Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Outtakes: Moe Angelos Unplugged on "Continuous City," Nov. 18-22 at BAM Next Wave Festival

In Continuous City, the techno-fabulous new show by the Builders Association, actor Moe Angelos portrays a nanny who vblogs hilarious personal stories about her daily life, while taking care of a young girl whose father is a globe-trotting businessman whom she misses terribly.

I have loved following Moe Angelos in both the Builders shows and the Five Lesbian Brothers. In fact, when the Builders and the U.K.-based motiroti presented Alladeen at the BAM Next Wave Festival some years back, Moe actually wrote an article for me about what it is like to be a performer in Builders shows. It was a terrific personal account, as sassy and downhome funny as Moe herself is.

While I was writing "Electronic Campfires," my American Theatre magazine cover story about the Builders Association for its December edition, I had an opportunity to interview Moe more about the Builders in general, rather than specifically about her own work in the show. At the time we spoke, Moe was in San Francisco where she was vblogged for the show's Yerba Buena for the Arts premiere. I had just seen the company's presentation at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, where Moe blogged about meeting a farmer who talked to her about corn.

Heres' a scrumptious bite of undiluted Moe Angelos corn:

RANDY GENER: Why have you remained working with the Builders all these years?
MOE ANGELOS: I enjoy the challenge of creating theater pieces while simultaneously exploring the process for creating those works. The Builders are making theatre and making methods and practices and in that one small corner of my life, I am an overachiever. Plus, the kind of theater that The Builders end up producing is very different from a more traditional, text-driven narrative. How to tell a story without literally "telling" it is pretty interesting territory.

RANDY: One feedback I have read or heard say the Builders shows are not critical enough or not dialectical enough as narratives. I remember a Times review of "Super Vision" that stated the themes in the show have been explored before in other genres (George Orwell was cited) and were not investigated deep enough. Is this a fair criticism? Is narrative a weakness in Builders shows?
MOE: Oh boy! The "weak narrative" argument surfaces. I would say that the work is trying to offer our audiences live, immersive theatricalized worlds which explore what it's like to live in our Digital Age, where issues like identity and boundaries and distance are in a state of flux. Story is the way audiences are used to entering into the world presented on stage and I'd say that Marianne is trying to open another entrance into those created worlds. Yes, others like Mr. Orwell have explored this territory, but I think Marianne's goal is to get at what it feels like to live in our current world, which is now not so Brave nor New (to steal from Huxley) rather than to warn of its pitfalls. That genie is out of the bottle at this point and living with the genie among us is what I'd say it's about.

RANDY: Can you share some thoughts about other Builders founders like Dan Dobson or Peter Flaherty?
MOE: Both these gents are fantastic collaborators who are willing to give their creative talents to the greater common good of show business above and beyond the various duties that call them incessantly. It is not always an easy business, as there is much trial and error involved and steely nerves are needed, for instance, to jettison something that you have just spent hours, if not days working on in service to the show's clarity. The many many iterations that constitute the Builders' process requires both flexibility and stamina over the long haul. The Ironman Triathletes of the process, they along with the video team (Ed, Josh, Austin), the tech director Neal and our lighting associate Laura go to heroic lengths to make the magic happen. I guess we are all on some level, a quirky bunch who derive some deep satisfaction from solving the artistic problems Marianne proposes in unconventional ways.

RANDY: In what ways has Marianne grown as a director?
MOE: I'd say that Marianne has not been that interested in telling stories in conventional ways and this can result in the "narrative deficit" discussions around the work (see above). I have to hand it to her that she has listened to those criticisms and I feel has really endeavored to use narrative in a more conventional way in this show. It is not always an easy fit for her, but she has tried to do it differently this time out by working with Harry as the writer, who is much more of a narrative-Builder, capital B and small b. The artistic scope of her vision has enlarged, and she is more ambitious about the stage pictures she wants to present, always going for greater richness and depth as her personal eye develops over time. She always wants to make a simpler show and it never turns out that way!

Continuous City
The Builders Association

Directed by Marianne Weems

Conceived by:
Marianne Weems, Director
Harry Sinclair, Writer
James Gibbs, Dramaturg
Sound Design and original music composition by Dan Dobson
Video Design by Peter Flaherty
Lighting by Jennifer Tipton
Set Design by James Gibbs, Stewart Laing, and Neal Wilkinson

BAM Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St)
Nov 18—22 at 7:30pm
Tickets: $20, 30, 45, 55718.636.4100 or BAM.org
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