WRRR Cast Interview: Randolph Pfaff

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Just four days left until our production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit comes to OBERON! The show has been described as “a thoughtful, playful response to oppression” in The Guardian, and we’re taking that as a necessary reaction to the results of our recent election.

We’ve got one more cast member to catch up with: AP cofounder, Randolph Pfaff.

Since Randolph will be our stage manager and Emcee, the questions we asked the other cast members didn’t exactly apply, so Carissa wrote new questions for him:

 

You hold the key to this production—as stage manager, you hold the script. What does it mean to you to wield that sort of power?

I think the real power lies in the unknown for this production. There’s this energy at the intersection of the script and the experience, playfulness, and flexibility of the actors. That said, there’s great excitement in creating this surprise for the three actors. It’s like a really good gift you’ve found for someone’s birthday and the real joy isn’t in giving the gift but in watching them receive it. (Editor’s note: How fitting that there are gifts behind Randolph in his photo.)

 

When we started this project, I approached you to perform and, initially, you said yes. Then you changed your mind (and broke my heart). Will you talk a bit about those choices (and how you’ll make it up to me)?

Well, I’m clearly more suited to heartbreaker roles and since I couldn’t guarantee what sort of leading man I’d be in this show, I had to decline.

In all seriousness, there were two reservations that led me to decline: 1. I don’t perform often, though I read my work now and then. Because the only real preparation that’s possible for White Rabbit Red Rabbit is to be comfortable on stage—physically, emotionally, and creatively—I didn’t feel like I’d be able to give it the performance it deserves, and 2. In the current sociopolitical environment of our country, I couldn’t see filling one night of a three-night run with a white male performer. There are so many actors who can bring cultural and experiential context to this show that I can’t. I don’t think putting a white guy on stage by himself in Harvard Square and having him talk for 90 minutes is doing much to shift perspectives and open people up to new ideas and conversations, which are what we need now more than ever. I’m happy to listen and learn and participate rather than driving the conversation.

To answer the second part of your question, I suppose, in keeping with the spirit of the show, I’ll have to surprise you with something to make it up to you.

 

Good stage managers, like good editors, work invisibly. They do their magic and step back, and the reader/audience is none the wiser. But in this show specifically, we need your guidance. You’re the only one who knows, right now, what this show is going to be like. How are you approaching that responsibility? (And will you break up with us if we get too needy?)

I’d be a hypocrite to judge the too-needy among us, so I’m going to do whatever I can to ensure that all three of you can get up on stage and just go for it. I think the best thing I can do is to give each of you the confidence that you won’t need to rely on anyone or anything other than yourselves once you’re on stage.

 

Even though “Productions” is half of Aforementioned’s name, only a handful of people know we started out as a theatre company. How do you feel about this return to staged work?

I’m excited that we’re getting back to producing theatre by doing something really challenging. It’s an art form that has the power to entertain, engage, and educate without being overtly didactic. I think most audience members have a fluid relationship with theatre and are far more willing to take a risk by immersing themselves in a new experience. In return, playwrights and performers are able to break rules and blur boundaries because the audience has consented to a kind of openness and acceptance they might not be willing to give in other contexts.

 

If you were to talk up White Rabbit Red Rabbit to people on the street—without saying top secret, once in a lifetime, or experimental—what would you tell prospective audience members about the production?

I’d tell them that we’ve been getting too many bad surprises of late and that this show is the opposite of that. I’d say it’s a reminder that there are spaces in which we can go out on a limb without fear that the branch will break beneath us.

 

Last question: Part of the fun of performing and producing this show is the risk: the whole thing runs on potential and we won’t know what’s happening until we’re in it. As a writer and a visual artist, how does the unknown figure in your work?

This might be the perfect show for me to be a part of because I’m totally infatuated by the ways in which we approach the unknown. In my work, I’m most interested in the process of teasing out what I can’t define or articulate rather than defining and articulating it. We spend our whole lives trying to figure out who we are and how we relate to other people and how we fit into the larger world, but it’s the attempt itself that shapes who we become. We’re defined by the practice, not the conclusion, and the practice is an ongoing, loving embrace of the unknown.

 

Read about the rest of the cast at the WRRR page, and to reserve your seats for the show, head over to OBERON!

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New praise for Krysten Hill’s HOW HER SPIRIT GOT OUT!

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Krysten Hill’s incendiary debut, How Her Spirit Got Out, is on its way next month! It’s garnered praise from Jill McDonough, and now from Boston’s Poet Laureate, Danielle Legros Georges!

