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Friday Phone Call # 51

Lana Lesley & Kirk Lynn of Rude Mechanicals

Lana Lesley and Kirk Lynn
Lana Lesley on the left, and Kirk Lynn on the right. 

Today I have the great fun of spending time on the phone with Lana Lesley and Kirk Lynn of Austin's Rude Mechanicals. We've been talking to each other for years, and you may sense a certain amount of familiarity. If you get lost in any of the details, Google will be your friend. Mainly you can find your way to things like The Off Center (their space) or Stop Hitting Yourself (their latest piece which just finished a run at Lincoln Center's LCT3 program) or Never Been So Happy on their website. What is so remarkable about this company, to me, is that they keep evolving together in a way that both aggregates new techniques and influences and breathes with their personal lives. I love these two people and I hope you get a sense of why as you listen.

Listen to weekly podcasts hosted by David Dower as he interviews theatre artists from around the country to highlight #newplay bright spots. You can subscribe to the series via Apple iTunes or RSS Feed.

David Dower: Hi guys!

Lana Lesley: Woo hoo!

Kirk Lynn: Was that Siri that just talked to us?

David: Yes, it was. That was Siri. Because I asked her to find The Rude Mechanicals.

Lana: And then she'll call the ones in New York first.

David: Exactly.

Kirk: I was gonna say, I don't know that Siri would pluck the two of us. Even if they had the right Austin Rude Mechanicals, I don't know if we would be the two that... but, you found us and we're here now.

David: That would pop up, yeah. And so, this is Kirk Lynn and Lana Lesley of the Rude Mechanicals in Austin, Texas. And, Lana, you're just back in Texas after weeks and weeks in New York.

Lana: Yes, I was in New York from January 7 to January 25... no February 25.

David: February 25, yeah. And, Kirk, you haven't left Texas?

Kirk: That's not true. I was up there for dress rehearsals and I was up there... I just came back. I saw closing weekend.

David: Oh, so you've been back and forth twice?

Kirk: Yeah.

David: Alright, well... and why they were up there... we'll just catch everybody up... was for the LCT3 production of Stop Hitting Yourself. A new piece that was just kind of remarkable in so many ways. And, you had a nice long run there.

Lana: Mm-hmm[affirmative]. We did. We had... we did forty-eight shows... performances. Forty-eight performances.

David: And, when was the last time you guys had a forty-eight performance run of a piece?

Kirk: Oh god—

Lana: Well, I think that we... I don't really know. I feel like we did a lot... I think... I feel like we did sort of a standard Off-Broadway run of Lipstick Traces that Melanie Joseph of The Foundry Theatre produced at The Ohio. I feel like that was a lot. And it was somewhat—

David: Yeah, but that's like... what... twelve years ago? Thirteen years ago?

Kirk: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

David: Yeah.

Lana: Yeah, and then we did a sit-down in LA, which was also like ten years ago. What, Kirk?

Kirk: Well, I was thinking Method Gun at Humana... that was like what, twenty something performances, wasn't it? I'm trying to think... And, what about Get Your War On? Did we ever do a run of Get Your War On that lasted that long?

Lana: No, we've done... we've definitely done those shows a billion times, but we've never sat down and done a show forty-eight times in a row. I really don't think so.

David: Especially this early, right? Because you had only done the Off Center ...

Lana: Yeah, yeah. We did a show up in April and then another very small one. We had only performed it a total of fifteen times in front of people and that was two different versions of it. The very first skeleton of it that we did in April, and then the sort of really obese version of it that we did in September. And then, we just rehearsed in December for a few weeks before we went up to New York to finish it in tech.

David: Wow. So, how did that process feel to you guys? Oh, no what were you gonna say Kirk? Go ahead.

Kirk: I was gonna say, normally, we do it... probably one more sort of public workshop before we do the big ... whatever the big opening is gonna be. Normally, there's a little more workshop time in Austin, I think ... normally—

Lana: Yeah, I mean I think it was really just... I don't... I feel like what it... given more time we probably would have spaced out the two workshops from April to September a little bit more and worked in the fall. And then done our second workshop in December and then premiered it in Austin... like, if it were our production, then we would have had an April premiere in Austin.

So, this was just a little bit more, well a lot more, compressed than what we've had the luxury of doing for the last like five years, and I've Never Been So Happy. Those got multiple workshops and lots of time... and we were doing both at the same time so we could really step away from one and work on the other. And then go back.

David: So, what happened in that time in between? What happened to the project in the time in between... when you're not actually working together as a company? Is it just burrowing into each of you individually? Kirk, are you going off and writing? What's the value of spacing it out to you guys?

