I hope you have the pleasure of meeting Caitlin Bebb, whose addictive and contagious luminosity makes her an ideal artist to write and perform in a show about self-help. Even if you don’t meet her personally, you may feel like you have after experiencing her intimate but wild new show, The Protégé, presented by Glass Bandits and playing June 23–26 at Chez Bushwick (304 Boerum St).
Personal development, therapy, and self-improvement can come with sticky stigmas; by nature, these tactics make us address, confront, and perhaps publicize our imperfections. But in her mysterious yet alluring solo show, Caitlin Bebb rejiggers these ignominies, breaking down the walls of what self-help can expound — well, perhaps not breaking them down, but certainly infusing them with spiritual rejuvenation, a genre-defying performance, and a dance party.
Greenpointers: How would you sum up The Protégé?
Caitlin Bebb: The main character is a young woman who inherits leadership of a community from her grandfather — her grandfather stared this group — and he passes away and she becomes the leader. So she is now using social media and modern tools to recruit new members to the community because it had its heyday in the ’70s, and she wants to revitalize it.
GP: What kind of community is it?
Caitlin: It’s a group of people who are very interested in personal development and self-improvement and want to be the best versions of themselves.
GP: This piece has been in development since 2015. What can you say about its early stages?
Caitlin: My friends have a company, Title Point, and their offices/workspace are at the Vital Joint in Bushwick. Almost three years ago they started doing monthly salons. They weren’t really sure what it was going to be, but for the second one my friend Theresa Buchheister, who’s a director and runs the company, said, “You should do something,” and I said, “What does that mean, do what?” She said, “You know, your work!” And I had done a couple projects that I sort of curated but not really solo stuff, and so I didn’t know what that would be. So I just sat down and wrote this piece, which became the first few pages of the play.
GP: And then how did the show evolve?
Caitlin: I started doing snippets every couple of months with ideas I had, sort of circling the same subject, and because there were always people there who hadn’t seen me before they couldn’t figure out if I was genuinely giving a self-help seminar and was insane or if it was like a theater piece. And that was the most satisfying part because that was always my intention, for people to not know whether it was real or not. After doing that for a while my friend Peter Mills Weiss who’s helping with sound said, “When are you doing the full show?” So that got the seed in my head.
GP: Was it a challenge to string together these snippets you had previously created?
Caitlin: Yes — even if I didn’t have all of A to Z I’d be like, “Well I have R, so I’m gonna focus on that.” And I wasn’t too concerned with the piece as a whole; I just wanted to keep feeding little nuggets that came up for me.
GP: And it’s at Chez Bushwick, which seems like a great venue for your show.
Caitlin: It’s funny how these things work out because I technically did my first solo piece there the summer after I graduated college. It’s kinda crazy to me because I had several venues in mind that I had looked into and I’d spoken to some people. I feel like space informs the show. It’s very big and open with lots of windows and has the vibe I want. I thought it was funny that I did a show there then and am coming back now.
GP: It sounds like the type of piece where much will be informed by those coming to see it. Most theater is, but would you say this is a highly audience-dependent piece?
Caitlin: So we are in the room we are in, in the time we are in, and everyone that is an audience member in the space is themselves, and I am speaking to them. In terms of interaction, the whole thing is direct address aside from a couple of moments, and who knows maybe someone will get upset and give me some feedback, which would be awesome.
GP: What do you hope people will get out of The Protégé?
Caitlin: My intention with the theater I make is for people to have fun and an enjoyable evening. For me that involves a ticket that’s not too expensive, a drink in your hand, and a feeling that you’re relaxed and can be yourself. No intermission. In and out. Get to the bar. [Laughs.] And maybe be moved. Hopefully. That’s why I do what I do. Being a human is ridiculous and crazy, and I know that when I’m an audience member I love seeing stuff that I can relate to. So if that happens for people, wonderful; if not I only wasted an hour of their time.
GP: Have you done any outside research for this?
Caitlin: I definitely have drawn inspiration from figures in the self-help world — people who I genuinely follow, but I also go, “Uh really?” So that’s kind of what the whole thing is: can you drink the Kool-Aid and have an outside perspective? Can you find balance in trying to lead a “good life” but still be a human begin who makes mistakes? I read an NPR piece recently that said millennials are the biggest self-help generation because of the internet. Like looking up tips for managing anxiety. Apparently Google searches for self-help skyrocketed after the election. We’re so stimulated that we’re trying to bring it back a little. How can I live a happy, peaceful life?
GP: Anything else you’d like to say about the show?
Caitlin: A ticket comes with one free beer. Then we’re gonna have a little after-party at a nearby bar. I think it’s gonna be a really fun night.
GP: One more thing — do you think you have an intended audience?
Caitlin: I think it’ll tickle people who have any experience in the personal development world. I think they’ll get it, and even if you don’t you’ll be like, “Oh I know that girl, that girl from yoga class.” I’m digging the music we’ve been using, I’m big on music as an element in the theater. My inspiration for the past couple years has been Kanye West…so if he could see the show, I don’t really care who comes. [Laughs.]
The Protégé plays at Chez Bushwick (304 Boerum St, Brooklyn, NY) June 23–26 at 8 PM. For tickets, visit here.