“Krysten Hill’s poems grab you by the throat and pull you into dark rooms and dark selves. The poems know that ‘the world is full of weapons’ and poisonous legacies that pursue and haunt us—and become knives themselves, daring to carve deep silence into sound and image, into resurrection. These poems exude at once vulnerability, rawness, and lucid beauty.”

If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, there’s no time like the present!

Head over to the presale page and check out the incentives, including variant covers, original poems by Krysten, and an option to get all of AP’s chapbooks in one shot!

December 13 can’t come soon enough!

WRRR Cast Interview: Carissa Halston

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Our production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is less than two weeks away! We hope you’ll join us at OBERON to discover Nassim Soleimanpour’s top-secret show.

And in the meantime, we hope you’ll read on for interview with our own Carissa Halston. She’ll be performing on opening night, Monday, November 14.

 

So much of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a mystery. You can’t read the script, can’t memorize the script, can’t rehearse anything. We, of course, love the idea—but what makes this sort of risk attractive to you as a performer?

I’m coming at the show from a different entry point than Sam and Jen, in that I instigated the production to begin with. The first time I heard about White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Randolph and I were at the Philly Fringe Festival for my 33rd birthday. And as I read through the descriptions of each play, I was forced to choose between WRRR and a show called The Adults.

Obviously, since I’m performing, we did’t see WRRR that night. But the conceit of the production—performing a show you’ve never seen or read—was so memorable that it floated back up in my mind when I read about the New York production this summer. But, being the stubborn person I am, I thought, “I don’t want to go all the way to New York.” Then I realized one surefire way to see the show was to produce it here.

As for what makes it attractive to me as a performer—I’m a big fan of creative risk. I think every artist should embark on a journey to undertake work that truly scares them.

So, here’s the official word: this prospect of performing this show scares the hell out of me. Which is the main reason I’m doing it.

The possibilities that accompany performing a work you’ve never read or seen are wide open. What are you most excited about?

There’s a moment that happens when you’re performing a live show. You’ll hear actors talk about the way an audience changes the material. And they’re right—an audience makes a scene completely different than when you rehearse to an empty room. There are no rehearsals here, but it goes beyond the lack of practice.

The bond between the audience and the actor is the work. By that, I mean the play itself, but also the effort. The follow-my-lead of it all. The are-you-with-me-so-far? relationship. The moments when the actor is leaning forward and the audience is leaning too, and the thing that catches them is the material wed to the delivery.

That’s what I’m most excited about. The symbiotic relationship between the actor and the audience and the work.

On stage, you’ll be holding a script and reading the words as you’re about to speak them. This setup could be limiting. How do you connect with an audience when you’re constrained in these ways?

I’m big on eye contact. There’s a rhythm to most scripts that gives you room to maneuver. A pause for breath. And in those moments, I’m hoping I can look out and see that the audience is with me. I’m hoping to find the cadence, and find it quick, so I can adjust to the mystery, so to speak. So I can find a place to stand, even if it’s not the surest footing. And, if nothing else, at least I’ll know where I’ve been as it goes on.

Are there any other steps you’re taking to prepare to perform White Rabbit Red Rabbit? (Reminder: Googling is against the rules.)

I keep telling myself, “This is and is not a cold reading.” But since it’s a monologue, I’m also telling myself I have to carry it off without flubbing a line. I’m so concerned about mispronouncing or tripping over a word. So the thing I’m going to try to do is remember to take my time. Because the faster I’m going, the starker the interruption will be if I stumble.

Outside of this show, what else are you working on creatively?

For my own writing, I’m currently working on a novel called Conjoined States, which centers on our country’s dangerous fascination with morality, how it encourages surveillance and judgment, and how that constant monitoring results in different types of “passing” as a necessary means of survival. Racially (many of the characters are either mixed race, unaware of their ethnic background, or have a different identity forced on them that doesn’t match their ethnicity [e.g., a Middle Eastern philosophy professor grapples with the fact that she's targeted as an outsider, but she's "white" according to the government because that's how Middle Easterners are documented in the US]), religiously (mainstream Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Islam are all part of the book), and health-wise (mental health issues get denied or repressed, and disability and disfigurement [harder to deny] are acknowledged but not discussed). With all of that cheery material covered, the book is also about trust and abandonment and how we can learn to retain the former in the face of the latter, even if it involves destruction along the way.

For other AP work, I’m thrilled about the chapbook we’re publishing next month—Krysten Hill’s debut collection, How Her Spirit Got Out, which is such an important series of poems about the way black women cope when they’re confronted with personal and political violence, and specifically how one black woman walks many paths in order to arrive at selfhood. Plus, Jill McDonough recently had these choice words for the collection: “These poems are a middle finger tucked in the hip pocket of your favorite dress.” Plus, check out these covers:

 

 

 

Read more about Carissa and the rest of the cast at the WRRR page, and to see Carissa in White Rabbit Red Rabbitreserve your seats for opening night, Monday, November 14!

