The Exponential Festival continues! Today, we speak with playwright Cameron Stuart who, alongside the Bushwig-based theater company Saints of an Unnamed Country, is presenting Police in the Wilderness. Featuringa sci-fi plot, poetry, magical rituals, shredded-up bits of 20th century philosophy, and psychedelic humor — all tangled up along with some genuine end-of-the-world angst — the new play will run at Patch Works Theatre (98 Moore Street) in East Williamsburg, January 22nd – 25th. To get a sense of play, watch the teaser here, and learn more from Cameron in this week’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: For those unfamiliar with your theater company Saints of an Unnamed Country, can you explain a little bit about what you do and what your ethos are?
Cameron Stuart: Started in 2012, Saints of an Unnamed Country is a Bushwick-based theater company. We perform original plays in the neighborhood, mostly in non-traditional spaces for theater, like art galleries, museum bookstores, and DIY spaces . Most of the folks involved in Police in the Wilderness are returning collaborators. The Saints’ foundation is an admiration for trees, especially their root systems, and other hidden networks that rely on collaboration between organisms of different sizes and lifespans.
Your new play takes us into something akin to a police state. Was this at all a reflection of current politics, or something more original?
One of the inspirations for Police was an experience I had while camping in the woods with friends, including folk singer Frank Hurricane. A police officer emerged from the woods and started questioning us about our impromptu music jam. This unreal experience left me imagining scenarios where police would need to venture into the woods. But I also reflected on the vulnerability of an officer out in the wilderness, at the very limit of their authority. The theme continues to be relevant today, as various surveillance initiatives continue to expand.
How did you hear about Exponential and what attracted you to working with that festival?
In 2016, I opened a DIY performance space with my close friends. Located in Bushwick, The Glove hosted all sorts of different types of performances, including my play Germany, 1933. It was one of The Glove’s first shows and launched our iconic stage design. I’ve known Theresa Buchheister since moving to NYC. She asked me if the Glove would like to participate in the 2017 Exponential Festival. I’ve been involved with the festival ever since, mostly through the Glove, but continuing to curate and admin since the Glove has closed.
This play is also further fleshed out in a book. Tell me about composing this story for these two mediums?
I originally wrote and produced this play in 2010–2011 in Atlanta. I wanted to do it in NYC, but after several years had elapsed, the play needed some revising. Instead of just touching it up, I decided to rewrite it from scratch—purely from memory. The result was a very dense and philosophical look at the original plot that works best on the page. I did revise the original, and then the idea of having the two plays available together after a performance seemed fun and original to me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Saints showcases the talent of many folks from all sorts of disciplines. We have wonderful actors, set designers, artists and artisans, video designers, and more. And we’ve been supported by a beautiful community in Bushwick over the years. You can learn more about our past here. It is equally wonderful to be part of the beautiful community of the Exponential Festival. Please see all the shows that tickle your fancy. It will be fun!
Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Vanity Fair, American Theatre, HowlRound, Observer, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.