CHANG IN A VOID MOON, the first serialized
play ever produced in NY, began in 1982 at the Pyramid Club with Episode
#1, won a Bessie in 1985, and has been highly acclaimed through over 50
episodes to-date. The Village Voice wrote, "Chang…proves that
childishness and exaggerated foolery aren't incompatible with a decidedly
serious vision of the world." NY Beat said it contains "the
astonishingly fleet, literate dialogue of screwball comedies." Now
in its 21st year, the original theater work returns with members of the
original cast in three entirely new episodes. Performers will include
original cast members John Hagan, Donna Herman, Ruth Gray, Helena White,
Anna Kohler (Wooster Group), Sanghi Wagner, Oscar de la Fe Colon, Lisa
Herman (Golden Palominos), Nicky Paraiso (La MaMa/Meredith Monk), Rebecca
Moore, Greg Mehrten (Mabou Mines) and Obie Winners Mary Shultz (Meredith
Monk), Black-Eyed Susan (Charles Ludlam), Ching Valdes-Aran and David
Cale. There will also be special surprise guests.
John Jesurun, a winner of the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship
in 1996, is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost innovators of avant-garde
theater, creating virtuoso works that overlap media and language in surprising
and unpredictable ways.
Each episode of CHANG IN A VOID MOON plays with various media forms,
pop-cultural constructs and entertainment genres. Essentially a soap opera,
the drama (comedy and mystery) of "Chang…" revolves around
the exploits of a businessman by that name and his schemes to defraud
the Peters clan, a wealthy family steeped in severe dysfunction. The construction
of "Chang…" is as important as its text. It is converged
by the influence of film, television and radio rather than by theatrical
convention. Scenes begin and end abruptly, as if cut and spliced together.
Camera effects are replicated: actors are frequently suspended on platforms
in various configurations to suggest overhead shots, long shots, and shots
from below. Stagings have included helicopter rescues, sailboat races,
a floating saxophone, car crashes and chases.
Like all of Jesurun’s work, Chang is driven by word-play: puns,
allusions, and non-sequiturs. Playful phrasing enhances the dialogue’s
rhythmic quality, and speaking Jesurun’s dialogue, his characters
create a nearly symphonic chorus. Throughout the play, rhythms are often
interrupted then redeveloped. This style, distinctly Jesurun’s,
has been viewed as a precurser of “sampling” which anticipated
the technique’s casual and widespread use in all forms of pop music.
Music is by Barbez, a New York art-rock ensemble. The New Yorker has
written, “Barbez includes a brilliant theremin player who smokes
cigarettes and a full –throated Russian singer who comes across
like Joan of Arc with a sense of Humor. They cover everything from Bertolt
Brecht to Black Sabbath, but the real attractions is their melodically
haunting originals. With a folk-music sound located somewhere between
turn-of-century Eastern Europe and modern America, it’s arty rock
that moves between brooding and winking.”
Born in Battle Creek, MI in 1951, John Jesurun was originally trained
as a sculptor at the Philadelphia College of Art and studied film at Yale
before turning to playwriting in the early 1980's. He was the Associate
Producer of "The Dick Cavett Show." for two years. He has received
grants and fellowships from the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations
as well as the NEA. In addition to La MaMa, his works have been presented
in major venues and festivals both nationally and internationally. Jesurun's
work has long been distinguished by his use of film and video to destabilize
the audience's sense of reality. In 1986, his "Deep Sleep" had
two 70-minute films projected on facing screens while the five actors
were caught in between. The on-screen actors warned their live equivalents,
"Do you see the machines? They're the projectors. They are projecting
you...You must get off that roll of film so that when the film runs out
you'll be safe."
With "Chang…," Jesurun has consistently worked with
some of New York’s most exciting performers. Over the years his
company has featured: Steve Buscemi, Ethyl Eichelberger, the performance
artist John Kelly, Black-Eyed Susan. George Osterman, David Cale, Michael
Tighe, Rebecca Moore, Frank Maya, Mimi Goese, and choreographer Neil Greenberg,
among others. Many of these performers first came to prominence with their
work in "Chang…," and most of them continue to appear
in new episodes.
Jesurun received an Obie in 1986 for "Deep Sleep." His other
La MaMa works to-date are "Black Maria" (1987), "Red House"
(1984), "Number Minus One" (1984), "Dog's Eye View"
(1984), "Iron Lung" (1992), "Point of Debarkation"
(1993), “Slight Return” (1995) and a revival of his most famous
work, "Shatterhand Massacree," in 1992. His play "Philoktetes,"
written for Ron Vawter, has been published in the Yale Theater Magazine.
It will be presented by The Club at La MaMa this Spring, from March 4
to 21, 2004. Jesurun's "Faust/How I Rose" will be presented
at BAM's Next Wave Festival in Fall, 2004.