Sunday, June 16, 2013

Planet Connections Interview - Roi Escudero of "Artaud..mon mômo"

By Byrne Harrison
Photo of Roi Escudero by Valentin Ewan
Production photo by James Ewan

Name: Roi Escudero
Show: Artaud...mon mômo
Relationship to production: Producer/performer/writer/designer/director

Conceptual performance artist Roi Escudero was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her award winning inter-media work, as designer, songwriter, dramatist, and director of documentary-visual theatre and video, is internationally known. She is the creator  of performance-art-cinema™. Her vision paved the way for new media-theatre through her Connected Series BUBULINOS’ DREAMS.  In the USA her work has appeared at The Art Museum Council Gallery, at Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), Los Angeles International Open Festival, at The Charlie Chaplin Space L.A., The Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, The New York International FRINGE Festival, The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), The Midtown International Theatre Festival, FRIGID New York, and other cultural and artistic events. Escudero's performance-art productions B=Essence, (2012) The Matra India (2011) and 11 seconds of ecstasy!(2010) presented at Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, won the PCTF 2011 and  PCTF 2010 Awards for Outstanding Performance-art, Multimedia Event, Use of Projections and Special Effects. Escudero's plays received a total of 14 nominations. This includes Outstanding Overall Production of a New Play. 

Quotes Playwright/Critic Mario Fratti hailed Roi Escudero as “a director of the third millennium” Martin Denton of wrote: “Roi Escudero —"Bubi" to anyone she's ever met and anyone who's ever seen one of her extraordinary shows—doesn't believe in walls. She's against barriers of any kind: artistic ones that would attempt to put any of the multitudinous disciplines that make up her work—music, dance, poetry, mime, mask, puppetry, fashion, architecture, video, and others…” Alfred Weiss of The Italian Voice praised the “Convincing ensemble guided by Ms. Escudero’s masterful direction…”    Producer and Entrepreneur John Chatterton calls Roi the “Ultimate visual-dramatic artist.”   Artist Sue Grillo said: "On the imaginary  canvas of the stage, Roi Escudero paints with light." 

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I was involved in theatre since I was a little girl. I grew up in a creative family. My parents constantly gave  theatrical "tertulias" at home. My aunt, my uncle, and my parents were amateur performers. My father was a extraordinary comedian and my mother a ballerina and designer, as a designer she became well known. My mother made the most amazing costumes and accessories. 

Who are your biggest influences? 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Antonin Artaud, Jean Genet, The Instituto De Tella, The Living Theatre, Maria Fux, Guliano Vasilico, Prem Rawat, Salo Vasochi, Lucille Ball, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino and everyday life.

What is your show about?

In the final period of Artaud's life, he is living in an abandoned pavilion in a park convalescence clinic at Ivry-sur-Seine, surrounded by 406 school children's notebooks. The pages are covered with drawings and cutting edge text: "a body without organs". The drawings depict sexuality and terror, screams and gestures, and the paper is scarred with strokes of piercing knife-blade incisions. Artaud 's radio play To Have Done With the Judgment of God has been  banned. It is Mardi Gras, Jacques the poet, masked as "el Diablo", brings chloral to Artaud. The drug transports Artaud into an imaginary transitory zone in his mind that materializes the assorted places of his memories.  Artaud's hallucinations and flashbacks bring him to his mother's womb, his childhood next to the sea, Paris, the  silent cinema, the Surrealist movement, Genica, and The Théâtre Alfred Jarry.  Artaud also flashbacks to his journey with the Tarahumaras peoples and the time of war at the asylum of Rodez, where Artaud suffered beatings, starvation and electroshock therapy.  In the constrained space of his mind  the only contact that Artaud has with the outside world is the memory of a movie by  the Marx Brothers that he loves.  The action is focused on the protagonist’s awareness with the support of his alter ego, the bon vivant God Pan and a nurse with multiple personalities: Mademoiselle Perfection Obsession Phobos La Folie. Artaud sometimes perceives God Pan like the sadistic Dr Ferdière, a psychiatrist that knows from experience that nothing is more terrifying than freedom. The female figures represent the maternal, the erotic and the hysteric. All of the allegorical characters are manifestations of Artaud's raison d'etre and his pain, the pain of the world and its violent indifference. 

