Friday, February 24, 2012

FRIGID Festival Interview - the writers of "Death, it happens: a girl's guide to death"

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Cathryn Lynne

"Death, it happens: a girl's guide to death" was collaboratively written by Bricken Sparacino, Courtenay Harrington-Bailey, Kim Braun, Rebecca Chiappone and Maureen Van Trease, so they answered these questions in the same spirit. This group of ladies is working with Lori Kee as director, Kim Braun as stage manager, Penny Pollak as light designer and Tiffany May McRae will be joining the writers performing. They have over 100 years of theater experience (added up all together of course).

Show: "Death, it happens: a girl's guide to death"

How did you first get involved in theatre?

Courtenay: My first experience in theater was in my own backyard. As a young girl I used to create plays with my neighborhood friends and put on shows in my backyard for neighbors and family. That passion for performing and creating shows started at a young age and I never really faltered in my desire to be a performer. I knew at a young age, set a goal for myself and didn't stop until I got what I wanted. Now I'm thrilled to be providing performance opportunities for young people who have similiar dreams. It's very rewarding.

Kim: I've always enjoyed theater but it wasn't until I was 18 that I actually became involved. I went to an audition at the time for the lead in a play. I didn’t get the role but as I filled out the application I checked a box that said Yes, I was interesting in helping back stage. From there on out I fell in love with the "backstage". Today I am a Stage Manager, and paid one at that!

Tell me a little bit about your show.

Maureen and Bricken: Our play, “Death, it happens: a girl’s guide to death” will do for Death what "The Vagina Monologues" did for vaginas. I know you men out there are thinking what’s in it for me? Well, this show is not just for girls! Promise! Death finds us all, and we’re often caught unprepared. So why not talk about it, share the heartache… and laughter….and the ways to survive?

“Death: It Happens; a girl’s guide to death” is a collaboration by 4 amazing women, who lost 4 very different fathers...of our true, diverse, moving…. and sometimes really funny stories. In fact we’ve got a riotous one at the end that’ll make you laugh til you cry. We’ll share with you what happened and what we did to cope, or not, as the case may be, and we’ll be taking “What Not to Wear” to a whole new place.

Who are your biggest influences?

Bricken: For this play I was inspired by plays like the "Exonerated" and "The Vagina Monologues." Story Telling done honestly and simply.

I am also influenced by Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. I love their fearless comedy style and fantastic characters. You'll see a little bit of French and Saunders in my "Holiday Story" when you come see this play.

What inspired you to write it?

Maureen: Bricken invited me to replace a friend of hers who wasn't able to participate and it's been an amazing process. Something I needed to do, but didn't realize it until I was actually writing it.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

Rebecca: Bricken's last show, "I'm Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me" (2011), was directed by Lori, and I did the lighting for it. It was so much fun to be a part of, and I love the way those ladies work. There's a real focus on honesty and self-awareness that I adore. The year since "I'm Not Sure..." has been a powerful one, and I'm glad we've grown so creatively close. Tiffany, Courtenay, and Maureen are all new to me, but we've developed a very fast bond. That's the silver lining of this difficult subject matter; by being able to share our experiences and our pain, we've been able to find connections, even with new people. Hopefully that connection will extend to our audience, and we can all share the experience.

Bricken: When I first came up with this idea I wanted strong women who i had worked with in someway before. Women whose stories were different but similar. I am thrilled that these women chose to join me on this project.

Courtenay and I have known each other and worked together for 20 years now. Lori and I have worked together at least 8 years non stop (Maybe longer- time flies). Maureen and I have worked together for about 5 years, this will be our first time acting together. Kim has been my stage manager many times and acted in a short play I wrote. Becca was my "crew" for my last play and I'm excited to have inspired her onto the stage. I wrote a part for Tiffany in one of my favorite short plays and I am so happy she will be apart of this new one. And Penny (Penny's Open Mic) has inspired me to work on plays like this and I am so glad she will be "lighting" our way.

What's next for you after FRIGID?

Maureen: What ever comes along... waiting to hear about a piece I may be in for the Planet Connections Festivity in June. I'll also be attending a screening of a student film I'm about to shoot at the beginning of March. I wish I could say I was going to Cannes in May as one of my films "8:46", a narrative documentary about 9/11, is screening at the Marche du Filme.

And finally, if you could say anything to your potential audience, what would it be?

Bricken: We are very proud of the play. Exploring these true stories has been a unique journey. Potential audience memebers, you will be glad you came, there are sad moments, funny moments, moments of anger and hope. We think you will be glad you came.

"Death, it happens: a girl’s guide to death"
Written by Bricken Sparacino, Courtenay Harrington-Bailey, Kim Braun, Rebecca Chiappone and Maureen Van Trease
Company: Bricken and Birch Productions
Directed by: Lori Kee

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Feb 25, 8:30PM
Feb 27, 9:00PM
Feb 28, 7:30PM
Mar 03, 1:00PM
Mar 04, 4:00PM

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