Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fringe Q&A With Nina Morrison of Forest Maiden

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Zoe Woodworth

Name: Nina Morrison
Show: Forest Maiden

How did you first get involved in theatre?
In college I took an acting workshop my freshman year and loved it.

Who are your biggest influences?
Guy Maddin, Pina Bausch, Stephanie Mnookin & Eliot Laurence (comedy duo GUILE), Phil Soltanoff, Shira Piven, Wes Anderson, Gus Van Sant

What is Forest Maiden about?
Forest Maiden is a cheerfully raunchy comic fable that follows three characters: a Knight, a Maiden, and the Host of a Reality Show. The Maiden has left her elf-dyke girlfriend behind in the forest when she is captured by a Knight! The Knight has been dispatched to capture this Maiden and bring her back to the Kingdom to be assessed for marriage. A Reality Show Host has been hired to professionally assess all the maidens of the Kingdom for marriage to the Prince. The Reality Show Host meets them in the forest while he is out getting some exercise, and the three of them get lost together. As they try to find their way back to the Kingdom they fight, fuck, sing, dance and discuss philosophy, television, feminism, love, God and happiness.

What inspired you to write it?
I had been trying to find a way to talk about feminism, sexism, size-ism, and homophobia (I just typed "heterophobia" then had to correct it, sighhhh!) without being tiresome and didactic. I want to make this conversation accessible and funny and still reflect how complicated and relevant all of these things still are.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
Zoe Woodworth (Art Director, Video Designer) I worked with Zoe in March 2009 when I was production assistant on the showcase staging of Lizzie Borden: A Rock & Roll Roadshow. She designed the video for Lizzie Borden, and I loved it.

Sharla Meese (Maiden - pictured above), Katherine Wessling (Scrollturner 1), Melanie Girton Hewett (Scrollturner 2) and I last worked together in 2006 when we collaboratively created Supernatural Break Room. They are all such talented and hilarious actors and improvisers so I was excited for us to work together again. We met through mutual teacher and friend Shira Piven.

Jamie Pizzorno (Host of Reality Show) has been my friend since freshman year in college. We last worked together in our senior year on a scene I directed for a class. We waited 13 years to continue our collaboration.

Paul Jones (Lighting Designer) I met Paul in 1998 when I first began doing improv in New York and he was the only lighting designer I knew who specialized in "improv lighting". I have worked with him on all of my shows since meeting him because he is super talented and creative and I love his work.

Jimmy Helvin (Costume Designer) is a friend of mine from high school who also happens to be a brilliant designer. We last worked together in 2004 when he designed the costumes for my play Muffin Is Evil.

Caroline Oster (Queen Mary May - pictured at right) Caroline and I met a couple of years ago, and I wrote the role of Queen Mary May for her. We didn't collaborate on the writing process, but I did take notes on some conversations which became the Queen's dialog. I transcribed her stories about a "dreadful" acting workshop taught by one of Meisner's assistants involving "rolling around on the floor remembering what orange juice tastes like..." and stories about her years at her women's college "where we were required to take a posture and weight control class" and put them all in the play.

Also, I think this is noteworthy, though not related to the collaboration question: Caroline is turning 78 on the opening day of the show, and this show is her New York City theater debut. She has been doing community theater in Iowa City for the past 50 years.

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has the rehearsal process been?
Well, yes, the rehearsal process is definitely short and occasionally frenzied, but it has still been a great experience. The limitations and challenges presented by the timeline have, after some wringing of hands, ultimately forced us to be creative in our problem solving. The Fringe is such an excellent festival and well worth a little hand wringing, and we have all felt very supported throughout the experience.

What's next for you after Fringe?
I am working on a new play about surrealist artist Claude Cahun and her partner Marcel Moore. They were a lesbian couple who broke into the surrealist scene in Paris in the '20s and '30s, and then they moved to the Isle of Jersey in the late '30s. Jersey was occupied by Nazis and Cahun and Moore undertook a resistance campaign that lasted 4 years until they were captured and sentenced to death, but they were rescued before being killed. Somehow I'm going to find the humor and love and accessibility of their story in my play about them. Yes. I am.

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
I would wish that everyone everywhere could know what a beautiful unique magical unicorn they are.

Forest Maiden
Written and Directed by Nina Morrison

HERE Arts Center - Mainstage Theater
Sat 15 - 3 PM
Sun 16 - 6:30 PM
Wed 19 - 7:45 PM
Thu 20 - 4 PM
Sat 22 - 8:30 PM

Visit FringeNYC for more details.

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