Wednesday, August 6, 2014

F*ing & Dying: Sex/Love/Reproduction

Welcome to the final episode of our Let Me Ascertain You series on sex and death. According to Freud, the death drive is the drive towards self-destruction and the return to the "inorganic." Eros on the other hand is the drive to create and be productive. This episode explores these often competing drives. 

César Alvarez

First up we have the original song “We Could Always Try Counting Sheep!” written and performed by Andrea Grody based on an interview about “sexomina.” Then Cindy Cheung performs an interview we did with Doan about sex and love addiction. And to close this episode out we have César Alvarez performing a lullaby he wrote for his daughter called “The Year of Dying.” 

We want to thank all of the interviewees, and the actors and composers who worked very hard to bring these stories to life. Many thanks to the Civilians' team of interviewers: Quinlan Corbett, Ian Daniel, Amina Henry, Michelle Jalowski, Leicester Landon, Gina Ratton, and Benjamin Viertel. Michael Liebenluft was our project director, and the live show was directed by Mia Rovegno. 


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

F*ing & Dying: The Brink

Let Me Ascertain You is back with the third episode in our series about all things sex and death related. In this episode we are leaning towards the sex side of the sex and death equation, looking at those elements of life that in one context might seem unpleasant or downright awful, but in another context can be well, kind of sexy. 

First, Dan Domingues performs an interview we did with Peter, a man who recounts how bondage became a path to self-discovery, and then Rebecca Hart performs Emily, a woman who dated a sometimes hitman who taught her her how to strangle people without leaving any marks. To close out this episode we have special guest Adam Cochran accompanying himself on guitar with a song by writing team Erato Kremmyda and Maggie-Kate Coleman. Erato and Maggie-Kate are both members in our R&D Group for writers, directors and composers. “I Don’t Want To Know Your Name” is based on interviews about “terror and catastrophe sex,” a phenomenon where cataclysmic events drive you into the bed of a stranger.


Civilians at The Met: Micharne Cloughley

Image from Daily Review
A graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Australian playwright Micharne Cloughley previously worked with The Civilians on Be the Death of Me. Now, as part of our residency with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Micharne is returning to New York to serve as resident writer on our investigation into the American Wing, titled The Way They Live.

A recent article from Daily News features Micharne's array of impressive accomplishments, her thoughts on the differences in theatrical cultures between Australia and New York, and her excitement in this rare "moment of opportunity" to work on an original project in conjunction with a globally recognized museum. 
“We’re asking the question of what it is to be an American,” Cloughley says. “The Wing has work from the 1700s through to the early 1900s, so it’s very exciting with that broad a scope to look at — particularly the divisions and the idea of ‘how the other side’ lives, whether that be the wealthy and the laborers, the colonizers and the native people, or the free and the slaves.”
We're so looking forward to having Micharne back at The Civilians! Check out the full article from the Daily Review HERE.

To get tickets to all of The Civilians' programming at The Met go HERE

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

F*cking & Dying: The White Light

We are in the thick of exploring our competing sex and death drives, and that interesting space where the two overlap and even coalesce.

In this episode, we are searching for the "white light," that surreal experience that can really open happen in sex or death, when we glimpse the soul. First up is actor Parker Drown performing Trevor, an NYC “rent boy,” followed by Jeanine Serralles performing Kelli Dunham, a writer/performer with the tag line “Everyone’s Favorite Ex-Nun, Genderqueer, Nerd Comic.” Learn more about Kelli’s fascinating story at To close out this podcast, we welcome back Grace McLean, whose layered vocals you may remember from our Sex Variants series. Grace’s original song, “Where is the White Light,” was inspired by an interview we did with Veronica, an energy healer.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

F*cking & Dying: Turned On

Let Me Ascertain You is back with a new series examining two of The Civilians’ favorite fixations: sex and death.

This first podcast in the series focuses on death as the ultimate turn-on. To start us off, we have Stephen Plunkett performing a monologue from an interview we did with famed porn director Craven Moorehead. Then we have Sam Breslin Wright performing an interview with Johannes, an Austrian who runs an arts/technology festival that buries people alive, aptly named, “The Six Feet Under Club.” Following that, cabaret superstar Lady Rizo performs her original song “Under” which she wrote with Yair Evnine. This song is based on our interview with Kitty, a “Six Feet Under Club” participant who got buried alive with her lover.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Meet the R&D: Tommy Smith

Tommy Smith, an artist in this year's R&D group, blogs about his decision to delay development of his NFL project and shares his short play based on his investigation.