Kirk: I think, frequently, for me it feels like I'm writing... that we sort of generate a set of notes from a public performance and then there's a... the script gets changed. But, there's also a lot of sort of... you know, when things are working well, there's a lot of coffees and lunches and... you know, we don't have to decide in a week what we're gonna do, but we can decide over months. I was thinking about that in the shower and it seem like maybe we should cut all that.

Lana: Yeah, and I think one of the really beneficial things that happens when we really step away like, say we move from Method Gun to I've Never Been So Happy... when we can get back together for Method Gun, things have fallen away. Like, the things that we've lost interest in become apparent, you know? And can be cut away. And new interests... because we continue to live our lives... it's like, oh I have a whole different perspective on this one moment. Or, don't we all just hate pendulums now? Should we cut that, you know what I mean? And I think we also... we probably throw some babies out with the bath water when we do that just because when we work with a thing too long and we get bored, it doesn't necessarily mean it's bad it just means we're bored. But, I think that's the most helpful thing. Is to really put our minds somewhere else for a little bit and then see it, you know... like the cliches... why it's a cliché. We just see it with fresh eyes and we can come back.

This is how we used to make our plays. The way we made Stop Hitting Yourself was how we made Lipstick Traces or Tesla. Really just drill down and spend all of our time on this one piece until we have to premiere it.

David: Yeah. I guess I... because I've been spending so much of my energy trying to take the air out of... and then air out in the sense of people going from one development workshop to another development workshop and all the time that passes in between that's just about... you know, what's the schedule of a place like Sundance, so when do we get to work on it. Sundance and then oh, now we get... next we're gonna have an opportunity to do something at "X" regional theatre, but it's not until next season and that's only gonna be for a week. The way that the development structure is set up seems to enforce a kind of time, but when you're a company and have your own space in that way and you're all living in the same city or, for long parts of it, you're all there together... you use time as part of the developmental process, not as stuff that breaks up the developmental process.

Lana: Sure, if there's money for that, you know? I think that we have the same... not as extreme as say a script process but, you know, it certainly... we are tied to our own schedules. When our theatre is available and what money is there to do the next phase of development. Sometimes we just run out of money and call it done. Because we've made so many plays here in Austin that no one's ever seen outside of Austin. And those... to us, those were premieres and then they went away forever but, in our process, those were actually like first full-length drafts.

Because they never saw people. You know, people only saw those shows for one run... and we didn't get... on so many of our shows... on most of our shows... don't get the kind of development that the ones that have funding or that a presenter gets interested in get. Any opportunity to tour means we can get in the room together again, rehearse it, change it, and take it ... take it out better than it was when we premiered it.

David: Can I talk abou —Go, go, go.

Kirk: I think there's a line in Method Gun where they joke about like, we just have to rehearse harder... that I think is a feeling we used to have in the past. That like, oh man, if we could just work more and if we just worked harder, things would be better. But, I don't think now... I don't feel that that's true anymore.

It's sort of like, well maybe if we actually took some more breaks and we lived more and relaxed more and dreamt more... I don't know. I think there's a feeling... in my life, there has been a feeling in the past of like, oh it's all just about work and I need just more hours and I need to buckle down. I just don't buy any of that stuff right now for me, anymore.

Lana: Well, I mean, I think that's also just a luxury of getting your company into a position where you don't have to prove yourselves all the time. Like, we are fund-able, we can write a grant and, you know, six times out of ten we'll get what we need to do a draft. And, that takes pressure off. We were humping it so hard because we really needed to make box office to pay ourselves to do those shows. And, we did as many shows as we could cram into a year in order to build up a repertoire that people would be interested in funding, in supporting.

David:Well, yeah, and it's both things too, right? Because people were interested in presenting you so you had that opportunity, and also your track record was drawing resources from the commissioning and the contributed community... because you had that track record. So, you both had product in that sort of way and you had a reputation that attracted resources.

Lana: And, what we still don't have is like any... the luxury of just doing this for our livelihood... it's really still... it's more difficult now to find time than it was when we were all working full time jobs and meeting at night, ironically. So, yeah, there's just a bunch of trade offs. We can go slower, and I think our plays benefit from that, but then also we make less work because we are so stretched out.

David: Yeah. Yeah. Well, one of the things that I really... I found just so present and real in Stop Hitting Yourself ... because I've been watching you guys over a period of years... I see all of that in the show. And none of it overt; it's not the content of the show, but it's the feeling of the show is you... with all of your years of experience and the way that all of your lives have developed and the questions that you have now... some of you, you know... the collective questions, but also some of your individual questions. And then, even just some of the skills that you guys have acquired over time... I think... you know, even some of the choreography feels like something that came into your work in that way... along the way. And, you've continued to develop it into your own voice. It felt very, authoritatively, you guys now. And, I wonder if that means anything to you or if you have a sense of if that's true or why I would see that?