What inspired you to write it?

Artaud mon mômo is inspired by the life, work and lucid madness of the actor, director, theoretician, artist, and visionary genius Antonin Marie Joseph Artaud. After years of research and practice with Artaud’s theory and  following Artaud's belief that the creative process of the mise-en-scène needs to be in the hands of the same artist, I conceived Artaud mon mômo.  With my background in French literature, visual arts and theatre I produced an integral work as a performance artist, designer, playwright and director. I mingled documentary and visual theatre with the extemporary nature of performance-art through an artful planning method. The mise-en-scène containing stage design, new-media, and a narrative of moving images, supports the action onstage and connects my extemporary performance-art action with a skillful performance of actors following my stage directions. I created the  plot with real facts, the mystique of the fantastic, a touch of the  absurd and the irreverent awareness of the Theatre of Cruelty. I removed the stage’s imaginary fourth wall to produce a spontaneous response and pull the audience into a "visual-dramatic spectacle."

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

I met most of the cast of Artaud...mon mômo by fate!!! The first was Brad Burgess, executive producer of  The Living Theatre, and the main collaborator of the legendary Judith Malina. I went to a LIT Fund meeting at The Living Theatre to bring a piece from a project that I'm doing with kids for the LIT Fund. And there under a red light I saw a living image of Artaud! I murmured Artaud, and Brad Burgess responded, "I love Artaud!" Later he said: "Since The Living Theatre helped bring Artaud to the United States and has championed him as one of the great thinkers in their own work and in world theatre, I could not refuse the opportunity to play one of my own and my mentor's heroes." Brad Burgess said yes, and Voila he is portraying Artaud!  Later on  I went to a benefit for the LIT Fund  by The Living Theatre and Elephant Run District in a retrospective of Chris Harcum and I saw Bryant Carroll perform one of Chris plays and he was fantastic. Now Bryant is part of the cast of Artaud mon mômo, with the gifted twins Ashley and Kimberly Carvalho and the unique Mika Oyaizu. I have been working with Mika since 2009 when she danced tango in my performance art play, Argentina Passionate choreographed by the genial Rubén Celiberti. Since then Mika has collaborated in three of my performance art pieces presented at The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity: B=Essence (2012), The Matra India (2011) and 11 seconds of ecstasy (2010). Mika's work was nominated for Outstanding Choreography for the PCTF awards! Others participating in the production are: Erika  Bracy Mendoza who gives to the piece a priceless touch by singing  acappella a Jacques Prevert poem. The endowed Ryan Metzler as technical director and light designer. The multimedia and research assistant is Valentin Ewan, a recent Honors graduate from New York University with a Major in History and a Minor in Documentary Film, he also serves as stage manager.  Renown artist James Ewan created painted costumes and a virtual background for the Tarahumaras scene. The original songs are by La Banda Argentina and me. A new actor in town, James Stokes, gives an awesome curtain speech and is our house manager. I love the cast and the crew too! Artaud... mon mômo is dedicated to Judith Malina.  

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

Artaud...mon mômo is benefiting The LIT Fund. The LIT Fund, is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit designed to financially assist organizations and individual artists creating independent theater in the five boroughs of New York City. The intent of the Fund is to protect, sustain and strengthen this vital segment of American theater--in any economic environment--and to further enhance its positive impact on the cultural landscape of the city. The money for the Fund comes from participating organizations and artists who make donations in the amount of 5¢ per ticket they sell.

I chose to help the LIT Fund because the indie theatre in New York needs to stay alive! 

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

I'm have been invited to present my work at the Urban Eye Studio in L.A. California.  

I'm planning to bring my documentary-performance piece America what  a trip! and Artaud...mon mômo to the west coast.

If you could work with any famous actor, living or dead, who would it be? 

Charlie Chaplin and Johnny Depp!

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