MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir and you're listening to "Metro Connection." Today we're talking about invention and innovation and earlier in the show, we heard about a particular innovation that's causing quite a stir and quite a bit of drama, the electric car.
Well, you have to watch out for the arrows of righteous indignation.
Pioneers often get arrows in their butt, is that what you're saying Dave?
But as far as D.C. actor, Marcus Kyd, is concerned...
MR. MARCUS KYD
People stuck in their cars and so much stuff happens in your car...
Pretty much all cars.
...and it gets so intense because you're right next to each other and you can't escape each other...
...this is perfect drama.
I mean, really dramatic.
And it will be cheap to produce.
Which is why Taffety Punk, the theatre company Marcus helped found in 2004 is presenting "The Car Plays." Three one-act plays about, well...
People in a car.
Hence the whole cheap to produce thing.
As you can see the set here is two chairs.
Here, by the way, is the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Southeast D.C. where I recently dropped in on a rehearsal for one of "The Car Plays," Buggy and Tyler.
You know why all those women want to hang out with me? I don't make adjustments. You might learn something.
What? Like how to be less of a (unintelligible)
What the hell was that?
I don't know. I didn't see it. It didn't sound good, though, did it?
Do you think the tire's flat?
Well, see if you can lean out and look.
It's pitch dark out.
Does it sound like the tire's flat?
That's Eric Messener as Buggy and Jason Latt as Tyler. The play is the brainchild of Taffety Punk's new resident playwright...
As the resident playwright, what does that mean exactly?
MR. GWYDION SUILEBHAN
We're figuring that out. We've worked together for a long time, we have a good relationship and we're going to figure out stuff to do together.
Yes, you know, I mean, I wanted Gwydion to feel good about showing us new stuff because we can mess around and we can jam on these things and if we find one we like, like this, we'll put it up.
And that whole idea of messing around, of jamming, is what Taffety Punk is all about. Mainly, Marcus Kyd says, because you just don't see enough of that kind of thing these days in American theatre.
As much possible we wanted to be about the artists because we feel like American theatre is using artists but they're migrant workers as opposed to the artist coming up with the work and deciding what they want to do. So this is very much an artist-driven company.
And those artists have talents that are all over the map. you've got your highly trained classical artists...
Highly trained movement artists.
…you've got your musicians, your dancers...
Any number of skills that, you know, in the professional world, when we get cast very often it's just walking around furniture and talking.
But not in Taffety Punk show. I mean, yes, obviously they do do straight plays.
But sometimes they do massive, all-out rock concerts.
Sometimes we just do dance concerts.
And Marcus says, if they happen to be in the mood...
Sometimes we get them all in at once.
But here's the thing, and how's this for innovation, whatever Taffety Punk is doing it makes one promise to its audience, no ticket...
How much are tickets?
...ever costs more than...
For everybody, all the time?
Everybody, all the time. We feel like the theatre's abandoning most of the country by charging too much money. So we don't ever want somebody not to come because of that.
Marcus says they rely on donations.
Most of our donations come in the $25 variety. Occasionally, we get a nice, big $1,000 check and that's wonderful.
And they split each performance's proceeds with the actors.
So all the money just keeps circulating in the pool.
But with tickets at $10...
And that's if we're charging. So very often we do stuff for free.
They have to be pretty smart about their budget, pretty inventive, if you will when putting on a show. I mean, sure some of those rock and dance concerts can be really spectacular but as playwright Gwydion Suilebhan puts it...
We're the exact opposite of the $65 million Spiderman.
In other words, no big expensive spectacles.
No offense to Julie Taymor or the folks working on that but how many of these shows could you make for one Spiderman?
And Taffety Punk's low budget, artist-driven model?
It's less institutionalized, more responsive to audiences and what they're interested in seeing and in breaking down the barriers that keep audiences from seeing theatre.
Is something both Gwydion and Marcus say they're thrilled to be seeing a lot more of around Washington these days.
You could see Faction of Fools do like pure comedic del arte or Happenstance do their strange dance mime steam punk and you could see us do our weird punk rock thing.
In fact, says Marcus, in a way the local theatre scene is sort of, kind of like, the 80's punk scene.
You know, all the punk bands in the 80's weren't on the radio. You had to actually go and find them out but they're out there. So go and find out these groups, you know.
And while we're talking punk, perhaps some of you have been curious about another Taffety Punk innovation, I know I was.
How did you come up with the name?
Taffety Punk came from Shakespeare. Its "All's Well That Ends Well." One of the clowns says something like, "A French crown for your taffety punk." And I was excited at the time, being an old punk rocker that punk was a word that was that old and then it also meant a well-dressed whore, which I think every actor, at some point, feels like. So I was, like, this is it, this is our name.
"The Car Plays" opens this weekend at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. For more on the show and on Taffety Punk Theatre Company, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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