Lana: I really do. I certainly... that's not anything I would think when I was thinking about the show, but I do feel that too. Now that you say it out loud. And, I think maybe part of that is how... was maybe the timeline for this project. We really all just only thought about this play from April until two days ago, you know?

David : But, you had been through Never Been So Happy and so you got into this... like, what's the structure of a musical in the language of The Rude Mechanicals. And, I see the learning and the discoveries there of what it means to you guys to talk through music and even dance again... and stuff like that... you know, anyway...And then, I hear Kirk's life popping out of it at points... you know, the questions that you've been asking and other projects that you've done showing up in the voice of the company and in the body of the company... it's interesting.

Kirk: I think it's we ... what I like about, and am surprised about maturing in some sense is that it gives you the ability to be more childish and less mature in some ways. That you have this confidence to like ... let's just try this thing. I think ... you know, Lana was talking about how we used to want to hump it, we used to want to get ... like, we wanted ... but, we worried that we would fail some opportunity and we wouldn't get our next treat or whatever was gonna happen next. And, so now we can say things like, well just don't do anything and just get down there and say what you're ... let's have a moment of confession where we say the ways in which we feel like we participate in the hypocrisy of the bind between capitalism and spirituality, or whatever it is And, it's ... I don't know. Does that make any sense? That you can like ... I think we feel more comfortable and instead of using that comfort to ... we can use that comfort then to be uncomfortable. To go like, I don't even know if that works, but let's do it.

Lana: I think that's the thing, too. I think one of the things that I like about the way we've grown up inside of the company is that we ... along with what you're saying ... now, the older we get and the more secure we feel about our own aesthetic and our own work together is that we can take ourselves way less seriously each year. We're just gonna be buffoons in five years, I think. You know? But, I think that's a really valuable thing. Instead of getting more and more ... taking ourselves more and more and more seriously ... I just don't see ... there's nothing to gain from that.

David: See, I experience it completely the opposite way. I experience it taking yourself even more seriously, but with more precision about where you are taking yourself seriously. It gives more space for the buffoonery, it seems. Because, we're not taking ourselves so seriously here. But, in those places where you are taking yourself seriously ... and I even think things like the movement ... I mean, there's a surprising amount of seriousness brought to the precision of the movement in the show. And, I had just seen another show that actually worked the other way. And, went into that sort of like, let's be imprecise about the movement as our choice, you know? Which was also a choice.

Not as interesting to me, but ... this one I was looking at and going, wow look at here ... even the content is so precisely ... it's so clear to me where you are saying we are very serious here. We ... as a company or as an individual actor, we are very serious here on this content thing. And, over here, we're not so serious. And, we're having fun and you ... go ahead, you have fun. Find your own journey. I was making my own relationship to where and when I took myself seriously in that moment. So, I experienced it very differently than that.

Lana: I think what I'm talking about ... I think that you're totally right in terms of the finished piece. I think what I mean is that when we're in the room together, what we're not doing is going ... I mean, there was certainly pressure from LCT3 from the ... not from them, but from the position we were in.

David: Yeah, just having said yes to it.

Lana: Yeah. Though, we felt way more panicked and under pressure and like the stakes were so high early on that we couldn't ... you know, we're not a very disciplined group in the room and we'd certainly break down or fall apart all the time just laughing or fucking off, but what we didn't have ... I think ... we certainly had it, but not as much as we've had it in the past is like, we're gonna die if we don't do this play right. We have to make the best possible thing ... You want to make the best possible work, but the feeling that our careers will be over and that no one will invite us to do anything ever again ... that fear is gone.

David: Yeah, in an early acting class I had a person—the acting teacher was talking about loosening up and taking more risks and he said, "Tell me, if you can, what exactly are you afraid of?" And she said, "I'm afraid the theatre police are gonna come and arrest me. And then I'll spend the rest of my life in prison." The theatre police were gonna come get you ...

Lana: Yeah, we totally know that feeling. When we had to get our ... we were waiting for our first New York Times review ... we almost ate our own faces off for that. And, now we've gotten lots of bad ones from all the important papers.

David: And you're still dancing!

Lana: We're still fine!

Kirk: Exactly, yeah! But, you can end up being your own critic. Like, I don't want to do that because I don't want to ... you know, I don't want the theatre police to come, so I'm just gonna choose not even to do that, you know? I mean, it's interesting how you say it because it's like ... like, we don't even know how to dance but, we want to first ... I mean, they started just watching ... I can speak about their dancing, because I didn't do it. They started just watching YouTube videos and it was making Shawn really happy to learn tap dancing and for everybody to tap dance.