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WRRR Cast Interview: Sam Cha

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Just a few more weeks until our production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit comes to OBERON!

We recently checked in with cast member Sam Cha (who’ll perform on Wednesday, November 16) to see how he was preparing for the show.

 

So much of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a mystery. You can’t read the script, can’t memorize the script, can’t rehearse anything. We, of course, love the idea—but what makes this sort of risk attractive to you as a performer?

a) Performance is about being terrified and then turning that terror into something useful. (For loosely defined values of “use.”) When you can’t prepare for the performance, you’re even more terrified, and so, in theory, unless there’s a sort of terror-singularity thing happening, where you accelerate into terror faster than you can accelerate out of it, you’ll be a supernova of sublimated fright. This doesn’t attract me, per se, but it strikes me as something I’d definitely like to try.

b) Ever stand on the edge of a subway platform and think I’m definitely not going to jump, but what if my body has other ideas?

c) On roller coasters, I always envision the freak accident: the arm lopped off, the tongue bitten in half, the g-force induced heart attack, etc. I love roller coasters.

The possibilities that accompany performing a work you’ve never read or seen are wide open. What are you most excited about?

I’m not sure, so I’m going to be oblique.

I wrote in college. Then I stopped. It was years before I managed to write anything that wasn’t a close reading or an annotated bibliography or a prospectus. When, eventually, I did write a poem, I went to an open mic. I was feeling lonely. There’s this wonderful moment that happens and then passes—I think probably at the speed of sound–where the words leave your mouth and they haven’t quite registered with the audience yet—and you feel kind of weightless, like school’s been cancelled and you have the day off, like maybe you don’t have to be human anymore, you can just be a thin membrane, like the one in a kazoo, buzzing with air.

On stage, you’ll be holding a script and reading the words as you’re about to speak them. This setup could be limiting. How do you connect with an audience when you’re constrained in these ways?

I’ve never actually interacted with an audience in any other way.

I think of it as an opening-up, I guess. A signaling of vulnerability (which I guess in my head signals honesty signals authenticity signals look people something here is actually happening). (This doesn’t mean you’re actually vulnerable, of course, but you have to look like it.)

Are there any other steps you’re taking to prepare to perform White Rabbit Red Rabbit? (Reminder: Googling is against the rules.)

My friend Jade is feeding me these improv exercises. Also, monologues. Lots of monologues. Also, I plan to go to the Cantab and recite other people’s poems on the open mic. Will any of this help? I don’t know! I haven’t Googled anything.

Outside of this show, what else are you working on creatively?

Right now I’m working on a long poem that is sort of a riff on a couple of lines from Wordsworth. So far it’s about: the garden of Eden, procrastination, the sudden death of one of our neighbors, chessplayers in the Harvard Square Pit, and the shape of tragedy. If it sounds ADD, that’s because it is—when I write, I waffle between trying to leave almost everything out and trying to put everything in, but on balance I’m really mostly a collector, a magpie, going from shiny thing to shiny thing, in the hopes of making some kind of memorable temporary (slash temporal, I guess?) pattern.

 

Read more about Sam and the rest of the cast at the WRRR page. To see Sam in White Rabbit Red Rabbit, head over to OBERON and reserve your seats for Wednesday, November 16!

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WRRR Cast Interview: Jen Taschereau

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With less than a month to go until our production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit, we wanted to ask our cast members how they’re gearing up to perform a show they’ve never read or seen.

First up, we have Jen Taschereau, who’ll be performing on Tuesday, November 15.

So much of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a mystery. You can’t read the script, can’t memorize the script, can’t rehearse anything. We, of course, love the idea–but what makes this sort of risk attractive to you as a performer?

I love challenging myself as a performer with tough scripts, whether it’s the language itself or themes that are difficult to tackle. I’m also very big on physically seeing how far I can push my body and mind. When Carissa approached me with this project, just the description terrified me, so I knew it was the right project for me to say yes to. I haven’t been on stage in three years, so coming back to something that forces me to jump in with no time for questions seems right. I also love connecting with the audience as a performer, and I imagine I’ll need them immensely the night I get to read WRRR for the first time. I believe the audience members who sign on for this kind of evening of theatre are also there to make connections. It’s the perfect relationship.

The possibilities that accompany performing a work you’ve never read or seen are wide open. What are you most excited about?

