Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Desiree Burch of "Tar Baby"

By Byrne Harrison

Desiree Burch is a New York-based solo performance artist, comedian, writer, actress and producer. She earned a B.A. in theater from Yale University in 2001, and continued her theater education in New York, performing at such venerable downtown venues such as Dixon Place, P.S. 122 and The Atlantic Theater, as well as with experimental companies like NYU’s E.T.W. and Gorilla Rep. She honed her cabaret emcee performance aesthetic as the host and curator of the weekly alt-performance series SMUT at Galapagos Art Space. Desiree’s previous full-length solo performances include Greatest Hits, Careless and The Sit Down Show. Her hit solo piece 52 Man Pickup has visited numerous theatres and festivals, including the Edinburgh Fringe.

What is your theatrical background?

My first play was Our Town, my junior year of high school (I played the Stage Manager). From there, after being actively involved in theater programs productions and regional competitions in high school, I attended Yale University and received a BA in Theater Studies.  Guided by my performance studies teacher Deb Margolin, I created my first solo show as my thesis project, and did my first solo performance at Dixon Place.  I have been working in NYC since, for the past 10 years, in theater, solo performance and comedy.

How did you get involved in the solo format?

I was always a writer, and found that this was the best medium in which i could express a personal truth and connect to others in a meaningful and evolving way.  But I would say that it was really studying with Deb Margolin in college that ignited that.

Who are your inspirations?

Bill Hicks, Deb Margolin, Dael Orlandersmith, Spalding Gray, Mike Daisey, Anna Deveare Smith, John
Leguizamo, Margaret Cho, Cynthia Hopkins, Eddie Izzard, Richard Pryor, Louis C.K., Zora Neale Hurston, and Morrissey.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

Tar Baby is about the struggle, or lack thereof, with race in America. I am trying to find a new way to fight the old "Tar Baby".  Taking a very personal tack with this, I explore cultural and personal history through the use of childhood games and entertainment to expose an underlying isolation in all that is America.  Also, Punch and Pie. 

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

Definitely Zora.  She might hate it in parts, but she'd get it for sure.

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

I will be taking my previous solo show 52 Man Pickup on another trip to the UK, as well as revamping my popular variety show, SMUT, for the Edinburgh Fringe, before continuing to tour.  I am also working on extending the life of both Tar Baby, and The Soup Show (created with Erica Livingston and Cara Francis and Lauren Sharpe of the New York Neo-Futurists) through future runs, and creating material for the web.

Written & Performed by Desiree Burch
Co-Written by Dan Kitrosser
Directed by Isaac Byrne

MAY 21 and 24 at 9pm
MAY 22 at 4pm
MAY 26 at 7pm
MAY 28 at 2pm

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