I think it takes great risk for them to then say like, well let's get a tap dancing teacher and let's just learn to tap. Like, why the fuck not? Let's dance! And, the fact that they then spent all that time and make it beautiful and make it totally precise ... it comes off ... I see what you're saying. It looks polished, it looks serious in this way. But, it also comes out of this place of like-

Lana: Ridiculous fun.

Kirk: Yeah, the permission to give themselves the pleasure of let's just learn to dance because we want to.

David: Yeah, and I think that's the thing too is that it comes off looking like you guys. It didn't look like something that some choreographer set on you having seen ... growing up watching the Hines brothers or something. It looked like, this is what we do when we tap and ... each of you were still distinct as a performer ... recognizable as yourselves as the performers. But, going into these skills and delivering them as you.

Lana: And, I think that's really a testament to Shawn, too. Just in terms of ... you know, Danny Herman came in and taught the shit out of us ... I think it was a four and a half minute tap number in the show in April that was choreographed by Danny and that was when we actually had a hoofer in the cast. Matt Hislope was playing the prince then and ... so, he could really execute the shit that Danny was having us all do and we could just be behind him with giant smiles and almost executing it and kind of pull it off.

And then, when we lost Matt from the show, and it was all ... we were all the same skill ... nobody was a real hoofer ... I think that's when Shawn really made a couple brilliant choices just in terms of how to craft that tap ending and really ... and choreograph it ... you know, use the moves that Danny taught us, but then choreograph it herself. And, I think Danny came in and helped us for a little bit in December, but that's why it looks like us. It's because Shawn was really like, oh cut that, cut that, move that, do that ... no, do this instead. Like, the whole sitting on the stairs thing and all that stuff we made in the room. That's why it's us.

All of that time that we spent ... hours and hours and hours with Danny just drilling tap just to get really just beginner level was so fun and so worth it, I think.

David: And, so what's it like then ... so, you have this kind of precision between where you're serious and where you can clown ... which is something we all love about the work. And, it's around this question about values and hypocrisy and then you're doing it at Lincoln Center coming from The Off Center ... how does all that land?

Kirk: I mean, so much of this play really wants to be ... you know, we ... the way I remember it ... correct me when I go astray, Lana, but that ... as we got interested in talking about Ayn Rand and objectivism and relationships, especially in the Republican party between this hyper pro-capitalism and this hyper ... you know ... sort of holier-than-thou version of Christianity ... that we very quickly, probably before there was even any text ... but, we have to include ourselves in that. It can't just be people who think these things are stupid.

And then, once you start wanting to look at yourself and critique your own relationship to the world ... and especially the world of money and altruism ... then you have to start talking about well, what do the things cost that we're doing? And, what's the relationship of what we could be doing as a company to what we are doing? And, what's the relationship of Lincoln Center to The Off Center? And, like bringing us there ... I don't know what ... you know, some of the things changed on different nights, but Thomas, at the end, would talk about what we spent to ship things and who we are ... And, so it was a natural extension of like ... I think we do this often, I don't think it's just about objectivism and Ayn Rand, but rather than just wanting to look at ... I mean in Method Gun I can think of it. I can think of it about in the ways we talk about the west in I've Never Been So Happy ... that we want to think about ourselves. We don't want to stand outside and point at any historical fact or contemporary event, but to place ourselves in it and say like, what's our problem?

David: Did it change when you put yourselves in it? Did it change in the context of New York City or Lincoln Center over what it was in Austin or in The Off Center?

Lana: No, I don't think it did. I mean, just in terms of being on the stage ... it's different to say that I am wasteful with my money to a bunch of people who are much much wealthier than I am ... that's different. So, I take back that no.

But, I don't think it changed my personal experience of having to do that self-examination and really think about how I'm wasteful and what a liar I am or a fake that I am. What was different was how it reached people because I feel like people in Austin who come to see our plays A, know us, most of them anyway, like actually personally know us, but B, are in the same sort of economic stratosphere as us and ... so, we're more relatable. And, they're also ... because we're just a hippie town, they're just way more interested in self-examination than, say, an average person who might attend a show at Lincoln Center. And, I think that's what we ran into a lot in terms of like, real anger at the show ... was that, most of the time, it felt to me like that anger ... when I would see somebody just ready to rip our heads off while watching it ... and, you know Brian lights the audience all the time, so we can see every ... moment to moment.

