Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 686: Julián Mesri



Julián Mesri

Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina // New York, NY

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about Immersion.

A:  Immersion is a play that asks us to consider what would happen if a group of white 20-something New Yorkers and an immigrant Latino family found themselves unknowingly living in the same apartment. The play utilizes this framework to explore the production of bilingual theatre—the piece veers between English and Spanish with no subtitles provided. The beginning of the piece is oriented around a Spanish lesson for one of the main characters, which means things are constantly being translated into Spanish, and as the situation veers out of control, the English-speaking audience finds itself relying upon the (sometimes unreliable) translation skills of other characters. It ends up creating a very fun, very unique night of theatre that poses questions about immigration, language and housing at a time when all these issues are pertinent, pressing and definitely in need of discussing.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A:  Right my company Sans Comedia is preparing the rest of the shows for our first season, including my play Lisa and Her Things, a piece set at a truly banal dinner during which the subjects of death and cheese are given equal weight. The show will have a short run at The People’s Improv Theatre.

We are also developing Oedipus Gol, a play that will mash up Oedipus Rex with a soccer game projected on television, exploring the ways in which we sublimate very real suffering into things outside our control, and putting the actors in an active relation to both the text of the play and the “text” of the soccer game.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I grew up in the theater – my mother, Susana Cook is an active downtown writer, director, and performer and when I was younger I would often be in her plays. My first role in her first show in New York City, “The Title” (I gave her the name), was of a boy who would eat Cracker Jacks while one of the actresses, Kate Wison, would play the accordion and tell stories. My only line was “Why?”, over and over again.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I want to see theatrical structures that encourage diversity in audience, artists, and forms, and to do away with the tyranny of space. This, I feel, is only possible by having theaters put on more plays at once, giving them longer runs and drastically lower ticket prices, and by creating lighter, more disposable, productions. This means theaters expanding their notion of professionalism, and less reliance on huge, expensive, debt-inducing structures in determination of merit.

Ah, that’s definitely more than one thing. More productions with less preciousness. There we go.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The artists who I feel have influenced my work and inspired me most are – Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud, Caryl Churchill, Rafael Spregelburd, Manuela Infante, Richard Maxwell, Ciro Zorsoli, Reza Abdoh, Maurice Maeterlinck, Tadeusz Kantor, Sasha Waltz, Pina Bausch, and Frank Castorf

Also incredibly important have been my playwriting mentors Alejandro Tantanian and Carson Kreitzer, the amazing artists that have come through INTAR theatre, Rene Buch at Repertorio Español, and the countless theatrical productions that I fell in love with working on as I grew up as part of Susana Cook’s company.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like theatre that actively engages with me – where I feel I can have a real conversation with the ideas and story and images—that there is something absolutely theatrical about the way it’s being presented to me. I don’t need things overly explained or a structure that’s too predictable – but I do need to be invited in – to be considered and to feel that the artists have really considered this relationship in their work.

Mostly I just want to enjoy myself, see something aesthetically pleasing and hopefully see something I haven’t seen before.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  See your work onstage – don’t just rely on readings. Think of the way you make work and the work you put onstage as a continuing process – and that innovation can be not just in the way in which you tell stories, but in the ways in which you conceive and experience a theatrical process.

Also—don’t be afraid to make a mess. We need those.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Immersion – coming September 12th at This Theater (soon to be known as “The Treehouse”) (29th and 6th), runs Fridays and Saturdays for five weeks. Tickets are 15 dollars and will be available on our website www.sanscomedia.com as soon as they go on sale.

Also, if you’ve never been, check out a show at one of my personal favorite venues in NYC, INTAR theatre – an amazing space and perhaps an even more amazing theatrical community. Lou Moreno is truly doing some great things there and really goes out of his way to support the cause of Latino artists in New York.



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