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Jody Christopherson’s Spin on Greencard Wedding

With a sharp opinion and a firm standing in interactive media, Jody Christopherson is a theatre artist worth hearing.

woman holding a guitar
Jody Christopherson and David Anzuelo on video. Photo by Kacey Stamats.

How does one develop the best voice to produce the work they want? Cross-platform, interdisciplinary work is challenging. What makes work fresh over time? What makes it different? When Jody Christopherson discusses generative art, she looks across the spectrum—seeing, sensing, and knowing what should come next.

Christopherson shares:

I’m a theatremaker. I’m an actor who also writes and makes my own work. I make generative art.… It’s a process of artist as creator rather than artist as interpreter. It’s a feminist thing; an idea that everyone has a voice…Directors can also be producers or lighting designers. Playwrights can also be actors, and actors can also be writers and filmmakers. I don’t think it always has to be one thing.

Musicians are often renegades—artists who know how to speak for themselves and for their community. Christopherson’s band, Greencard Wedding, recently played at The Metropolitan Room in New York City and the Allways Lounge in New Orleans. Christopherson’s latest show, Greencard Wedding, is an interactive, multi-media rock musical that includes the band of the same name.

two people kissing
Ryan McCurdy  and Jody Christopherson and Ryan McCurdy on video. Photo by Kacey Stamats.

Morgan Zipf-Meister (Director/Lighting Designer/Actor in Greencard Wedding) chimes in, "It's been incredible to work with a team of multi-faceted and interdisciplinary artists, and to put all of our various skills into a blender if you will." In Greencard Wedding, Jody Christopherson and her band conquer the digital divide through projecting a split screen of Ireland and New York. Characters Joy Fine (Jody Christopherson) and Connel Byrne (Ryan McCurdy) journey across time zones. Ultimately their music keeps them together.

Technically, Greencard Wedding is a transmedia musical. Christopherson explains further:

Transmedia means across media, more than multi-media, more than two types of media. When the audience is in the theatre, they’re seeing projections, they’re seeing recorded video, and they’re seeing Skype calls. Also, inside of this show there is a band that lives outside of the show that goes and plays gigs. That band also has a website that our fans can interact with, with music they can download. So the media extends to platforms offstage.

Rock gods be damned. This deeply original work is complex, but it also fits in two suitcases to take on the road. Projections and lights are already programmed in, courtesy of Jody’s designers Martha Goode and Morgan Zipf Meister. Everything is slotted and timed out. For Christopherson, transmedia isn’t transmutation. There’s no morphing or digitizing into oblivion. More than a song cycle, the play explores the depth of the soul, and uses state of the art design to define a place where peace and love matter. Christopherson and McCurdy, (who was in the Broadway company of Once and who is a teaching artist at Brooklyn Academy of Music) keep it smooth. Through the course of the show, we find that their interdisciplinary skills converge to reveal complete theatre artists.

Rock gods be damned. This deeply original work is complex, but it also fits in two suitcases to take on the road.

For Christopherson, each performance is live and each audience is different. They cheer, holler, and stand in appreciation of different moments. Seeking amplification and connection, the theatre is a place where artist and audience can welcome each other.

Christopherson says, “I think it’s all just storytelling. I think of myself as a storyteller first.”

pictures of women
“Necessary Exposure” Photo: Top (r to l) Playwrights: Susan Bernfeld, Kari Bentley Quinn, Laura Rohrman, Penny Jackson, Natalie Johnsonius Neubert (Sound Design and Director), Saviana Stanescu 2nd ROW: Abby Rosebrock, Karen Cellini, Kara Lee Corthron, Micheline Auger, Jessica Almasy, Diana Oh, Winter Miller, Jody Christopherson (photographer and conceptual artist 3RD ROW: Angela Santillo, Amy E. Witting, Cecilia Copeland, Maria Alexandria Beech, Maybe Burke, Gina Femia, Normandy Sherwood, Caridad Svich, BOTTOM ROW: Mariah MacCarthy, Crystal Skillman, Sarah Shaefer, Charlotte Miller, Jessica Dickey, Lisa Huberman, Kim Gainer, Zohar Tirosh Polk, Juliana Francis Kelly. Photos by Jody Christopherson.

On Wednesday, January 20 In the third installment of the all-female panel series, “Necessary Exposure,” that Christopherson leads to facilitate discussion amongst theatre artists, she asked why theatre Is important in the first place.

Panelist Ludovica Villar-Hauser, who got her start directing on the West End at 23 years old responded, “Creating theatre is a political act.” Panelist Erin Mee, who is an Assistant Professor at New York University added, “I do theatre because I want to change the world. We have a lot of work to do to change this world, and theatre is one place important work can happen.”

two women talking
Jody Christopherson and Jenny Lyn Bader at “Necessary Exposure” at Dixon Place. Photo by Marcina Zaccaria.

Greencard Wedding was performed at Dixon Place on January 27 in New York City. In it, the concept of wedding seems to be a gravitational force that sometimes keeps protagonists Joy and Connel together. Having met on a subway platform after a show in Brooklyn, Connel, the International citizen, and Joy, the American, wish for a resolution to their unfulfilling, long distance relationship. With the possibility of a “green card wedding,” they can be legally, morally, and spiritually together forever. That hope keeps them writing songs to each other, and finding each other via Skype. In this world, love and companionship are deeply valued. Sadness and jealousy are contested. Though Joy Fine and Connel Byrne look to each other, and even a sort of guitar god (David Anzuleo) to find something greater, they ultimately don’t find what they seek in these places.

Christopherson says,

We are all our own gurus. Why look for things outside ourselves? We can all inspire each other, and it’s very important to see the value in each other but I think that there is a greatness in everybody and believing that your intuition is good, and that you possess everything you already need is important.  It’s about finding those things in yourself.

Greencard Wedding reminds us that sometimes we have all the solutions for us—right within us—all the time.

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