I feel like that's because they were really looking for a story. And, the story that they were getting was that rich people are shitty. And, they're rich people. So, it felt like an attack on them. Because, what they couldn't do was relate to us as people when we were standing down on the steps talking to them one-on-one ... it's like, here's how I did X, Y, or Z today and ... I stole this, I bought this and I should have been paying for this instead or whatever it was ... those moments are to invite you go, fuck I did something really similar just the other ... I'm a hypocrite, too ... fuck, shit. You know, or whatever. But, if you are say the socialite in real life, then you're just looking at a mirror of yourself and that's a pretty nasty one. So, I can understand the anger and it's sad to me that we couldn't break through that socioeconomic plane and reach everyone but ... I think that's why.

A lot of the bad reviews actually also misinterpreted us and really felt like we were embracing objectivism ... that we were objectivists. There were three of those ... I think Marilyn Stasio was one of them, for sure, where she just got really confused about where we were coming from and really took the place just as a super surface piece of work. Just managed to see no layers there and it's, I feel like, such a big fat onion of a play if you want to do the work.

Kirk: And, I do think in Austin ... I mean, this is like ... we so much rely on our audience as a collaborator ... helping us shape what the live performance should be like. And, in Austin, being ... having a loyal audience that we sort of ... we know our audience mostly by name. Probably upwards of seventy five to ninety percent  of them. And so, we want to come out on stage and say like, here's sort of the philosophy of Ayn Rand as honestly as I can represent it in a positive light ... we have to work pretty hard to make them realize ... to make them think that we're taking it seriously, if that makes any sense.

Lana: Yeah!

David: Yeah!

Kirk: So, they don't think ... there's very little chance that they'll think we believe it, so if we want them to feel a little bit on the fence about like, wait are they ... do they believe this? Then we have to work really hard. And I think that taken to a different audience changed a little. But, I don't feel bad about it.

Lana: I don't either.

Kirk: I mean, to reference a person that we admire, a playwright that we really like her work ... we kept calling it like Young Jean Lee in the work. That we wanted to position ourselves not in like ... we wanted to position ourselves in the most complicated place we could position ourselves.

And, having had time with her at Orchard Project and just knowing a little bit of her ... through the years of reading her work ... just like the way in which she like ... if she challenges herself to write something that she thinks she would hate, or however she phrases it ... that like ... to take seriously ... what's the ... how would an objectivist represent ... I mean, frankly, how does Ayn Rand represent what she says she believes? And, how do we translate that into our times? Just to give us a moment where our brains do a gymnastic and get to practice believing that and see if they ... like, what that feels like.

David: Yeah, you're trying to find the most complicated place to stand for yourselves individually. Not so much the most complicated place to stand in public.

Kirk: Yeah.

DavidAnd, then out of that comes a public event. But, you're actually putting yourselves in the place ... each, individually being, wow, this is really complicated.

Kirk: And then, furthermore ... I totally agree. And, the public is homogenous ... so that the public event occurs from that moment in Austin is different from that public event that occurs in Lincoln Center. And then, as it was widely reported by everybody ... tonight, the public event was very different.

Lana: Oh my god, yeah.

David: Yeah, I actually had two of my colleagues go see it also, on separate nights. So, Carl and I saw it on the same night and then I sent different people two different nights because I knew the experience ... I mean, that experience has to be so immediately informed by the audience. I mean, many of yours are anyway, but that one in particular seems like ... this show actually is so radically informed as it's happening by what's happening in the audience that ... having seen it once is no way to know what it is.

Kirk: And, it's weird because it's not ... it's like the content changes night to night, not the ... I mean it is interactive ... there are interactive moments, but it's not really the interactive that is the most radically different, it's the way the content's received. You're like, oh shit! Tonight, they think we're attacking them. Tonight, they can't see us, they only see ...

Lana: Or, it's just you know ... then it's also, just that standard shit is, oh it's a Friday night, end of business week, really tired crowd. Oh, it's Saturday, it's afternoon and they've all had mimosas with brunch or whatever happened.

But, it's also ... and, it's so clear whoever ... which group audience just read a review that was like, oh it's a comedy. And they're laughing as we come in and sit down and then they just work themselves up in a frenzy. Or, oh this is a very serious piece of political theatre, I'm going to listen as hard as I can. Because we've had like super quiet houses where we thought we were dying out there that like stood up and clapped at the end and they were just listening really hard. And that's just the same with any show ever ...

