Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Spotlight On...Felipe Ossa
Hometown: Larchmont, New York
Education: B.A. in Latin American Studies, Williams College
Favorite Credits: Artist in Resident at Dixon Place, 2013. Monetizing Emma at 2009 Planet Connections Festivity & 2010 FringeNYC. Brooklyn Arts Council Re-grant Recipient 2009.
Why theater?: The collaborative nature of theater is a major draw for me — I’d be too lonely writing fiction. I suppose I also love the masochistic high-wire act of theater: that each performance of the same play has its own energy, its own impact, that it can evolve and change shape and stomp around and — I’m stealing this from someone else but I can’t recall who — stir the molecules in the air. Only live performance can do that.
Tell us about The Ultimate Stimulus: The Ultimate Stimulus is a cockeyed satire; a multimedia political manifesto by Amanda McCloud, an economist with extreme views. She’s pushing a plan that, if implemented, would radically alter how the classes relate to one another in America, and that plan is master-concubine arrangements sanctioned by Washington In her thinking this would be a perfectly comprehensive way to solve growing income disparity. It’s meant to feel absolutely anachronistic and completely contemporary at the same time; totally bonkers and yet rooted in how socio-economic advancement actually works, or would work if members of the hyper-elite like Mark Zuckerberg were required to take on a modern-day harem (and not just of women…) My partners in this are Tanya O’Debra, who plays Amanda, and Sara Wolkowitz, our director. From the first draft I developed the show entirely with them so they’re much more than just collaborators. Max Wolkowitz and Paul Belliveau have created a ridiculous and ridiculously vivid world with the over 80 projection slides in the show. Without these four people, It’d be nothing more than an argument on a page.
What inspired you to write The Ultimate Stimulus?: The issue of income inequality — and its uglier cousin wealth inequality — had already been creeping into the consciousness of the American public and gaining coverage in the mainstream press when I started researching the piece around mid 2011. Then Occupy happened and the following years saw an explosion of interest in the income gap. Now, we all know it as a massive issue facing our country — chewed over and debated by an enormous range of economists, pundits and journalists. Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty — a wide-ranging, comprehensively historical study of income inequality in parts of Europe and the U.S. — was a New York Times bestseller for weeks. But class, sex, money and extreme ideologies figure in a lot of my plays. In the realm of ideology I'm obviously not alone in thinking that politics (particularly when there’s power to be protected) is little more than a swirl of empty words and red-faced arguments and opinionated blowhards. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fodder. Within the hollow of the words, there’s a lot of shit to mine. I grew up in the states with Chilean parents. Visiting there as a child and later a teen, I was struck by how stratified Chilean society felt, how concerned everyone was with class and family; how pre-ordained your life seemed by which rung on the ladder you happened to land on. The irony, I suppose, is that the U.S. seemed so much more dynamic, less codified, foot loose and fancy free. I think many are realizing that our fates are more shaped by the condition of our birth than we’d like to believe, and that it’s been that way for quite some time.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Honestly, most kinds. I like watching plays I could never write, like two-person or movement-driven pieces. I tend not to like the massively commercial stuff. I particularly enjoy stylized writing provided it doesn’t get too precious or inaccessible. Places I like to go see theater include St. Ann’s Warehouse, Dixon Place, HERE, PS122, New York Theater Workshop, and BAM. I’m a movie buff — My favorites are directed by Almodóvar, Buñuel, of course Hitchcock, pre-code films, mid-century melodramas (Douglas Sirk, etc.), Korean filmmakers Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, Paul Bartel (his Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills is wonderful), Terry Gilliam. I love satire that’s so anarchic that you can almost lose track of what it’s in the service of, like the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. Writers/works that have inspired me: Muriel Spark (The Ballad of Peckham Rye), Pirandello (Six Authors but also the novel The Two Lives of Mattia Pascal), Joe Orton (everything), this late 80s Mexican telenovela called Cuna de Lobos (The Wolf’s Den) much of which centers on this terrifying, bloodlusting mother who wears an eye patch that, without fail, matches her outfit at any given time. Mario Vargas Llosa, particularly earlier works. The Irish playwright Enda Walsh (nobody evokes the tyranny of nostalgia like he does in The Walworth Farce), the movie Network (love how really hilariously bleak it is at time), Faye Dunaway in the movie Network (“I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles.”), Austen, Thackeray (have yet to see a movie/play that does Becky Sharp justice), Tom Stoppard, Nikolai Gogol, Judy Blume. Going to Carousel — a terrific cartoon series with changing roster of participants — at Dixon Place. I’m really into catalyst characters, those that induce change in others (like Terrence Stamp in Teorema) especially if they’re imps or troublemakers.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Ha! So many people. What’s going on with Linda Fiorentino right now?
What show have you recommended to your friends?: In the past several months, Red Bull Theater’s The Mystery of Irma Vep directed by Everett Quinton, who originated one of the roles back in the 80s — I was shaking with laughter from the first line but the second act in particular was sublime. Two others are Doubles Crossed: The Ballad of Rodrigo by Jason Grossman and Trust in the You of Now by Kim Pau Donato — two colleagues with ambitious visions who take really interesting risks on stage.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Martin Short. "The Devil in the Details or The Devil in Miss Jones IV"
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: A Canadian “reality show” called "Princess". The hostess is a tough-talking Suze Orman type who whips maniacally consumerist 20-something women into financial shape.
What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: The vast majority of music I listen to is on Pandora. But my iTunes is a curious 3-way tie right now — "Sleep Aid Relaxing White Noise"; "Incense and Peppermint" by Strawberry Alarm Clock and "Nightlight" by Little Dragon.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Writing and narrating nature documentaries.
What’s up next?: After Stimulus, I go back to working on Sabrina La Caprichosa, a bilingual sci-fi telenovela that I developed during a residency at Dixon Place last year.
For more on Felipe, visit www.felipeossa.com. For more on The Ultimate Stimulus, visit is www.equal-hearts.com.