I last saw Paige Collette in a brilliant burlesque set to Toto's "Africa" at the show #1 Female. This November she will be performing alongside Tatiana Pavela with a new work entitled Buttercream & Scotch.
JB: Dear Paige, your shows are always wildly fun and unpredictable. Give us a little hint about what to expect from Buttercream & Scotch?
PC: The show is definitely fun and funny. We play with words a lot. And food. There's a lot of elaborate drunk-dialing. Sponge-cake soaked with estrogen. It's kinda like an avant-garde "Sex in the City."
JB: I can only imagine what you'll do with a character named Aunt Gigi. Describe her a bit.
PC: Oh Gigi. I love her. She drinks a lot. She's broken hearted. She's a 46 year-old divorcee who's got a real mouth on her. She loves fucking. She loves drinking. She's very opinionated. She's a loose lady. There's this line in the show: "Men pass me on the street and they call me a MILF despite the fact that I never had children" -- yep, that's Gigi.
JB: Dear Tatiana, How did this show come together? What was the inspiration for it?
TP: One beautiful little bible: The Rules. This horrible, offensive dating guidebook from the 90's was passed onto me by Olga, an amazing Russian women whose appetite for life is stunted by her unhappy marriage. She passed on the book in hopes that I would find "The Man of My Dreams". I couldn't read the book without scoffing, so I created Mary Anne, a housewife looking for a home, to give the book its due. From there, creating Aunt Gigi seemed like a natural foil. Also, I would by lying if I said our own dating lives didn't play a huge part.
JB: What was the collaboration like?
TP: Interesting. And stressful and fun. This is my first time performing my own work, and Paige's first time collaborating with me, so we each had some things to go through. Certain things came really easy and were a breeze, while others gave me headaches. But we always know when we should just stop for the day and have a drink to solve things. There were a lot of drinks.
PC: We started playing around over a year ago. We decided we wanted to make a show together. I was getting out of a long relationship and diving into a new one, and that's what inspired a lot of my writing. Every few months, we would perform little "Buttercream" episodes around the city. Tatiana wanted to create her character with a more 1950s mindset, and I wanted to create my character with a more 1970s mindset. And this summer, I was living in Minneapolis, so Tatiana would email me her writing, and we'd try to piece things together bit by bit. But now I've been back in New York for about six weeks, and I gotta tell ya, it's a helluva lot easier to work together being in the same time zone!
JB: I love the photos (taken by George McConnell). Who designed your dress and apron?
TP: Thanks! I got the dress at a now closed vintage store on 2nd Ave: Love Saves the Day. It's been through a lot of love and repair. Apron is from Anthropologie - I'm sure any lady in NYC who is remotely interested in cooking or 50's kitsch has an apron from them.
JB: Did you have any style icons for this project?
TP: Mary Anne is pretty wrapped up in the heavy handed domesticity of the 1950's, so that's obviously there. While I can't point to anyone in particular, living in a run down NYC apartment plays a part. Hanging my great aunt's jewelry from a nail in my cracked walls, or putting on red lipstick in the bathroom with major water damage and rusted mirrors - that's Mary Anne. An absolute lady stuck in a run down apartment.
Aunt Gigi doesn't have a style icon. She will become a style icon! But the caftans from Paige's great-grandmother helped.
JB: I really enjoyed #1 Female. Besides you two and Erin Markey--who was particularly memorable in that show--who are some other performers and what performance spaces in the city do you recommend we seek out?
TP: Oh lord... Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf of course! They are doing Trifles at the Ontological early next year - make sure to check that out. Also, I'm sure this doesn't need any press push from me - but The New Electric Ballroom (currently at St. Ann's Warehouse). What Enda Walsh can do with language is like no other. I repeat, no other. Another up and coming playwright who I adore is B. Walker Sampson - his plays are very intelligent and very funny.
PC: And he's Tatiana's boyfriend! Love and art, love and art, it all goes together, baby. And it's true, he is totally talented and awesome. Other artists, I would say Lucy Alibar who was also a part of #1 Female, which I am so glad you enjoyed! Also, Half Straddle, a performance group featuring Tina Satter, Jess Barbagallo, and Chris Giarmo (Erin Markey works with them sometimes too). I love the performance group Radiohole. I love the work of playwright/director Young Jean Lee.
Lady Scoutington is a great burlesque-er and MC. Murray Hill, of course. Abby Browde, MiekeDuffly & Nikki Calonga, Julia May Jonas (aka Nellie Tinder), Julie Atlas Muz, Jennie Liu, Faye Driscoll. Witness Relocation is full of amazing performers -- Laura Berlin Stinger, Abby Browde, Sean Donovan, Orion Taraban, Mike Mikos, Heather Christian. And I love Heather Christian's music.
I also love Joseph Keckler. And Lisa Clair! And I love Amy Gironda. She's working on a new musical called "Camp Wanatachi" about girls who fall in love at a Christian summer camp. And Rachel Shukert is great too. And our choreographer Christine Elmo! Also, Samantha Johns and Savannah Reich are amazing theater-makers living in Minneapolis, but if you ever have a chance to see their work, you definitely should.
Also, special shout out to Lily Tomlin & Reno who will be doing a benefit at Dixon Place on November 23rd. Details here.
Royal Lace Paper Works (Chantal Pavageaux and Jake Margolin of the TEAM) have a residency with Mabou Mines, and they're working on a new piece called "The RV Party." I'm really excited about that. Chantal dresses up as a bumble bee!
