Sarah Jenny speaks with Ariel Federow about her upcoming performances July 21-23: details here.
SJ: Hi Ariel, I am really excited to interview you about your upcoming performance for Fame & Shame on the Lower East Side. Can you tell me a little bit about the piece?
Ariel: Totally! This is a work in progress showing of a larger piece I am working on about the ways in which we are vulnerable – all of the ways that things could go terribly wrong and why it is that they don’t. It’s a performance work that uses slapstick and clowning to open up these big questions – how do we make sense of a world of natural disasters, apocalyptic threats, and random death? And, really, how can we not, given that this is the world we live in?
SJ: How did you come to create this piece? What inspired it?
Ariel: You know, when I was 20 I had my first apartment in Seattle, all on my own, a seedy little ground-floor one-bedroom in the really, for real, uncool part of town I could afford.
My windows were the kind of windows you can’t lock when you have open – they swing out rather than sliding up and down. So, for the longest time, I slept with them closed, until summer started and it got impossibly hot in there. I had to reckon with the fact that, you know, if I left the window open someone might break in and kill me or rob me — and, conversely, that even if I left the window closed someone might break in and kill me or rob me. And if these things were true, then what? What was it to let go of that control? This piece is about reckoning with that truth – that we’re not in control of what happens when. We’re just lucky when things work out for the best.
SJ: Was this piece informed by (politics, art, current events, etc?)
Ariel: I mean, the apocalypse is definitely in the air right now – Harold Camper just tried to predict it this past May, as I was getting started. It’s also hard not to think about how to reckon with the possibility of things taking a turn for the worst – from killer tornadoes to earthquakes to the ongoing and endless destabilization of America, I think it’s important to start accepting that there are some things we just can’t control. The flip side, of course, is the real thing – how do we appreciate what we have? How do we try to take action for the things we can’t control? I think this piece is a little more nihilist than I expected, but then you run up against things like the tsunami tragedy in Japan and, well, if that doesn’t inspire nihilist panic I don’t know what does.
SJ: What are you most excited about?
Ariel: This whole experience has been so exciting. It’s been such a great opportunity to work with the Department of Transportation and have this space to play and start putting new ideas together for the stage. It’s been really great to get to work with other performers and try different things out. I’m really excited to see this go up in the Kabayitos theater – CSV has been really generous with their time and great to work with. Most of all, I’m excited to see how the audience responds to the piece – both the funny parts and the more serious interludes.
SJ: What was the most challenging part of putting this together?
Ariel: You know, I mostly work as a solo artist, and I decided for this piece to work with other performers. I have two great other cast members, Charles Gushue and Memo, and they’ve been great through this whole process – but I forgot how working with other artists means you have to really be on your business! It’s easy, when it’s just you, to keep changing things and perfecting and arranging little by little. Having other performers is keeping me honest – I love the challenge of setting work and text and the satisfaction of watching it come to life on other people.
SJ: Where can folks catch you next?
Ariel: I’m still working that out! I’ll be performing with Susana Cook this fall at Dixon Place, and I’m part of the Dyke-opalypse 2012 tour, coming soon to a theater near you. A ton of lez planning for the end of the world – what could be better?