Sometimes plays don’t work out.
I had been developing a piece called NFL with Woodshed Collective's Teddy Bergman via The Civilians R&D Group. It was going to be a document-based play about football players who go haywire and murder their loved ones. After working on the draft for a couple months, I found out that Ridley Scott is planning a movie about the same subject. Then Berkeley Rep announced their season with a play about the same subjectInstead of pulling a Dante's Peak, Teddy and I decided to shelve developing the project until it seems relevant to dust it off.
NFL would have been presented during the R&D Reading Series, May 21-30. In lieu of this, please read this short play, The Death of Justin Strzelczyk, based on a section of NFL, about the demise of Steelers' player Justin Strzelczyk.

Thanks for sharing, Tommy. For other posts about our R&D Group artists, please click HERE!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Civilians R&D Reading Series

The 2013-2014 R&D Group
The time has once again come for The Civilians’ R & D Group Reading Series. This is our first year opening all of our presentations to the public, and I am very excited to see the work our artists have been doing culminate into “something” in front of an audience. In October, I wrote on the blog that all of our pieces had common thread of art and politics. It’s very interesting to look back on that jumping off point and see the diversity of style and content that the R & Der’s explored this year. All of the presentations take place in the Great Room at 138 S. Oxford Street in Brooklyn. They’re free and open to the public, so we hope to see you there.

Performance artist Jeanine Oleson is starting the series off with a presentation of performative material she has been developing with us that ties in with her New Museum residency. Over the year we’ve heard excerpts of the text she’s been working with, seen sketches of the set, which are integral to the performance of her piece, and learned about a new instrument that Jeanine is developing specifically for the project. Director Melissa Crespo is helping her shape her piece for our presentation format. Join us for HEAR, HERE on Wednesday, May 21, at 5:30 P.M. And, catch the rest of Jeanine’s work at the New Museum in the coming weeks.

Sean Cunningham has ended up writing farce about an American businessman hiking to Machu Picchu in the company of a Peruvian businessman trying to convince him to take the alcohol pisco back with him to the States. With incisive wit, and characters hauling a piano up a mountain, Sean delves into the delicate personal and economic relationships of his characters and larger American (Southern and Northern) society. THE MACHU PICCHU PLAY, directed by Michael Leibenluft, is happening Thursday, May 22, at 7:30 PM.

Riti Sachdeva
Riti Sachdeva is writing what turns out to be our only piece derived almost entirely from interviews. Her piece expertly weaves dynamic source material from interviews with people in communities of color suffering from mental illness, family members with relatives who are dealing with mentally ill relatives, and an expert who provides a fascinating perspective on the way intergenerational instances of trauma impact the mental health of these traumatized communities. This presentation is also directed by Michael Leibenluft. We’re presenting LOVE IN A TIME OF MANIC DEPRESSION on Wednesday May 28th at 8 PM. 

In FAIRLY TRACEABLE, Mary Kathryn Nagle uses interviews, archived media, and legal transcripts as source material to create a fictional narrative about current legislation regarding climate change. The result is a fresh point of view on a familiar Civilians theme. Former R & Der and frequent Civilians collaborator Mia Rovegno returns to direct this piece, which will be presented on Thursday, May 29th at 7 PM.

Tony Torn
Finally, Juliana Francis Kelly and Tony Torn will be presenting their piece THE REENACTORS on May 30th at 2 PM. THE REENACTORS was a unique project for the R & D Group this year, in that Juliana and Tony had a full draft when they started in September (often our writers come start writing projects when their time in R & D begins, or are only in the early stages). The team has used their time in R & D to focus the narrative with the dramaturgical support of the group.

Our other R & D artists, Tommy Smith and Teddy Bergman, Robbie Sublett, and Maggie-Kate Coleman, Erato A. Kremmyda and Sam Pinkleton, also had a productive time in the group this year. Each of their projects, NFL, MARIE IN TOMORROWLAND, and EAST 4TH, respectively, used the time and dramaturgical support of the group to further their investigations and make strides on their projects, clarifying the direction they hope to take the work. The nature of the R & D process means that the development of some projects doesn’t fit into The Civilians season calendar and presentation schedule. We invite you to keep an eye on these projects in future as the artists continue their investigations.

As we come to the close of a productive and fruitful R & D season, we are also keeping our eye on next year. After coming to see the work our artists have been doing over the last 9 months, you can check out our application for next year on The Civilians website,  due June 1.