As far as spaces I love... Dixon Place of course. The Ohio.The Collapsable Hole.Death By Audio is great for experimental music. Monkey Town. I miss spaces that have closed down, like the old Galapagos and old loft spaces where my friends used to host performances. I've never performed at HERE, but I'd like to someday. And I haven't been to the new Collective Unconscious space, but they used to put up great stuff. PS 122, The Kitchen. Ars Nova does some great stuff. Starr Space, the Bushwick Starr, the CATCH Series. New York is just magic, man. There's just so much here.
JB: How many stars for your day so far and why?
TP: As many in the sky! That's a lie, but now that I've been thinking about our project a little more, it's definitely added some sparkle to today. Thanks, Jeffery!
PC: 3 stars. It's Monday, and I'm working my day job. I couldn't find my keys this morning, so that was kinda stressful. But now I'm drinking some peppermint tea, and my bosses are away at a meeting, so that's nice. And last week I ordered a pair of blue Aldo flats on sale, and they just arrived in the mail today. It's great getting stuff delivered to the office. I just have a good feeling about the rest of this week. Mama wants to get lucky, so you gotta stay positive! XOXOX
BUTTERCREAM & SCOTCH
Shows are on Friday, November 20 at 10 PM & Saturday, November 21 at 10 PM
Dixon Place - 161 A Chrystie Street (b/t Rivington & Delancey)
This stunning "Galaxy Dress" designed by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz is made of 24,000 Rainbow LED's. It's on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The two designers run Cute Circuit.
For those who haven't seen Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, you're in for a rare treat. Just how many films come out with a predominantly black female cast? There are many breakthrough performances in Precious but the real discovery is Gabourey Sidibe.
My friend Chantelle sent me this video from CBS Evening News. It's amazing to see some footage from Gabourey's audition and the way she transformed her personality and her voice to be Claireece 'Precious' Jones.
Precious is the girl some may laugh or gawk at or turn their eyes away from. Overweight, abused, illiterate, 16 and on her second baby (her father's), Sapphire gave her an utterly convincing and arresting voice in the 1995 novel Push. In the captivating and ambitious new film adaptation by Lee Daniels, we are invited visually into Precious's harrowing story. Set in 1987, at the peak of the Reagan/Bush era and the AIDS crisis, it's a distinctly grim American tale of the marginalized but also a hopeful look at the strength of the human spirit. Shut out from learning at an overburdened and out-of-touch public school system, Precious is stuck in junior high, unable to rise above the second grade reading level. At home, she is sexually abused by her father (whose face is absent throughout the picture) and her mother (played with ferocity by Mo'Nique). When Precious is given the chance to attend a small vocational school for other female outcasts of the system, a teacher (an angelic but steely Paula Patton) named Blu Rain guides her out of illiteracy and into the world of self-expression through writing.
It's a stunning film and a difficult one to write about. There are few films like it. Melodramatic, raw and at times, funny, Precious has a sort of European, lives-by-its own-rules flair. Daniels moves out of the horror of Precious's predicament into sequences of fantasy. These are skillfully but not smoothly done. In one scene, Precious looks at herself as a white girl in a mirror adorned with Cyndi Lauper cutouts. In another, Daniels puts Precious and her mother in Two Women (the Italian Sophia Loren film about a mother and daughter who are raped). Some critics have seemed to have missed the meaning of this reference, assuming a poor black woman wouldn't be watching a subtitled film on television. All at once, Daniels suggests why not, maybe not, and who cares? The scene is funny and moving. These touches of the surreal made me think of other directors like Gus Van Sant, Truffaut and Bergman. And yet, why compare Lee Daniels to other white directors in order to "validate" his work? Here he proves that he is uniquely and bravely his own filmmaker.
Anyone who can pull such an unfussy, solid performance out of Mariah Carey certainly has a gift. Stripped of cosmetics and ditz, she is completely convincing in a small but pivotal role as a hardened social worker. Newcomer GaboureySidibe as Precious is a natural. She delivers poignant voice-overs, movements and expressions. But the standout really is Mo'Nique. The comedienne's devastating turn is worth the hype. Not only through her broad, operatic anger and emotional breakdowns but in more subtle ways as well. In a stunning scene, where she dons a wig and switches personalities to appease a social worker, we watch her character's desperation and cunning manipulation. Besides the principals, the whole cast is brilliant.
I wonder if my strong views of the film could be shaded by my film-going experience. A sold out showing Friday night at Lincoln Square, the crowd was thoroughly engaged and the response afterward, rapturous. This is rare nowadays for such a potent drama. I remember a gentleman once telling me about his experience watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the theater in 1966 ("it was electric"). After the film, Lee Daniels graciously took to the mic to take questions. This will obviously be a huge hit (it already broke records for per-theater-weekend average) and so far, 2009's likely Best Picture winner. I hope this film will be groundbreaking in inspiring studios to finance black filmmakers. It may spurn much debate over race, social issues and character depictions (for this, please read insightful thoughts on Jezebel and Racialicious). But for now, I'm just happy to have witnessed such a great new American film. ****
Today Rio and I trekked up to the beautiful Herald Square Duane Reade (on Broadway & 35th St). This Duane Reade is no ordinary store. It carries a wide selection of organic grocieries and cosmetics! It is gorgeous and the floors are gleaming.
We met the very friendly CEO of Demeter Mark D. Crames. In case you're not familiar, Demeter is an excellent and unique line of fragrances specializing in familiar scents (Laundromat, Bonfire, and even Play Doh). All of the scents are authentic and subtly inviting.
Rio purchased two great ones: Humidor (the rich scent of cigar) and Giant Sequoia (a lovely whiff of the redwoods).