I’m just excited to actually read the script! I’m dying to know what’s inside that envelope. I’m excited to see how I react to it for the first time. How the audience reacts to it. And how that shapes the evening. 

On stage, you’ll be holding a script and reading the words as you’re about to speak them. This setup could be limiting. How do you connect with an audience when you’re constrained in these ways?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve done staged readings before, but I’ve known the script and had time to get familiar and comfortable with them, so it’s easy to build in moments to take your eyes away from the paper and make audience connections. I have faith those moments will be found in the moment of WRRR. I don’t know how to describe it in words, it’s just a feeling I have. I have to be completely receptive and exposed and vulnerable up there. That state of being alone is going to open the door for connections, I believe. 

Are there any other steps you’re taking to prepare to perform White Rabbit Red Rabbit? (Reminder: Googling is against the rules.)

So far, I haven’t done anything to prepare because, to be honest, I’m not sure what that would be outside of any dramaturgical work. And I’m not allowed! I have been following this instruction so much that outside of the description Aforementioned gives of the play, I know nothing. Normally, I would be researching the time and place of the script, the author’s life, anything I felt was relevant and needs my attention. Instead, I’m completely in the dark. It feels both odd—like I’m being a lazy actor—and liberating—like I’m being told, “Don’t worry, just do this.”

I do plan on taking a few pieces of text, poetry maybe, or a book I’m unfamiliar with, and doing some out loud reading on the spot for some cold reading practice. 

Outside of this show, what else are you working on creatively?

If you had asked me this question three or four years ago, I would have started listing off a season of projects (3-5, maybe more depending on the year!), but I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from creative work these days—though I guess that’s not true. I’ve been teaching in Newton for 11 years now, and I write or adapt a show for about 70 children every year, which I then direct, music-direct, and produce. I have an amazing team behind and beside me. This year, it’s a crazy version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, adapted from the brilliant mind of Matthew Woods and his ensemble of artists over at Imaginary Beasts. I also spend many hours a day making up crazy stories and voices for my five-and-a-half-month-old son. So I guess the creative juices haven’t stopped flowing, really!

 

To see Jen in White Rabbit Red Rabbit, head over to OBERON and reserve your seats for Tuesday, November 15!

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Help support Aforementioned

Last Friday, Oct 7, we—Carissa Halston and Randolph Pfaff; cofounders, editors, and publishers of Aforementioned Productions—were in a car accident. The car was a rental (we were going to a friend’s wedding), and while we have collision insurance, we don’t have liability insurance.

Neither of us have been to the hospital, though we both sustained minor injuries. But one of the reasons we didn’t go to the ER is we honestly can’t afford it. We pay for our insurance entirely on our own (that is, not through an employer).

And we pay for Aforementioned the same way. With the exception of preorders, we pay for everything on our own. We’ve worked for free for eleven years, and we’ve lost money every year. We produced 24 online issues of apt in the first five years, and five years of weekly content after that. Five years of Literary Firsts. Nine books over six years. Hundreds of writers’ work: edited, proofread, designed, packaged, published, hosted, curated. For free.

We know we’re not alone in this. We know how it goes: non-profits are labors of love.

The problem is we suddenly can’t afford ours.

And the fact is: we are Aforementioned. If we run into a financial problem, it makes it nearly impossible to continue funding AP.

Since starting in 2005, we’ve never asked for financial assistance. We’ve never had a fundraiser. We’ve always paid for whatever we needed on our own. Over and above donating thousands of free hours, we’ve paid for web hosting, printing books, paying apt contributors, shipping materials and shipping costs, business cards, advertisements, book release parties, attending trade conferences, exhibiting at book fairs, travel and lodging for both, etc.

At this point, we’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into AP. And despite that investment, it’s still really difficult even asking for help. We wouldn’t do it if we thought we could avoid it. But right now, we need your support. We need help paying for the projects we’ve committed to producing in the next three months.

Namely, a very large expense: we’re producing a limited run of White Rabbit Red Rabbit at Oberon in November. The show will cost more than $4500 to produce.

We’re also publishing Krysten Hill’s monumental debut, How Her Spirit Got Out, in December. And in January, we’re putting out the seventh print annual of apt.

These are expenses we had accounted for—until last Friday.

To be clear, these projects are going to happen regardless of how much money we raise, but the truth is that future projects are in jeopardy because of the car accident.

We don’t want Aforementioned’s successes to be contingent on our financial situation. We’re looking into possible ways to secure financial stability once we get out of this rough patch, but in the meantime, if you have the means to help out, we’d really appreciate your support.

 

HOW CAN I HELP?

