|Mustard: A Play. A Love Story.
"Mustard" is a renegade adaptation of Ibsen's "A Doll's
House," performed by Ordinary Theater, written and directed by Mitchell
Polin, who specializes in "re-mix" as a formalized theatrical
tool of process and structure. Falling somewhere between "Happenings,"
rituals, and rock concerts, his works combine live music, song, video,
found texts, movement, and storytelling into a fluid landscape of performance.
The piece has choreography by Polin and Michael Burke, lighting by Blu
and live music and video projection by Tungsten74, a psyche noise freak
out space rock band. The part of Nora is divided between Kimberly Brandt,
Jessie Richardson and The Philly (a flaming red-haired underground film
star, noise musician, and visual artist).
The Philly as Nora. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
Mitchell Polin is a director who moved from
happenings into theater, so don't expect a well-made play. The project
is best described as a "theatrical re-mix" of Ibsen's classic,
which takes the audience on a sound walk around an imaginary city in which
In Ibsen's 1879 classic, the "doll," Nora Helmer, with a naïve
innocence coming from her petted existence, commits forgery to secure
money for her sick husband. The results of her act awaken her to a new
world. When danger from the law is past, her resentment at being treated
as a doll forces her to leave home to discover life for herself.
Polin has previously done plays based on two other female characters
of literature--Emily in "Our Town" and Gretchen in Goethe's
"Faust"--and is very interested in Nora as the continuing archetype
of the eternal feminine. In "Mustard," Nora's Tarantella dance,
when she realizes she can be free, is reinterpreted into a vision of technological
virtuosity, as Nora's movements exercise control over the sound, lights,
and video of the performance.
Says Polin, "'A Doll's House' could happen anywhere in any city.
In a space with so many unique and irreducible lives, actions, and events,
how do the simultaneous happenings give each other meaning?" The
play begins with a view of Nora as a speck in the universe, partly staging
the events of the town "Planetarium style," with a narrator
and a projected surround; the performance then moves to the streets of
the city, and finally culminates in Nora's living room with a portion
of Ibsen's play. The production partners a live musical score with a collage
of acting styles and choreographic images.
The performance is situated within a cardboard model of New York City
and against a fluid landscape of video and lighting. The idea is to dramatize
the "hidden moments" and "accidental harmonies" in
all the rooms of our lives. To accent the public/private dichotomy there
are Brechtian touches, for example, there are microphones onstage in which
the characters speak directly to the audience and sing with the band.
The actors are Philly, Kimberly Brandt, Jessie Richardson, Michael Burke,
Kristopher Kling and Ben Horner. The part of Nora is divided among all
three actresses; the part of Torvalds is shared between Kling and Horner.
Burke appears as the narrator.
Mitchell Polin, artistic director of the
Ordinary Theater, is a NYC-based director and playwright whose work focuses
on the notion of the "re-mix" as a formalized theatrical tool
of process and structure. Falling somewhere between "Happenings,"
rituals and rock concerts, his works combine live music, song, video,
found texts, movement, and storytelling into a fluid landscape of performance.
His directed works have appeared at Synchronicity Space, One Arm Red,
The Stella Adler Conservatory, The Bank Street Theater, Dixon Place, Performance
Mix Series/The Joyce Soho, The Philadelphia Fringe Festival (2003), The
Ko Festival of Performance (2004), The 2004 National Gay & Lesbian
Theatre Festival (Columbus, OH), and Trinity College, among others. Polin
will direct recent actors of the Moscow Art Theater in "Faust!!!"
in Tallinn, Estonia in 2007. Past works include "The Meeting"
(eight existential figures meet in an alien landscape), "Capitalistic
Acts Between Consenting Adults" (an adaptation of Aldus Huxley's
novel Brave New World), "Quad Antigone," "Faust!!!,"
and "Our Town: Revisited" (Valley of the Dolls invades Grover's
On the occasion of Polin's "The Meeting" (1999) at the Bank
Street Theater, Show Business (Jennifer Besser) wrote, "'The Meeting'
is an impressive show of the Ordinary Theater's talent, a young company
whose work should not be missed." Polin is also the director of performance
artist Michael Burke and choreographer Lesley Farlow. His work also includes
studies in the ritual and storytelling of Polynesia. He is an assistant
professor of Theater and Dance at Trinity College.
