Artist profile: Alexandra Tatarsky

Alexandra Tatarsky

Alexandra Tatarsky

Alex is a graduate of the noted Philadelphia performing arts school, the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training. From their website: "The Pig Iron School brings together daring and passionate theatre artists from around the globe to train their bodies and imaginations. A physical theatre school rooted in Lecoq pedagogy and ensemble theatre practice, the Pig Iron Theatre School is a space for rigorous experimentation, playful theatre-making, and long-lasting collaboration. Each student's journey is both inward and outward, helping find creative inspiration from within while responding to the world around; its rhythms, characters, impulses and contradictions." 

We asked Alex about her upcoming show for the Cold Hard Love series, Americana Psychobabble:

1.   Where did you get the idea that gave rise to your show?

The spark of the show was lit when the amazing Quinn Bauriedel of Philadelphia’s beloved Pig Iron Theatre Company prompted me to improvise text and movement in response to an image of fingernails painted with the American flag. These nails had a lot to say! And they just kept talking. After one early show, the poet Lewis Freedman (Residual Synonyms for the Name of God) approached me saying, “Surely you know of the mystical importance of fingernails?” Indeed, the fingernails and cuticles are of great importance in the Jewish tradition as a sacred boundary space, a borderland of the body. Fingernails also figure in ritual practice and divination.  Channeling the image of American flag fingernails felt like an act of spirit possession, reaching out to a complicated, grotesque American spirit and asking it to speak through me. 

And so I began performing as the nails in theaters, bars, and galleries and eventually took the nails to Mexico on a travel grant from the School of Authentic Journalism, a fabulous project based in Mexico City that trains journalists, organizers, and artists to collaborate on effectively telling the stories of social movements (they are a wonderful organization to support if you care about thoughtful, engaged journalism and they are fundraising right now for the next school: https://tinyurl.com/authentic2017)! Anyway, the organization funded a residency for me to develop more material in response to the despicable racism undergirding Trump’s campaign -- and to perform these bits in a tourist restaurant in Cancun every night of the Republican National Convention, alongside a Trump piñata! I was later invited by Poetry Electric at La Mama ETC to perform a showing of this material on December 19th, which happened to be the exact day the electoral college decided Trump’s victory. It was a delirious night of holding space for feelings, screams, and laughter while processing the election together in a small, dark theater and trying to find the energy and hope it takes to sustain a movement – in the body and in the body politic.

2. What is it about White Pines that made you submit your show to the series Cold Hard Love?

I was excited by the Cold Hard Love series at White Pines because as I was writing this show I was going through a terrible heartbreak! And it seemed to me that heartbreak could be a metaphor for a lot of the political pain in this country and a way to understand what’s behind some of the violence and hateful rhetoric.

When you are in pain, you want to make others feel pain, so you don’t feel so alone in your pain (or at least sometimes I do L). Alone in a hotel in Cancun, I began to study my heartbreak as a research project to try to understand the dangerous things despair can make us want to do.

And every night of the Republican Convention I was observing what appeared to be a lot of very upset, heartbroken people! The parallels between their attitude and mine were astounding: things did not work out as we thought they would! We were betrayed by the people and institutions we trusted the most! And rather than fully feel our rightful anger towards those who hurt us (cough cough capitalism) – because it’s very painful and scary to sever ties with the only thing you know (cough cough capitalism) – we diverted our anger towards those we decided were responsible for causing us pain (you know, “illegal aliens” and “radical Islamic terrorists”). Let’s just say, it’s easier to hate your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend because you don’t even know her than to hate the ex-boyfriend you still love deeply even though he did you wrong time and again.

So all of this is a long TMI way of saying that I was very inspired by Ben Lloyd’s call for pieces dealing with heartbreak and although my personal pain investigation is now cloaked in Xmas lights and absurd characters, it lies at the heart of Americana Psychobabble. I was and am very excited to share this very new and raw project with the incredible White Pines audiences and at a space whose mission statement speaks to me so strongly, a place “dedicated to transforming people's lives through performance creativity… by nurturing the citizen artist, who is committed to using his/her creative gifts in service to communities.”

3. Do you have a funny love story to share?

Oh dear… a funny love story. Let’s see. Welp, one time I fell madly in love with a charming vagrant in New Orleans because as I biked by he yelled out MARRY ME! while peeing on a refrigerator on the side of the road. I thought this was both very poetic and took a lot of chutzpah. I later followed him to San Francisco where we lived for several weeks in a van next to a Chinese restaurant.

4. Give our audience a teaser for your show

Ooh, a teaser! I will be thrilled if someone catches the winks to Artaud threaded throughout Americana Psychobabble and comes and talks to me after the show...

5. Share a rehearsal tidbit: has something funny/surprising occurred as you have been preparing for Cold Hard Love?

The process of working on Americana Psychobabble has felt at times chillingly prophetic as the country consumes and is consumed by a monstrous babbling. Working on this piece with my co-director, the marvelous Meryl Sands, and a brilliant, generous community of theatre-makers in Philadelphia and New York, has truly served as a necessary reminder of the theater’s strange magic to alchemize anguish into energy, to value misery as the finest ingredient in laughter. Preparing for Cold, Hard Love throughout these cold, hard months has made me reflect with tenderness on the role of the hapless clown, the sad, lovesick, rejected, dejected clown who keeps trying despite all his failures. It gives us great to delight to watch the clown continue despite the impossibility of his task. May we all be clowns and never stop trying.

Read reviews of Alex's work by clicking here!

Some pix of Alex in performance!

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