If you’re in the Boston area, the best way you can support us is by buying a ticket to see White Rabbit Red Rabbit. The show is running Nov 14, Nov 15, and Nov 16. Tickets are $20-$30. And if you need a reason to see the show, just check out the press and the cast.

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HOW CAN I HELP IF I’M NOT IN BOSTON?

If you’re not in Boston (or can’t make the show), you can still support us in four ways:

1/You can send us a tax-deductible donation via GoFundMe! No matter how small (honestly), we appreciate every donation. And if you’re really committed to helping us out, you can even set up a recurring payment.

 

2/You can preorder Krysten Hill’s urgent, necessary debut, How Her Spirit Got Out, which Jill McDonough praised: “These poems are a middle finger tucked into the hip pocket of your favorite dress.”

 

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3/You can subscribe to apt: three years for just $30! And issue 7 is shaping up to be great–with work by Joanna Ruocco, Sonja Condit, Gregory Crosby, and more!

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4/You can buy back issues of apt or any of our critically acclaimed, award-winning books!

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I DON’T HAVE A LOT OF TIME. CAN YOU JUST GIVE ME THE SHORT VERSION?

If you’ve ever enjoyed any of our books, or a story or poem or essay at apt, if you’ve ever attended a Literary Firsts reading, or one of our book release parties, if you’ve ever come to one of our events and had a really great time, we hope you’ll support us now that we need it most.

And if you’ve already ordered a book or bought a ticket to WRRR, thank you. We couldn’t continue running AP without your help.

With immense gratitude,

Carissa Halston and Randolph Pfaff
Co-Founders/Editors
Aforementioned Productions

Presale for HOW HER SPIRIT GOT OUT!

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We’ve been hard at work prepping Krysten Hill’s debut chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, for publication this DecemberAnd we’re thrilled to say the book is now available for preorder!

How Her Spirit Got Out is a lively, urgent song. Answering the writers whose voices raised her, Hill calls on Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, and Zora Neale Hurston to help her navigate the complicated landscape of selfhood. Hill’s speaker, wise and direct, open yet elusive, also sings for the women who brought her up: her aunt, her grandmother, and her mother. These spirits who’ve guided her life and taught her through example how black women persevere, have given her the means to bear witness to an age of racial violence. With intensity, audacity, and a darkly comic wit, Hill grapples with the question of how to fight “a city that knows you’re unarmed,” rendering each poem as a weapon and a shield, and using both for self-defense.

And some praise from the amazing Jill McDonough:

“Necessary and powerful….these poems are a middle finger tucked in the hip pocket of your favorite dress.”

And as always for our presales, we’ve got options and incentives for every budget: bundles that include broadsides, additional books (like issues of apt and chapbooks by Gillian Devereux and Michael Lynch), and copies of HHSGO with variant jewel-tone covers; poems written specifically for you; and, just in case you happen to be deeply committed to literary investments, you can also take a literary tour with Krysten to Sylvia Plath’s birthplace, Audre Lorde’s archive, and the Zora Neale Hurston house.

But most important: Krysten’s book comes with each incentive. So, check out the presale and order your copy today—this book is going to leave you breathless.

Cover reveal: Krysten Hill’s HOW HER SPIRIT GOT OUT

Summertime is lovely at the AP office. Being near Boston puts us close to the beach and we take advantage of that.

But honestly? Aforementioned is more of an autumn/winter. You can tell from our schedule: we tend to shine in the cooler months.

We have some really exciting projects ahead: in November, we’re producing White Rabbit Red Rabbittickets are on sale now!—and in December, we’re publishing Krysten Hill’s debut chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out. We’ve been working with Krysten for years, as a contributor at apt, a reader at Literary Firsts, and now on HHSGO, so we’ve been so happy to see her work grow during that time.

And now that we get to shine it up and present it to all of you, Carissa may have gotten a bit carried away in designing the cover.

Or, shall we say, covers:

 

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Keep your eyes peeled for presale news for how you can get your own copy (maybe one in each color?)—more details soon!

White Rabbit Red Rabbit at OBERON

Last month, we said we were working on a new staged Aforementioned Production.

And now we can finally announce it: This November, we’re producing a limited run of White Rabbit Red Rabbit, an experimental work by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour.

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The show has no set, no director, and no rehearsals.

It features a rotating cast of actors who encounter the play in a sealed envelope. They’ve never seen it performed. They’ll never perform it again. They read it for the first—and last—time aloud for the audience.

So, please join us at OBERON in November, when Carissa Halston, Jen Taschereau, and Sam Cha will take the stage and help us discover the play no one is allowed to talk about.

To order tickets, visit White Rabbit Red Rabbit at OBERON.