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!
Winter in New York can be rough, but at least there’s the Exponential Festival to get us through. Each year, this pageant of the bold and experimental plays in venues big and small throughout north Brooklyn. One such show is worth checking out thanks to the title alone:Bernie Sanders Wants to Take Away my Fire Island Time Share: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The mind behind the hilarity is comedian and performance artist Xalvador Tin-Bradbury, known as I’m Going to Marry Your Dad. A surrealist comedy that satirizes the influence of neoliberalism in gay culture, Xalvador’s play runs January 8 and 9 at Honey’s, the meadery in Bushwick (93 Scott Avenue). Read more about the play and its creator as part of our Thursday Spotlight series!
Greenpointers: Let’s cut right to it — can one be a Fire Island Gay and a Bernie supporter in the soon-to-be year of our lord, 2020? What if the gays want to have a home in the Pines and a socialist in the White House?
Xalvador Tin-Bradbury: The piece actually has less to do with the politics and more to do with the social conditioning that comes from taking about politics online. I try not to preach political views in my art cus everyone’s mind already seems to be made up…but to answer your question: maybe?
Your show seems to pitch vapid gay culture against the ethics of our neoliberal era. What made you want to write about this?
One day I was on the Facebook echo chamber and Bernie Sanders had posted a video about Medicare for All. Some corporate gay I was friends with had commented “go away” on the post. I laughed so hard and thought, Bernie Sanders wants to take away his Fire Island timeshare.
How does creating from a place of social critique or satire empower your work?
I am such a fan of political Facebook posts, they are so stupid and pointless because they don’t really accomplish anything. People confidently talking about things they actually know nothing about is so beautiful and these are the people who’s stories must be told.
How did you come to learn about/get involved with the Exponential Festival?
I caught a performance of Lily Chambers and Hannah Kallenbach’s show Two Girls One Hot Dog at the Glove (RIP) as part of the Exponential Festival a couple years ago and it was so gross and weird and beautiful — I thought to myself, this is probably something I should be a part of.
Important Q: will Robyn’s latest album be blasted at Honey’s?
I can’t promise any Robyn, but we will have a special rendition of the High High Hopes Pete Buttiegeg dance available on a never ending nightmarish loop.
Did Tony Kushner authorize the rights to your subtitle, and do you care?
We actually had to fight to keep the subtitle in. We thought corporate gays who are scared of socialism is the modern fantasia of national themes. Also, we don’t care.
You’ve been living and working in and around Brooklyn for a number of years as a performance artist. What has this community meant to you? What are you looking forward to in the new year?
Making art with your friends is definitely the secret to happiness. I have some fun projects coming up next year — a lot to do with memes.
Vital Joint’s venue is tiny, but the amount of pre-show audience chitchat was enormous. Most was facilitated by a a suit-donning and larger-than-life Rhinelander (more on him later), but some was organic: “Did you make that necklace” or “Hey, the bar serves beer” pleasantries were also exchanged. If there was ever a lull, our German friend was quick to fill it with a quip or suggestion that the cash-only bar is steps away. “This is experimental theater,” he said. “You’ll need a drink.”
This is all the prelude to Dandy Be Good, queer artist GJ’s storytelling cabaret now playing through January 27 at Vital Joint (109 Meserole Street) as part of Brooklyn’s Exponential Festival. Like the pre-show banter, Garlan Jude (GJ)’s show fosters community and togetherness. They lip sync to songs from Judy Garland (a fun reversal on the performer’s name?) and interviews from socialite women of yore. But GJ doesn’t hog the stage — they share it with a trio of guest performers: a vaudevillian-reminiscent actress, a consummate orator, and — yes — our chatty German pal.
It serves pickled pomegranate, fried chickpea, and grilled sage.
No, it’s not the organic/gluten-free/farm-to-table market down the street; it’s the rustic gastropub in The Bushwick Starr’s (207 Starr St.) new play [porto] —though based on Brooklyn’s artisanal food scene trends, these bites might soon appear on your go-to bar’s menu. And like those snacks, the play is a concoction of the satirical, savory, and flat-out strange.
[porto] is part of this year’s (and the second annual) Exponential Festival, a theatrical series promoting works created in New York and performed in Brooklyn. Kate Benson’s funny, meandering, and world-premiere play centers on Porto, a young woman for whom the hipness of Brooklyn’s cultural and foodie offerings has perhaps grown dull.