Kirk: And, I notice more with Shawn than with Lana because so frequently Lana is on stage and Shawn and I are standing in the hallway at The Off Center or ... I mean, all the way back to like other theatres that we've performed in ... but, Shawn and I tend to like that feeling. I think Lana likes it on stage, but I know from the audience ... when we both feel like we don't know what's about to happen ... and, not meaning like we don't know ... it's not like we're improving or anything, but just like oh my god what's about to happen. We get giddy-

Lana: Yeah, I swear Brian Scott did that to me, too. I get really freaked out if I can't see the audience all the time and I think that's Brian having just lit the audience since 1999. I can really key in as a performer. I just am kind of lost if I can't see their faces like lit up. Like, what are you doing, what are you doing, what are you doing?Oh, you're pissed? Okay.

David: I know. That's actually one of the funny parts about coming to see your shows in those kinds of environments because I always can feel the moment when, uh oh they just saw me!

Lana: Yeah! I straight-up just in this one waved and said hi to people I saw whenever ... unless I was really deep in a duet with somebody or something. But, it was just like well, we're just all right here look at that.

Kirk: Do you ... David, do you like to be seen in the audience?

David: You know, in a similar way it takes the right kind of relationship. I think it's ... I don't ... I enjoy it that you guys know I'm there. I often ... similarly, I don't know if people know me well enough to know who I am when I'm sitting there. So, there's this kind of like uh oh, now I have to perform being David at the theatre.

Lana: Yes, you have to perform being the audience. And, people do that! They perform watching so hard when they know they're lit up. It's awesome to watch. I love being audience to them when I'm in a play, more than anything I think it's ...

David: It's one of the reasons ... you know, this new phase of my career I'm doing some more international travel than I've done and I get to go to the theatre ... I'm a complete stranger. And, I ... so then when the lights come up I'm just ... so, I'm an American or just whatever I am. But, it's not like ... oh, good so now tell me what you though of my show. It isn't really what goes through my head the minute they know I'm there.

Kirk: Yeah ... yeah.

David: So you guys ... you're still juggling multiple projects though, right? You have ... you're still ... Now Now Oh Now is in development? Is it touring? What's the stage you're at with Now Now Oh Now?

Lana: It's going to ... it's still being worked on. And, we're gonna go out to PlayMakers for a couple of weeks this summer to finish it. And, then I think we're going to Duke. And, then possibly Philly in the fall.

David: And are you going to produce it at home first? Or is it something that ... you've got it produced and now you're just finishing it?

Lana: Yeah, we don't have the money to produce it at home, so ... this is one of those instances where we got this really great residency with PlayMakers. It was really exciting ... super generous. And they'll have everything we need there to really finish it. And then ... this is an instance of like ... well, we did that. We knew it wasn't done. Austin's probably ... you know, Austin never saw the final version of Method Gun. It likely will not see the final version of Now Now Oh Now because the money is coming from elsewhere and we need to go to those places and finish the work and do it there. But, there's no money to produce it here.

Kirk: Yeah, it is kind of weird.

David: Yeah, it's weird.

Lana: Yeah, I don't think Austin will see Stop Hitting Yourself, Method Gun, or Now Now Oh Now in its very final version. Method Gun, it may get to see. We may be able to do that this fall-

David: Wait. You haven't done a full run of Method Gun since you finished it at home?

Lana: No, because we finished it at Humana.

David: Yeah.

Kirk: That's where we really felt like, okay we got it. And, it's been everywhere ... I mean, we are very much now no longer tweaking it. We just rehearse it. I mean, it's finished finished. In a way that even I don't think Stop Hitting Yourself or Now Now Oh Now. But, yeah, and then we'll probably ... we may or may not ever do it for the people who made it, frankly.

David: That is so weird!

Kirk: Yeah.

David: I mean, that's like a gap.

Lana: That's definitely the nature of the new beast of the whole kind of commissioning phenom. Like, you know, Austin's never gonna see the final version of I've Never Been So Happy. Anything that got ... is getting finished out on the road ... we don't have ... we've spent all of our money on developing and producing it ... the workshops here. So, we can't ... we just don't have the money to just premiere ... to premiere ... to do a regional premiere every time.

Kirk: And I would say, too ... I mean, don't you think too, Lana that we become interested in the next thing? I think we are ...

Lana: Yeah, I mean I would eat my own face off if we decided to come home and put up Stop Hitting Yourself right after we finished the New York run. Like, no—

Kirk: I think so much of our joy comes from the problem solving phase and once we figure like, oh okay now we know what it is ... we love to share it with people, we love to perform, but I don't think that we ... if we have a month at home we're like ... what's this new problem that we've made for ourselves?

