her gaze remains focused and unflinching. She often encourages her interlocutor with an affirmative “yeah!” or “riiiiight…” I’m struck by her combination of youthfulness and sagacity. Tina’s eyes twinkle with mischief and she has a laugh like a fat man. She takes play very seriously.
Katherine Cooper speaks to playwright Adriano Shaplin about baffled audiences, favoring amateurism over professionalism, and what The Crucible got wrong.
While I was living in Philadelphia, I encountered Adriano Shaplin’s piece “Freedom Club” as part of the Fringe. His theatrical work disturbed and perplexed me. Not in a bad way—it was uncomfortable and I liked it. I was nervous to speak with Adriano. He is famously candid in interviews. I had heard he was “out there,” “political,” “kooky.” The frontality and alienation of his work reflects an incisive point of view on theatrical convention—one that I wasn’t sure I shared but that I was extremely curious about. I’m drawn to art and artists that are defiant and sensitive and I sensed that in Adriano and his work.
Adriano’s young, but maturing career has already taken many twists and turns which he commented on very honestly as we spoke. He has found a home of sorts at the Flea Theater in SoHo and recently premiered his latest show Sarah Flood in Salem Mass there. The play muses on topics near and dear to my heart—witches, morals, and New England. I had seen it the night before—a cacophony of movement, razor sharp language and moments of beautiful sensuality. Who was the guy who conceived of this world? Where did he live?
When I arrived at the apartment in Jersey City at noon on Saturday I walked down a long dimly lit corridor with about five closed doors all along one side. The image that came to mind was of an underfunded mental institution or an abandoned beach hotel circa 1940. The floor creaked. It smelled like sleep.
I emerged into a sunlit living room with a wingback chair. I found myself falling into it with ease—the frayed arms, the brown stain where a thousand times a woman with an Aqua-netted bouffant must have rested her head. My apprehension dissipated. The place felt lived in—that wing back chair, a half drunk beer, a pair of antlers on the blood red walls entangled with green ribbon from a party that had ended days (weeks?) ago. Like Adriano himself, the apartment was not afraid of its own mess.
Katherine Cooper addresses a series of letters to performance artist Cynthia Hopkins in response to her work, This Clement World.
Cynthia Hopkins has just returned from a journey to the Arctic aboard the Noorderlicht, a Dutch sailing vessel which has been chartered by the British organization Cape Farewell, and had on board ten artists and five marine scientists from around the world. These passengers set sail on a twenty-two day voyage around the Arctic to “encounter the magnificence of this extreme and threatened environment and engage with the scientific research being conducted on board.” Hopkins was then charged with shaping her experience of that trip into a performance which she has titled This Clement World. And then she came to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
I. A Small Disturbance
I cried. I wasn’t planning to, but within the first few bars of her singing I was in tears. What she was singing wasn’t even particularly “sad,” nonetheless my lip quivered and my breath and heart quickened. I agreed to listen but I didn’t agree to cry.
White girls crying at other white girls singing about global warming. Ugh.
But I’m still crying.