Tungsten74 (music and projections), now ten years old, is a psyche noise
freak out space rock band which has worked with Mitchell Polin on three
previous theatrical productions. Splendid E-zine wrote, "This swirling
mass of mind-boggling genre twisting embraces tasteful improvisational
skills, freaky percussive rolls and ambient drones, single-mindedly focused
on blowing you away without blowing your interest in the band's atypical
style of music." Further info: www.tungsten74.com.
The Philly (Nora, Host) is an "indie"
film star, noise musician, educator, painter, and muse for numerous photographers.
She moved from Toronto to NYC in the early '80s and performed at the Pyramid,
Mudd Club, and ABC NO RIO with John Sex, Happi Phace, Tabboo, Ethyl Eichelberger,
and Joey Arias. She has appeared in films by Todd Verow including "She's
Under My Thumb," "A Sudden Loss of Gravity," "The
Trouble with Perpetual Déjà vu," "Shucking the
Curve" and most notably, "Once and a Future Queen." She
has also appeared in "Hair Burner" by Ned Ambler, "Nitwit"
by Xan Price, and various films by queer camp icons George and Mike Kuchar.
She is leader of "Infinity SS," a noise band/cooperative of
performance artists, visual artists, musicians and deejays. As a visual
artist, she juxtaposes collage, painted glass, and found objects. She
has taught at Trinity College.
Kimberly Brandt (Nora) has appeared in New
York at Dixon Place, University Settlement, HERE Arts Center, Brooklyn
Arts Exchange, Williamsburg Arts Nexus and P.S. 122. She has also performed
in numerous dance works and independent films in New York and Massachusetts,
and currently dances for choreographer Sam Kim. From 2003-2006, she was
Dance Program Director at Dixon Place. Upcoming performances in Spring
2006 include Movement Research at DTW and Food for Thought at Danspace
Project at St. Mark's Church. A graduate of Hampshire College, she is
currently attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Performance Studies
Michael Burke (co-choreographer, host) is
an NYC-based queer performance artist/indie film actor/activist/educator.
His work juxtaposes spoken text, dance, visual imagery, video, music and
sound score to locate the many ways that the personal is the political.
Burke has been presented in NYC at venues including Dixon Place, HOT!
The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture (1999-2005), OPERATION: OPERATION
@ The Marquee, The Big Broadcast on WBAI FM, The Fuse Festival presented
by HERE Arts Center and Dixon Place (2003), New Dance Alliance's Performance
Mix Series/The Joyce Soho (2002, 2005), The Oasis Festival at Chashama
and The Howl Festival. He teaches in the Theater & Dance Department
and InterArts Program at Trinity College. He is a recipient of All Out
Arts & New Village Productions' "Best Performance Artist of 2003"
Ben Horner (Torvald, host) has worked with
Richard Foreman for the past two years, first appearing as a Dwarf in
The Gods Are Pounding My Head! (aka Lumberjack Messiah) and most recently
in Zomboid!: Film/Performance Project #1 . Other notable credits include
Anthony Nielson's "Penetrator"; "Closer" and "The
Winter's Tale" at Stella Adler Theatre; "Picasso at the Lapin
Agile" at Collective Unconscious, and "Description Beggared,
Or The Allegory of WHITENESS" at The Farm Theatre. This summer he
will be performing at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
Jessie Richardson (Nora) is a graduate of
Trinity College (Hartford), where she majored in Theatre and Dance. Past
productions include "Blood Wedding" (directed by Zishan Urgulu)
and "Our Town (Revisited)," directed by Mitchell Polin.
Kristopher Kling (Torvald) recently graduated
from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England. He played
Orlando in "As You Like It" and Horatio in "Hamlet"
for the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival. He is a founding member of the
performance group The Crownfill 5, and the band Transforming Apollo.