Monday, July 30, 2012

Playwright Maggie Cino Decompresses Burning Man at the NY International Fringe Festival

Phoebe Silva and Michael Criscuolo
"Years of New York living and Burning Man parties had brought me there."
-Maggie Cino

How did you get involved in theater?

When I was seven years old my mother told me she was signing me up for a “theater workshop.”  I was the girliest of girly-girls, and I was horrified.  I didn’t want to get all sweaty, nailing boards together in some nasty workshop!  But it turned out she understood me pretty well, because there was no wood and no nails and once that “workshop” was done I never looked back.

What's your play about (and the title)?

A group of friends get together after a Burning Man Decompression party to take ecstasy.  It doesn’t work . . . or does it?  Piled in this apartment in the middle of the night, they start looking for ways to entertain themselves.  Justin, the ringleader, decides they should all combine their worldly possessions and have a lottery for who keeps it all.  As they argue and debate the rules of the game, hairline cracks in their friendships become deep fractures.  A year later, things are irrevocably different.

Victoria Anne Miller, David Goldberg, Adam Lebowitz-Lockard

Everyone in this play is looking for a thrill.  They use drugs, sex, gambling and destructive friendships to distract themselves from their own unhappiness.  But it’s also a story about class.  As Americans, we’re not as equal as we seem.  We live in a culture in which everyone identifies as “middle class.”  That could mean that you never had quite enough food to eat or that you had private schools and ski vacations.

Our sex lives are now public knowledge, splashed all over the internet.  But money is the last frontier of secrecy.  What do a lot of kids with no boundaries do when they decide to play with the last off-limits area in our modern lives?  This was a question I was interested in exploring.

That said, this play is a comedy and intended as entertainment.  There are issues and questions on the table, but the final goal is to tell a good story about interesting characters and have the audience walk out with the last line ringing in their head. 

What was the inspiration for it?
Hannah Vaughn, Michael Criscuolo
When I was twenty years old, I dropped out of college, worked for months, and then got on a plane for anywhere else.  There was just despair all around me that didn’t have a name.  My mother pushed a book into my hands as I was leaving.  It was Isak Dinesen’s “Letters from Africa.”

On the plane, I read this book about a woman far from home struggling with her own blackness but also exhilarated by beauty.  It felt like she had written the letters to me.  Then I read the letter where she said:  “I only wish that someone had been through what I am going through and had written it down, so at least I would know that I wasn’t alone.” Then I knew for sure I would have a life in the arts.

David J. Goldberg and Elizabeth Nagle

I read all of her books after that, and eventually landed on “Carnival”.  It’s is the only story she ever wrote set in the time that she lived in, rather than fifty or a hundred years in the past.  It was about eight friends having a dinner party after a costume ball.  There was something in that story that was like the key to my next step.  She had originally written it to be a puppet drama.  I instantly wanted to make a play out of it, but I didn’t know how.  Life went on, other things happened, and then it was well over a decade later.

I returned to the idea because my friend Parker Leventar who runs a group called Play Party Park Slope asked me to write something brand new for the group.  I wondered if there was anything in the old idea of working with this story.  It was immediately resonant.  Years of New York living and Burning Man parties had brought me there. I also was old enough to realize that her story was meant as a cautionary tale rather than a road map!  But often you don’t realize the warnings until they’re too late.
Goldberg, Silva, Nagle, Vaughn, Criscuolo, Lebowitz-Lockard, Peterson, Miller
What's your writing schedule like?

I like to block out several days in a row to just get lost in the story I’m writing.  Then I can clean and tweak a little each day, but I really need the stretch to do anything important to the structure of what I’m writing.

How do you keep sane?

My journal and yoga.  I sound like someone with a nose ring, right?  Yeah, I totally have a nose ring.  And I also have a really great boyfriend in Michael Gardner.  He’s a pillar and I love him.

What is inspiring you right now?

The show’s director, Patrice Miller, who is rooting out every detail of the relationships in this story and making the stage a playground .  Our skilled and fearless cast:  Rafael Benoit, Michael Criscuolo, David J. Goldberg, Adam Lebowitz-Lockard, Victoria Anne Miller, Elizabeth Nagle, Derrick Peterson, Phoebe Silva and Hannah Vaughn.  They didn’t even know each other before the show, and you’d think they’d gone to Burning Man together for years.

Our AD, Corinne Woods, our SM Nikki Castle, and our design team, Jessica Emerson, Candace Lawrence, Amanda Woodward and Chris Chappell.  With this much support, who wouldn’t feel inspired?
Maggie Cino

Sweet or salty?

Both at once!  Grab everything life has to offer!

Decompression is directed by Patrice Miller and will be presented by the New York International Fringe Festival. More information at Performances will take place at the Kraine Theater, 85 E 4th St.  Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.
FRI 8/10 @ 5pm
SUN 8/12 @ 9pm
FRI 8/17 @ 3pm
TUE 8/21 @ 9:15pm
SAT 8/25 @ 1pm

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