David: But, you know that's ... I'm just thinking who's in Austin who's listening to this phone call ... that means that there's a huge opportunity for somebody there to be your local producer. Not so ... in the same way ... or presenter, really. In the way that some of the institutions around the country are benefiting from all the work that Austin's doing ... the Austin audience is doing with you guys to make your work. Then, all these other places like Lincoln Center just got forty- eight performances of ... And, CTG or even ... you guys were here with Method Gun well after you'd finished it ... that there's a huge opportunity for somebody in Austin to say and I'm gonna be the person who presents the Rudes when they're done ...

Kirk: Do you know ... is that the case for other solo performance artists or other ensembles? I mean, is that a thing?

David:  No. You know what's interesting is ... because I've done a lot of solo in that way ... and the solo performers are kind of built on being able to return and return and return. And, so they go ... they might go into a really long run in their home city as they're making it and then go ... many of them tour. And then they come back and they are there for a while.

I mean, you can even watch Mike Daisey on the web ... it's very present how he goes around and he comes back and he goes around again and he comes back ... So, yeah, I think it's really about ensemble. And, it's really about you guys being so curious to get on to the next thing that you're not being that for yourselves at home. You're being that for yourselves in the development process at home, but you're not being ArtsEmerson for Austin for yourself.

Lana: You know who does it ... who like ... I don't know how they do it, I could imagine it's just like money, but ... The Wooster Group is really able to just keep pulling things out of their rep and remounting them kind of, it seems, like all the time. I'm so curious about how that gets accomplished.

David: Yeah.

Lana: I just have no idea. It's something that we just can never do. Our calendars kind of don't allow it and also there's just no money for it, and ... I don't know. I don't know how that gets done.

David: But, you're also so dedicated to producing your development process when you're acting as your home producers.

Lana: But, so do they right? They're constantly showing their panties with their work, right? They show every ... they have tons of open ... like, they present drafts to the public.

David: But, then they also seem to be able to say okay now we're going to produce our finished work too.

Lana: Yeah, I'm so curious how they do that.

David: I think maybe I'll have a Friday phone call with them and ask them!

Kirk: Yes, do!

Lana: Yes, I'd love that answer!

David: But, I still think I'm gonna figure out who's the lucky person in Austin who gets to cash in on all of the great work that the city's done with you to make these pieces and then never got the ... final draft.

Kirk: Yeah.

David: Yeah, it's so interesting. I've been learning so much about the whole touring infrastructure and the way that lives are constructed around that. Much less artistic projects and companies ... it's such a different beast than the regional theatre. In good ways and bad ways. One of the ways it is is it's this sort of episodic and geographically sprawling kind of infrastructure for people ... And, Kirk, so you have two children now?

Kirk: I have two children now. I love them so much!

David: And, what's happening to your ability to sprawl?

Kirk:  You know I was actually just thinking about that. But, I was thinking about it almost metaphorically like ... it seems bad ... I mean, this is a lot of the tension ... I think one of the things that makes Rude Mechs special is that it is a device company. Our work now is all described as created by Rude Mechs ... but that they keep a writer aboard the team in a very sort of a healthy, happy, wholesome way. But, I think that the road is a terrible place for writers ... I mean I think writers in some ways want to hide from everybody and they want to have the same thing happen every day. That's my experience in some ways. 

And, the same thing for being a ... for having a family. You don't want to ... you don't want anything strange to happen. You want all of the strange things to be manageable. And so, I was thinking about, do writers do well when they travel and tour? I wonder how Mike Daisey really does it?

David: Luckily he's traveling as his family unit, too.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

David: What's that ? Sorry Lana. Lana, you go ahead Wait, Kirk you wait your turn!

Lana: I was just saying I think Sibyl would be a good ... I feel like she's been on the road writing and writing and writing her ass off for at least the last couple of years and I'd be curious to hear that answer from her because she was just generating a shit ton of pages last year.

David: Sibyl Kempson?

Lana: Yeah. For the Pig Pile piece that we're doing here in Austin next month. Yeah, anyway. That was just my thought.

Kirk: I was really ... I was so protective of how much I traveled because I'm gonna travel for this Playwright's Horizon show and so, I told ... you know, The Rude Mechs, very lovingly, were like great come up when you can. But, then I got so sad ... they were like tweeting me photos and texting me photos and stuff and I was like, oh I wish I was with the whole team!

So, I mean ... you can't really win. Except to have people accept you for what you can do ... you know, what you can do and want to do. I know when they were sending me photos of the like ... I don't know just being really fucking cold, or that there was a weird night, you're just like, oh I wish I was with everybody.

David: Yeah. I guess it's true. It's not really set up for humans, period. So, once you know that, then it's just about which accommodations are you gonna make to it, I guess.

Kirk: Yeah. I mean, if we all traveled like a circus and we all brought our families with us and ... you know, we kept the tent up for as long as the harvest was good in that town ...

