(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/23; via Pam Green.)
One afternoon in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, a small crowd gathered around a storefront window, where a neon-lit pole dancer in purple platform stilettos performed an engaging routine. Seeing the silent spectacle, the passersby stopped. Some took out their camera phones.
They had no way of knowing whether it was a rehearsal of a little play called “Lust” or that soon the dancer would be performing it nine times a night. On the sidewalk, director Moises Kaufmann sat in a bistro chair, surrounded by members of his Tectonic Theater Project. Through his headset he heard what pedestrians couldn’t: pulsing music and narrated views of the character.
Across the street, other empty storefronts in flashy establishments—a grave site, a Dominatrix’s dungeon—were also set for plays, one about greed, the other about anger. And that open storage container is standing on the curb? This would become the stage for a piece about jealousy. There would be wide windows in an unused space two blocks away in the cracks on gluttony, pride and sloth.
As New York begins its hot wax summer, Kaufman and Tectonic Theater are bringing “Seven Deadly Sins” to the streets. A sensual, high-lit evening of short plays performed extensively in storefronts for peripatetic audiences supplied with headphones To hear the dialogue, it began previews on Tuesday, which is part of a restless, exuberant rebirth of live theater — experimental and in the open air.
“The urgency I feel about making these plays is something I haven’t felt in years,” Kaufman said in an interview. “Because we – artists, actors, playwrights – we need it. We have this hunger. But I also deeply believe that audiences share that hunger.”
Possibly best known for Matthew Shepard’s play “The Laramie Project”, Kaufman imported the concept for the show in bulk from Miami Beach, where Miami New Drama’s artistic director Michelle Hausman produced the first version of “Seven Deadly Sins”. staged. .
In the Florida iteration, Kaufman wrote and directed just one piece, “All I Want Is Everything”, about greed. For New York, he is directing an entire 90-minute evening, surrounded by a new crop of playwrights: Ngozi Anyanu (Glut), Thomas Bradshaw (Laziness), MJ Kaufman (Proud), Jeffrey LaHoste (Jealousy). , Ming Pfeffer (anger) and Bess Wohl (lust).
Under the eyes of Tony Award-winning set designer David Rockwell, the show has adapted its aesthetic to neighborhoods, past and present. Once infamous for gritty sex clubs and streets laden with animal blood, the Meatpacking District has grown into a chic backdrop for modeling shoots and home to the High Line and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The plays in “Seven Deadly Sins” tend to be political, in line with the tradition of tectonic. And as warned on the show’s website, some of the material can be disturbing, such as a toxic confrontation between two characters in Pfeiffer’s play. Children under 13 are not allowed.
When Kaufman approached Pfeiffer about the “Seven Deadly Sins”—which she called “the height of Asian hatred” right after the Atlanta shooting that left six women of Asian descent dead—she knew she was about to rage. I would love to write In “Longhorn”, she imagines an encounter between an Asian Dominatrix and her client, a white man.
“The thing that I wanted to achieve with my play is that different people, depending on their identity – their cultural identity, their racial identity, their gender identity – can express their anger in different ways. allowed to express,” Piffer said.
Or in the case of women, she added, not allowed, “because, you know, you’re called crazy or you’re passionate or you’re on your period or whatever the hell.”
Wohl, who wrote the pole-dancing play and is a Tony nominee for “Grand Horizons,” said she chose her sin because “you can’t turn down lust when you’re at the table.” She, too, has used the project to investigate sexual politics and violence as well as the viewfinder element of storefront displays.
“There was something really stimulating to me about creating these little spaces and trapping actors in them and asking them to repeat the action over and over again for different audiences,” she said.
Kaufman’s own play is in the same city block as “Lust” and “Longhorn”. Seeing where it falls into the rhythm of the evening, he decided he needed to reshape his script to what it was in Miami Beach.
“The playwright Moises Kaufmann had to talk to the artistic director Moises Kaufmann,” he said, deadpan, “and the artistic director said to the playwright, ‘I like your play, but all the other plays that are here are very deep and very difficult. You have to make your play comedic.’”