David: Yes, you'd be making pieces in the voice of John Steinbeck or something.

Lana: Yeah, let's roll with that. That sounds fun.

David: Nothing at all.

Kirk: I mean,he travels in his little truck with his little dog and his little ... yeah.

David: Yeah, exactly. Oh, that's it. It's gonna be my travels with The Rude Mechanicals.

Kirk: Exactly. I've been telling all The Rudes ... while they were out of town for the first time ... my daughter has been to The Off Center and just played in the dirt and the rocks, but she had never been in the theatre. And, we make lots of dances at home, she and I, and when she saw the inside of the theatre ... her initial response was so darling. She was like, "Dad, this place is great! We should make a show here!" You're absolutely right!

David: How old is she now?

Kirk: She's three. Three and a half.

David: When my son ... that's exactly this age. He was three and a half and he would follow me around to all of the rehearsals and stuff for The Z Collective ... it was opening night of a show and it was ... we never worked in a theatre and this was the first time we were in an actual theatre so the lights were going down and he was sitting with me in the audience. And as the lights started to go down he yells, "I don't wanna be the audience!"

Kirk: Amen!

Lana: Oh my god! How many times have you screamed that on the inside? I don't want to!

David: I was terrified that that was gonna be the headline of the reviews.

Lana: Oh my god ... you should make him write a paper on it when he can start really ...

Kirk: And, what's your son's relationship to theatre now?

David: Well, that's an actually funny question because not so long ago I said well, you don't see very much theatre, but, this and that and this and that. And he goes, I don't what you're talking about. I see more theatre than any ten friends combined because I take him to everything.

You know he lives in New York now so whenever I'm there we're ... company things. So, he actually is a very astute watcher or theatre and a fairly regular goer because I make that happen, but I have to say I never drag him. I mean, I don't have to drag him, he actually goes. And, so he ... I think he feels very related to theatre ... and then, but he's working in play. In actual ... the organization called Playworks that teaches young people how to play. And there's so many elements of what he grew up around that I see in what he's doing. But, it take a completely different form and I'm kind of happy for him that he's found his own place to stand in that. But, he's still very related in the same way. This sort of creative-

Kirk: Oh my gosh, can I be allowed to talk to him?

David: Hmm?

Kirk: Can I be allowed to talk to him? I teach a class ... my Playwriting II class is all about how ... I try and teach the principles of play so that writers don't think about their writing as like work—

David: Oh my god. Okay, well you're hearing it here folks. I'm gonna set it up so that my son and Kirk talk.

Kirk: I would love to talk to him because I'm fascinated with like all the anthropology of play and ...

David: Yeah. Then, if you do, you have to pull out of him ... what he's dealing with in this job and relationship he has with this school system is this whole thing about how schools, in the absence of a capacity for play, schools are becoming training grounds for the prison population. Like, the main skills that people are learning in public school is how to be good members of the incarcerated community.

So, he's really kind of undone by what he's seeing in these ... mostly major urban centers in public schools and how frequently that's the way it's structured. And, not intentionally even. But, just ... that's what he sees. The difference between having permission and a capacity and a spirit of play in the environment and when it's missing, you're actually learning to follow a kind of severe structure of subservience.

Kirk: No, I totally relate. I think, in a weird way, that loops back to what we were saying about just giving yourself permission to ... like, the confidence to feel like we can do anything. We don't have to ... you know, the feeling of play is so often present in our rehearsal room and I don't know what ... I mean, it looks like play to us. Where we just wanna laugh or tell jokes or try this thing out.

As much as we can get that spirit of ... when we have no idea what we're doing, but Shawn says everybody line up and go talk to that microphone and tell it one thing you bought today. Just try something. Because, you can be in rooms where it's supposed to be art, but nobody's playing. Everybody's just like, oh no I have to do what I'm supposed to do.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative], yeah. Well, you guys really should talk to each other. You would enjoy each other anywayy. Okay you guys. I'm gonna let you go and the listeners, if they're still here ... I always wonder. Don't you wonder like if anybody ever listens? But, I always enjoy myself and I appreciate your time.

Kirk: I feel certain my mother is listening. I love you mom!

David: Thanks, mom.

Kirk: Alright, well we love you and we'll talk to you soon!

David: Talk to you soon and I'll see you somewhere in the theatre in this big wide world. Okay guys. Thanks!

Kirk: Alright, love you. Buh-bye!

Lana: Thank you!

David: Bye!

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Listen to weekly podcasts hosted by David Dower as he interviews theater artists from around the country to highlight #newplay bright spots. You can subscribe to the series via Apple iTunes or RSS Feed.

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